Detroit Tigers Infield Preview


The Detroit Tigers infield in 2023 will be in a constant state of evolution. As manager A.J. Hinch and the front office decide on the final spot on the roster, there’s the subject of the long-term solution in three key positions. Granted, we are talking about 2023, not beyond this season at the moment, but looking at how spring training played out, there were several options that emerged that once were not there.

Third base prospects Colt Keith and Justyn-Henry Malloy both had strong springs, enough for fans to be excited about depth that was not once there. Utility man Andre Lipcius could play anywhere, whether it was first, third, or even second.

The reason I bring this point up is that for the final roster spots that the front office is debating as I type out this sentence, it gives Detroit something that is more than just depth. Peace of mind. First, let’s look on the left side of the infield.

2023 Tigers Opening Day 3rd baseman-Nick Maton

  • Other players on roster who could play third: Jonathan Schoop, Tyler Nevin, Cesar Hernandez*

Potential minor league assignments (Data courtesy of FanGraphs)

AAA3B/2BAndre LipciusR24.8Drafted 3rd Rd (83) ’19
AAA3B/1B/2BAndy IbáñezR30.0Waivers (TEX) Nov’22
AAA3B/RF/SSBrendon DavisR25.7Waivers (LAA) May’22
AAA3B/2B/LFJohn ValenteS27.8Drafted 21st Rd ’18
AA3B/2BColt KeithL21.6Drafted 5th Rd (132) ’20
A+3B/SSIzaac PachecoL20.4Drafted 2nd Rd (39) ’21
A3B/SSAdinso ReyesR21.4Amateur FA (DOM) Jul’18

Maton put up some of the best numbers in the spring, hitting .313/.400/.667 (15-for-38) with five HRs.  Along with Schoop, who has seen some time at third, could get some time over at the hot corner. Nevin will start the season on the IL. If Cesar Hernandez does make the team, we could see him getting time over there as well.

Tigers Opening Day shortstop-Javier Báez

  • Other players on roster who could play short: Ryan Kreidler, Zack Short

Potential minor league assignments (Data courtesy of FanGraphs)

AAASS/3B/2BRyan KreidlerR25.4Drafted 4th Rd (112) ’19
AAASS/3B/2BJermaine PalaciosR26.7Waivers (MIN) Oct’22
AAASS/3B/2BCorey JoyceR24.6Drafted 12th Rd ’19
AASS/3BGage WorkmanR23.4Drafted 4th Rd (102) ’20
AASS/3B/2BTrei CruzS24.7Drafted 3rd Rd (73) ’20
AASS/2B/3BDanny SerrettiS22.9Drafted 6th Rd ’22
AASS/2BLuis GarcíaS22.5Waivers (PHI) Sep’22
A+SS/2B/3BPeyton GrahamR22.2Drafted 2nd Rd (51) ’22
A+SS/2B/3BCristian SantanaR19.3Amateur FA (DOM) Jan’21
A+SS/2B/3BManuel SequeraR20.5Amateur FA (VEN) Jul’19
RkSS/2BReylin PerezS18.5Amateur FA (DOM) Jan’22
RkSS/2B/3BAbel BastidasS19.3Amateur FA (VEN) Jan’21
RkSS/2BJavier OsorioR18.0Amateur FA (VEN) Jan’22

Baez saw time in the WBC at second base for team Puerto Rico and put up some impressive offensive numbers. He is healthy and with his ability to opt out this season, Baez will be looking to put up better numbers that will benefit the Tigers. Kreidler has had a solid spring, giving Hinch plenty to think about. Kreidler has been all over the diamond in camp, which helps Hinch with lineup flexibility.

Tigers Opening Day second baseman-Jonathan Schoop

  • Other players who could play second: Non-roster invite César Hernández

Potential minor league assignments (Data courtesy of FanGraphs)

AAA2B/3BWenceel PerezS23.4Amateur FA (DOM) Jul’16
AAA2B/LF/3BCésar HernándezS32.8Free Agent (WSN) Jan’23
AAA2B/SS/LFAndrew NavigatoR24.8Drafted 20th Rd ’19
A+2BJace JungL22.5Drafted 1st Rd (12) ’22
A+2B/3B/LFCarlos MendozaL23.3Non-Drafted FA Mar’19
A2B/3BLuke GoldR22.5Drafted 5th Rd ’22

Unfortunately for Tigers fans, Perez was dealing with a bad back, so he did not get an opportunity to get some reps in the field. The Tigers would have to make room to add the veteran Hernández, so a decision will be coming soon. Schoop, who missed time because of the WBC, finished spring training on a high note, going 3-for-3 in Sunday’s spring training finale over Tampa Bay. The Tigers may be less patient for Schoop to get his bat going this year if he gets off to a slow start.

Tigers Opening Day first baseman-Spencer Torkelson

  • Other players on the roster could play first: Schoop, Nevin

Potential minor league assignments (Data courtesy of FanGraphs)

AAA1BMario FelicianoR24.3Waivers (MIL) Dec’22
AA1B/RF/LFJake HoltonR25.1Drafted 10th Rd (292) ’19
A+1BChris MeyersL23.9Drafted 13th Rd ’21
A+1B/LFJustice BigbieR24.2Drafted 19th Rd ’21
A1BAndrew JenkinsR22.4Drafted 9th Rd ’22

All the batted ball data suggests that Torkelson is ready to break through. He had a good spring, numbers wise, but the hope is those at-bats become more in air than just ground balls. Depth wise, Detroit does not have too much at first base, which was a reason why we saw Lipcius play there several times and catcher now first baseman Mario Feliciano, who will start the season at first in Toledo. Quincy Nieporte, who led the Eastern League in home runs in 2022, will miss the entire 2023 season due to Tommy John surgery.

Detroit may look at a waiver wire pick up or two to strengthen their bench. The Brewers did designate for assignment second baseman Keston Hirua, however, he does strikeout a ton, but he’s only 26. He could be a project since the Tigers are not contenting this season. Regardless, the next few days should be interesting as the roster gets finalized.

Photo Credit: Dave Nelson-USA TODAY Sports