OKBET 007 : At second base, Jonathan Schoop was a finalist for the AL Gold Glove Award. In Outs Above Average, Statcast’s major defensive statistic, he not only ranked first among all MLB second basemen but also first among all MLB defensive players. His Outs Above Average were two times as high as the next greatest second baseman’s. He was responsible for second base being one of just three Tigers positions with a positive number in Defensive Runs Saved, a defensive statistic calculated by Sports Info Solutions.
Is there any reason for the Tigers to contemplate playing Schoop anywhere besides second base? Because the Tigers can’t only focus on improving at second base if they want to make a run at the playoffs. They need to strengthen their infield as a whole, not just one position.
The Tigers’ decision last week not to extend third baseman Jeimer Candelario was predictable considering Candelario’s poor performance this past year. However, the team has yet to announce a clear successor. In Ryan Kreidler’s late-season tryout, he made 11 of his 22 starts at third base.
He hit.178 (13-for-73) with six walks and 22 strikeouts in 84 at-bats, good for 2 Outs Above Average. Kody Clemens hit.145 (17-for-117) with eight walks and 33 strikeouts in 11 starts at third base and was 1 Out Above Average. Although No. 6 prospect Colt Keith struggled with six mistakes in 10 games at third base in the Arizona Fall League, he is the closest option the farm system has to offer at this time.
Considering Candelario’s arbitration predictions, it’s no surprise that the Tigers were attempting to renegotiate his contract in hopes of keeping him at a reduced wage. In any case, Candelario should have looked into what was out there on the market first.
As a result, the Tigers will have to turn to the trade and free agency markets, both of which provide far less viable choices at third base. Although both Justin Turner and Evan Longoria have been named to the All-Star team multiple times and Longoria has won three Gold Gloves, both players are now in their 37s, have spent the majority of their careers on the West Coast, and are likely signed to contending teams looking to win a World Series.
With a fly-ball rate that doubles his line-drive percentage, Brandon Drury is in the prime of his career after a 28-homer season, but teams must decide if they believe he can repeat it. Drury played in hitter-friendly parks in Cincinnati and San Diego, nearly doubling his previous career best in homers. His swing-and-miss percentage, though, was in the top third of Major Leaguers this season. He has struggled with high strikeout and low walk rates throughout his career.
Scott Harris, the president of baseball operations, may want to take a chance on the next tier of free agents. Marlins cut ties with promising rookie slugger Brian Anderson last week after he struggled with back and shoulder issues that prevented him from repeating his 20-homer performance from 2019.
His lifetime walk rate of 9.3 percent is nearly a full point above the Major League Baseball average, and his season-long troubles with strikeouts belied a career chase rate that was below average.
All of the players listed above bat from the right side of the plate, and Harris has indicated that the Tigers would want to bring in someone who can hit from the other side. They could do worse than former Brewer third baseman Jace Peterson if they make him their top priority.
He has a 12.5 percent walk rate over the previous three seasons and contributed 7 Outs Above Average to Milwaukee’s defense at third base. During that time, the 32-year-old has been a little below-average hitter, with a 97 OPS+ and a 96 wRC+ despite above-average hard-hit and barrel rates. Edwin Rios, a former third base prospect who reached Triple-A but struggled with strikeouts, was not tendered by the Dodgers.
You get a few more choices if you broaden your infield search from third to second base. Although the soon-to-be 31-year-low old’s exit velocity and hard-hit rate reveal limited power, Adam Frazier has been one of baseball’s best pure left-handed contact hitters and harder at-bats (7.6 percent strikeout rate) the previous couple of years between Pittsburgh, San Diego, and Seattle.
His second base defense was 6 Outs Better Than Average. Veteran switch-hitter César Hernández operates in a similar fashion, however he has performed poorly in terms of weighted runs generated and OPS over the last several seasons.
Jean Segura’s lifetime strikeout rate of 14.1% is eight percentage points lower than the Major League Baseball average, but his walk rate has room to grow. Brandon Lowe, who will earn $14 million over the next two seasons and has club options for $10,500,000 in 2025 and $11,500,000 in 2026, is a potential trade piece if the Rays decide to move him before the lucrative years of his contract.
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Sources say that before they decided to not tender Harold Castro, the Tigers looked at left-handed hitting middle infielders. With Harold and Willi Castro no longer on the team, it seems likely that Detroit will acquire a slew of new infielders. More flexibility in where the Tigers can play Schoop increases Detroit’s flexibility.
New MLB rules restricting infielders’ placement have a factor defensively as well. There was a 24 point difference in Defensive Runs Saved for the Tigers’ infield when they used shifts vs when they didn’t. There was just a somewhat smaller margin between the Giants and the Dodgers.
According to Sports Info Solutions, Schoop’s defense was worth 4 defensive runs saved with shifts and -2 without. Manager A.J. Hinch will have to evaluate his whole defense regardless of who Detroit adds to the infield since infield shifts are obsolete.
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