After being removed from his third baseman duties, Brandon Inge is hoping to find a new home at second
It was only a matter of time.
Here it is.
But Inge is not the only player competing for the starting gig at middle infield. All in all, there are five real candidates to fill the role.
While there will probably be a rotation of a few different players throughout the season at the position, Leyland still needs to pick a guy to start on Opening Day.
Ramon Santiago saw a great deal of playing time off of the bench in 2011
Ramon Santiago is an interesting player. On the one hand, he's shown flashes of consistency throughout the years and has a pretty solid glove playing shortstop and second base.
On the other hand, as he's played more games over the years, his numbers have declined on a yearly basis.
So, what should fans expect if Santiago does get the full-time nod at second base? Probably a .250 hitter with some pop in the bat. The fact that he's a switch hitter is going to play in his favor as well, especially with the kind of play that Jim Leyland likes to implement.
If Santiago does get the starting spot, it'll probably only be for the next year or two. He's already in his early 30s, so his prime is probably well behind him. Still, look for Santiago to be a front-runner for the spot going into Spring Training.
Don Kelly proved to be one of the best utility men in baseball last season
Is there a position that Don Kelly can't play?
Last season, Kelly played all nine positions on the field, including pitcher. That's impressive. What's not impressive, though, is that he isn't anything more than average at any position. And this includes second base.
Kelly's OBP was sub-.300 last year—a stat that Leyland has to look at when thinking about adding Kelly to the every day lineup.
His defense is fringe-average at best, making him one of the weaker defensive options for the position. I look at Kelly as a long shot to get the job not necessarily because he couldn't handle the position, but because the organization likes him better in his current role as a utility player.
Brandon Inge is hoping hoping to make the move from third to second in 2012
Brandon Inge had a year worth forgetting about in 2011.
The former third baseman saw virtually every stat fall. He only hit three home runs last year, although he did spend some time in Triple-A Toledo. His OBP slipped below .300 for the first time since 2003. His average was sub-.200.
So, why should Inge be a starter at second base? A few positives:
1. He's probably the best defender of the group, if only by a small margin.
2. Fans like him, although that number is decreasing daily.
3. He'd become a "happy camper" again.
4. The Tigers are paying him too much money to sit on the bench.
As you can see, not a lot of these relate to actually playing baseball. Neither would this move, because Inge had a terrible season compared to the other options from a statistical standpoint.
Ryan Raburn has seen his role with the Tigers increase over the past few seasons
Like a few of the other players on this list, Raburn's numbers have dropped over the past few seasons. Unlike some of the other players, Raburn doesn't really have a huge sample size to work with.
Last season, Raburn did show a bit of power, hitting 14 home runs with a slugging percentage of .432. However, his average dipped, as did his OBP.
His defense, though not spectacular, is pretty solid. He's probably the third best defender on the list, but the second-best hitter all around.
As of right now, Raburn is the leader in the clubhouse for the position. He is listed as the starter on the depth chart, ahead of Inge and Santiago. But, as we've seen before, spring training can definitely change things a bit.
Danny Worth is a bit of a dark horse for the second base position
Danny Worth is in an interesting situation.
In terms of looking toward the future, Worth would be the ideal option. He's the youngest of all of the candidates for the position, and he probably has the most raw talent.
While Worth doesn't have a great deal of power in his bat, he could provide a consistent bat in the ninth spot—something that the Tigers have failed to have in recent memory.
What happens to Worth really depends on what happens to Inge. If Inge gets the starting job at second, Worth will probably be the primary backup for Miguel Cabrera at third base. If Inge gets put into a backup role, it would probably be primarily at third base, leaving Worth bouncing between third, second and shortstop.
While I see Worth as a long shot to get the starting job, I think he's the best option. He has great bat speed, can drop a bunt well and has the potential to fill the role long term.