Leading up to the 2013 season, I'm going to write player profiles about key members of the Detroit Tigers. This is the second installment, featuring second baseman Omar Infante.
2012 Season: 149 G, .274 AVG, 12 HR, 53 RBI
Detroit Tigers second baseman Omar Infante is on his second tour with the Tigers, after being acquired from the Miami Marlins in a trade last July. Infante played in Detroit from 2002-07 before being traded to the Chicago Cubs.
The Tigers were getting minimal production out of their second base trio of Ramon Santiago, Danny Worth, and Ryan Raburn, so they traded for Infante. Infante came in and solidified second base by playing in 64 games and batted .257 with four home runs and 20 RBI.
Infante's numbers don't jump out at first. But if you look on Fangraph at his Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of .8 while comparing it to Worth's WAR of -.2, Santiago's WAR of -.3 and Raburn's WAR of -1.5, then you start to appreciate Infante more.
After the trade back to Detroit, Infante struggled defensively before he steadied himself as the postseason began.
Infante is known around the league as being very solid defensively, as John Perrotto wrote in USA Today:
Infante has long had the reputation of being a good defensive player and that was part of the allure of acquiring him and right-hander Anibal Sanchez from the Miami Marlins in a late-July trade. Some scouts feel Infante has the best hands of any middle infielder in the major leagues.
Do you think Infante will have a better season in 2013 compared to last season?
Having Infante entrenched at second base entering the 2013 season must be reassuring to the Tigers organization, since their infield defense won't be winning any Gold Gloves anytime soon and second base has been a weakness over the past few seasons.
Infante, who fractured his wrist in Game 4 of the World Series is healed and will have the luxury of being with the Tigers for a full season starting in spring training. I believe this will go a long way in contributing to the team positively.
The Tigers also know they will have a motivated player, since Infante is only signed through 2013 and is playing for a new contract. If the Tigers like what they see from Infante, then you can rest assured that they'll give him an offer to stay in Detroit longer.
Infante is that rare player, similar to catcher Alex Avila, whose defense will be more important on this Tigers team than his offense.
2013 Prediction: .284 AVG, 10 HR, 55 RBI