Why Jhonny Peralta Will be X-Factor for Tigers in AL Playoffs
After being suspended 50 games by MLB for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal, Peralta appears to be on his way back. Detroit Tigers beat writer Chris Iott of MLive.com broke the news via Twitter:
Dave Dombrowski: Jhonny Peralta will be activated for the game Friday.— Chris Iott (@Chris_Iott) September 25, 2013
Getting Peralta back for the postseason is huge for the Tigers, but he is no longer needed at shortstop. The Tigers knew that Peralta would be done for a long time after he was suspended, and they didn't want to take any chances. Instead, they traded for SS Jose Iglesias of the Boston Red Sox just before the non-waiver trade deadline.
The 23-year-old Iglesias is best known for his defensive prowess at shortstop, but he's been hitting well this year, batting .310 in 105 games.
Iglesias has been dealing with a hand injury that's kept him out of the lineup since Sept. 19, but he took batting practice on Wednesday and hopes to return on Friday.
Jose Iglesias plans to take batting practice today. Said he feels good.— Chris Iott (@Chris_Iott) September 25, 2013
Leyland said he is hopeful Jose Iglesias can start Friday but isn't sure yet.— Chris Iott (@Chris_Iott) September 25, 2013
Iglesias has proven to be an everyday shortstop, and the team plans on using him there. However, that leaves Peralta to take a new position when he returns.
According to James Schmehl of MLive.com, Tigers manager Jim Leyland expects that position to be left field.
Leyland confirmed that Peralta will mostly play in left field. Peralta has been spotted taking fly balls last Wednesday and this past weekend.
The Tigers have struggled to find an everyday left fielder this season, but putting Peralta there could be exactly what the team needs to make a deep postseason run.
Tigers left fielders this season have batted .261 with 16 home runs and 65 RBI in 158 games. Andy Dirks has proven that he can hit against right-handed pitchers. However, his .234 batting average and two home runs in 77 games against lefties proves that he's nothing more than a platoon option.
On the other hand, Peralta is batting .310/.361/.461 with 11 home runs and 54 RBI in 104 games this season. Prior to the All-Star break, he ranked first among AL shortstops in batting average and OPS of those with at least 200 plate appearances, and was second in home runs and RBI behind J.J. Hardy. He also would have ranked first in batting average and second in OPS among AL left fielders had he been playing that position at the time.
After putting up such great numbers before his suspension, we know Peralta can hit. He's proven that he's among the best batters in the AL, and having him play left field could solve Detroit's offensive struggles at that position.
The biggest question facing Peralta and whether or not he can play left field is his defense. Obviously, making the switch from shortstop to left field isn't easy, but there seems to be faith in him throughout the organization.
According to Tony Paul of The Detroit News, two minor league outfielders playing alongside him during his suspension from MLB had high praise for him:
'He’s a natural,' said Austin Schotts, a Tigers prospect who played center field while Peralta played left in an instructional league game Monday.
'Can’t really tell he’s new to the position.'
Said Connor Harrell, another outfield prospect also working out in Lakeland, Fla.: 'I think he looks really good out there -- pretty natural, honestly.'
If Peralta is being called a natural outfielder by those who play the position, he's clearly not going to hurt the team with his defense.
Peralta appears to be a perfect fit for the team in left field, and he will give Detroit a dangerous lineup if he can get back to his pre-suspension form.
Here's an idea of what Detroit's lineup will look like once Peralta and Iglesias come back:
|1||CF Austin Jackson||126||.271||12||48|
|2||RF Torii Hunter||142||.303||17||83|
|3||3B Miguel Cabrera||145||.347||44||137|
|4||1B Prince Fielder||158||.282||25||106|
|5||DH Victor Martinez||156||.302||14||83|
|6||LF Jhonny Peralta||104||.305||11||54|
|7||2B Omar Infante||115||.318||10||51|
|8||C Alex Avila||98||.224||11||46|
|9||SS Jose Iglesias||105||.310||3||29|
With Peralta and Iglesias back, the Tigers don't have a single weakness in their lineup. Every player has proven that they are capable hitters, and having Hunter, Cabrera, Fielder, Martinez and Peralta in the middle of the lineup makes this offense deadly.
The Tigers have had a great offense all year, ranking second in runs scored behind the Red Sox. And having an improved lineup to back a pitching staff that ranks second among AL playoff teams makes the Tigers legitimate World Series contenders.
With a four-man rotation of Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander and Doug Fister, the Tigers will be tough to beat. But coupling that with such an explosive lineup makes it almost impossible to win a series against them.
With the team Detroit has right now, they could easily win the World Series.
However, the question remains as to how Peralta will perform once he comes back.
He hasn't faced a major league pitcher since Aug. 4, and there could be some rust that he can't shake off in the three regular season games he'll be activated for before the postseason.
While coming back from suspension is easier than coming back from an injury, because Peralta has been able to maintain his physical shape, it's still not easy to return from a 50-game ban and pick up where you left off.
The questions concerning Peralta's bat are the biggest ones facing the Tigers, which is exactly what makes him Detroit's X-factor as we enter the month of October.
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