Tigers Trade A Prince For A Kin-sler
A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece for FanGraphs called, “The Myth Of Truly Blocked Prospects.” In it, I gave my definition of “blocked” and concluded too few talented baseball players exist for any one player to be relegated to bench duty for too long. Last night’s trade is a prime example of this theory in action.
Heading into 2014, the Rangers had a hole at first base and a strong middle infield trio in Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler and Jurickson Profar. Profar filled a utility role last season and posted a .644 OPS in just under 300 plate appearances. For a player expected to contend for American League Rookie Of The Year, it was a disappointing result. Entering his age-21 season, it was time to hand Profar the reigns at shortstop or second base and move forward as an organization.
For the Detroit Tigers, shifting Nick Castellanos, its best prospect from third base to the outfield hurt offensively. At 21, his .793 OPS was excellent for his age, but not quite ready for an everyday role. Detroit has a hole in left field, but a return to the infield for Castellanos would allow Miguel Cabrera to slide back to first base, helping the pitching staff.
On paper, this seems like a win-win for both organizations.
But what about the fantasy fallout? How does this impact players directly and indirectly involved?
Prince Fielder: The Ballpark at Arlington will aid Fielder’s home run totals, but he’s now a part of a lesser lineup. In theory, Andrus leads off, Alex Rios bats second and Adrian Beltre hits third. Maybe a combination of Profar/Leonys Martin mans the two-hole, but their .300ish OBP’s are even worse than Rios’ .324. When compared to Austin Jackson at .337, Torii Hunter at .334 and Cabrera at .442, Fielder will have less opportunities with men on base. Overall, expect power production to improve, but I’m not sure a return to dominance is in the cards given the rest of the lineup. Bump him up if he ends up hitting third. I know many question the importance of lineup protection, but I still believe.
Ian Kinsler: Kinsler is likely to lead off in Detroit and score runs in bunches ahead of Hunter/Jackson and Cabrera. If Austin Jackson leads off and Kinsler bats second, then I like the second baseman even more. One thing a move to the Tigers doesn’t help with is the fact he has played 140+ games three times in eight seasons. Fielder has never played less than 157 as a full timer. And with Kinsler stealing just 15 bases in 26 attempts, the Tigers will want to invest in a quality backup to allow the former Ranger to remain fresh.
Jurickson Profar: My guess is he’ll hit in the seven, eight or nine hole in 2014. I wonder if Profar has an Andrelton Simmons-like season where he posts strong power totals, but struggles with OBP. The bottom of the order is pretty weak in Texas, so I worry his run and RBI totals will wind up in the 55-65 range over the course of a full season. 2014 might be an opportunity to scoop him up from an impatient owner at some point. Don’t expect a breakout campaign until 2015 at the earliest.
Nick Castellanos: Will he be a starter on opening day? I don’t think so. He’s likely to spend a couple more months in Triple-A before arriving in Detroit for good. Why? he’s a corner guy coming off a 2013 where he posted a .793 OPS in the International League. For his age, it’s excellent production. However, Detroit will want to see him dominate before giving Castellanos a final seal of approval. Once promoted, expect him to land in the seven hole. Between now and opening day, I still expect the Tigers to sign another bat to plug into the six spot.
Adrian Beltre: With Fielder, a legitimate threat in front, or behind the third baseman, Beltre will continue to dominate. Expect improved production, but it’s difficult to project a huge difference considering he has been so consistent the past few years.
Miggy Cabrera: Cabrera averaged 27 intentional walks per season in 2010-2011. With Prince Fielder, the average dropped to 18. And while Fielder’s numbers slipped, Cabrera’s only two 40-plus home runs seasons came with Fielder hitting behind. Will Cabrera continue to be one of the best hitters in baseball? Absolutely, but Martinez or Hunter in the cleanup spot sill cause opponents to pitch around Cabrera more. He has a better chance for forty intentional walks in 2014 than forty home runs. Anybody want to take me up on that bet?
Omar Infante: With Kinsler in the mix, it appears as if Infante is headed elsewhere. On a lesser team, he’s a two-hole hitter who’ll continue to be productive. 2013 may have been a career year for Infante, but a better spot in the lineup might lessen whatever regression is expected.
Kelly Johnson: Just throwing this out there, but wouldn’t Johnson be a great fit in Detroit? He can play second, third and left field, while providing power against right-handed pitching. Once the trade was made, I hope Dombrowski’s first call was to Johnson’s agent.
4 Feb 2014 / Mike Newman /
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