19 June 2012
The production the Tigers have received from second basemen* this season has been atrocious. Ryan Raburn, Brandon Inge, Danny Worth, Ramon Santiago and Hernan Perez have combined to hit just .187/.256/.264 in 363 total plate appearances.
*None of these players, with the exception of Perez is only a small handful of games, played second base exclusively for the Tigers this season, but they’re the players that have been in the mix at the position, so I’m lumping their batting totals together. This represents their total hitting line, not just while playing second base (Inge’s totals only represents his time in Detroit this year).
I’m sure Dave Dombrowski and the Tigers’ scouts have second basemen on their radar ahead of July 31’s non-waiver trade deadline, but I can also imagine that it would be difficult for the organization to pull the trigger on a move for a couple of reasons.First of all, we’ve hear rumors and clamoring for pursuit of players like Houston’s Jose Altuve (and to a certain extent, Pittsburgh’s Neil Walker), but players such as this (that are young, cheap, and good) are difficult to trade for because Houston would have little incentive to move him. Teams in the rebuilding process with smaller payrolls are looking to acquire cheap, young talent, not trade it away. (Actually every MLB team is looking for this, but teams with smaller margins for error in their payrolls need these types of players). Now Detroit could probably put together a prospect package to pry him away, but it would take a sizable package, and the Tigers’ farm system isn’t known for it’s depth of quality. I’m usually of the opinion that trading prospects for “proven talent” is a good thing, but organizations need depth in the minor leagues. Both as a safety net against injuries or ineffectiveness, and as a source of cheap labor in the future.
Secondly, once you move past the top-tier guys, you start to wonder whether the available second basemen are really much better than the guys currently on the team. We’ve established that the second basemen haven’t performed well at all, but will they really continue to be that bad? Ryan Raburn certainly has a track record of success at the plate versus major league pitching (though that track record is getting more and more distant as time goes on), and even Ramon Santiago has shown himself to be a valuable glove/bat combination over the years. Would someone like Baltimore’s Robert Andino represent an upgrade over Santiago (or even a Santiago/Worth/Raburn platoon)? I doubt it.
I really have a hard time seeing Dombrowski make a sideways move just because the current second base platoon has struggled. It’s unreasonable to expect all three players (Raburn, Worth, and Santiago) to continue to hit worse than their respective career norms. As long as the Tigers stay close in the standings (they’re only 2.5 games back of Chicago as of Tuesday), they’re unlikely to make a big splash in the trade market.
That brings us back to the current options. Who should play? For my money, Ramon Santiago is the best second baseman on the team. He may not be the all-around defensive player that he was a few years back, but his glove is steady (especially compared to the rest of the team) and his bat is reasonable.
Santiago’s season totals at the plate aren’t great, he’s hitting .228/.305/.316, but those numbers are still (easily) the best of the second base bunch, and he’s been hitting the ball very well for the last month or so. Going back to the beginning of May (87 plate appearances), Santiago has hit for a .725 OPS with a .356 on-base percentage. In June alone (41 plate appearances), those numbers have risen to .825 and .366 respectively. Santiago isn’t going to be a flashy hitter (even while displaying his “sneaky power”), but he walks at a near-average rate (he’s at 7.8% this year), and he strikes out at a less-than-average rate (just 12.5% this year).
I know the Tigers’ organization has never viewed Santiago as an every day player, but I think he’s shown this season that he’s worthy of receiving the bulk of the playing time. At the very least, he should be entrenched as the everyday man versus right handed pitching, though he probably deserves some of the starts versus lefties as well.
Matt Snyder is the editor of The Tigers Den. He can be reached on Twitter @snyder_matthew.