By: Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning
With Cameron Maybin looking like he will start the season on the disabled list, where will the Tigers turn? Should we be worried? Kurt and Holly spend a Tuesday focusing on upcoming decisions involving centerfield.
How concerned should fans be over Cameron Maybin starting the season on the DL?
This is the last thing the Tigers wanted for Cameron Maybin. The injury bug has bit him before and when he gets hurt, he tends to be lengthy in his recovery. I am sure they had hoped Maybin had gotten over the hurdle of what has been a very injury-plagued career.
In 2012, he was hampered by a lingering sore wrist and Achilles tendon. In 2013, he suffered from inflammation in his right wrist, which eventually required surgery while he was later recovering from a torn right knee ligament. And in 2014, he ruptured his left biceps tendon, causing him to miss months of the season.
So should Tiger fans be concerned about yet another injury? Of course. He’s an important piece to this Tiger puzzle and his injury compromises their outfield depth the longer he is out. Anthony Gose can do the job for sure; he showed that last season. But I fully expected, if he had remained healthy, that Maybin would have been the guy to get the bulk of the time in center, and maybe he still will.
The initial report stated that Maybin’s recovery will take 4-6 weeks so I’m leaning towards the longer healing time because I’ve learned not to believe the timeframe the Tigers state. But Maybin will also need at least a couple of weeks to have his own spring training, so for the sake of argument, let’s say he’ll be out at least 8 weeks.
Technically, he would first be available at the very end of April, but given that April has a lot of off-days, it means he will miss approximately 22 actual in-season games.
The level of concern we should have is really based upon 2 factors:
1. How many LH pitchers will Gose have to face? His stats against them are very poor and if he faces more RH pitching, then concern should be lower.
2. When will Victor Martinez return to the lineup? It’s now stated that he may miss Opening Day and without him, the lineup becomes much weaker. VMart hits LH pitching far better, but if he’s gone, there’s more concern about a lineup in which the Tigers will be mightily challenged if they have to face southpaws.
The Tigers can get by in the short-term if it’s just Maybin who is out, but when you expand the number of starting players who are on the DL, the concern will grow.
Bernard, Collins or Romine: Which one is more likely to get the call to platoon with Gose until Maybin returns?
It really depends how conservative or how aggressive they are with this decision. Giving Romine time in center leads you to believe that he will be strongly considered. Platooning Tyler Collins with Gose, both left-handed hitters doesn’t make sense, and Collins is not exactly fleet of foot, making the depths of Comerica’s centerfield a little too much for him to handle.
But despite Wynton Bernard’s inexperience, the Tigers should take every opportunity to add speed to their lineup and Bernard has lots of it. They will feel the loss of Rajai Davis. But they may have had Bernard in mind when they let Davis go.
The Tigers couldn’t have expected to bring him to the big club this soon. But you can’t find a diamond in the rough if you don’t at least take a peek. You just never know. Sometimes short-term auditions can become brilliant moves.
The fact that the Tigers have introduced Andrew Romine into the mix for CF tells me that they aren’t quite comfortable with Bernard or Collins. The Tigers need that strength continuing up the middle, esp. for pitchers like Pelfrey, plus someone who can hit LH pitching.
It is a real stretch to expect Bernard to step into this important position given that his experience is at AA level and his OF defensive stats show he needs much more seasoning.
Collins can hit LH pitching but he’s only played 1 game in CF at the MLB level. His size also figures into the strategy as he’s not built to be able to cover all that ground and he’s not very speedy.
Romine offers the switch-hitting capability, hits LHers slightly better, is a fast and decent runner and built much more like a CFer. If he continues to get reps there, we’ll know where the Tigers are headed.
But I’m also going to throw out Mike Aviles as a candidate. He’s got the build and speed and has played more games at CF than any of the other 3. He also hits LH pitching better.