Last season the Tigers opened training camp with a hole at 2nd base, and once again may be opening the season with a hole in the same position. Scott Sizemore ended up filling that hole, but was ineffective at the plate and was eventually sent down after about a month and a half. That opened the door for Danny Worth, while they waited for Carlos Guillen to return from injury and fill the position. Injuries to other tiger infielders, including another to Guillen reopened the door for these guys, as well as a new candidate in Will Rhymes.
Carlos Guillen is still in the tigers plans at second base, but that is no reason for these young players to be discouraged. It isn’t even known if Carlos will be able to start the season at second, and once he does start playing it is only a matter of time before he goes down with another injury. Perhaps a negative point of view, but history is not on his side.One of the best Tiger stories as far as rookies goes from last year is Will Rhymes. He hit .304 last season with the big club in over 200 at bats, an impressive show of consistency. Looking at Rhymes minor league stats it is safe to say the .304 average is not far off what he has regularly done. His minor league average over 6 seasons is .289. He also shows good plate discipline, not striking out a whole lot and getting his share of walks. He also provides speed on the bases, stealing at least 20 bases in every season except his first season, where he still managed to swipe 14 in spite of only playing in 61 games.
Rhymes could add some additional speed into the tigers line up, a department it lacks in other then lead off man Austin Jackson. Rhymes is also an older player at 27 years old. He will be 28 by the time the season starts, 17 days before tigers all star Miguel Cabrera. This means physically Rhymes should be entering the prime of his career. He could help the tigers a lot in the next couple of seasons but probably can’t be relied on much beyond the next few seasons. Rhymes could get 300-350 at bats and hit between .290 and .300 with 15 to 20 stolen bases. As the at bats increase I would expect the stolen base numbers to go up.
Rhymes playing time depends on Carlos Guillen as well as other 2010 rookies. Scott Sizemore probably has the next best chance to get time at second base this season. Before last season started 2nd base was pretty much awarded as his position to lose, even after breaking an ankle. The tigers didn’t resign Placido Polonco on the strength they thought they saw in Sizemore. He had a strong showing in the Arizona fall league before he broke his ankle. You have to wonder how much pressure there was on him to perform and recover from that ankle injury. Was that why we saw him start out so slow?
Maybe this season with less pressure to perform we will be able to see why he was the 2009 tigers minor league player of the year. During the 2009 season he hit .308 with 17 home runs between double and triple A. He also stole 21 bases and had a .389 OBP as well. Those are some pretty healthy numbers. He started the Arizona Fall season off hot before getting injured going 7 for 19 with 3 home runs. He put up similar numbers in his return to the big leagues in September going 8 for 20 in September with 2 home runs.
Given Sizemore’s consistency in the minors it would not be unreasonable to expect if he got the opportunity and wasn’t recovering from an injury he could hit around .290 with 5-10 home runs and 5-10 stolen bases. He never attempted to steal a base in 48 games in the majors so it may be unreasonable to expect him to steal even 5 in the 300-350 at bats he could get. He either did not feel confident stealing bases or was not permitted to try. It also could have had something to do with his ankle as he only tried to steal 4 bases (succeeding on 2) in triple A Toledo last season compared to 25 attempts (21 successful) the season before.
Danny Worth was called up when Scott Sizemore was sent down. His chances of getting much playing time are not nearly as good as the other 2, his minor league numbers simply don’t support him as well. In his four minor league seasons Worth averaged only .251, although his best season came at Triple A Toledo last year when he wasn’t with the big club. He batted .287, but he didn’t hit for much power. Of his 47 hits in Toledo only 7 went for extra bases. Of his 27 hits in Detroit 7 also went for extra bases.
Worth is at best 3rd in line for an infield call up this season, although there are prospects in the system the tigers are or were high up on in their system. One that comes to mind is Cale Lorg. Worth will likely see a small amount of time in the big leagues, maybe 100-150 at bats. It wouldn’t be fair to expect a whole lot more out of Worth then between .230 and .250.