Going into the off season there were plenty of questions about who would play what position come 2011. There were really only two known answers, Cabrera at first and Austin Jackson in centre field. Every other position had uncertainties, including the other 2 outfield positions. At some point this season the answer will be Casper Wells or Brennan Boesch.
Jackson still falls under the category of a 2010 rookie but he had such a strong campaign it is easy to forget he was a rookie. An article about how he should have been the rookie of the year can be found here:
Jackson has the desire and drive to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump and improve on his numbers. It would be nice to see him cut back on his league leading 170 strike outs. Because of all the strikeouts, he did have a league high batting average of balls put into play. He stole bases consistently all season and it would be expected that he once again gets a minimum 25 to 30 stolen bases. His power numbers should also improve a little as 3 of his 4 home runs came after the all star break. If he can reduce his strike outs by 20, he should be able to hit .300 with 100 runs, 30 stolen bases and 7-9 home runs.
As of right now, the tigers’ corner outfield spots are not filled, however Leyland did say that one of them was Raburn’s field to lose. They are also looking to bring in one more bat either as a free agent or through a trade. In all likeliness that bat will come in the corner outfield and very well could be a return of Magglio Ordonez. That would mean Well’s or Boesch’s chances of making the team are likely as only the 4th outfielder.
Boesch had a great start to his Major League career when he was called up at the end of last April, winning the rookie of the month for both May and June. His minor league stats however never suggested he could be the kind of hitter he showed nor keep it up, although they did show power potential. His career average in the minors was .270, about 70 points lower then what he hit at in his first 2 months with the big club.
He showed good power in the minors, leading the league while with AA Erie in home runs, hitting 28 of them. He hit 14 with the tigers last season and perhaps the only reason he wouldn’t be able to repeat that is because he won’t get the same amount of playing time. He could make the team as a fourth outfielder, where maybe he will get the chance to hit between 5 and 10 home runs while batting around his minor league average of .270. If there is an injury in the outfield he could see more playing time where his home run total will be closer to 10 and his average will drop a little.
Casper Wells had a good showing in his small sample of play with the tigers last season, but he like Boesch also never showed the same in the minors. Over 6 seasons, at several levels, he had a .250 average. He did show some pop averaging one home run every 21 at bats and it was much higher in the last 3 seasons. This includes last season at AAA Toledo when he hit 21 home runs in just 430 at bats.
Well’s projection numbers should be right around the same as Boesch and they both have the same ifs as far as injuries go, and both will be battling each other to be the fourth outfielder. The projections depend on playing time, so both of them will be unable to reach those projections, especially without an injury in the outfield. Neither player has the advantage of youth on their sides and will be entering the primes of their careers in the next couple of seasons. This means they will be near the top of their games and will need to take advantage of their opportunities this spring and then into the season. Should make for an interesting battle.