Will Rhymes has long been a favorite of mine. He entered spring training in 2011 looking to carve out a bench role on a veteran club. But the young player with 191 career MLB at-bats ended up winning the starting second base job for the Tigers, according to manager Jim Leyland. Rhymes edged out early 2010 potential rookie of the year Scott Sizemore, an offensive-minded infielder who fell on hard times and posted a wOBA of just .284.
Rhymes is an interesting player who stands just 5’9” and 155 lbs. Despite his diminutive frame, he knows how to handle the bat. With his first taste of the Majors, the infielder batted .304/.350/.414 in 2010. A left-handed hitter, Rhymes batted more than .300 against southpaws at both the MLB level and at triple-A. He’s shown the ability to hit for average throughout his minor league career, while also stealing 20+ bases. His walk rate was OK at 6.6 BB% but his strikeout rate was impressive at just 8.4 K%; he puts the ball in play and also showed a propensity for line drives (23.2 LD%). If we’re looking for negatives to Rhymes’ game, aside from the lack of power, his defense is average at best. He has sure hands, but his range is iffy and he doesn’t have the best foot work around the bag.
It will be interesting to see what he can do over the course of a full season. There is no guarantee, though, that Rhymes will get to play an entire year at the keystone. Veteran Carlos Guillen is currently on the disabled list with knee soreness. He’s owed $13 million for 2011 so he’ll have a spot as soon as he’s healthy. Despite the feel-good story for Rhymes as the 2011 season looms, he’s likely not the long-term answer at the position. He’s going to be 28 years old on April 1.
Rhymes will bring important elements to the lineup. Firstly, he brings some smart base running and some speed; Rhymes and Austin Jackson could provide a real spark at the top of the lineup. As well, Rhymes would fit in well at the top of the lineup in the No. 2 hole. If he can maintain his .350 on-base average, he could score a lot of runs – or help move the runners ahead of him into scoring position for the big boppers like Magglio Ordonez, Victor Martinez, and Miguel Cabrera.
This move may not receive a lot of attention, but the addition of Rhymes offers an important element to the Tigers’ 2011 starting lineup.
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