The baseball blogosphere received a late Christmas present this morning when the Detroit Tigers traded Steve Lombardozzi to Baltimore in return for veteran shortstop Alex Gonzalez. Yeah, that’s the same Alex Gonzalez who limped to a .194 wOBA with the Milwaukee Brewers before getting released mid-season with a -1.1 WAR. Amongst non-pitchers with at least 100 plate appearances, Gonzalez compiled the third-worst wOBA in Major League Baseball, ahead of only Casper Wells and Luis Cruz. Tremendous company.
Of course, the Tigers are attempting to replace the injured Jose Iglesias without signing Stephen Drew, which would cost the organization a draft pick, or trading for Nick Franklin, which would involve sacrificing prospects from an already-thin farm system. It appears the organization has opted to compile a handful of fringe internal candidates, hoping one or two sticks enough to bring competent production to the shortstop position.
For fantasy purposes, though, should owners even bother paying attention to this battle?
If Alex Gonzalez is tabbed as the everyday guy in Detroit, the answer to that question is almost unequivocally no, aside from AL-only leagues or the absurdly-deep mixed leagues. The only thing Gonzalez would have going in his favor would be playing time, which can be valuable in itself in some leagues and formats. Just, ya know, don’t expect the 37-year-old veteran to exactly help in any rotisserie category. ZiPS projects him to hit .223/.260/.330 on the season — which represents a 46-point jump in batting average, 57-point jump in OBP, and 100-point jump in slugging.
That illustrates just how putrid Gonzalez was at the plate last season. I mean, the dude posted a 13 wRC+!
Conversely, if Andrew Romine or Hernan Perez begin to see significant playing time for the Tigers and you’re desperate for help at the shortstop position, it’d be wise to keep the two youngsters on your fantasy radar.
Andrew Romine hit .287/.367/.391 in Triple-A last season for the Los Angeles Angels, and Hernan Perez managed a .301/.325/.423 slash line in Double-A for the Tigers. Neither player offers any semblance of power and would be exceedingly lucky to reach the half-dozen home run mark in a full season. Instead, their fantasy value lies in the fact that the pair combined for 45 stolen bases last year (29 for Perez and 16 for Romine). If either guy becomes the regular shortstop for the Tigers, they could potentially hit .250ish with 15-to-20 stolen bases, and that’s essentially a carbon copy of what Jimmy Rollins and Alcides Escobar provided a season ago. Certainly not exciting, but for free off the waiver wire? A fantasy owner could certainly do worse (sup, Adeiny Hechavarria).
Two things of which owners should remain cognizant: (1) for either to approach 15-to-20 stolen bases, someone would have to garner 400+ plate appearances, which remains a stretch at this point; and (2) it’s not guaranteed that either shortstop can actually hit .250 at the major-league level with extended playing time.
On that last point, I’d feel more confident in Andrew Romine hitting at least .250 with regular at-bats because he’s displayed competent plate discipline throughout his minor-league career. Hernan Perez, on the other hand, owned a 3.1% walk rate in 384 plate appearances at Double-A. Big league pitchers will likely exploit that lack of discipline, which was seen in his brief big-league debut, when he hit .197/.217/.227. He’s also scuffling to a .225/.250/.325 slash line this spring. One has to don rose-colored glasses to project Perez to legitimately hit .250 as a 23-year-old everyday guy with a hacktastic approach.
(Side note: No, I’m not considering Danny Worth a legitimate option at shortstop for the Detroit Tigers at the moment.)
Overall, I’d suggest fantasy owners should hope Andrew Romine gets the everyday nod at shortstop. He seems to possess the best shot at fantasy relevance, even if it wouldn’t be anything exciting. It should also be noted that the Tigers had the fewest stolen bases in the majors last season, but I’m expecting a slight uptick there with Prince Fielder now in Texas and a new manager in the Tigers’ dugout. If Romine receives regular playing time and can hit .250 with 15 stolen bases and a couple homers, he could be an option in AL-only leagues and deeper mixed leagues. He could also be an emergency option for owners who drafted Jose Reyes and are now coping with the uncomfortable fact that he’s already struggling with hamstring tightness.
In all likelihood, though, the Tigers’ shortstop position will be something for fantasy owners to avoid to start the season. No need to tie up a roster spot at this point.
Print This Post