Ripple Effect | The Prince Fielder Signing
Aside from those living under a rock for the past week, everyone in the sports world has undoubtedly heard about the Detroit Tigers signing of former Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder for 214 million dollars over nine seasons. With the recent ACL injury to DH Victor Martinez, the Tigers swooped into the negotiations for the top slugger and, motivated by owner Mike Illitch’s desire to win, things happened quickly.
Well, every big trade or, in this case, acquisition creates a ripple effect throughout an organization where opportunities for other players disappear, defensive positions are shifted, or other trades may be the result. So here we are to sort this all out.
Recently, Tiger manager Jim Leyland confirmed that Prince Fielder’s arrival in Detroit immediately does two things: Fielder gets installed as starting first baseman and the former starting first baseman Miguel Cabrera is shifted back to third base, his original defensive position. While some doubt Cabrera will last at 3B for the long-term, the move needs to be taken seriously due to the long-term commitment made to Fielder. However, for the 2012 season, both sluggers will likely see some time in the DH spot in the hitting line-up, but in 2013, or even by the end of 2012, Victor Martinez could be back to claim the DH for himself again. So barring more injuries, this situation doesn’t leave much room in Detroit for 1B prospects like:
Aaron Westlake – Drafted in 2011 out of Vanderbilt University, Westlake was selected for his advanced power bat. Already 23-years-old, he was pegged to move quickly through the system to the big leagues. Without much speed or defensive range in the outfield, he will be the first casualty of the Fielder signing. Despite having a somewhat rough start in his NY/Penn League debut, if the bat blossoms in High A Lakeland this season, expect Detroit to put him out there as trade bait.
“Mean” Dean Green – Drafted in the 11th round, here is another 2011 draftee with defensive limitations. This big bodied (6’4″ 255lbs) first baseman played for Oklahoma State until his senior year where he moved to Division II Barry State University after not getting drafted in 2010. A professional teammate of Westlake, Green hit .341 with a .915 OPS in the NY/Penn. Green should move on to Low-A West Michigan in 2012. The development of his power bat will determine what his future in baseball holds. It might just be with another team.
Ryan Strieby – In 2008, Strieby’s power stroke produced 29 homeruns and a .352/.563/.915 triple slash in the FSL. The following seasons in Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo saw his power dip and strikeouts soar. Last season, the power came back with 19 homers in Toledo but the k’s shot up to 171 in 487 at bats. At age 26, it wasn’t looking likely that he was ever going to make the big club. The odds are even slimmer now.
With Cabrera now back at third base, most of the talk has been about if he can play a passable defense there. Honestly, the defensive combination of Cabrera at third and Jhonny Peralta at short should scare more than a few Tiger fans. Less, though, have pondered the effects of this move on some of their higher profile 3B prospects like the 2011 draftee Jason King and the Tigers #2 ranked prospect Nick Castellanos. Let’s take a look at their options:
Jason King – A quick sign out of Kansas State in 2011, King moved from the outfield to third after his freshman year in college. So a move back to the outfield would be an obvious one. I wouldn’t expect a change to happen immediately. Detroit will most likely want to see how his bat plays in full season ball without adding the pressure of learning a new position at more challenging level. A prospect with some power/speed talent, the 22-year-old should join Dean Green in West Michigan this season.
Nick Castellanos – This promising 19-year-old hitter has some different options. After one pretty successful year in the minor leagues, Castellanos could either be moved to left field or held at third in the event that he takes until 2015 to be ready for the major leagues. At that time, Victor Martinez’s contract would expire. Cabrera could then move back to first and Fielder to the DH or vice versa. But if Nick continues to hit above .300 and add more power to his repertoire at a greater rate than expected, the team may see an advantage in getting his bat in the line-up, so a move to left could happen. The nice part for Castellanos’s development is that there is no need for him to be rushed, a characteristic of Detroit’s handling of their young pitchers. His ascent to the bigs can be dictated entirely by his natural progress. A very good thing. The final option is one we’ve already seen this off-season with the Tigers dangling Casty and Jacob Turner in trade talks. It’s possible that the team could find a taker for Castellanos in return for a top-level leadoff man or second baseman.
The Fielder signing and subsequent slide over to third for Miguel Cabrera seems more like a desperate move meant to push the team into further contention in the playoffs with the loss of Victor Martinez igniting the whole thing. They want to win now. And I can’t blame them. Tiger fans can rejoice in the fact that their club is devoted to attaining a World Series championship. Fortunately, most of Detroit’s top position playing prospects are currently in the lower minors where the youngsters have time to find their role with the team and no change is irreversible.
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