Jason Beck has been all over the Winter Meetings. Today he’s got some Jim Leyland nuggets that warrant some discussion.
The leadoff spot
So the Tigers don’t have a prototypical leadoff hitter, or at least prototypicaly in the sense that most people think of leadoff hitters: fast guys who steal bases, bunt, and don’t strike out a lot and don’t hit for power. Many view Juan Pierre and his 330 OBP last year as perfect. But I digress. The point of this is that Jim Leyland is talking about Curtis Granderson, Placido Polanco, and Ivan Rodriguez to be the leadoff man.
Granderson is a logical choice because he held the post last year, and he’s the closest to that qualification for fast. Polanco is fine as that pesky guy who will always put the ball in play. The name that will raise eyebrows is Pudge Rodriguez. The same Pudge that more than doubled his walk total from 2005 by picking up 26 free passes.
But I don’t think this is a bad thing to try. Pudge led off in 3 games in 2006, and drew 3 walks. Three games is of course and insufficient sample, but when placed into that role he seemed to make a concerted effort to see more pitches. I don’t know how likely it is that he would be successful in the role, but if it helps him improve his plate discipline the Tigers will benefit.
Marcus Thames at first
Leyland wants to give Thames a shot at first base. I think this is a wonderful idea. After all, first base is often a last option for defensively challenged players. The upside is that Thames is passable defensively, and you have quite the platoon partner for Casey. You also keep Thames on the team. You also keep Santiago/Perez from being Casey’s injury replacement (by extension of course when Guillen moves from short to first). It certainly wouldn’t help Chris Shelton’s cause, but Shelton has an option year left. Thames doesn’t.
Omar in the outfield
Leyland also said that Omar Infante will most likely be the backup centerfielder barring a trade. Infante is athletic enough to pull it off, and any indication that Leyland sees a role for Infante is a positive.