Manager A.J. Hinch gave Paredes plenty of opportunity to win the starting third base job this spring. Based on Paredes’ quality of contact and the way Hinch talked about his defense, it seemed like he had a very good chance to make the roster, but he was sent down on Thursday.
That opens the door for Jeimer Candelario to move back to his preferred position of third base and creates a hole at first. Here’s a new prediction for the starting lineup come Opening Day.
1. Robbie Grossman, LF
Spring stats: .243/.364/.486 (.850 OPS), 2 HR, 3 doubles, 6 walks, 11 strikeouts in 37 at-bats.
Since the day the Tigers signed Grossman, he’s felt like the best fit atop the lineup. Well, this spring he’s strengthened that case with a .364 on-base percentage.
Grossman is striking out way more often than his career rate this spring, but the sample size is obviously small, so it’s not much of a concern. He’s been getting deep into counts and reaching base consistently from the leadoff spot for Hinch.
2. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
Spring stats: .359/.395/.462 (.857 OPS), 2 doubles, 1 triple, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts in 39 at-bats.
Do the Tigers finally have a manager who will bat his best hitter in the No. 2 spot, where he belongs?
Early indications are promising on that front, as Candelario is a fixture hitting second this spring and has done his best to validate a breakout 2020 campaign in which he slashed .297/.369/.503 with 21 extra-base hits in 52 games.
Sure, it was only 52 games, and even these spring numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. But it’s better to see Candelario swinging a hot bat than the alternative.
3. Willi Castro, SS
Spring stats: .318./362/.614 (.975 OPS), 2 doubles, 1 triple, 3 HR, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts in 44 at-bats.
The conversation surrounding Castro coming into this season was mostly about how he couldn’t sustain his numbers from 2020. Obviously, he won’t. But people might not have spent enough time factoring in that the 23-year-old is still improving at the dish.
In 44 spring at-bats, Castro is tearing the cover off the ball. His batting average ceiling might be a little higher than expected, though his on-base percentage will be limited by the fact he doesn’t walk.
Hinch has pretty much penciled Castro into the No. 3 hole every time he starts this spring, so this is a safe bet.
4. Miguel Cabrera, DH
Spring stats: .219/.257/.344 (.601 OPS), 1 double, 1 HR, 1 walk, 9 strikeouts in 32 at-bats.
We’ve reached the part of the preseason in which every conversation about Cabrera is some version of “he’s not the MVP candidate he used to be but he’s still got something left in the tank.”
Yes, Cabrera has been hitting the ball hard the last couple of seasons, and it was encouraging to see him blast 10 home runs in 57 games last year. But he’s posted an OPS below .750 three of the last four seasons.
It looks like Hinch is locking Cabrera into the cleanup spot, but it’s not as much of a guarantee that he’ll succeed there as everyone seems to think.
5. Jonathan Schoop, 2B
Spring stats: .143/.250/.190 (.440 OPS), 1 double, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts in 21 at-bats.
Schoop hasn’t gotten as many spring at-bats as the others above, and he’s still trying to find his timing at the plate.
But when Opening Day rolls around, he’ll be the starter at second base, and Hinch appears to prefer him hitting fifth, where he can be a run producer.
6. Renato Nunez, 1B
Spring stats: .192/.222/.385 (.607 OPS), 2 doubles, 1 HR, 10 strikeouts in 26 at-bats.
Spring hasn’t been kind to Nunez so far -- 10 strikeouts and no walks in 27 plate appearances -- but he still stands to benefit most from Paredes getting sent down to Triple A.
As much as Hinch insists Cabrera will play some first base this season, that isn’t something the Tigers want to test on a regular basis. Nunez isn’t a very good defender, but the power in his bat appears to have earned him a shot at the starting job.
If Nunez doesn’t get the job, it creates an opportunity for Harold Castro to make the Opening Day roster. Niko Goodrum, Cabrera and Schoop could all take some reps at first base.
7. Nomar Mazara, RF
Spring stats: .182/.250/.182 (.432 OPS), 2 walks, 6 strikeouts in 22 at-bats.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Mazara in the No. 8 slot behind Wilson Ramos, but so far this spring, Hinch has had him above the catcher in the lineup.
In 22 at-bats, Mazara has yet to record an extra-base hit this spring. That’s been a bit of an issue for him in his career, despite the consistent 20-homer power. If Mazara struggles early in the regular season, the Tigers have a few outfielders who could start taking his at-bats.
8. Wilson Ramos, C
Spring stats: .273/.333/.455 (.788 OPS), 3 doubles, 1 HR, 3 walks, 7 strikeouts in 33 at-bats.
Ramos is going to be a solid offensive catcher and average behind the plate. The Tigers have already seen that consistency from the veteran this spring.
At the very least, Ramos greatly extends the Tigers’ lineup, bringing some legitimate power potential to the bottom third. If he bounces back to his 2018 or 2019 form, it’ll be an even greater bonus.
9. JaCoby Jones, CF
Spring stats: .135/.238/.324 (.562 OPS), 1 double, 2 HR, 4 walks, 14 strikeouts in 37 at-bats.
The only returning member of last year’s outfield still in the starting lineup is Jones, who posted an .849 OPS before a hit by pitch ended his 2020 season early.
Jones is striking out at an alarmingly high rate this spring, but again, it’s a tiny sample size and shouldn’t take away from the consistent gains he’s made at the plate over the past three years.
If he starts the season in a major slump, Jones is another outfielder who could lose at-bats to Victor Reyes or Akil Baddoo.