Final 2015 grades for Tigers’ hitters

2015-tigers-report-cardsThe final grades for the 2015 Detroit Tigers are now in.

There are more than a few fans who would argue that anything short of a World Series championship is an abject failure. They feel that everyone in the entire organization deserves an “F.” That may be the case, but it doesn’t make for very interesting reading.

With that said, here are the final grades for the Tigers’ full-time position players for 2015.

James McCann (Catcher): The Tigers have found their catcher of the future. It takes a lot of audacity (dare I say cajones) for a rookie to publicly get in the face of a teammate that he felt wasn’t hustling. And while I would have preferred he deal with it in the clubhouse, rather than the dugout for all to see, it sent a strong message that there will be accountability on this team. At the plate, McCann has a long, loping swing, which pitchers will take advantage of in 2016. Offensively, he may suffer a sophomore jinx, but he’ll continue to improve as a backstop and handler of pitchers. Grade: B-

Miguel Cabrera (First Base): On July 3, he was hitting .350 with 54 RBIs and 15 home runs. The Tigers were 40-39, in 3rd place, but with plenty of time to right the ship. Then he went out with an injury, and didn’t return until August 14, by which time Detroit was five games under .500, 14 games back, and essentially finished. There were a laundry list of reasons why the Tigers collapsed in 2015, but the loss of Cabrera in midsummer may have been the most critical. He was never the same after his return. That a guy can win a batting title and still have one of his worst seasons ever offensively, speaks volumes about his ability as a hitter. Grade: B-

Ian Kinsler (Second Base): Despite the occasional brain fart in the field and on the basepaths, Kinsler has given the Tigers just what they wanted when they picked him up in the Prince Fielder trade. He’ll never be accused of not hustling. He and Jose Iglesias have developed into one of the American League’s better double-play combinations. And while it took him a while to find his home run swing, he wound up with a slugging average of .428, his highest since 2011. Grade: C+

Jose Iglesias (Shortstop): There are those who say that he is a bit too flashy afield for his own good, and that he inexplicably loses concentration on the easier plays (just ask James McCann). Still, 2015 was a big leap forward for Iglesias in two respects: He proved he could hit, and he managed to stay healthy, at least until he got hit by a pitch on September 3rd, ending his season. He hit .300, but it seemed empty, with only 23 RBIs and 44 runs scored. Regardless, he’s an ideal bottom-third-of-the-order hitter. He’ll be 26 next season, and should be entering his prime. Grade: C+

Nick Castellanos (Third Base): He’s only 23 years old, so we’ll forgive him his 152 strikeouts and only 39 walks. His 0.5 WAR ranked near the bottom among American League third basemen. The more I watch Castellanos, the more I view him as a hitter, rather than an athlete. He doesn’t have speed, and isn’t particularly agile in the field (although his arm is above average). If he is going to have any kind of extended major league career, it’s going to have to be as a result of his bat. He’ll need to put up much bigger numbers in 2016. Grade: C-

Anthony Gose (Center Field): The organization kept insisting Gose would make us forget about Austin Jackson in center field, and that has been pretty much true. Offensively, they’re nearly identical statistic-wise, although Jackson has a bit more pop. Who is the better fly chaser? For my money, I’ll take Gose. Except when he forgets how many outs there are. Grade: C

J.D. Martinez (Right Field): The Houston Astros have to be kicking themselves for giving up on this kid so early. Martinez proved his surprising 2014 season was no fluke, and along the way he established himself as one of the game’s best power hitters. He is an above average defender, and a smart baserunner. Not bad for a guy the Tigers originally signed to a minor-league deal. Grade: B+

Rajai Davis (Left Field): Ok, so he only played 39 games in left. But after the Tigers traded Yoenis Cespedes, he spent most of the time out there. Davis has enough speed to overcome his deficiencies in the outfield. But he may be losing a step; he swiped only 18 bases, while getting caught eight times. His .306 on-base percentage doesn’t cut it. Davis hustles all the time, but the older (and slower) he gets, the more ordinary he becomes. Grade: C-

Victor Martinez (Designated Hitter): Is he done as a hitter? He’s going to be 37 by Opening Day, 2016. He’s coming off the worst season of his career, and chronically gimpy legs don’t suddenly start getting better at his age. He has three more years on his contract, at $18,000,000 per. V-Mart was simply never healthy this year, but there’s no guarantee things will be better next summer. He had a couple of great years for Detroit, but unfortunately this marriage may get ugly before it is all over. Grade: D

Andrew Romine (Utility Player): Romine is one of those pet players the Tigers fall in love with (remember Ramon Santiago) because he can wear many gloves. Nevermind that he can’t hit like a major league caliber player and he wears down as the season goes on. He’ll be a free agent after the World Series and though the front office likes him, I don’t expect the Tigers to bring him back when they have young infielders they can give cheaper playing time to. Grade C-

Tyler Collins (Outfield): He would probably benefit from playing every day, but even if he did his power numbers wouldn’t be good enough for a corner outfielder. He’s a fifth outfielder in a game that doesn’t carry fifth outfielders anymore. Still, at 25 and under team control for a while, Collins will get a shot to earn a spot coming out of spring training. Grade: C-

Alex Avila (Catcher): Not even his relationship with “Dear Ol’ Dad” should keep Avila in a Detroit uniform. Since his 2011 All-Star season, Avila’s home run rate has sunk from 3.5% to 1.8% while hie strikeout rate (percentage of all plate appearances that result in a K) has jumped from 24% to 31%. The brutal years of being a foul-tip magnet have left Avila battered and bruised and his sweet left-handed swing isn’t sweet at all anymore. Grade: D- 

Next week: the pitching staff.