LAKELAND — As spring training nears its end here in Lakeland, the 25-man roster seems far from written in stone.
The Tigers have been vocal about carrying a right-handed hitting outfielder into opening day. In fact, Jim Leyland was even quoted as being 99.9 percent sure that would happen.
So your choices seem to be down to Jeff Kobernus, Nick Castellanos, Avisail Garcia, and Matt Tuiasosopo.
Castellanos leads nearly every hitting statistic among Tigers but will likely begin the season in Toledo with the Mud Hens. His development is vital and the Tigers do not want to see him in the majors getting little playing time off the bench.
Garcia was a strong possibility to be on the opening day roster but has recently suffered a severely bruised right heel that will keep him out for some time.
That leaves only Kobernus and Tuiasosopo. Two players no one knows a lot about and who weren’t Tigers last season.
Kobernus and his speed gave him an early lead to make the team but his productivity has dropped greatly in spring. In 48 at-bats he is only hitting .229 with 3 RBIs and 5 walks. He also has 0 stolen bases on 2 attempts.
Tuiasosopo on the other hand has impressed everyone with his power, especially as of late. In 35 at-bats, he is hitting .314 with 3 homeruns, 8 RBIs, and a .714 slugging percentage.
Maybe you are someone that hates spring training stats. You could be right as no one wants another Chris Shelton on their team.
But is it worth the risk of missing out on someone that could be productive for you?
If the Tigers go with Tuiasosopo then that could mean the end for Jeff Kobernus as he was a Rule 5 draft pick up. Meaning he would likely go back to the Washington Nationals per Rule 5 policy.
But you could see Tuiasosopo and Kobernus both on the 25-man roster.
However that would mean the end for Don Kelly. The minor league contract he signed back on January 16th is equipped with an opt-out clause. If Kelly does not make the 25-man roster then he may opt out of this contract and sign elsewhere, which he would likely do.
So putting Tuiasosopo on the 25-man roster would end a Tigers career with another player. It’s hard to see Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski take any chances here and lose out on a player. So with that said, it seems likely they will take Don Kelly and Jeff Kobernus.
They won’t want to throw Kobernus away just yet and Kelly has proven to be a reliable defensive replacement late in games.
But it’s important to point out that Leyland has been getting Tuiasosopo playing time in left field. Meaning that he may not be a long shot like everyone has been saying.
Tuiasosopo has played nearly every position in his career. Last season in the minors, he played everywhere except pitcher and catcher. He mainly plays first and third base though.
Obviously they’re testing his abilities in left field and if he does well, you may see him April 1st in Minnesota.
A power hitting right-handed bat would compliment left fielder Andy Dirks greatly. No one can deny that.
If Tuiasosopo can continue damaging baseballs and prove versatility in left field, then you won’t see anyone denying him his 25-man roster spot.
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