The Detroit Tigers are the favorite in the AL Central, and I have discussed before why. Over the weekend though, they lost their starting short stop for at least the first half of the season. Jose Iglesias went down with what was originally reported as shin splints and now as stress fractures in both legs. Either way Detroit has a fairly important hole to fill. This could make the difference between the Royals and Tigers even smaller, but by how much?
First, Jose Iglesias is a very good defensive short stop. His bat played better than expected last year in Boston and then came back to Earth in Detroit. He ended up being worth 1.8 fWAR in 109 games last year and the projections for this year are at 2 or slightly above for a full season. That is to say, he is not great, but good enough to be a problem because of a lack of depth behind him. There are three internal options per Bless You Boys, and none of them look so great.
Eugenio Suarez is probably the first option as he is a Jose Iglesias clone. He is all glove and no bat and a year and a half younger than Iglesias, but last year he spent almost all year in double-A and hit .253 without power. Iglesias made AA at a younger age and hit similarly. Suarez would be a major liability in the lineup. Oliver is projecting him to be almost as good as Andrelton Simmons defensively, which is likely ridiculous, and ZIPS has him as a good defender. If his defense is good enough, then the downgrade in bat should only cost the Tigers between 0.5 to 1.5 wins over a season if you are trying to directly translate WAR, but the bat has a chance to make it more as he could be a complete disaster with the bat.
Hernan Perez is similar again, but not as good of a defender. He played 34 games for Detroit last year and slashed a pathetic .197/.217/.227, so unless something has changed I can’t see him getting the job. The difference between him and Iglesias is likely to be 1.5 to 2.5 wins over a whole season.
Danny Worth is older and not anywhere near good enough to play every day in the major leagues. He is replacement level or worse most likely, so I would assume you are dropping at least 2 or 2.5 wins with him in there.
This looks good for the Royals, but there is one significant external move that could make it less attractive. It isn’t likely that they will sign Stephen Drew, but it is possible. That would improve their offense a lot, even over Iglesias, though they would take a bit of a hit defensively. This would make the expectation move back to what it was before the injury. I hope Drew keeps pushing for a multiple year deal.
The other one being discussed is Nick Franklin, and this one might make sense. He is a second baseman so he might be a major problem at short, but his bat is better than Iglesias, and Ian Kinsler has been hurt often enough in the past that having him as a backup once Iglesias is back would be beneficial for the Tigers. Over a half season at short, since he is a negative defender at second, I still think he costs Detroit a similar amount at Eugenio Suarez while helping depth overall. Similarly Buster Olney discussed Darwin Barney in his podcast today, and would make for a good stop-gap and backup for 2B.
I see the gap between Detroit and Kansas City as only 3 or 4 games on paper. This change in their roster alone may have shaved a game or more off of the difference between the two teams unless Detroit throws some money around to get Stephen Drew. Two weeks to go and I am getting more optimistic about the season to come.