Paul Wezner, Senior Editor
As thin as the depth for the Tigers is at the corner infield spots, it's quite possibly even worse up the middle. But when you compare the two, it's clear that shortstop has the upper hand between the two spots. Shortstop holds the most depth between the two spots, as well as the top prospect among both the positions in shortstop Mike Hollimon. Hollimon performed so well for the Whitecaps (offensively anyway), that he might skip Lakeland entirely and head straight to Double-A Erie (the possibility remains though that he'll do that at second). Meanwhile, Scott Sizemore could play at either spot, but so far has been dedicated to short. Brent Dlugach and Tony Giarratano add depth to the group, with Giarratano being a former top prospect that still has plenty of potential, if only injury after injury didn't get in the way.
Second base on the other hand is almost depressing. With the Tigers moving Ryan Raburn to the outfield permanently, you have to go all the way down to West Michigan to find a second base prospect that is among the top 50 prospects; Will Rhymes. Sizemore shifting to second could help, but the Tigers are set on keeping him at shortstop until he proves he can't handle it, and thus far has given no indication of that. The lone bright spot at the position might be that the Tigers have Placido Polanco locked up for three more years, and have Omar Infante (still just 25 years old) ready to take over when needed, and could always shift Hollimon or Sizemore over. But so long as the best minor league hope the position has is a position switch, shortstop gets the nod.
Mark Anderson, Associate Editor, Minor Leagues
The second base vs. shortstop debate is quite intriguing; simply because there are several players whose long term positions are up in the air. At this time, both Michael Hollimon and Scott Sizemore rate as shortstops, though Hollimon is likely playing second this season for Erie, and Sizemore's long term projection has him moving back to the keystone. Making this judgment based on our prospect rankings, and official roster positions at this time, they'll both remain at shortstop for pusposes of this discussion.
Second base lacks ceiling, from Detroit all the way down to the short-season leagues. Omar Infante is blocked by Placido Polanco, who despite what many say, isn't nearly as valuable to this team as he seems; and neither player is really any measurable amount above average. The minors higher rungs have Nick McIntyre, Kevin Hooper, and at Lakeland, Will Rhymes, none of whom project to spend any significant time at the big league level. The only current second baseman of note is Hayden Parrott, and his defense may move him to the hot corner in short order. With all that said, I don't really see much value at the position; there's just nothing there. If Hollimon and Sizemore become second basemen on a full-time basis this year, that changes things drastically.
At shortstop, the Tigers have significantly more potential. Aside from big league stud Carlso Guillen, Sizemore and Hollimon are Top 10 prospects, both of whom have very good odds to contribute at the big league level. Tony Giarratano, while he looks more and more like a utility guy, has great defensive skills, good speed, and a useful offensive game. Audy Ciriaco has a tremendous ceiling, though he is extremely raw and difficult to project. The organization loves Brent Dlugach's tools and size, but he has yet to translate them to the field. Overall, there is substantial ceiling at shortstop, far more potential than exists across the bag. I think there's little doubt that there is currently more talent at shortstop than at second; though that balance of power could quickly shift with some likely position changes by Opening Day.
Jason Avery, Associate Editor, Amateur Baseball
Presently, I think the Tigers are better at shortstop with Carlos Guillen manning a key position on the diamond, but that could change dramatically should he leave via free agency after this upcoming season. Tony Giarratano needs to show he can stay at short after recovering from knee surgery, and Brent Dlugach has a BB/K ratio of
54/326 in his first three years since signing in 2004. Dlugach also hasn't faced the advanced pitching he'll see at Erie, so this will be a big year in his development. If Scott Sizemore can stay at short, and continue to hit, he could be the long-term solution at short.
The Tigers have Placido Polanco locked up, and with Michael Hollimon moving to second base, the Tigers have an option that could be ready to take over once Polanco's contract is up. Hayden Parrott is an intriguing youngster, but he is several years off the horizon.
Looking at what lies in the system, it becomes imperative that the Tigers get Guillen re-signed, because I don't have a lot of confidence in the bats of both Giarratano and Dlugach, not to mention the aforementioned knee surgery and other injuries Giarratano has had in his career. Shortstop is in good hands now, but the Tigers potentially could have an easier transition in moving Hollimon to second (provided he handles the move and hits at the higher levels of course) once the
Tigers are ready to move on without Polanco.
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