Thursday, August 25, 2005

AL Central Team Comparisons: Infielders

Current Infielder OPS Rankings

1. Tigers .813
2. Indians .811
3. White Sox .766
4. Twins .740
5. Royals .705

The Tigers and Indians have the best overall infield offenses in the division. The Tigers don't really have any star infielders, but steady producers all-around. The Indians have two great young infielders with Peralta and Martinez.

Detroit Tigers

Ivan Rodriguez-C (signed thru 2007, 2008 option), Chris Shelton-1B (under control thru 2010), Placido Polanco (2009), Carlos Guillen (2007), Brandon Inge (under control thru 2007), Dmitri Young-DH (2005, 2006 option)

The Tigers have their infielders pretty much under their control thru 2007. Rodriguez is on the downside of his career. Guillen had a very good 2004, but his numbers have fallen off. Polanco and Inge should give the Tigers steady production. Chris Shelton is having a nice season, hitting .319/.385/.535. in 260 ABs.

Prospects: SS Tony Giarratano is a good defender and has pretty good speed. He's hitting .266/.334/.373 at AAA. Ryan Raburn is an offensive-minded 2B prospect. Raburn has 18 HRs and .257/.328/.447 at AAA. Tigers' depth here isn't good.

Cleveland Indians

Martinez-C (2009, 2010 option), Hafner-1B/DH (2007, 2008 option), Broussard (under control thru 2008), Belliard-2B (2005, 2006 option), Peralta (under control thru 2010), Boone (2006, 2007 option)

The Indians have two of their best infielders pretty well locked up. The Indians have 3 stars (Hafner, Martinez, Peralta) and some steady performers, making this the best group of infielders in the division.

Prospects: The Indians are pretty thin at the infield positions. 1B Michael Aubrey has good on-base skills and is a good fielder at 1B. But, he's had trouble staying healthy and doesn't have great power. C/1B Ryan Garko has had a good offensive season at AAA this year, hitting .300/.377/.493 with 18 HRs. With Martinez a virtual lock behind the plate, Garko could be tradebait or could challenge Broussard for a spot. Middle infield depth is an issue.

Chicago White Sox

Pierzynski-C (2005), Konerko-1B (2005), Iguchi-2B (2006, 2007 option), Uribe-SS (2007, 2008 option), Crede (under control thru 2008)

The White Sox will have to resign or replace their two most productive infielders after this season. Iguchi has had a good US debut, hitting 12 HRs and stealing 14 bases so far. Uribe has regressed this year and Crede hasn't been as productive as the White Sox have hoped. If they don't resign Konerko and Pierzynski, the White Sox may struggle offensively.

Prospects: 3B prospect Josh Fields is the White Sox best infield prospect. In his first full season, Fields is hitting .260/.346/.422 with 16 HRs at AA. Fields could be an alternative to Crede. C Francisco Hernandez has regressed some this year, but has good potential behind the plate. The White Sox have some options, but don't have great depth in their system at the infield spots.

Minnesota Twins

Joe Mauer-C (under control thru 2010), Justin Morneau (under control thru 2010), Nick Punto (under control thru 2008), Jason Bartlett (under control thru 2010), Michael Cuddyer (under control thru 2009)

The Twins have a young group of infielders under their control thru the end of the decade. The Twins have good defense up the middle, but not much offense from Punto and Bartlett. Morneau and LeCroy have been alright offensively at 1B/DH, but Morneau hasn't been quite the power hitter the Twins thought he'd be. Mauer has been productive, hiting .301, but his power has declined, hitting just 9 HRs this year. If Mauer and Morneau develop as the Twins project them to, the offense would improve considerably. If not, it will continue to be a weak offense.

Prospects: The Twins have two pretty good infield prospects, Matt Moses and Trevor Plouffe. But, neither are close to the majors. The infield could be an issue for the Twins and they may have to look to free agency to improve their team.

Kansas City Royals

John Buck-C (under control thru 2010), Mike Sweeney-1B (2007), Ruben Gotay/Donnie Murphy-2B (under control thru 2010/2011), Angel Berroa-SS (2008, 2009 option), Mark Teahan-3B (under control thru 2010)

The Royals also have a core of young infielders under their control through the end of the decade. Like the Twins, the Royals haven't gotten much production from their middle infielders. The Royals' could feature the best 1B/DH combo in the division in 2006/2007 with Sweeney and Huber. Gotay, Murphy, Buck, and Teahan haven't shown much yet, but they haven't had enough time to write them off yet.

Prospects: The Royals' best infield prospect is Justin Huber. Huber has great on-base skills and could be a Mike Sweeney-type hitter. Alex Gordon projects as an All-Star third basemen and could be a significant upgrade, if he signs. Jeff Bianchi and Chris McConnell are playing very well in the Royals' short-season leagues. The Royals have the best depth in the division here.

Future Infield Rankings:

1. Cleveland Indians (great young players and solid producers)
2. Detroit Tigers (solid producers all-around, not much upside)
3. Chicago White Sox (Uribe and Crede need to rebound, have to resign two biggest producers)
4. Kansas City Royals (could move up if Gordon stays at third; not very promising debuts of infield prospects keeps Royals here)
5. Minnesota Twins (will probably have to look outside the organization; need Morneau and Mauer to develop more power)

The Royals and Twins could easily move up if their young players develop well. The Tigers and White Sox don't have much in the farm system, but have the financial resouces to bring in good players through free agency or trades.


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