Hinch on roster competition, prospects, more

Detroit Tigers

DETROIT — Isaac Paredes is one of two Tigers on MLB Pipeline’s latest rankings of baseball’s top third-base prospects. He could also soon enter Detroit’s roster picture at second.
“I’ve made it no secret that I love multipositional players,” manager A.J. Hinch said on a Tuesday afternoon video conference with

DETROIT — Isaac Paredes is one of two Tigers on MLB Pipeline’s latest rankings of baseball’s top third-base prospects. He could also soon enter Detroit’s roster picture at second.

“I’ve made it no secret that I love multipositional players,” manager A.J. Hinch said on a Tuesday afternoon video conference with reporters.

Even moreso when those players just wrapped up a batting title in winter ball.

While the Tigers head into the final weeks of the Hot Stove season looking to finalize their Spring Training roster, potentially but not necessarily with another free-agent hitter, Hinch is looking for flexibility to move players around and help him put a lineup together that will get him the offensive improvement he’s seeking. Jeimer Candelario can play either infield corner, Willi Castro can play up the middle and Niko Goodrum and Harold Castro can play all over.

Then there’s Paredes, who made his big league debut last summer at third but was originally a shortstop and played some there as recently as 2019 at Double-A Erie. He also played sparingly at second base, where the Tigers coincidentally have a void with Jonathan Schoop a free agent.

Whether Paredes could fill that void is debatable. But after batting .379 (55-for-145) with 17 doubles, four homers, 27 walks and 12 strikeouts this offseason in the Mexican Pacific League, he could at least be in the mix.

Hinch said he talked with Paredes recently.

“Third base is very comfortable for him,” Hinch said. “Somewhere up the middle at second base would be ideal for us, because it just allows more configurations for a lineup. And if he’s hitting, then I can put him in a couple different positions.

“You’ll see us try that with him and see what it looks like. And there’s no harm in trying. It doesn’t mean he’s not a good third baseman. It doesn’t mean that he can’t make our team as an everyday third baseman. But why not have multiple ways to make our team?”

All this could be moot if the Tigers sign another infielder.

“The answers that we need are going to have to come on the field. We can dictate that if we sign an infielder,” Hinch said. “A little bit of help at first base changes Candelario’s usage and Goodrum’s usage. If you sign a middle infielder, that brings a lot of questions on where these guys can play. I think the infield is a specific area that we’re looking at toying with, but every decision that we make is going to impact not just one or two or three players, it increases the competition for Paredes. It increases the usefulness of moving Goodrum and Candelario around.”

Here are four other themes that stood out from Hinch’s latest media session:

Tigers could still add a catcher
Grayson Greiner and Jake Rogers are the only catchers on the Tigers’ 40-man roster, with Eric Haase and Dustin Garneau likely to be non-roster invites on Minor League contracts. That could change.

“Ideally, we would add to our mix and put some pressure on guys to make our team,” Hinch said. “We have the capabilities of having a stable duo of guys behind the plate. We have a little bit of experience. We have a young up-and-comer in Rogers. In a perfect world, there’s still a guy out there that can help us, but whether the market produces that, whether that’s how we use to spend our dollars is obviously up to [executive vice president of baseball operations] Al [Avila]. But in that position, the more, the merrier.”

Among the remaining free-agent catchers is former Tiger Alex Avila.

Outfield could get crowded
Another area where the Tigers could add is the outfield, where Robbie Grossman and JaCoby Jones appear set in left and center with a lot of competition in right, including Victor Reyes and Christin Stewart.

“I think there’s competition for Daz [Cameron]. I think there’s competition for [Rule 5 Draft Akil] Baddoo to make our team,” Hinch said. “Travis Demeritte, who doesn’t often get talked about, is on our roster. Derek Hill as well.

“If we add to that mix, that’s something that will make everybody sit up straight, because we have a lot of numbers in the outfield but maybe an opportunity out there as well. We’re not afraid to upgrade, and we’re going to do it very methodically, as we’ve done.”

Closer role up for grabs
Hinch is still learning his relievers and their strengths and weaknesses, and he will probably spend part of camp figuring that out. For now, at least, he doesn’t have a set closer.

“I know the closer role, over my time in baseball, it’s a great distinction,” Hinch said. “It’s somebody that the team feels like when he comes into a game, it means we’re about to win. I’m not afraid of the designated closer role, but someone’s got to earn it. I think there will be a competition for any of these leverage innings. The ninth inning is a super sexy role that everybody covets, but you’ve got to do a lot to get there in the sixth and the seventh and eighth. If the starter can do that work, all the better.”

Hinch has a former closer in Joe Jiménez trying to win his old job back. He has a potential future closer in Bryan Garcia trying to move up his timetable after ending last season in the job. And then he has hard-throwing lefty Gregory Soto, who had a strong winter-ball season in the Dominican Republic.

Torkelson, Greene likely to get invites
Hinch expects to have a large Spring Training roster, especially if the Major League and Triple-A rosters are combined for one camp while the Double-A and Class A camps and seasons are delayed. But what could that mean for top hitting prospects Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene, neither of whom are expected to open the season above Double-A? Would they go through two Spring Trainings — one for the Majors, then another for the Minors?

Hinch didn’t reference Torkelson or Greene by name, but he inferred that they should be part of big league camp.

“We’re very optimistic that the prospects can handle back-to-back camps if we ask them to,” Hinch said, “so I would expect some of the bigger prospects to be in camp — not all of them. We’re going to have to be very specific, because of the limitations that we’re going to have on how many players we can have in camp and the staffing for that, et cetera. But I think some recognizable names that will not open up in Triple-A are being considered for big league camp and will likely be there.”

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck’s Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.

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