Baez signing forces Tigers prospect Kreidler to diversify profile

Detroit News

Lakeland, Fla. — It is not quite Newton’s third law of motion, but every action a club takes that impacts its roster invariably comes with an opposite, and sometimes negative, impact on other players.

Say the club signs a two-time All-Star and Gold Glove-winning shortstop named Javier Baez to a six-year, $140 million contract. Great deal for the ball club. Huge upgrade. But the deal carries an opposite reaction for the other shortstops in the organization — namely 24-year-old Ryan Kreidler.

Had Baez or another elite free agent shortstop not been signed, Kreidler would have been in the competition to win the job this spring.

Instead, he’s toiling away on the back fields at Tigers’ minor league minicamp, uncertain whether he will be the everyday shortstop at Triple-A Toledo this season or transitioning into a utility role.

Uncertain but undeterred.

“I assumed, like any good owner and organization and front office, you’re going to go out and get the guy you want,” Kreidler said Friday. “That’s not to say they don’t like me or any of the other guys we’ve got around here. It’s the nature of the business. You want to put a winning team on the field.

“I just took it with a grain of salt. That’s the way baseball works, man. If you want to win, you have to go out and sign people. I commend them for doing that.”

The mature, team-first response is what you’d expect from Kreidler. His leadership qualities and makeup have drawn raves since his years at UCLA. He’s living in a Airbnb this spring with Tigers’ top prospects Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene. All three were together most of last season, playing at Double-A Erie and Toledo.

“He’s a baseball player — a great team guy,” Torkelson told the Detroit News last August. “UCLA always produces guys like that, but he’s special in that regard. He grinds, he works hard. He’s obviously very talented, but he works even harder than anyone.”

More: The positivity of Tigers prospect Parker Meadows: ‘For me, it’s just fun’

Said Greene: “He’s got that leadership attitude. He’ll tell you what’s up. He’ll be the first one there if you hit a homer. He’s an amazing teammate and an incredible shortstop. He takes control of the whole field.”

Still, Kreidler had to know the Baez signing was going to impact him for at least the next two years. Baez can opt-out of the deal after 2023.

“As for me, it’s an opportunity to try out some at third base,” he said. “I’m still going to play shortstop. I feel very comfortable at short. But being versatile in today’s game is a good thing.”

It certainly is if AJ Hinch is the big-league manager. If Hinch had his way, every non-pitcher and catcher would play multiple positions. So Kreidler was ahead of the curve on that. He played some third at UCLA and seven games there for the Mud Hens last year.

He played some second base in the Arizona Fall League last October.

“I’ve always taken pride in doing that,” he said. “I know I am capable of doing that.”

There’s another silver lining to this, too, which Kreidler pointed out.

“It’s a unique opportunity to learn from (Baez), first and foremost,” he said. “To see what a Gold Glove shortstop looks like. We had that with Niko Goodrum (a Gold Glove finalist in 2020). He was an unbelievable defender.

“Just taking this opportunity to grow and watch him. See how he works and see myself in that infield with him at some point.”

More: Tigers top picks Madden, Jobe put on a show during first live BP

It’s not completely beyond the realm of possibility that at some point down the road Kreidler could force 29-year-old Baez to move to third base or second base. He may not ever be as flashy as Baez or make as many highlight-reel plays, but he’s been rock steady.

Between Erie and Toledo last year he made just 15 errors in 1,039 innings. More impressively, he showed uncommon ability to read the game and put himself in the right spots to make plays – whether the defense was in a shift or not.

“I do my homework,” he said. “I have an idea of where guys might hit the ball. I like to watch batting practice, watch a few swings and then there’s a few guys you kind of mark away. But in general, as a series progresses you see their swings against different pitchers, righties, lefties, different arm angles and you see how they react.

“Luckily for me, the Tigers have given me some freedom to move myself around and be prepared that way. It’s a combination of our people (scouting reports and coaches) helping me, giving me the correct information — they do an unbelievable job – and my instincts.”

Point is, the Tigers aren’t likely to take Kreidler completely out of the mix at shortstop, Baez or no Baez.

“I will do whatever the Tigers want me to do, whether it’s shortstop, shortstop and third base, or utility,” he said. “Whatever they deem me capable of doing I will do it to the best of my ability and just keep trucking. At the end of the day, playing shortstop is a good thing because it challenges you.

“I think shortstops have the ability to play all over the field, that’s why continuing to take reps at shortstop is good for me.”

More: Tigers RHP Rodriguez regains his way after hard season, dad’s COVID death

Kreidler’s patience might be tested this year. His glove and mental acuity are big-league ready, but the roster numbers are stacked against him for now. The one sure way to cut through that, he knows, is with his bat.

Between Erie and Toledo last season he hit 22 home runs and knocked in 58 runs. Playing the final 41 games at Toledo, he slashed .304/.407/.519 with a .926 OPS. He impressively cut down his strikeout rate against Triple-A pitching, too – 24% down from 31% against Double-A pitching.

“You’ve got to hit to play,” Kreidler said. “Last year was a good step.”

Twitter: @cmccosky

Articles You May Like

GameThread: Tigers vs. Braves, 12:20 p.m.
Days of Roar: Tough questions on Detroit Tigers’ .500 level of play
Clark and McGonigle homer in weekend action, Hao-Yu Lee continues to rage for the SeaWolves
Talking about Detroit Tigers’ young hitters, volatile offense with Bobby L. Scales II
Series Preview: Detroit Tigers travel to face Houston Astros for 3-game weekend set

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *