Ryan Kreidler’s short stint with Detroit Tigers doesn’t answer questions at the plate

Detroit Free Press

Ryan Kreidler shared an honest analysis of his performance in the final days of a month-long stint with the Detroit Tigers, his first opportunity in the big leagues since being selected in the fourth round of the 2019 draft.

“I think I want to hit better,” Kreidler said.

He chuckled.

“I think everybody would agree on that,” he continued Oct. 4. “I want to do my part in the lineup, not being somebody that they can game-plan around as easily. Next year, when I come back, I want to hit right-handers better and do a little more damage. But I think I’ve learned a lot in the short time.”

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Kreidler, who turns 25 in November, is a shortstop by trade but can play a variety of positions, including second and third. He also spent two innings in center field and could receiving more playing time in the outfield in the future. The Tigers believe he can be a steady utility player.

His offense will determine his upside.

“I’m not treating it like next year there’s any lock that I’m going to be on the team,” Kreidler said. “I’m going to come in with a chip on my shoulder trying to make the team. I’ll take these experiences with me through the offseason and have that in my back pocket going into spring training.”

Defense is Kreidler’s bread and butter, and in a 26-game stretch, he was worth plus-5 defensive runs saved: plus-3 in 94⅓ innings at third base and plus-2 in 86⅓ innings at shortstop. He committed one error in 88 chances.

The Tigers’ best defensive infield this season featured Kreidler at third base, Báez at shortstop, Jonathan Schoop at second base and fellow rookie Spencer Torkelson at first base. The 6-foot-4 Kreidler is an above-average defender, in part because of his commitment to the fundamentals.

“A lot of people, when they see him play, they talk about his length and range,” manager A.J. Hinch said as October began. “He doesn’t miss a pitch. I knew that about him, but it’s something different when you see a swing and miss or a foul ball, and he takes almost two full strides in whatever direction that ball was going to go. His intuitiveness on the field is very evident.”

But the Tigers still need to learn more about his bat.

Kreidler hit .178 with one double, one home run, six walks and 22 strikeouts in 26 games. He also hit .214 with 24 extra-base hits (including eight homers), 40 walks and 75 strikeouts over 60 games in the minor leagues (56 of them with Triple-A Toledo) in 2022. He stole 17 bases in the minors but zero in the majors.

A pair of injuries can be blamed for Kreidler’s offensive inconsistencies.

He missed significant playing time in May with a fractured hand, then was sidelined again in June and July with a groin strain. Back in 2021, healthy for the entire season, Kreidler launched 15 of his 22 homers with the Mud Hens and logged an .804 OPS across 129 games in the minors.

“We’ll definitely look at it a little bit more as the season wraps up, specifically what’s going on,” Kreidler said, “but I think, just as a whole, doing my part to control the strike zone and hit pitches that are in the strike zone, not fouling them off or swinging through them, I think that’s the biggest thing.

“I think any hitter would probably tell you the same thing. You don’t want to miss those good pitches to hit up here. When I’m right, and when anybody in this clubhouse is right, you’re doing a better job of just not missing those pitches.”

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In spring training, the Tigers hoped Kreidler — a prospect once in the shadows of Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson — would get as much experience in the big leagues as possible. A big-picture determination about his offense, at some point, is necessary to construct future rosters. They wanted to promote him before September, but the injuries wouldn’t allow him to ascend.

The good news is the Tigers have time on their side, as does Kreidler. What happened in 2022, both the positives and negatives, was only the foundation for further development. He plans to visit personal hitting coach Doug Latta, whom he started training with after the 2019 season, for “little things to clean up” this offseason but won’t overhaul his swing. His approach will be key moving forward.

And Kreidler will surely be back in 2023 with a chance to prove he can stay.

“I’ve learned a lot just in the short time, and not even necessarily playing every game,” Kreidler said. “It’s being able to watch how other guys go about it, guys like me, guys not like me, left-handers, right-handers. Just being able to step back and see big-league pitching and game calling firsthand. That’s been a good learning experience for me.”

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter@EvanPetzold.

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