Detroit Tigers: 2014 batting order outlook

Detroit Tigers

Jose Iglesias perfectly executing a sacrifice bunt (Photo credit: Leon Halip/Getty Images)

The first six hitters in the 2013 Detroit Tigers’ batting order were terrifying, headlined by the three-headed monster consisting of Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Victor Martinez. The bottom three hitters of the lineup, however, weren’t  nearly as frightening. Jim Leyland was never a guy to mix up the order, regardless of any struggles.

2014 will bring a new type of lineup for the Tigers; they will no longer be a team full of power. Tigers’ manager Brad Ausmus has yet to make any major comments regarding the batting order. It’s obvious that Martinez will protect Cabrera in the order, but where exactly they will be in the lineup is up in the air.

Leadoff options

Austin Jackson batted .272 as the leadoff batter in 2013. In 2012 he batted over .300 in the leadoff position but has been inconsistent throughout his career. As long as Jackson shows he is still capable of batting in that position during spring training he will most likely remain in that spot. However, during his postseason struggles, he was moved into the 8-slot for three games and hit .727 (8-for-11).

Ian Kinsler has taken 65% of his career at-bats in the leadoff slot, batting .271. Although he is aging, Kinsler is still a viable candidate for the position but has spent time batting elsewhere in the top of the order.

Rajai Davis has also been featured as a leadoff hitter for most of his career. He brings eye-opening speed to the Tigers’ lineup but will most likely split time in left field with Andy Dirks.

Remainder of the top half

If Kinsler is named the leadoff batter, he would be followed by Torii Hunter, Cabrera, Martinez, and then Dirks. Hunter batted .306 in the 2-hole last season, which is the only position in the order that he has a career batting average better than .300. Cabrera and Martinez would be followed by Dirks when he starts, which will mostly occur when facing right-handed pitchers.

The lineup could experience some serious twists if somebody other than Kinsler is batting first, all depending on who they want to move around. The first option is to just move everybody down in the lineup, but if they want to keep Hunter batting second, then Kinsler could either follow him or be moved to fifth. The final option would be moving Hunter to fifth, behind Martinez.

Bottom half

Jose Iglesias will most likely close out the order to provide speed and versatility at the bottom, just as he did last season. Avila has spent most of his career batting eighth and will probably be featured there again.

The most influential piece to the puzzle is the progression of Nick Castellanos. He is a right-handed bat with some power: last season he batted .278 with 18 home runs in triple-A. Assuming Jackson is not batting leadoff, he would be batting between sixth and eighth.

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Facing right-handed pitchers

1. Kinsler   2. Hunter   3. Cabrera   4. Martinez   5. Dirks   6. Castellanos   7. Jackson   8. Avila   9. Iglesias

It makes sense for Kinsler to be at the top of the order because he is more aggressive on the base paths than Jackson, not to mention the inconsistencies Jackson has experienced at the leadoff position. Hunter hits best batting second, which sets the table for Cabrera. Dirks provides more power facing righties than Davis would. If Castellanos struggles, he could be moved behind Jackson and Avila. Then again, if he blooms, the youngster will find himself in the five slot. Iglesias’ spark acts as another leadoff hitter at the bottom of the order.

Facing left-handed pitchers

1. Davis   2. Hunter   3. Kinsler   4. Cabrera   5. Martinez   6. Castellanos   7. Jackson   8. Avila   9. Iglesias

Davis has exceptional speed and has stolen 125 bases over the past three seasons. Hunter is the most successful batting second and Kinsler has previous experience batting third. These would be three hard outs to get before Cabrera steps up to the plate. Jackson could add protection to Martinez if necessary, but Castellanos has the capability of doing a fine job.

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  • aedgeworth

    While Hunter may have his highest average batting second, Dirks also hits best batting first or second. Dirks would not provide enough protection for Martinez batting fifth. The most likely move would seem to plug Hunter with his .300 average and 18 HRs in the fifth spot. When Davis plays he might bat first with Kinsler hitting second. When Dirks plays I would leadoff with Kinsler and have Dirks second. Jackson should not return to leadoff this year. I would give him a full year at sixth or seventh to see how he responds to hitting lower over a full season. The success, or lack of it, responding to Wally Joyner’s hitting instruction might effect some of these moves. If Jackson, Dirks, and Avila have rebound years under his tutelage , we might have quite a lineup.

  • KC

    D brown is Dominic Brown. Outfielder from the Phillies. Not a chance we trade for him. Philly are selling high and its pretty unlikely they trade him to start with. Would love that pop, because we are sorely lacking it right now, but getting Brown seems unlikely.

  • KC

    I completely agree with Rayder. Miggy has to be third. Davis has an extremely low OBP, but its a little higher against lefties. Might still leave kinsler or Ajax in this spot, depending on their OBP years. Also I see Nick eventually moving to the five spot. Would of preferred signing Cruz to a four year deal and sticking him in the five spot, but that ship has sailed. Castellanos has the ability to hit 275 and 20 bombs. All of this to say that the lineup is really going to depend on who performs in spring training and that first month of the regular season.

  • kalineal6

    who’s D.Brown?

  • rayder409

    Big Bad Brad has GOT to keep Miggy in the 3-hole…. It just makes no sense to hit him cleanup… Miggy needs to bat in the first inning of every game he plays… If he hits 4th… there will be too many games where he will come up to bat first in the second inning because the Tigers went 3 up and 3 down in the first inning…You just cannot have him leading off the second… it makes absolutely no sense… He must bat 3rd … the other team’s pitcher must know that he will be seeing Miggy step up to the plate in the first inning… likely with a man or two on base… Is he going to intentionally walk him in the first inning? Ya buddy…. go for it… Now comes Vmart (and maybe D. Brown) and all of a sudden it’s 3-0 Detroit….

    • Mr Pike

      I think you have it backwards. If he bats third, most games he will bat in the first inning with two outs and nobody on base. I would rather have him lead off the second.
      If he hits fourth, he still bats in the first if anybody gets on.
      The only downside to hitting fourth is he would get a few fewer at bats in a season when the third hitter makes the last Tiger out of the game.