DETROIT -- The Tigers will spend October watching the postseason from afar, but one move by a contending club to try to boost its playoff chances could have ramifications for Detroit’s rebuilding effort.
When the Cubs called up top prospect Nico Hoerner to help fill a void at shortstop created by injuries to Javier Baez and Addison Russell, they changed course on their plans to send Hoerner to the Arizona Fall League. The Cubs and Tigers share the same AFL affiliate in Mesa; they also both have highly rated infield prospects.
The evaluation is still out on whether Isaac Paredes, ranked as the Tigers’ No. 5 prospect by MLB Pipeline, will be able to play shortstop at all in the Majors or whether he’s better off moving to third base full time. But Hoerner’s promotion could give the Tigers a chance to find out, which could be particularly helpful as Detroit officials try to determine whether Willi Castro can stick at shortstop or is a better fit at second base.
Paredes, whom the Tigers acquired from the Cubs in the Alex Avila/Justin Wilson trade two years, was an Eastern League All-Star this season as a utility player. The 20-year-old wasn’t a utility infielder, but that’s where he fit in All-Star consideration after making 80 starts at third base and 32 at short for Double-A Erie.
Paredes was a full-time shortstop in the lower levels of the Minors before his physical growth the last couple of years forced the Tigers to look at other positions for their 5-foot-11, 225-pound prospect. But they haven’t given up on the idea of Paredes playing short, at least part time.
Though Paredes’ size limits his range, his strength is his consistency converting the balls he can reach into outs. With infield positions, shifts and otherwise, the Tigers believe they can alleviate the range issues. They can’t eliminate them altogether, but if Paredes hits as hoped, they might be able to live with them.
The Arizona Fall League could be a test for that. The Tigers have named Paredes as their priority prospect for the league, meaning he should be playing regularly. They also have Erie manager Mike Rabelo set to fill the same role in Mesa.
Paredes ranked third among Eastern League hitters with a .282 (135-for-478) batting average to go with 23 doubles, 13 home runs, 66 RBIs and a .784 OPS at Erie this season. More impressive was his plate discipline for his age; not only did he finish with more than twice as many hits as strikeouts (61), he finished with nearly as many walks (57) as strikeouts.
Don’t expect opener setup full time
The pitching progress Daniel Norris has shown over the past month in three-inning doses was bound to raise the question: Would the Tigers consider using an opener or piggyback starter full time?
The answer from manager Ron Gardenhire suggests no.
“You’d really have to set up your staff a lot differently,” Gardenhire said Tuesday. “If you try to do it with too many [of your starters], you’re asking for trouble.”
Norris has been limited to three innings per start since Aug. 11, followed by a long reliever -- usually Drew VerHagen -- to take up the next four innings. The setup was a way for the Tigers to let Norris stay on his five-day starting routine for the rest of the season without hitting an innings limit. The lefty has responded by allowing one or no runs in four of his last five starts; he was an out away from three shutout innings last Tuesday in Kansas City before Jorge Soler hit a three-run homer off him.
“What we really need,” Gardenhire said, “are starters to figure out how to go six or seven innings.”
Goodrum likely done for year
Though super-utility player Niko Goodrum has spent the last 2 1/2 weeks recovering from a left groin strain, he is not as close to baseball activity as originally hoped. Though he has been able to hit, he’s still dealing with limitations while running.
Goodrum continues to rehab with the hope of returning by season’s end, but with less than three weeks to go, time is running out.
“I don’t believe the plan is for him to come back, unless there’s a miracle here in the next couple days,” Gardenhire said.
• Castro was out of Tuesday’s lineup; he’s dealing with a sore right forearm suffered on a hit-by-pitch in Oakland. He hopes to play Wednesday. Jordy Mercer started in his place.
• Pitching coach Rick Anderson rejoined the team Tuesday after missing last weekend’s series in Oakland to attend his daughter’s wedding. Triple-A Toledo pitching coach Juan Nieves, who filled in as bullpen coach while Jeff Pico filled in as pitching coach, will remain with the team the rest of the season to help out.