DETROIT -- Infielder Dixon Machado spent his first full season in the big leagues as a Tiger without a position. That did not prevent him from making enough of an impact to be named Tigers Rookie of the Year by the Detroit Sports Media.Machado is just the second shortstop since
DETROIT -- Infielder Dixon Machado spent his first full season in the big leagues as a Tiger without a position. That did not prevent him from making enough of an impact to be named Tigers Rookie of the Year by the Detroit Sports Media.
Machado is just the second shortstop since 2001 to earn the honor, joining 2013 winner Jose Iglesias. But while Iglesias had the everyday job at short from the moment he arrived in a midseason trade that year, Machado had to carve out a role with the at-bats he could find between shortstop, second base and even third.
The Tigers carried Machado on their Opening Day roster with an eye toward the future. The 25-year-old Venezuelan was out of Minor League options after spending parts of the previous two seasons in the big leagues filling in for Iglesias, and the Tigers didn't want to risk losing Machado to another club, especially with a youth movement on the horizon.
Thus, Machado stuck in the Majors, but didn't play much. In some ways, it was a tougher challenge than biding his time at Triple-A Toledo, where Machado had regular playing time to prove his value.
Machado received just 181 plate appearances over 73 big league games, batting .259 (43-for-166) with seven extra-base hits, 17 runs scored, 11 RBIs and a .621 OPS. But his contributions went beyond the numbers to his defensive versatility.
"He's probably a big league shortstop, he just hasn't played that much," former manager Brad Ausmus said around midseason. "He's in a situation here, and he's handled it extremely well. He doesn't gripe, and he swings the bat extremely well when he does get in there."
He showed enough that the Tigers believe he can handle the job if and when it opens for him.
"At some point, the Detroit Tigers are going to have to find out if he's an everyday player," Ausmus said late in the year.
That role may or may not emerge next season. The Tigers will spend the Winter Meetings exploring potential trade interest in Iglesias and second baseman Ian Kinsler, with the latter more likely to be traded. If one of those players leaves, Machado is expected to shuffle into that spot. If neither goes, Machado will likely fall into the super-utility role previously manned by Andrew Romine, who was waived this offseason.
Machado won Rookie of the Year honors over a handful of rookies who might have had better stretches but not the total product. Center fielder JaCoby Jones had his moments, starting with a home run on Opening Day, but spent most of the season bouncing between Detroit and Toledo while batting just .170 (24-for-141) with three homers and 13 RBIs. Jeimer Candelario impressed down the stretch, batting .330 (31-for-94) with an .874 OPS in 27 games as a Tiger. John Hicks batted .266 (46-for-173) with six homers, 22 RBIs and a .766 OPS, but played in just 60 games over a handful of big league stints. Lefty Daniel Stumpf had a strong season in relief, but used up his rookie status in 2016 with the Phillies.
Detroit Sports Media, formerly known as the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association, has selected the Tigers Rookie of the Year since 1969, awarding the honor every year except for 1971 and the strike-shortened 1981 season. The last five winners are on the Tigers roster, including Iglesias, Nicholas Castellanos, James McCann and Michael Fulmer.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.