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Andy Ibanez Is Officially The Detroit Tigers Spring Training Darling Of 2024

Every spring training has that one dude. Several years back, Akil Baddoo was that guy. What made that story so incredible was the fact that Baddoo was able to sustain it throughout the 2021 regular season, though he was never better than he was in his first week as a major league player. It's one of the reasons why I try to keep arm's length from spring training. I don't want my opinion to get watered down. I'm so excited about baseball that if I see one guy hit a single homer, I immediately put him at the forefront of the MVP chase. So take everything I'm about to say with a grain of salt. With that said, if Andy Ibanez can rake like this, the Detroit Tigers are the favorite to win the American League Central, and you can't convince me otherwise. 

I'm feeling OK about the Tigers this year. They can be competitive. They spent most of last year being a relatively competitive team after getting off to a terrible start. But the one position that has scared me has been third base. They got Gio Urshella recently, which I don't think is a bad pickup. He can hit lefties, but one player who a lot of people are intrigued by is Andy Ibanez. Ibanez was a scrap heap pickup by Scott Harris last year and ended up having a pretty good season. A.J. Hinch loves versatility, and Ibanez can play a lot of positions both in the infield and in the outfield, and he could hit a little bit. He definitely earned a spot on this year's team as a serviceable utility player, but the one issue that has bogged down the Detroit Tigers over the last several years has been the lack of consistent bats in their lineup. They didn't do a ton to improve the offense in the offseason, but they are hoping that guys like Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson can take another step forward. 

So far, in a very small sample size Ibanez has three home runs in spring training. Look, let's assume that Scott Harris totally knows what he's doing when it comes to player development. I have faith. Let's also assume that Chris Illich won't be a giant pussy and will, at some point, open up the checkbook to sign some legitimate free agents. I'm unsure about that, but let's assume he does. Even if all of those things fall into place, if you want to build a championship team, you have to get a little bit lucky at some point. You got to strike gold with a player that nobody expected you to strike gold with. Every championship team has that guy that nobody expects much out of, who has become a hero. The Tigers are far from a championship, but maybe Andy Ibanez can be that guy in the short term. 

When A.J. Hinch won the World Series in Houston in 2017, he got a phenomenal year out of Marwin Gonzalez out of nowhere. Ibanez's defensive versatility will keep him on the team. Still, if he can hit his way into the everyday lineup, then many of the issues that we are concerned about regarding the third base situation will temporarily be fixed. Am I really just about to write 600 words about Andy Ibanez? I guess I am, but as I said, I'm nothing but a Simp for baseball. The bottom line is what will potentially hold this team back is their offense. Any semblance of offensive production from some of these less-known guys changes the team's trajectory. Keep hitting Andy. Save some for the regular season.