Infielder Argenis Diaz returns to the Mud Hens as part of a veteran team for the 2017 season. BLADE
The 25-man Mud Hens roster the Tigers released Friday certainly does not fit the mold of a “developmental” team.
The current average age of Toledo’s 12 position players is 30.0 years old; by comparison, the 13 position players on the parent club’s roster in Detroit have an average age of 28.8 years old.
But Mud Hens manager Mike Rojas said he does not think it is bad to have a Toledo roster with eight position players at least 30 years old.
“I look at it as a balanced roster, experience-wise,” he said. “There are also a lot of class-act guys on this roster.
“I give credit to Dave Littlefield and Dave Owen: They have given us a number of talented six-year free agents that fans are going to get excited about.”
Littlefield is the Tigers’ vice president for player development, while Owen is Detroit’s director of player development.
The Mud Hens’ 25-man roster has 10 six-year free agents signed from other teams. There also are four free agents resigned from last year in pitchers Logan Kensing and Dustin Molleken, infielder Argenis Diaz and outfielder Alex Presley.
It is worth noting that two of the six-year free agents are pitcher William Cuevas and infielder Michael Almanzar, both of whom are just 26 years old. Almanzar is the sixth-youngest player on the roster, while Cuevas is eighth.
The glut of veteran players is directly related to the Tigers’ lack of prospects in the higher levels of its minor-league system. Only two of Detroit’s top 30 prospects, as judged by Baseball America, will begin this season with the Mud Hens in outfielder Steven Moya, No. 9 on the list, and reliever Joe Jimenez, who is No. 11.
“You want to have players coming up through your system,” Rojas said. “Apparently we don’t have that right now, but I’m confident we will.
“You want to have a flow of your own players coming up from lower levels. We may see some of that before this season is over.”
Among the prospects beginning the season at Double-A Erie are four of the Tigers top eight prospects in outfielders Christin Stewart (No. 2) and Michael Gerber (No. 7) and pitchers Tyler Alexander (No. 4) and Adam Ravenelle (No. 8).
Rojas said having a veteran roster should make his job as manager much easier.
“It makes it easier because they can police the clubhouse themselves,” he explained. “We have a lot of good clubhouse guys — It reminds me of 2007, when we had [Kevin] Hooper and [Mike] Hessman and good younger guys like Jack Hannahan.
“The clubhouse is their area, and they know how to police it. With the experience we have in that room, it makes my job easier.”
On the flip side, Rojas knows he will have to deal with veteran players itching to return to the big leagues.
“Our job is to get guys back up to the big leagues, or get them up there if they haven’t been there before,” he said. “Sometimes there’s just no movement up there, so players have to just keep working.
“We tell them to just keep doing their job, because that makes it easy to recommend them for a callup when an opening does present itself.”
The Mud Hens roster is expected to get even older if Omar Infante joins the team. Reports Monday were that Infante, who was released by the Tigers in order to sign with another big-league club, resigned with Detroit and will begin the season in Toledo.
Toledo will need to make a roster move if Infante is added to the roster. With a roster that includes just four infielders and six outfielders, it is likely the Hens will move an outfielder to make room for Infante.
Rojas pointed out that, while there are six players listed as outfielders on the roster, some of them are versatile enough to play other positions.
“[Outfielder Jim] Adduci can play first base — and [first baseman Efren] Navarro can play in the outfield,” Rojas said. “And [outfielder Juan] Perez can play second and third base as well.”