Detroit Tigers position battles: Third base is wide open in 2023 – Detroit Sports Nation

There is one massive, gaping hole in the Detroit Tigers lineup and it’s at third base. We’ve discussed minor position holes like left field previously, but addressing third base is going to be a much larger endeavor.

Why it matters:

As part of the roster purge that occurred this offseason, Jeimer Candelario was non-tendered a contract, free to sign with any team that would have him. This move left the Tigers having to decide who will play third base in the coming season.

Potential Detroit Tigers third baseman in 2023

Nick Maton – Bats: L | Throws: R

2022 Stats (MLB): 35 G, 85 PA, .250/.341/.514, 5 HR, 17 RBI, 135 wRC+, .364 wOBA

Maton was acquired in the same trade with Matt Vierling and Donny Sands, a trade that sent Gregory Soto and Kody Clemens to Philadelphia. His positional versatility makes him a gem, especially given his ability to get on base. At AAA, he walked 34 times, striking out 55 times in 250 plate appearances. He’s a league-average defender at third base, though only in 11 innings, which is an entirely small sample size. His bat and glove will need some seasoning at the MLB level, but he has postseason experience and is a perfect candidate to win the job.
40-man roster status: Currently on the roster

Ryan Kreidler – Bats: R | Throws: R

2022 Stats (MLB): 26 G, 84 PA, .178/.244/.233, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 38 wRC+, .218 wOBA

Ryan Kreidler may be the fan favorite to land the third base job and probably would have had a better 2022 had he not been hurt. In AAA the average wasn’t there (.213), but he was 6% better than the league average when it came to creating runs (106 wRC+). He is an above-average defender, and that continued during his short stint in the Bigs. Kreidler’s bat needs seasoning and at least half a season in AAA will most likely serve him best to start the season. At 25 years old, this season is a pivotal season for Kreidler and his career.
40-man roster status: Currently on the roster

Cesar Hernandez – Bats: S | Throws: R

2022 Stats (MLB): 147 g, 617 PA, .248/.311/.318, 1 HR, 34 RBI, 79 wRC+, .283 wOBA

Hernandez agreed to a Minor League deal with the Tigers in late January. A versatile fielder, he was league-average at third base for the Nationals in 2022. Though admittedly, he was not in great playing shape last year, his combination of speed and bat-to-ball skills can make an impact for the Tigers. From 2016-2021 he was right around league-average in his ability to create runs offensively, but slumped in 2022 and could bounce back well for the Tigers.
40-man roster status: Not currently on the 40-man roster

Andy Ibanez – Bats: R | Throws: R

2022 Stats (MLB): 40 g, 128 PA, .218/.273/.277, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 59 wRC+, .249 wOBA

Ibanez is more than likely an organization depth piece, though his ZiPS projection is quite favorable for the 2023 season. They project him as a .262/.322/.392, with 8 HR, and a 106 wRC+. He has more of an impact at second base defensively but is league-average at third base. He could figure into the third base race, but most likely projects best as a second baseman.
40-man roster status: Not currently on the 40-man roster

Andre Lipcius – Bats: R | Throws: R

2022 Stats (AAA): 46 g, 188 PA, .302/.388/.453, 3 HR, 24 RBI, 124 wRC+, .372 wOBA

Here is where it starts to get really interesting. Lipcius was a third-round pick in 2019, a University of Tennessee product, and reached AAA last season. A 13.3% walk rate is enticing, especially combined with the 17.6% strikeout rate. Maybe his best projection is that Lipcius will be a league-average run created according to wRC+ projections. He spent some time between third and second base in AAA, and with a good spring could definitely be in the mix for making the Opening Day roster.
40-man roster status: Currently on the roster

Wenceel Perez – Bats: S | Throws: R

2022 Stats (AA): 39 g, 171 PA, .307/.374/.540, 5 HR, 28 RBI, 143 wRC+, .391 wOBA

Perez has made a name for himself, even being named as a top-10 second base prospect heading into this season. Though the 23-year-old is most likely a minimum of a half-season away from making his debut, only getting 24 games in AA last season, there’s reason to believe he could make some moves this season. Scott Harris’s motive to get young guys at-bats could be the impetus for Perez should he have a good spring and continue to hit well in AAA.
40-man roster status: Currently on the roster

Other Potential Candidates:

Three additional names that you need to keep on your radar, in order of their importance: Colt Keith, Justin-Henry Malloy, Izaac Pacheco, and Brendon Davis. Pacheco is the farthest away, Keith the closest, and we saw Davis toward the end of the last season. Keith is the name to particularly keep in the back pocket, he’s young (21 years old) and most likely starts in AA, but could factor into the discussion toward the end of the season, if not for sure in 2024.

The Bottom Line:

The Tigers have a plethora of options at third base for 2023. While not all of them, if any, are going to be world-beaters, there is some untapped potential. As mentioned, Maton is most likely penciled into the spot right now, but don’t be surprised if Lupcius makes a play for the job, with Hernandez or Ibanez becoming organizational depth in 2023.

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Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes no longer needs a supporting cast. He creates one | FOX Sports

Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes no longer needs a supporting cast. He creates one

PHOENIX — There sometimes comes a point in a quarterback’s career when he makes big money. And then the hard part begins.

For the first few years of the QB’s career, the franchise does everything it can to cater to his needs, because it can afford to do so.

But when the quarterback signs a huge contract — one for, say, half a billion dollars — then the organization’s plans change. The support system begins to evaporate. And the QB needs to do his best impression of Atlas.

Patrick Mahomes is Atlas, folks. He’s the aforementioned half-billion-dollar man.

The Chiefs quarterback has had one of the best seasons of his career while experiencing the most adversity of his career. Last March, the Chiefs traded receiver Tyreek Hill without a lockdown plan as to how they’d replace him. The solution? The team had already added pass-catchers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. K.C. traded for Kadarius Toney in October. Seventh-round rookie running back Isiah Pacheco played a surprisingly big role in the offense and Jerick McKinnon stepped up his game. 

But none of those players was the ideal solution to losing a superstar.

“That’s a generational talent right there. You can’t replace that,” McKinnon said of Hill on Tuesday.

Is Mahomes a top-three QB all time?

Nick Wright argues that if Patrick Mahomes wins Super Bowl LVII, he will have had the best first five years of any quarterback ever.

The ideal solution was keeping Hill, the best receiver in the NFL. But this is what happens: The quarterback takes up a large chuck of team’s financial resources. And so K.C. couldn’t afford to retain Hill.

After trading Hill to Miami, the Chiefs entered the 2022 season knowing that their success would be tied more directly to Mahomes than ever. And heading into Super Bowl LVII on Sunday (6:30 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App), he and the team are doing just fine.

The Chiefs are the first team in the Super Bowl era to appear in the big game in the same year that one of its former receivers was first-team All-Pro with his new team, per FOX Sports research. Hill led the Chiefs in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns last year. And he led the Dolphins in receiving yards and receptions in 2022.

“We didn’t lose Pat Mahomes. That was a good thing,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Tuesday when asked about how Hill’s departure impacted the team. “[Mahomes] makes those [receivers] look good in a lot of ways, and they help him look good, too.”

With the Chiefs in the Super Bowl, the transition now seems seamless. At the time of the trade, not so much.

“It was actually crazy,” Smith-Schuster said of Hill’s departure. “So I signed with K.C. knowing that Travis Kelce was gonna be there, Tyreek was gonna be there. … I was hoping that this was gonna be our guys. Come to find out — it changes. Fast-forward and now we’re still here.”

But — sorry JuJu — let’s not fast-forward. Let’s not gloss over how the Chiefs got here. Because it took a lot from Mahomes and the Chiefs coaching staff.  

Receivers coach Joe Bleymaier detailed the offseason and early-season hiccups that came with creating a game plan that did not involve Hill. The Chiefs focused on experimentation to figure out how to make use of the offseason and in-season acquisitions — Smith-Schuster, Valdes-Scantling, Toney and Pacheco — along with re-imagining roles for returners Kelce, Mecole Hardman and McKinnon. 

Brandon Graham: “You can’t play scared”

Greg Jennings joins Nick Wright, Chris Broussard and Kevin Wildes to discuss Eagles DE Brandon Graham’s comments on playing against Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes in Super Bowl LVII.

With anything that’s new, there was a healthy amount of failure. To start 2022, Mahomes had the fewest passing yards he has ever recorded in the first five weeks of a season.

“That can be extremely hard on the quarterback and the head coach and the offensive coordinator when we have limited reps and limited time to actually practice full speed and it’s not going perfect,” Bleymaier said. “We had growing pains like that, but [it was] the patience of Coach [Reid], EB [Eric Bieniemy] and Pat to let us get to where we need to be on Sunday.”

The final product was actually an offense that was arguably better than in 2021. Mahomes was better in just about every statistical category: He completed 67.1% of his passes (career-best) for 5,250 passing yards (career-best) and 41 touchdowns (second-best in career).

“It’s been a little bit liberating,” said Bleymaier, who has been on the Chiefs’ staff since 2016, “to be able to conceptualize downfield concepts, because a lot of them with Tyreek were downfield. To conceptualize downfield concepts where we could incorporate all different guys from perhaps different sides of the formation. … It was a little bit freeing to be able to try to be alright, ‘Well we still know basically the spots on the field that we’re going to try to get to, but now we have no limitations on how to get there.'”

The downfield passing opened up because the Chiefs could work the ball to a handful of players rather than game-planning around how to get the ball to Hill, who often faced double teams. The Chiefs had 13 players record a catch that was 20 yards or longer. Kansas City had nine pass-catchers finish with 15 receptions or more on the season. Even Mahomes managed to log a reception. 

Let’s also not discount Kelce’s consistency. He led the team in receptions (110), receiving yards (1,338) and receiving touchdowns (12). If there was any season in which to make the case that he’s the greatest tight end of all time, this was it.

Ultimately, the Chiefs’ risk paid off. There was no saying whether Kelce, Smith-Schuster and Valdes-Scantling could hold up this passing offense. But with Mahomes, there’s the sense that he will just figure out how to make it work. Bleymaier admitted that Mahomes made life easier in this process for the coaches. 

The quarterback saw where the offense was headed in the offseason and early-season and played a major role in the tinkering with the Chiefs offense. Reid, Bieniemy and Bleymaier would conceptualize and then, once the ideas hit the field, Mahomes helped the yardage materialize. With the QB’s input, they fine-tuned the offense to micromanage the splits for each receiver or the depth of the route or the timing of the release. Every little thing needed additional attention. 

But the final product? Not so bad. Pretty darn good, in fact.

Will Mahomes surpass Tom Brady as the GOAT?

Emmanuel Acho, Joy Taylor, LeSean McCoy and David Helman debate whether Patrick Mahomes can catch the GOAT.

There’s a popular theory these days that a receiver like Hill (for Mahomes) or Stefon Diggs (for Josh Allen) or DeAndre Hopkins (for Kyler Murray) can jump-start a quarterback’s development. But when the quarterback loses his top pass-catcher, the QB has to self-start his development. And Mahomes did exactly that this year. He has hit the Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers phase of his career, with both those QBs excelling for multiple seasons without having a star playmaker at receiver.

Smith-Schuster is not a No. 1 receiver. Neither is Valdes-Scantling’s nor Toney nor rookie Skyy Moore

Don’t believe me? Eagles cornerback Darius Slay couldn’t even remember MVS’ name on Super Bowl Opening Night. I asked Slay whether he’d agree that the Chiefs don’t have a pure No. 1 receiver.

“They’ve got guys,” Slay said on Monday. “They’ve got JuJu. What’s the other name? Dang. I forgot his name.”

This is hardly their first matchup, with Slay later referencing the receiver’s time with Green Bay overlapping with Slay’s time with Detroit.

Point is, these Chiefs receivers aren’t household names.

This year Mahomes has had to make mediocrity into a medallion — as Brady did for so many years with the Patriots and like Rodgers is doing with the Packers. That’s the price of the massive contract. And like Brady, Mahomes is finding ways to generate Super Bowl berths, no matter the circumstances. That’s what Mahomes has already proven over the course of this season.

He no longer needs a supporting cast. He creates one.

Prior to joining FOX Sports as the AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @McKennAnalysis.


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Super Bowl 2023 injuries: Patrick Mahomes’ ankle continues to heal rapidly, Eagles OL on the mend –

The first injury reports of Super Bowl week have been submitted. The Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles released their first updates updates Wednesday after their first practice of the week in advance of Super Bowl LVII, which will be played in a few days at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. 

Both teams are relatively healthy after playing 17 regular-season games and only two playoff games as each conference’s top seed. Only one Chiefs player did not practice in full Wednesday. The Eagles, meanwhile, had three players participate in a limited fashion.

Here’s a rundown of each team’s injury report ahead of Sunday’s game. 

Only one player is officially listed as limited on Kansas City’s injury report: wide receiver Kadarius Toney (ankle/hamstring), who has already stated that he is “definitely” playing Sunday, via USA Today. The biggest name on either team’s injury report, first-team All-Pro quarterback Patrick Mahomes (ankle), fully practiced Wednesday after saying his ankle will “definitely be in a better spot” in the Super Bowl after two weeks of rest than it was in the AFC Championship Game following the high-ankle sprain he suffered in the AFC Divisional Round against the Jacksonville Jaguars

The Chiefs’ top two running backs, Isiah Pacheco (wrist) and Jerick McKinnon (ankles), were both present on the injury report, but like Mahomes, both practiced fully. The same goes for starting guard Trey Smith (ankle) and starting wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee). Smith-Schuster’s health is critical as he was the team’s No. 2 option in terms of targets (101), receptions (78), and receiving yards (933) behind only first-team All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce. No other Chiefs player besides Kelce and Smith-Schuster had over 700 receiving yards. 

Linebacker Willie Gay Jr. was the only defensive player on the Chiefs injury report, but he practiced fully, a huge sign for a Chiefs defense that will be looking to slow down second-team All-Pro quarterback Jalen Hurts, the engine of the NFC’s top-scoring offense.

Featured Game | Philadelphia Eagles vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Three offensive linemen comprise the five players listed on Philadelphia’s opening injury report: starting guard Landon Dickerson (elbow), first-team All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson (groin/rest) and backup center Cam Jurgens (hip/rest). Dickerson, the only one of the three offensive linemen to practice fully, hyperextended his elbow in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game against the 49ers, but he should be fine for Sunday given the time off. 

Johnson, who has been playing through a torn adductor in his groin for many weeks, told The Delaware Times on Friday that the injury is “better now” and has “no doubt” he’ll be on the field come Super Bowl Sunday. Cornerback Avonte Maddox (toe/rest), one of the team’s starters, was given a light day and a limited practice participation designation. He played through the toe injury in the NFC Championship Game, and with the time off, it would be reasonable to expect him to play. 

Defensive end Robert Quinn (foot) — the 32-year-old, three-time Pro Bowler the Eagles acquired at the trade deadline from the Chicago Bears this season– missed four games from Weeks 13-17, but returned to action in Week 18 and has played in both of the Eagles’ playoff games. Quinn practiced fully, so it’s safe to assume he’ll rotate in to pass rush Mahomes come Sunday. 

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