Versatile Presley makes case for ’18 return to Tigers

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News

Detroit — At some point, a team, its fans, and baseball people in general, will have come to share a common thought.

Alex Presley is having quite a 2017 season.

No longer is it short-term bursts or small samplings. Presley was batting .322 as he dressed Wednesday morning for the Tigers-A’s series finale (1:10 p.m.) at Comerica Park.

He had played in 61 games in 2017 as he got ready to hit second against Daniel Mengden in manager Brad Ausmus’ order. He had 205 certified at-bats, with a .359 on-base average. And while his slugging percentage (.420) isn’t exactly in Aaron Judge land, Presley popped a homer in Tuesday night’s 9-8 loss to the A’s.

These are numbers not everyone would have projected for a 32-year-old outfielder who last autumn signed as a minor-league free agent.


“No question,” Ausmus said Wednesday as the Tigers got ready for the first of their final 11 games in 2017. “He’s really been swinging the bat well. He’s really been kind of a steady stream of offense.”

The Tigers grabbed Presley early in 2016 after he had been released by the Brewers.

He played in only three games for the Tigers but had made impressions, even before he came to Detroit, on various Tigers staffers.

Dave Littlefield, the Tigers’ vice president of player development, had been general manager when the Pirates drafted Presley in the eighth round (2006) after Presley had played at the University of Mississippi.

Third-base coach Dave Clark had seen Presley play with the Astros and endorsed him. David Chadd, the Tigers assistant general manager, worked more directly to sign Presley.

“And I’ll add,” Ausmus said, speaking of the timeline on Presley’s signing, “we were a team with a lot of right-handed hitters.”

Presley’s outfield stints have been handy considering the Tigers this summer lost two corner starters to trades: J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton.

That he can play three outfield spots has been particularly helpful.

It might also suggest Presley, who in July turned 32, could be headed for a 2018 contract.

He is, however, a man who has played for five teams during eight big-league seasons and is arbitration-eligible.

“Do I get tendered or don’t I,” Presley asked, with a faint shrug, when asked Wednesday if he expected to return. “It’s pretty simple.”

He hopes the Tigers say yes.

“It’s been awesome,” he said of his 2017 surge, which came after he spent the season’s first six weeks at Triple-A Toledo. “Just got to keep plugging away.

“I signed with the expectation of getting an opportunity here, and that’s all you can ask for. You look at a team and you can only predict so many things that will happen.”

For example: Two star outfielders are sent packing in July and August. A man named Presley suddenly becomes not only versatile, but valuable.

Presley is probably best-suited, Ausmus said Wednesday, to left field. He does not have a right fielder’s arm, nor does he have the kind of range JaCoby Jones, or Mikie Mahtook, brings to center field.

But the general ease with which he can handle three spots, as well as a bat that popped the A’s for four hits Tuesday, has made him one of a team’s better stories during a tough year.

“My hitting style isn’t the typical power guy’s,” Presley said. “But I can move around. It’s a different dynamic. I like to think I can be plugged in anywhere.”