As the Detroit Tigers begin their rebuild from the worst record in all of baseball, they look to Niko Goodrum to provide defensive stability all over the diamond they have been accustomed to.
The professional baseball career path probably didn’t go as expected for Detroit Tigers utility man Niko Goodrum after he was selected in the second round of the 2010 MLB draft by the Minnesota Twins. Goodrum spent seven years in the minor leagues before finally getting a September call up, and then he recorded only one hit in seventeen at-bats.
For the Twins, they had seen enough, considering this early-round pick a bust they granted him free agency and moved on from him.
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Coming off of a last-place finish where they won just 64 games, the Tigers swooped in to sign Goodrum. He seemed like a low-risk player to bring in and develop while the Tigers stockpiled prospects in hopes of getting back to respectability down the road.
Drafted as a shortstop out of high school, Goodrum became a jack of all trades with the Tigers. He made starts at every infield position and two in the outfield, showing his versatility with the glove was going to be a strength.
The Tigers moved him around the diamond, giving rest to regulars, while also trying to give him enough at-bats to keep his rhythm. Goodrum hit a modest .245 while hitting 16 home runs.
Goodrum followed this up with a near-identical stat line in 2019, with FanGraphs ranking him as one of the top-ten valuable baserunners in all of baseball. He continued with the versatility, adding centerfield to his defensive repertoire. An adductor strain ended his season prematurely as he didn’t play in a game after August 23rd.
A healthy Niko Goodrum showed up to spring training this year ready to play wherever the Tigers put him. He’ll never hit for a high average, though when he does get on base he makes the most of his chances. The defensive versatility he brings to the team remains his main contribution and can not be understated. Having a utility man of this nature can be just as valuable to a manager as his pieces in his bullpen.
He is under team control until 2024 and will have the opportunity to bridge the gap from futility to a contender for the Detroit Tigers, should they keep him around that long.