Rhymes Stands Out
Tigers second baseman finishes up in Arizona Fall League
DETROIT—In the Tigers' 2008 media guide, second baseman Will Rhymes is listed at 5 feet, 9 inches tall. And even that may be a little generous. He admits to standing 5-7 or 5-8.
"Something like that," he said.
The specific measure is not as important as what Rhymes did during his fourth year as a pro: turn his size into an asset and become a bona fide prospect. He batted .306/.362/.391 at Double-A Erie, earned a late callup to Triple-A Toledo and finished the year as a table-setter for the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League.
When asked about his stature, Rhymes said, "I don't feel like it restricts me in any way. I'm not sure what I'd do better if I was bigger. I might have more power, but I feel like it might actually have the opposite effect in terms of athleticism and playing defense."
Rhymes, 25, has had to prove himself at every level of the Tigers system, beginning at short-season Oneonta. He was a 27th-round pick in 2005, after graduating with honors in biology from William & Mary. (His twin brother, Jonathan, was a college teammate.)
Over time, Rhymes has refined his direct, lefthanded swing. He has improved as a bunter, which enables him to use his plus speed. He realizes that power—he has 13 homers in nearly 1,800 at-bats—is not going to be a big part of his game.
Rhymes has played primarily second base as a pro, and his performance in the AFL impressed one of the best ever to play the position.
"He knows his role on the team," said Ryne Sandberg, the Mesa hitting coach. "He knows his ability. He knows what he can do well—that is, consistently bring a line-drive, hard groundball stroke to the ballpark."
Rhymes and Sandberg spent many mornings this fall in early batting practice sessions. Rhymes is already comfortable hitting to the opposite field, so Sandberg worked with him on clearing his hips in order to pull inside pitches.
"He's had good success with that," Sandberg said.
• Outfielder Kyle Peter led Hawaii Winter Baseball's West Oahu CaneFires in batting, with a final line of .370/.416/.467. He also tied for the team lead with 11 stolen bases and was named to the league's postseason all-star team.
• Outfielder Casper Wells socked five home runs in a span of four Arizona Fall League games. He finished the AFL season batting .321/.424/.705 with eight home runs in 23 games.