The Detroit Tigers have been met with uncertainty this spring due to injuries to expected starters Jose Iglesias and Andy Dirks. While the majority of the focus, and rightfully so, has surrounded what to do at shortstop, one players has been emerging as the potential 5th outfielder.
That guy is Tyler Collins.
Collins, 23, is a 5’11’’, 215 lb. bruiser with a lot of athleticism wrapped up in his stocky frame. He was drafted in the 6th round of the 2011 draft out of Howard College (TX).
Collins tore up rookie ball after he was drafted and put together an impressive full season in high-A ball in 2012. For the Lakeland Flying Tigers two seasons ago he hit .290 with a .371 on-base %. He roped 35 doubles, five triples, seven homers, and even stole 20 bases.
2013 saw Collins get bumped to AA Erie and experience wild bouts of streakiness. In the end, the season looked a little rough as he hit just .240. He put his power on display however with 21 homers, 29 doubles, and 79 RBI’s and still walked at a decent rate, bumping his on-base % to .323. The main bugaboo last year was the strikeouts. He fanned 122 times in 466 at-bats compared to just 64 in 473 at-bats in ’12.
With Dirks going down, and Don Kelly the only bona fide backup in camp, the Tigers need a 5th outfielder. Prospects such as Daniel Fields and Steven Moya have been impressive in spring ball but need more minor league seasoning.
For Collins, the opportunity has presented itself and he is running with it, or should I say hitting? At last check he was batting .313 with two doubles, two triples, and a team-high (tied with Miguel Cabrera) three home runs.
One potential problem is that Collins has yet to spend a day above double-A. If he doesn’t break camp with the Tigers then he’ll be starting for the AAA Toledo Mud Hens. But Collins played college ball and is 23-years old, hardly a bright-eyed 20-year old-type that so rarely succeeds in the show.
Detroit could choose to keep another middle infielder and use Steve Lombardozzi as the de facto 5th outfielder. The issue here is that both Hernan Perez and Eugenio Suarez have done nothing to deserve a roster spot this spring. They need more time. Short of going outside of the organization to find an infielder, which is certainly possible, then Collins makes the most sense.
Collins strikes me as a rise-to-the-occasion kind of guy. If Detroit elects to keep an extra infielder then the bench bats of Bryan Holaday, Lombo, Kelly and Perez/Suarez are pathetically weak. At least Collins would give the Tigers a thumper option off the bench and an ideal guy to break up the right-handed hitting starting outfield of Rajai Davis, Austin Jackson, and Torii Hunter.
If things go well enough, Collins could theoretically be the perfect Andy Dirks replacement. And with his superior power game, he might even be an offensive upgrade, though not in the field.
With adversity comes opportunity. If nothing else, Tyler Collins has done enough to keep Dave Dombrowski and Brad Ausmus up into the wee hours of the night considering his potential impact on the 25-man roster.
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