In a series devoted to looking at the Tigers' prospects at each position, this is the sixth installment. The first five covered the Tigers' infielders: catchers, first basemen, second basemen, third basemen and shortstops.
With the outfielders, I'm going to break them up into the three positions (with each player being grouped in the position he played most in 2010) for a couple of reasons. One is just to keep the size of the posts down. The other is because I think we learn a lot about what kind of prospect a player is by looking at which position they play in the outfield.
You expect left fielders to have glove problems and big bats. Center fielders can be reasonably expected to be good defenders and right fielders are kind of left fielders with better arms. It's important to keep in mind, especially with the Tigers' group of left fielders, there are exceptions.
Left fielders can also be center fielders who just happen to share a roster spot with a better center fielder. This is key for the following group because the Tigers just don't have many of the big boppers whose range is the size of a beach blanket. This isn't a strong group, but I have a feeling it has some local fan favorites.Toledo
Ryan Strieby, .245/.323/.400, 325 PA, 33 BB, 85 K; I'm listing him in this group, but I still don't consider Strieby a serious outfield prospect. I've never heard a good word about his defense out there. I think the Tigers just want to have options on what to do with him if he ever gets healthy again. That's his biggest concern right now. His wrist has been an issue for three seasons now, and at this point you have to wonder if it will ever be right. If it does, he's one of the Tigers' best hitting prospects with very real power and a bat that's been good enough to make the Tigers worry about how they can get him to the majors. 2011 Outlook: I think he'll be bouncing between left and first base for Toledo again. The bigger issue is going to be whether the wrist will let him rack up plate appearances.
Andy Dirks, .278/.342/.425, 434 PA, 35 BB, 59 K; Dirks used 2010 to show that he should be considered a legitimate option as a future big league fourth outfielder. After all, he can cover enough ground to hold his own in center field. He seems to complement that speed with pretty good instincts on the basepaths. His speed is further accentuated by his ability to make good contact and draw walks while hitting from the left side. He even showed more power in 2010 than he had previously, but that's probably the part of his game that will keep him in a reserve role. 2011 Outlook: I'd look for Dirks to be manning various positions in the Toledo outfield.
Deik Scram, .221/.331/.392, 309 PA, 38 BB, 84 K; After spending two full seasons in Erie and playing pretty well there, Scram finally got a shot in Toledo in late April of 2010. He fumbled the opportunity, though, hitting just .208/.319/.313. By June, he was back in Erie and spent the better part of a third season there. It wasn't a bad season, but there were no improvements from his 2009 and I think we've seen Scram's opportunity as a prospect get away from him. 2011 Outlook: If he's still in the system, whether he's in Toledo or Erie could come down to a numbers game again.
Brent Wyatt, .258/.367/.363, 446 PA, 53 BB, 75 K; Wyatt is an outfielder with some intriguing skills, but he's also going to be a 26-year-old who has less than 100 plate appearances above A-ball. With a career isolated power of just .100, power is not his thing but he draws walks, doesn't strikeout much and is a good baserunner. He's also versatile enough defensively that the only thing he's yet to do is set up behind the plate. To be honest, though, I think this all adds up more to a good guy to have on the roster than a future major leaguer. 2011 Outlook: I'd look for him to continue his role as a super-utility guy in Erie.
Michael Rockett, .235/.266/.369, 402 PA, 12 BB, 81 K; Everybody wants to see a guy with a name like Michael Rockett succeed, but 2010 looked to me like a season that pegged him as an organization guy. He played each of the three outfield positions, but just didn't hit well enough to stick at any of them. 2011 Outlook: I'm not certain he'll be back in 2011 but if he is it will either be as a reserve in Lakeland or a return to West Michigan.
Ryan Enos, .265/.323/.378, 266 PA, 21 BB, 42 K; Enos was a non-drafted free agent the Tigers plopped into the Connecticut outfield to help out. He wasn't spectacular in any facet of his game, but was pretty solid in most. His numbers don't look great but they're above average in the stingy NY-Penn and he made better production out of them by stealing 16 bases in 21 attempts. 2011 Outlook: He looks to me like the definition of an organization guy who's good to have around. I'd look for him to bounce around the system serving as a reserve as needed - anywhere from Connecticut to Lakeland.
Gilbert Gomez, .243/.274/.364, 116 PA, 4 BB, 39 K; I'm always hesitant to make definitive statements based on the numbers of players with limited track records. However, Gomez has the feel of another organization guy. He spent three seasons in the Venezuelan Summer League and was put in the GCL when he finally came stateside. He showed good power in his third season in the VSL but at just 165 pounds, I'd be surprised if that translated here. He's also been converted from a catcher to a first baseman to an outfielder. That tells me defense isn't going to punch his ticket either. 2011 Outlook: If he makes it past cuts, he'll probably spend the season filling a spot on one of the short season rosters.
To be a left field prospect, you really need to have a big bat. If you're familiar with the Tiger system, you know there is a shortage of players with that profile. That makes it less than surprising that the Tigers have a shortage of big league futures in left.
Of the players listed, I'd say Strieby and Dirks are the extent of players who I'd expect to take big league at bats. I'm already on record as saying I consider Strieby the Tigers' best first base prospect, so that really leaves this as a thin position. If you're going to be weak at one of the outfield positions, though, it is probably best if it's left field.
As I mentioned above, certain skills are required more at the other positions. So you'd prefer to have guys who can hit and still handle center or right. Let's hope the presence of those type of players explain an underwhelming showing in left for the Tigers.