No. 19: Daniel Fields, OF
Daniel Fields is a name that I'm sure most of you are aware of, as not only a Tigers prospect but as the son of former Tigers hitting coach Bruce Fields. Fields was drafted in the 6th round of the 2009 draft out of University of Detroit-Jesuit High School (MI). In order to sign him out of a strong commitment to the University of Michigan, the Tigers shelled out $1.625 Million bucks-well over slot-to convince Fields to sign. He signed too late to play any baseball in the 2009 season, so he made his professional debut in 2010, being VERY aggressively assigned to Class A-Advanced Lakeland as a 19 year old. A shortstop in high school, Fields was immediately converted to the outfield, where the hope was that his speed and instincts would allow him to turn into a plus defender. In 2010, Fields more than held his own at such an advanced level for his age, posting a .714 OPS, while showing the ability and willingness to take a walk (55), solid power (27 XBH), but still striking out a ton (119 K's). The Tigers were encouraged by his performance, as they should have been, but decided to have Fields repeat Class A-Advanced Lakeland in 2011, still at a young age for the level (20). In 2011, Fields struggled mightily, seeing all of his numbers drop significantly, except for his strikeouts, which rose. 2012 was somewhat of a make or break year for Fields, as he was sent back to Lakeland again, this time as a 21 year old. Fields actually started off pretty strong in 2012, but an injury forced him to miss considerable time. He came back around mid season, and was finally promoted to Class Double A-Erie, where he actually fared pretty well. In 122 plate appearances with Erie, Fields posted a .711 OPS, with 13 BB/21 K, while swiping 9 bags for the Seawolves. 2013 will undoubtedly be a make or break year for Fields, one which will decide if he's still a legitimate prospect or simply organizational filler.
When he was drafted, Fields was drooled at by scouts, who described him as a "package of tools", with the potential for 5 above average or better tools at the MLB level. His speed, once considered a plus plus tool, now grades out as above average, which actually plays down a tick since he lacks outstanding instincts. He can steal bases based on his raw speed, but lacks the overall speed profile to be a true threat on the base paths. His raw power is still a plus tool, as evidenced by his ability to drive the ball all over the field and clear the fences in batting practice with ease. However, his power rarely plays in games due to his underdeveloped hit tool, which as of now is severely below average. He still has a ton of swing and miss in his swing, struggles to adjust to breaking balls, gets beat by advanced velocity, and has a difficult time recognizing pitches. His plate discipline has improved over the years, but not enough for him to be a legitimate OBP guy. As of now, the best scouts can hope for out of his bat is below average (40 grade) projection, which would allow his raw power to play more, but still not a viable tool for an everyday player. As a shortstop in high school, Fields was dubbed as having a plus arm for the position, but that has failed to translate to the outfield. As of now, his arm grades out as 40 at best from CF. His defense in CF is pretty solid, as his raw speed allows him to make up for his lack of instincts at the position. He improved in 2012, finally showing the plus defense (at times) that scouts foresaw when he was transitioned to CF, and he consistently grades out at 55-60.
Once considered to be an eventual impact CF/middle of the order bat, Fields' profile has fallen significantly, to where now, at least I, profile him as a 4th OF at best. His raw speed, plus D, and OK arm are all usable major league tools, but the issue here is the bat. I can't ever see Fields becoming a starter at the major league level, but a 4th OF seems like a projectable ceiling for him. In 2013, Fields will almost assuredly be sent to Class Double A-Erie, where he will look to build off of his strong finish to the 2012 season. Who knows, maybe Fields can turn it around and shoot back up the prospect list, but as of this point, he's no more than a 4th OF for me. I look forward to watching him play in 2013, and I'll be hoping that he can make the necessary adjustments to his swing that will allow him more consistent contact.