On Wednesday night I went to the Double-A Erie game against the Reading Fightin' Phils at FirstEnergy Stadium in Reading, Pa. I focused on four of the Tigers prospects -- Eugenio Suarez, Tyler Collins, Daniel Fields, and James McCann -- to see if I could pick up on any adjustments and progress they're making at the plate. One game is certainly far too small of a sample size to evaluate defense and make a comprehensive hitting report, but a few things stood out. I list each prospect's age in parenthesis, followed by their updated slash lines on the season.
Eugenio Suarez (22), .248/.330/.403
Suarez had a good day at the plate, going 3 for 5 with a home run. He did all of his damage on fastballs on the inner half of the plate, showing the ability to tuck his hands and catch up with high heat. He pulled his home run off of a right-handed pitcher, sending it 10 rows deep in the left field bleachers.
Defensively, Suarez only had a couple of opportunities to make plays beyond the routine. He ranged to his left nicely to make one, but he failed to field a slow chopper with his bare hand cleanly on what would have been an excellent play.
Tyler Collins (23), .230/.319/.437
Collins showed extreme patience at the plate. He took all five of the pitches he saw during his first at bat, falling behind 0-2 on two fastballs, laying off a changeup and breaking ball to even the count, and then taking a fastball for strike three. He singled his next two times up, lining an off-speed pitch the other way and then hitting a hard grounder up the middle off of a two-strike breaking ball. He saw six pitches in each of his final two plate appearances, drawing a walk and a full-count HBP. Overall, Collins showed an impressive ability to lay off of breaking balls out of the zone. His patient approach may cause him to look at a few good pitches to hit, but they'll be more predictable if he continues to get ahead in counts. Pitchers are likely showing more respect for his power (17 home runs with AA-Erie this year and on display to all fields in batting practice), so I hope to see Collins reward himself by taking more walks.
I would have liked to see Collins challenged with a few balls hit his way in left field, but he did not have to do any heavy lifting defensively.
Daniel Fields (22), .283/.352/.443
Fields made good contact in all five of his at bats, going 2 for 5 with a couple of tough luck outs. Against a left-handed starter Fields whiffed just once, on a breaking ball, otherwise showing the ability to drive fastballs. The Fightin' Phils' left fielder made a nice play to rob him of a double in the fifth, and he drove a fastball to the warning track to straightaway center his next time up. His good contact and speed makes his .369 BABIP less anomalous. Also, his strikeouts (24.9% K-rate) are more tolerable if he can continue to build on a slight uptick in power-his current .443 slugging percentage is well above the next highest total he has posted in a minor league season, .371 with High-A Lakeland in 2010.
Defensively, Fields made a great route on a ball hit directly over his head, catching it two steps from the wall on the run. He had a chance to make a spectacular throw on a SAC fly from about 270 feet out, but he didn't show the arm strength necessary.
James McCann (23), .275/.328/.365
McCann went 1 for 5 on the day, struggling to catch up with fastballs inside during his first three at bats. He chased a high fastball his first time up for strike three, popped a ball up his second time on a fastball high and tight, hit a lazy fly on the same pitch his next time up, and then was fooled on a changeup for strike three on his fourth at bat. He helped continue a ninth-inning rally with a hard grounder off of a fastball inside, finishing his night at the plate.
McCann's touted for his defense, and he looked solid behind the plate, not having any difficulty handling pitches. His hit tool does not project much, which is acceptable given his position. If he can bump his 6.3% walk rate a couple of points, he won't have to deal with as many "pitchers' pitches," and he'll be better suited for his defense to carry him.
One miscellaneous, potentially relevant note: Jamie Johnson, the Tigers' 26 year-old corner outfield "prospect," has walked 72 times this year, good enough for an 18.8% walk rate and a .407 OBP. Although he cannot hit for any sort of power and doesn't project much, those gaudy plate discipline numbers suggest he could serve as a solid table setter in the majors in the case of injury (he also has 18 steals in 22 attempts this season).