No. 10: Tyler Collins, OF
Tyler Collins was drafted by the Tigers in the 6th round of the 2011 draft out of Howard College (TX). After signing, he was initially sent to the GCL Tigers in Rookie League, but was only there for one game before being promoted to Class A Short Season-Connecticut, where he spent the vast majority of his first professional season. Following the conclusion of the 2011 season, Collins went to the Australian League to play for the Sydney Blue Sox, in order to get more at bats over the winter. Overall, between the GCL, Connecticut, and the Australian League, Collins accrued 377 Plate Appearances, spanning 86 games. Combined, he hit .305 with an OPS of .863, walking 30 times (8% BB Rate), and only striking out 41 times (10.9% K Rate), to go along with 11 steals. For the 2012 season, the Tigers decided to push Collins all the way to Class A Advanced-Lakeland, bypassing Class A-West Michigan, and Collin's responded extremely well. In 2012, Collins posted an OPS of an even .800 across 542 PA's, while walking an excellent 10.7% of the time, and striking out only 11.8% of the time. He also hit 35 doubles, 5 triples, 7 HR's, and stole 20 bases. His excellent performance at Lakeland in 2012 vaulted him up prospect charts across the Tigers blogosphere.
Collins stands 5'11" and weighs in 205lbs. He both hits and throws left-handed. As an outfielder, he is limited to left field, because he's--at best--a fringe average defender. The highest grade I've seen on his defense is 50, and that was a singular grade. Most scouts rate him in the 40-45 range as a defender, which can work in a major league OF if the bat carries him. His arm is also below-average, even from LF, but like I said, it's playable if the bat carries him. Now, that was the bad. Let's move onto the good. Collins is among the best hitters in the Tigers system, and as the system sits now, I would rank him 4th in the system based on pure hit tool/projection, behind only Castellanos, Vasquez, and Dean Green. He projects as a plus hitter, with the ability to hit close to .300 consistently at the major league level. He makes a ton of contact, as evidenced by his very solid K% numbers in the minor leagues, but he's still somewhat over aggressive at the plate. He will sometimes expand the zone, and while with some hitters, this leads to excessive swings and misses, Collins still has the ability to make contact with pitches off the plate, but this does lead to weak contact and outs on occasion. He shows excellent pitch recognition skills, with the ability to adjust on the fly and barrel the baseball regardless of where it is pitched in the strike zone, and regardless of what kind of pitch it is. As you can see by the numbers, he also is very good at taking walks. He's been a high OBP guy ever since he came into the system, and I certainly expect that to continue all the way up to the MLB level. He has excellent gap power, showing the ability to drive the ball all over the yard and into/up every gap, resulting in tons of doubles. He also has above-average speed, which helps him turn some of his gap shots into triples, and he should be able to hit somewhere between 5-8 triples per year, especially if you consider the dimension's of Comerica Park. He won't ever be a full-on base stealer, but his speed and good instincts should allow him to steal 10-15 bases a year, which is a definite plus. As for his power, he projects as average in that department. He has the advanced hitting ability and strength to hit for plus power, but he lacks the ideal swing mechanics (lack of loft) to do so. Regardless, he should be able to hit somewhere in the area of 15 HR's per season. Overall, he's an excellent hitter, who's bat will undoubtedly carry him to the majors.
Due to his defensive deficiencies, Collins will have to rely almost solely on his bat. I said above that you can get away with a fringy left fielder with a below-average arm if his bat is truly plus. If Collins can hit at the major league level for high average, tons of doubles, some HR's, and maintain a high OBP, he should become a solid-average regular in LF. If his bat doesn't advance that much, then he profiles as a 4th OF, more likely a left handed bench bat. I actually lean towards the former with Collins. I'm a big believer in his bat, love his mentality and makeup, and believe that his defense will be adequate enough to justify a starting spot. If not for Nick Castellanos' move to LF, I would probably be projecting Collins as the LF of the future, as I believe his pure ceiling to be higher than that of Andy Dirks', but obviously, Nick Castellanos will have the first crack at the LF job down the line if that's where he stays, defensively. Collins is slated to man LF for Class Double A-Erie in 2013, along with Daniel Fields in CF, and if all goes well he should be on the major league radar by mid-2014.