The Detroit Tigers surprised everyone at the end of Spring Training when they put outfielder Tyler Collins on their Opening Day roster. The opportunity arose when Andy Dirks underwent back surgery in early March, but many expected the Tigers to bring Ezequiel Carrera despite a poor spring at the plate. Instead, the Tigers rolled the dice with Collins, though a strict left field platoon probably wasn't in the offing.
Collins did not get much of a chance early on. He appeared in seven of the team's first 10 games, but only started three of them. He went just 2 for 14 with a walk during this stretch, striking out three times. Never one to be lauded for his glove, Collins made a nice defensive contribution in the second game of the year.
Sadly, Collins' first stint in the majors would be short-lived. He was sent down to Triple-A Toledo on April 17th, making room for reliever Justin Miller on the 25 man roster. The demotion wasn't necessarily Collins' fault, but he didn't get a chance to redeem himself until much later in the year.
Instead, Collins made the best of his situation in the minors. After a slow start at the end of April, Collins put up a .700 OPS in each of the final five months of the season. From June through August, he hit .271/.348/.438 with 13 home runs in 362 plate appearances. He struck out in 20.7 percent of plate appearances in these three months, but also walked at a 10 percent clip.
Collins was one of the minor leaguers called up on September 1st, and he made sure to make himself known this time around. Pinch hitting for Miguel Cabrera in a blowout win against the Cleveland Indians, Collins hit a mammoth shot into the center field shrubbery of Progressive Field for his first MLB home run.
Expectations for Collins were not particularly high -- especially since he skipped from Double-A to the majors -- but his early season flameout was a bit disappointing. This may have been for the best, though. Collins got consistent playing time in Triple A and had a solid season to boot. He looked better in his late season call-up, and the long home run in Cleveland showed that he has some solid pop in his bat.
Looking forward, Collins' struggles at the MLB level haven't tempered any optimism about what he can provide for the Tigers next season. Many still expect him to be one of the bench outfielders, especially if Don Kelly does not return. Collins has more power than any of the Tigers' bench options in 2014. If he can translate his solid Triple-A numbers to the majors, the Tigers will be much more versatile in 2015.