Familiarity is a curious phenomenon in the prospect world. For some, it results in an evaluator or fan souring on a prospect. After seeing the same thing over and over — especially if there isn't much improvement being shown — the player's skill set can wean on those paying attention. For others, especially casual observers, it leads to an overestimation of the prospect's abilities. "We have been hearing about this guy for forever so he must be awesome!" is the general thought.
There are a few prospects like this in the Tigers' system, but none has suffered the curse of familiarity as much as Tyler Collins. The 24-year-old outfielder was only drafted in 2011, but has hit well at every level. Is he as good as the optimists believe? Or the borderline fourth outfielder that detractors see? It's easy to split the difference and say that he's somewhere in the middle. However, with a cup of coffee at the major league level already under his belt, Collins has one of the highest floors in the system. This proximity to his actual potential naturally makes him one of the highest-rated prospects in the system, and he rounds out the top five in our countdown.
Collins was the Tigers' sixth round draft selection in 2011. Coming out of Howard College in Big Spring, Texas, Collins was promoted aggressively after an excellent first season in the Gulf Coast and New York-Penn Leagues. He hit .290/.371/.429 with 47 extra-base hits and 20 stolen bases for Advanced-A Lakeland in 2012, earning a promotion to Double-A Erie the following season. While his stolen base totals dipped, his power started to shine through. Collins hit 21 home runs and 29 doubles in 530 plate appearances for the SeaWolves in 2013.
Collins was invited to spring training in 2014, but did not seem to have a great chance of making the team when players initially reported. However, an early injury to Andy Dirks opened the door, and Collins made the Tigers' Opening Day roster. He didn't last long, appearing in seven of the team's first 10 games before being demoted to Triple-A Toledo. Collins had another solid season in the minors, hitting .263/.335/.423 with 18 home runs and 17 doubles for the Mud Hens. He returned to the Tigers in September and collected four hits — including his first career home run — in 10 at-bats.
Standing just under six-feet tall, Collins has a stocky build that leads to a fair amount of power in his swing. He has hit 40 home runs in the past two seasons, including a 400+ foot moonshot with the Tigers this last September. He can do a lot of damage when he gets his pitch. While he doesn't have nearly as much raw power as Steven Moya, Collins brings a much better approach to the plate. He drew walks in 9.3 percent of plate appearances last season, resulting in a decent .335 on-base percentage. There are questions as to whether Collins would be able to maintain those figures in a full-time role at the MLB level, but he could provide some pop as a fourth outfielder.
Scouts have not identified a standout tool in Collins' arsenal, but he also does not have any major deficiencies. Unlike some other prospects in the system, Collins does everything fairly well, a big reason why he is so close to majors. He plays decent defense in the outfield, he hits for a fair amount of power, and he makes the most of his limited physical skills with good instincts. This especially plays out on the basepaths, where Collins has stolen 42 bases in 55 attempts at all levels of the minors. He only swiped four bags at Double-A Erie in 2013, but stole 12 bases in 16 attempts at Triple-A last season. He won't be a stolen base threat in the majors, but is a smart baserunner who will take an extra base when the opportunity arises.
Collins has above average raw power, but his level swing and tendency to sell out for said power doesn't let him fully tap into his raw strength. Inconsistencies in his swing lead him to whiff often, as evident by his 22.5 percent strikeout rate in the minor leagues over the past two years. Collins hit just .263 last season and would probably struggle to hit .250 in a full-time role at the MLB level. He might hit 15 home runs in a platoon role, but would not provide much beyond that offensively unless he significantly ups his walk rate.
Reports on Collins' glove are somewhat inconsistent, but he will probably only play left field on a consistent basis at the MLB level. He doesn't have the foot speed to cover center field — especially one as large as Comerica Park — and there are other players on the roster with arms better-suited for right field than him. Collins does have good instinct, however, and can be used in all three positions in a pinch. He won't be a detriment in either corner outfield spot, but he would not be a potential defensive asset like a Dirks-type player.
Video via MLB Prospect Portal and MLB Farm, GIF via awesomeness
Projected team: Detroit Tigers
Barring a late signing or trade, the 25th spot on the Tigers' Opening Day roster looks like Collins' to lose. He has more power than either Hernan Perez or Andrew Romine, and will be a good complement to Yoenis Cespedes and J.D. Martinez, both of whom hit right-handed. Collins may eventually start to get more plate appearances if his hit tool continues progressing, but he showed in 2014 that he has little left to learn in the minor leagues. Even if Collins only ends up getting 250 plate appearances a year as a fourth outfielder and pinch hitter, he can still be a valuable asset for an MLB club.
New addition: Dixon Machado, shortstop
A defensive wizard at shortstop with a cannon for an arm, Machado possesses a wiry frame that led to almost zero power at the plate. He is still very thin, but Machado finally flashed some offensive muscle last year, hitting .305/.391/.442 with 23 doubles in 342 plate appearances at Double-A Erie. Now expected to start the season at Triple-A Toledo, the soon-to-be 23-year-old Machado could start to turn heads with another solid offensive season. Expect the Tigers to showcase him at every opportunity in 2015, especially if he continues to get on base consistently.