Jason Krizan probably did not have much of a chance of making the Tigers' Opening Day roster before yesterday. A 25-year-old left-handed outfielder, Krizan enjoyed a solid season at Double-A Erie in 2014. He hit .293/.364/.414 with 40 extra base hits and 56 RBI in 525 plate appearances. His glove and arm were both ranked as the best in the entire farm system by Mark Anderson of TigsTown earlier this offseason.
Despite the impressive resume, Krizan was likely looking at a trip to Toledo to begin the 2015 season before Victor Martinez tore his left meniscus. With Martinez potentially on the shelf for a few weeks to a few months, Krizan's impressive defensive skill set could help him slide his way onto the 25-man roster. He is still likely to end up in the minors -- especially if he doesn't hit down in Lakeland -- but his chances get a lot better if J.D. Martinez or Yoenis Cespedes slide into the designated hitter role come April.
Where did he come from?
Krizan was the Tigers' eighth round selection in the 2011 draft. A product of Dallas Baptist University, Krizan set an NCAA record with 39 doubles during his final year in school. He was not drafted out of high school, and was considered a low-cost pick at the time due to his low ceiling. He struggled in his first year in the minors, hitting .239/.293/.321 in 184 plate appearances in a somewhat aggressive promotion to Single-A West Michigan. Krizan stayed at West Michigan in 2012 and demonstrated a modest improvement at the plate, upping his OPS to .670 in 426 plate appearances.
Krizan was promoted to Advanced-A Lakeland in 2013. His bat perked up in the warmer climate, but he still didn't hit for much power. Krizan batted .288/.388/.396 with 30 extra base hits in 472 plate appearances for the Flying Tigers, and earned an MiLB Gold Glove for his defensive work. He moved up to Double-A Erie in 2014, where he hit .293/.364/.414 in 525 plate appearances. Krizan also stole 14 bases in 21 attempts and committed just two errors in 186 defensive chances. He received his first invite to spring training this winter.
There aren't a lot of free reports available on Krizan, as most of the scouting focus goes to players with higher upsides. Jordan named Krizan the Lakeland Flying Tigers' Hitter of the Year in 2013 and gave a brief synopsis of his potential.
He has no real power, but decent bat-to-ball skills, an approach at the plate, can play all outfield spots (although he's better in a corner), can run a little, and is a grinder. All of that equates to an organizational guy. However, don't discount that, he is important to the development of the prospects in the organization. He's the type of guy -- similiar to Raph Rhymes -- who will be contributors on minor league playoff teams that make the organization's prospects better. I see Krizan as a guy who will probably make it to the high minors, but not much further.
Krizan's solid 2014 season has probably upped his ceiling from "organizational guy" (or a player with no MLB future) to a fourth outfielder, which is a solid leap. Krizan has shown impressive contact skills and plate discipline during his time in the minors, walking 178 times in 1,628 plate appearances with just 169 strikeouts. While he has typically been older than his competition at every level, tallying more walks than strikeouts in three consecutive seasons is still an impressive feat. He definitely won't be hitting .293 at the big league level, but maintaining a solid walk rate will help buoy his offensive value.
Minor League Ball's John Sickels offered a quick snippet on Krizan in his 2011 draft review, calling him a "Senior with average tools but outstanding performance record and plenty of polish."
Considering the only notes I had on him at the start of the year were "big power to gaps," I can’t help but laugh. Krizan’s 2011 numbers have a distinct video game feel, but his lack of big tools – remember, a comment about his gap power was about the most positive thing said about him from a scouting perspective this past spring – keep him from being as good a prospect as his numbers might have you think. His inability to play center hurts him as well because, stop me if you’ve heard this before, if you want to play a big league corner outfield spot then you have to be able to hit, hit, and hit some more. With the right breaks Krizan could make it as a backup outfielder/pinch hitter, but he’d be stretched as an everyday player.
What should we expect from him?
While scouts may have slightly underestimated Krizan's future potential on draft day, he is far from a superstar in the making. Things will have to break the right way for him to make the Tigers' roster out of spring training, and any extensive playing time he gets at the MLB level is likely a very bad sign for the Tigers. Tyler Collins has the leg up on Krizan at the moment thanks to a better hit tool, more power, and his presence on the 40-man roster, though Krizan has the better glove. It will take some maneuvering to get done -- like with Collins in 2014, as fate would have it -- and any time Krizan spends in the majors will likely be short-lived.