It's no secret that the Detroit Tigers' offense has been struggling as of late, and with J.D. Martinez recently leaving a game due to lower back tightness, Detroit may need to dip into their farm system to find a bat if he has to go on the shelf. While the farm system is barren overall, the Tigers do have a few outfielders in Triple-A Toledo that could be of some use in the majors. Should the Tigers need to make a move, there is no clear answer as to who should be called up.
The four outfield options that the Toledo Mud Hens feature are Tyler Collins, Daniel Fields, Steven Moya, and Xavier Avery. Moya, BYB's top prospect heading into this season, has struggled mightily, hitting just .179 with only one extra base hit. His .222 on-base percentage is 40 points lower than his listed playing weight, much less a league average on-base percentage. We don't know how much of his failures are due to him recovering from a foot injury sustained in spring training, we can assume that there is no chance of him being promoted to Detroit right now.
The dark horse in this contest is Xavier Avery. Originally a product of the Baltimore Orioles, Avery made it to the majors in 2012, where he played in 32 games. Although he is not on the 40-man roster, the Tigers currently have an open spot if they want to give Avery a chance. The speedy outfielder has gotten off to a hot start at the plate. His .346 batting average ranks fourth in the International League, and he has stolen nine bases. Still, he is only walking 5.5 percent of the time, and his .451 BABIP seems doomed to regress. The speedster has shown the ability to track down fly balls, but his weak throwing arm will keep him from being a legitimate corner outfielder in the majors.
Tyler Collins is gunning for a roster spot in 2015
The Tigers don't have many good options down on the farm, but they do have a few outfielders that could produce in a pinch.
Daniel Fields has never played above Triple-A, but has seemingly been on a mission in 2015 to finally break through to Detroit. After putting up big numbers in spring training with the Tigers, Fields hasn't missed a beat since returning to Toledo for the regular season. Finally injury free, the reigning Tigers' Minor League Hitter of the Month is batting .299 with a .417 on-base percentage in 30 games. Against right-handed pitching, Fields habeen tearing the cover off the ball for a .324 average and a .453 on-base percentage. He has shown nice extra base power too, ranking third in the International League with 15 extra base hits.
The biggest red-flag with Fields, though, is his strikeout numbers. In only 132 plate appearances, he has already struck out 37 times. Combine that with his unsustainable .435 BABIP, and it could be argued that Fields' luck on the season might be about due to regress. Moving to the majors would likely expedite his regression.
Tyler Collins is probably the safest bet to earn a call up. Although the corner outfielder has gotten off to a sluggish start for the Mud Hens, he has the most experience with the Tigers among the other candidates. Collins is only hitting .250, but a 12.6 percent walk rate has given him an excellent .353 on-base percentage. Against right-handed pitchers, Collins is batting .288 with a .416 on-base percentage. Like Fields, Collins also has solid pop in his bat, but has yet to show it this season. After hitting 18 home runs and 17 doubles in Triple-A last year, he is still searching for his first home run this year. All of his six doubles this season have come against right-handed pitching.
It's hard to imagine the Tigers using a 40-man roster spot on a platoon outfielder that seems doomed to regress, so Avery is probably out of the picture. Fields has been outstanding for the Mud Hens so far, and will be heavily considered for a call up if needed. Injuries have largely derailed his prospect status, but he has done all that he can this year to stay on Detroit's radar. Collins has gotten off to an underwhelming start, but showed flashes of being a bench threat during his time in Detroit last year.
Both Collins and Fields have shown the ability to hit right-handed pitchers in the minors, but both have their own sets of flaws that will prohibit them from being more than fourth outfielders in the majors. If the Tigers feel that Fields' hot streak is more due to offseason adjustments and not just a fluke, then they will call him up when the need arises. If they think that Collins is due for a streak of success at the plate, then he could earn the call. Either way, as long as one of them can keep their head above water against right-handed pitching for a few games, the Tigers will be pleasantly surprised to get any kind of help from their farmhands.