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2020 BYB Tigers Prospects #7: OF Daz Cameron needs to put it together at the plate

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The defense will play, but there are lingering offensive questions in Cameron’s profile.

MLB: Spring Training-Detroit Tigers at New York Mets Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Like with Jake Rogers, one of the unfortunate circumstances of Daz Cameron’s career is that he will always be measured up to the Justin Verlander trade. Cameron, Rogers, and what will hopefully be a healthy Franklin Perez are already seen in the harsh light of a failed trade. Rogers got his first shot at the majors last year, and Cameron was supposed to join him following a strong 2018 season, but his on-field performance hindered that plan.

There was a lot of excitement for Cameron in 2018 when he jumped from High-A Lakeland to Triple-A Toledo in a single season. He followed up an .837 OPS in Double-A by hitting .214/.330/.377 in a full season with the Mud Hens, which took some of the shine off that apple. While he is still very young, 2020 will be a big year for Cameron. If he sputters again, then the weight of this trade may lie on the shoulders of Rogers alone.

Don’t let the stat line fool you, though. Cameron has many skills that will make him valuable to the Detroit Tigers. It’s just a matter of showing them consistently. It seems the split for Cameron is clean; either you think there is more coming and 2020 will go well, or the opposite. I believe in the former.

Background

One thing Cameron has going for him is bloodlines. His dad is former All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner Mike Cameron. Daz proved himself worthy of a competitive balance round pick by the Houston Astros back in 2015, meaning he followed the Astros’ first round pick, Alex Bregman. Cameron also came three picks after the Tigers selected outfielder Christin Stewart.

The good news is that Cameron’s defensive ability is already there. The only questions that remain are in his bat. At different times, he has flashed different abilities, it just has yet to all come together. At 23 years old, he still has plenty of time to do so, but hopefully he takes big strides in 2020.

Strengths

Defense, defense, defense. Cameron is a plus defender with great defensive instincts. When he was first called up to Toledo, scouts told the Bless You Boys staff to watch him when a ball is hit that direction, because it is art. And they weren’t wrong. Cameron has a really good first step and uses his speed well on the grass. It doesn’t hurt that he has a knack for making great diving catches as well. He has enough of an arm to stick in center for the Tigers, or potentially right field.

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A plus runner and overall graceful athlete, Cameron can steal a base but will have to learn to be more efficient in the future. That speed to go along with plus defensive instincts will allow him to stay in center for the long haul, and he has the arm strength needed for an outfield corner. Cameron’s ceiling is still coming into focus, but all the pieces are there for him to develop into an everyday center fielder at the highest level.

Cameron uses his speed well on both sides of the ball. It shows well on defense, which allows him to cover a lot of ground. On the basepaths, he is pretty aggressive. It works for him, and he shows some instincts to steal — he stole 17 bags in a 2019 season where he didn’t get on base much.

Overall, Cameron is an athletic and toolsy outfielder who can provide value with his defensive abilities.

Weaknesses

This is where things start to fall apart. Cameron’s quick swing is more of a credit to it being compact, rather than pure bat speed (though his bat speed isn’t terrible). There isa lot of swing and miss in his game that is attributed to his tendency to expand the zone when spin is involved. It all looks smooth, but even when he does make contact, choppers happen more often then a squared up baseball.

When the ball does get squared up, Cameron can show off some average power that will likely translate into extra base hits. That allows you to dream about what his speed can do with the ball rattling around the fence in Comerica Park. However, this power is, again, dampened by his tendency to expand the zone.

He is athletic and has bat speed, but his hit tool projects as future average at best. Cameron doesn’t make consistent contact, but his raw power is average and should translate into fringe-average game power if he is able to make some adjustments.

Cameron is on the 40-man roster, so it’s likely he gets a chance in Detroit in 2020. How early will depend on him, but he’ll need to prove the ability to hit Triple A pitching. If spin and velocity are giving him fits in Toledo, that isn’t going to magically go away at the next level. That said, the compact swing will play if he can get the barrel on the ball more often when he makes contact — though that is much easier said than done.

Projected 2020 team: Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens

To start, Cameron is likely going to be at Triple-A again. He will have to have to show something to crack a fairly crowded (if mediocre) crop of outfielders ahead of him on the big league depth chart. If he does, there isn’t much keeping him from debuting with Detroit, but a repeat of 2019 won’t be enough. The skills and athleticism are there and there he’s got plenty going for him, but 2020 could be a make or break year for Cameron.