The Detroit Tigers could really use another left-handed bat. As of right now, switch-hitting Victor Martinez, Andy Dirks and Alex Avila are the only three left-handed hitters projected to be in the Tigers’ starting lineup. Only one of them, Martinez, can actually be expected to turn in a good season.
The Tigers chose to avoid the high priced left-handed hitting free agents this offseason such as Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran and Curtis Granderson. Therefore, barring the possibility of a Spring Training trade, the Tigers will be forced to look internally if they wish to find another left-handed stick. Thus far, there have been a few whispers about Jordan Lennerton or Daniel Fields possibly having an outside chance to head north with the club, but what about the 23-year-old Tyler Collins?
Collins, a non-roster invitee to Spring Training, spent 2013 in Double-A Erie where he had a slash line of .240/.323/.438 with an impressive 21 home runs, 29 doubles and 79 RBIs. The 21 home runs Collins hit in 2013 were good for four more than Lennerton hit in Triple-A, more than twice as many as his teammate Fields hit in Double-A and more than any player returning to the Tigers hit besides Miguel Cabrera. Granted, Collins was not facing MLB pitching, but that is still rather impressive.
One should not be scared off by the .240 batting average either. Collins played in the Arizona Fall League during the 2013 offseason where he raised his batting average to .260, and he hit as high as .290 back in 2012 while playing in Single-A Lakeland. He is more than capable of hitting for a higher average, and he actually struck out at a lower rate than Fields did last season.
It should also be noted that Collins has base-stealing potential. Although he stole just four bases last season, he swiped 20 bags while playing for Lakeland in 2012.
The only spot in the Tigers’ outfield that is currently open for competition is left field which is where Collins has logged most of his time in the minor leagues. The Tigers are currently planning on using a platoon of Dirks and Rajai Davis in left field, but a big spring from Fields or Collins could easily make the team reconsider. If Collins played left field for the Tigers regularly, there is a terrific chance that he would hit more home runs than Dirks and Davis combined (they combined for 15 in 2013.)
Collins making the team may still be a long shot and the Tigers would probably prefer to see him spend another season in the minor leagues where he can continue to develop and play every day, but stranger things have happened. With the exception of Cabrera, limited power exists in the Tigers’ lineup and a lefty who can pop 20 home runs would most certainly be a welcome sight. Keep an eye out for Collins this spring.