Profile: OF - 6'2" - 200lbs -BT:R - TH:R - 2011 Age: 20
• Hit: 35-55
• Power: 40-65
• Eye: 45-60
• Range: 50-60
• Hands: 50-60
• Arm: 45-55
• Run: 55-65
Drafted in the 6th round, and signed for a mammoth 1.625m (top-20 money), Fields is yet another product of the Tigers willingness to draft and spend as aggressively as anyone in baseball. A prep player with a well rounded game and plus power/speed potential, the Tigers used that huge bonus to sign the hometown kid away from a scholarship to the University of Michigan where he was intent on going. In our recent interview with Fields he went so far as to suggest that he wouldn't have signed had he been drafted by anyone other than the Tigers or Indians who his father, a long time Minor Leaguer, works for.
Growing up in a baseball family, Fields has fantastic intangibles. His work ethic, makeup, and feel for the game are all strong. So strong that the Tigers felt comfortable enough to send him straight to the Advanced A Florida State League, a league notoriously hard on hitters.
A shortstop in high school, the Tigers immediately moved him to the outfield and he's handled the transition easily. His routes could still use work, and he still has to get more comfortable working with the longer arm-motion of an outfielder than the short, quick one of an infielder, but his defense is advanced for his age. As he matures and grows more comfortable, he should be capable of being an average/plus defender in any of the three outfield spots, even though he lacks ideal center field range.
Offensively Fields shows average or better potential across the board. He struggled to make consistent contact in 2010 and struck out far too much (31%) but that was more the result of playing way over his head in a League where the average age of his competition was 22. Fields has the quick hands and polished approach to barrel enough balls to hit for a solid average and his strong frame projects for above average power. He also shows a very advanced feel for the strike zone and does a great job picking up the spin on balls.
In addition to his strong, if raw approach at the plate, Fields also brings plus speed to the game. He struggled with hamstring issues throughout the season which hampered his stolen base numbers, but still managed to leg out an impressive six triples. We should get a better feel for his approach to stealing bases and his true speed in 2011 assuming he can stay healthy.
On it's face, Fields' 2010 season wasn't very good (.714 OPS), but when you consider his age (19) vs the average age of the league (22), and then factor in that the league average OPS (.688) is massively low, he actually looks a lot better. Heck, he posted an above average OPS, despite being the youngest player in the entire League.
I do have some concerns about his strikeout rate of course, but again, that's something that he's going to have plenty of time to adjust to. He also impressed me greatly by posting a 12% walk rate. Walks are typically the last talent to come around, and he's way ahead of the curve in that regard and as he gets more comfortable with the breaking pitches being thrown at these advanced Minor League levels, that strong eye and advanced approach will allow his strikeout rate to improve dramatically.
The young man had certainly never seen pitching quite like he saw last year and the fact that he more than held his own is an incredible testament to his talents.
I see a lot to like here. Speed, solid/average contact abilities, advanced eye, plus power potential, good range, solid arm, great feel for the game. Not all of those tools will round into talents and he's still probably at least 2-3 years away, but he's got so many tools that he pretty easily projects as an MLB regular in center and has the potential for more.
The Tigers made aggressive plays both to draft him and then to sign him. Thy made another aggressive move sending him to the FSL. So far, so good.
Corey Ettinger is a Senior Writer for Baseball Digest as well as a proud contributor to both 612Sports.net, 312Sports.com, and 313sports.com. He also provides extensive analysis of the American League Central Division at his own blog, AL Central In Focus. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Coreyettinger for the latest updates, random thoughts and general tomfoolery.