2011 TigsTools: Best Hitter

Assessing the best hitter in a minor league system requires a detailed look at the basic components of hitting. Those basic elements include balance, swing path, repeatability, a knack for hard contact, bat speed, hand-eye coordination, and many more attributes. The players on this list exhibit many of these characteristics and project to have the best hit tool over the long term.

Best Hitter
1. Danry Vasquez (OF)
2. Nick Castellanos (3B)
3. Tyler Collins (OF)
4. Jamie Johnson (OF)
5. Avisail Garcia (OF)

The top of the list is headlined by the two best position player prospects in the Tigers system and ranking Vasquez and Castellanos in either order is defensible. In my personal assessment Vasquez offers more natural hitting ability at his age than Castellanos did at the same stage of his development and I feel his barrel awareness and early signs of pitch recognition will ultimately make him the better hitter. This view was not shared by all scouts as opinions on who would ultimately be the better hitter were basically split. Both players have the ability to hit .290 or better at their peak.

The three outfielders ranking behind the top two are a legitimate step back in terms of their overall hitting ability. All three project to possibly be average hitters in the end. Collins is the most well-rounded of the three, offering speed, pop and natural hitting ability. Johnson has solid barrel awareness and the ability to dive the ball to all fields while also utilizing his plus speed to gain a few extra hits. Garcia has an incredible ability to make contact with the baseball, but his over-aggressive approach may hold him back from reaching his ceiling as a hitter.

Honorable Mention
Rob Brantly

Projections for Brantly's long term hitting ability varied wildly as I spoke with scouts this season. Too many scouts saw a .250 hitter with pop and some on-base ability.

Projection Kings
Harold Castro
Hernan Perez
Felix Santana

This is a new feature in the TigsTools series, highlighting players that some scouts believe could develop into players worthy of discussion on this list. The three players noted on this year's list all have something that stands out in their raw hitting ability.

Some within the organization lobbied that Castro may already warrant consideration for the back of the list as he has an outstanding natural feel for the barrel and ability to make contact. He could develop into a premium level hitter with more experience.

The strength in Perez's arms, wrists, and hands allow him to generate bat speed with a short quick swing. He adjusts well to pitches and while he is still maturing as a hitter, he could develop into a player that scouts could project as a 55-60 hitter long term.

Rounding out the list, Santana is an obscure Dominican talent signed by the Tigers before the 2011 season. Nicknamed "Bam Bam" for his short, stocky frame and ability to lace line drives all over the field, Santana may be able to vault himself further up this list in future years.

Others Considered
Brandon Douglas
Dean Green
Corey Jones
Ryan Strieby

All four of these players drew mention from scouts for their hitting ability, but none of them garnered enough attention to seriously merit consideration for the final list of five. Green's natural contact ability stands out the most among this group but scouts feared that more advanced pitchers would expose the inner half of the plate against him and he ultimately wouldn't be able to live up to his debut performance.

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2011 TigsTools: Best Hitter

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