2012 TigsTools: Best Outfield Defense

Fans of the Detroit Tigers have been spoiled watching Austin Jackson patrol the vast expanse of center field in Comerica Park the last three years. While the defenders on either side of him have exhibited varying degrees of capability, Jackson could have a couple quality defenders on the way in the next few years.

Best Outfield Defense
1. Avisail Garcia (RF)
2. Jamie Johnson (CF)
3. Jake Stewart (CF)
4. Michael Rockett (LF/RF)
5. Daniel Fields (CF)

Garcia repeats as the top outfield defender in the system. Capable of handling center field despite a massive frame, Garcia is a prototypical right fielder with average speed, excellent instincts and routes and a big-time arm. He has the potential to be a Gold Glove caliber defender in right field.

Behind Garcia, both Jamie Johnson and Jake Stewart offer excellent outfield skills. Johnson is a quality runner that makes good reads and can go get it from gap to gap. Stewart is very similar, offering tremendous instincts for the position and average to solid-average speed. Stewart is often lauded for his leadership in the outfield, taking control of those flanking him and running things perfectly.

While Rockett remains one of the toolsiest players in the entire system, his prospect status leaves something to be desired. For all of his offensive struggles, Rockett is a high-end defender on the corners with an arm befitting his surname.

Fields had shown some defensive regression in 2011, taking poorer routes to the ball and not reading things as well off the bat. He turned things around in 2012, getting back to his quality ways in center field; tracking the ball well, taking proper routes and generally showing above-average to plus potential in center field.

Honorable Mention
Luis Castillo (CF)
Ben Guez (RF/LF)

Both Castillo and Guez offer solid defense. Castillo has the added ability to handle center field on a regular basis, while Guez is stretched in the middle of the outfield. Neither player offers the standout skills of those ranked above, but both are assets with the glove.

Projection Kings
Victor Cortez (RF)
Austin Schotts (CF)

Schotts was the top position player selected by the Tigers last summer and he has taken quickly to the outfield after moving from shortstop, his natural position. Schotts improved quickly throughout the summer and showed solid ability during the Fall Instructional League. His reads are still a little slow and his routes need refinement, but everything is there for him to be at least a plus defender. Cortez has more of a right field profile but his athleticism and feel for the game could make him a very good corner defender.

Others Considered
Tyler Gibson (OF)

I have said it in many places, but Gibson is flat out raw. He is raw in every phase of the game, including his outfield defense. He currently has the speed to handle center field with instinctual development, but he is likely to thicken up with physical maturity, pushing him to right field down the line.

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