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2017 TigsTools: Detroit Tigers Best Outfield Defense

Outfield defense is more important than ever now that hitters are increasingly adapting to a fly ball philosophy. And with Comerica Park’s deep centerfield and cavernous gaps, having reliable defenders with range is critical for the Tigers. The major league club is still trying to find an answer in center field, but there are prospects in the minors with the glove to take over in the not-too-distant future.

Best Outfield Defense

1. Derek Hill

2. Jason Krizan

3. Connor Harrell

4. JaCoby Jones

5. Jose Azocar

 

Hill tops the list for the second year in a row, and as one of the most gifted outfield defenders in all of minor league baseball, he’ll likely remain here until he exhausts his prospect eligibility. Spectacular catches have become routine in the West Michigan outfield over the past two seasons as HIll has used his terrific instincts, excellent jumps, and double-plus speed to track down balls all over the park. He even boasts an above-average arm, though Tommy John surgery may impact his arm strength in the future.

 

Krizan is also a veteran of this list thanks to his precise routes, solid speed, and impressive instincts. He can capably man all three outfield spots, but ideally he would settle into right field where his strong, accurate arm can be a weapon.

 

Harrell is built like a weak-side linebacker, but he’s an above-average athlete who can cover plenty of ground. Like Krizan, he probably profiles best in a corner thanks to his strong arm, but he can also hold his own in center field.

 

Jones has been moved around the field a bit, but he profiles best in the outfield where he can take advantage of his above-average speed and athleticism. He has a chance to stick in center, and his above-average arm should help him cut down overzealous runners.

 

Azocar nearly matches Hill from a raw tools standpoint. He’s a plus runner who shows terrific range in center field, and he has a cannon of an arm that helped him lead the Midwest League in assists. Right now he’s held back a bit by his aggressive style, which can lead to ill-advised dives that turn singles into triples or missed cutoff men that result in extra bases.

 

Honorable Mention

Mike Gerber

Daniel Woodrow

Jacob Robson

 

Gerber was a center fielder at Creighton, and he can still handle it in a pinch, but he has a chance to be an above-average right fielder thanks to his solid instincts, average speed, and strong arm.

 

Woodrow and Robson are both 2016 draft picks who manned center field in college and in their first tastes of pro ball, and they both have the above-average speed to stick in center long term.

 

Projection Kings

Juan Ramirez

Jimmy Mojica

Ulrich Bojarski

 

Ramirez and Mojica both have the instincts instincts to man center field, but the teenagers are just average runners right now, so if and when their bodies fill out they may have to move to right field, where both have strong arms that will be an asset.

Bojarski is an athletic specimen with the above-average speed and prototypical throwing arm to make him an above-average defender in right field one day.

 

Why He Missed

Christin Stewart

Stewart ranks as the top outfielder in the Tigers system, so fans might wonder why he isn’t on this list. The Tigers believe he has a chance to be playable in left field, but scouts are basically split into two camps, with some saying he has a chance to improve into being a merely bad defender, and others projecting him to be a DH because he is slow-footed and has a below-average arm.


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