Blue is probably the most polished of the trio, but he has yet to figure out exactly how to use his tremendous speed to his advantage on a regular basis. Without any appreciable power and only marginal patience, Blue will have to become more adept at taking advantage of his plus speed to make an impact. Finishing the season with a .260/.328/.326 line in a park not conducive to hitting, Blue could take a giant leap forward at Lakeland in 2005.
Both Sabino and McKinney struggled mightily to make contact against Midwest League hurlers this season, with one glaring difference between them. McKinney possesses incredible power potential, which was abundantly evident when he actually made contact. Garth is a very raw, but intriguing player who has the potential to "bust out" at any time if he can put his skills together. When the Tigers signed him out of Walters State Community College, they knew they were getting a raw talent, but you have to believe they hoped he would make more progress than he has. Sabino is a tough player to read; he does not have any above average tools, and he does not impress with raw athleticism. His strikeout rates are alarming for a player with little else to offer, and he will have to drastically improve in this area to have any real chance of moving through the system. Expect to see Blue and McKinney in Lakeland next season with incumbent Brent Clevlen, which could make for a very talented and exciting outfield. The O-Tigers had performances ranging from stellar to abysmal this past season. On the bright side, 2004 draft choice Jeff Frazier played extremely well before a broken wrist sidelined him for the remainder of the summer. The Rutgers product posted a .304/.387/.430 line in only 20 games. This great start to his pro career was enough to excite scouts and fans alike, and leads to lofty expectations as he heads to West Michigan in 2005.
Bo Flowers was a toolsy pick out of high school in 2002, and 2004 was the first season in which he put up results to match his immense potential. Improving plate discipline, above average outfield defense, and blazing speed make Flowers a player to watch going forward. Not only did he hit well (.280/.341/.407) with Oneonta, but in a late season promotion to West Michigan, Bo continued to perform at a high level (.273/.360/.455).
On the other end of the performance spectrum, first year players Robbie Tulk and Justin Justice displayed the kind of struggles you never want to see out of your minor league players. Despite his struggles, Justice is a promising player who has a rare set of tools. Combining power potential, speed, outstanding defense, and good baseball instincts, Justice could be an outstanding prospect if he can simply make more contact (108 strikeouts in 259 at-bats). Tulk on the other hand, was a late-round pick this past summer, and his troubles may be more indicative of a player who is simply not of professional caliber. Not only did Robbie struggle with the bat, but he often needed a map and compass to find fly balls in the outfield. Considering his age and lack of professional experience, Tulk will likely get another chance in 2005, but he will need to produce to keep his job.
The GCL Tigers had an outfield full of raw potential this season, and nearly all of that potential has a ways to go before it becomes readily evident. Jeremy Laster and Brandon Timm are the two most promising players of the group.
Laster was a 2003 draft choice, and is widely considered a player who has all the tools to be a successful outfielder, but is still extremely raw and inconsistent. Laster's overall potential is so high that he will likely get multiple extra chances to "put it together".
Brandon Timm was taken on the first day of the 2004 draft, and displayed solid all around skills in his first exposure to professional baseball. The former high school standout still has some significant work to do defensively in centerfield, but the speed and basics are there to be a plus defender. Offensively, Timm shows an advanced approach at the plate for a young hitter, and has the speed and base running instincts to be a very good top of the lineup threat.
Also seeing time in the Tiger outfield were Vince Berry, Leo Grullon, and Jamaal Peeples, all of whom had somewhat disappointing performances. All three of these players have the raw potential to be at least average players, but none of them showed this early in their brief careers. Grullon was the most productive of the three, posting a very uninspiring .217/.253/.343 line that leaves much to be desired. All three will get a chance to improve upon these performances in 2005.
The Tiger outfield prospects have possibly the most potential of any group of position players in the system. The various players range from polished hitters who could look to compete for time in Detroit soon, to raw players with incredible ceilings. Players like Granderson, Logan, Espinosa, and Frazier could see Detroit in the next couple of seasons, while high ceiling youngsters like Garth McKinney and Bo Flowers could be exciting players to watch during the 2005 season, but are still a ways from Detroit. With promising players littered throughout the system, there could be a steady stream of solid outfielders parading their way through the Comerica Park outfield over the next several years.