TigsTown MLN: Outfield Cupboard Not Bare

It's been a slow period for rumors and transactions coming out of the A-ball teams, meaning it's a perfect time to take a more in-depth look at some of the outfielders down on the farm that are quietly (but emphatically making it known) that regardless of whether or not Cameron Maybin signs with the team, the cupboard isn't bare.

Any discussion of top outfield prospects currently in the system once again has to start with Brent Clevlen. Two years ago, he emerged as one of the top 100 prospects in baseball, displaying a solid bat (the best future #3 hitter you've never heard of, as dubbed by Baseball America), and a cannon arm.

2004 was another story, as Clevlen seemed to regress in all aspects, from fielding to patience to power, he just wasn't himself.

Mark that 2004 year up as an aberration.

The 21 year old outfielder has been mashing the ball all over Joker Marchant Stadium, sporting a .306/.386/.497 line. Clevlen also happens to be leading the entire Florida State League in runs batted in with 93, though some of that has to be credited to the excellent overall lineup that the L-Tigers have.

What exactly changed? A new approach at the plate, and a more relaxed opinion about everything else. In 2004, Clevlen heard all the good and all the bad; he was a future #3 hitter if he could hit for more power, needs to prove the low power numbers were just a result of West Michigan's huge ballpark, etc. Clevlen took all of that to heart and went up to the plate and promptly lost himself, his swing, his composure, everything.

But an offseason in which Clevlen elected to skip instructional ball and return home to clear his head might have been the best thing for him. At just 20 years old, he was young, plenty was expected from him, and he wasn't able to meet those expectations on many fronts. But now, a year older, a year more experienced, Clevlen is emerging once again as that prototypical right fielder in the #3 hole that the Tigers would love to have in the middle of the lineup.

Clevlen isn't the only player making good after a rough 2004. Clevlen's outfield mate Vincent Blue has finally seen some of his potential turn into production. His .360 on base percentage is solid, and his 32 stolen bases display his athleticism. It's likely better to stray from comparisons to Curtis Granderson or Nook Logan, as Blue is more of a mix of both. The key for Blue moving forward is for him to keep improving and demonstrating that his athleticism can be put to use on the baseball field.

And finally, the outfielder with a power arm coming up one level behind Clevlen, last year's third round pick Jeff Frazier. Frazier would rather forget the 12 month span of July '04 through this past June, as it was marked by a broken hand and an extremely slow start.

But for the second half of the season with West Michigan, it's been a light and day change for Frazier. Despite an average that sat in the .230's with a slugging percentage below .400 for much of the first half, Frazier is now up to .283 with an OPS almost to .800 (including a .446 slugging percentage). He also shifted back to left field, the position he played exclusively in 2004. Frazier may not be quite the prospect some hoped for as mentioned earlier (one particular scout's prediction of .300-30-120 line seems a bit off), but his second half resurgence bodes well for his future in Detroit.

So, as the Tigers remain many dollars apart on a signing bonus agreement with Cameron Maybin, fans can rest assured that the entire future of the Tigers' outfield doesn't rest on the shoulders of one stubborn player and his hopeful/demanding father.


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