Fields was the Tigers 6th round pick in the June draft, despite his strong commitment to the University of Michigan. After waiting nearly all summer, the Tigers came to the table with an offer of first round money, and Fields ultimately signed for a bonus just north of $1.6 million.
He signed too late to make his professional debut, but Fields was present for all of the Fall Instructional League in Lakeland. His performance varied wildly during the FIL, as Fields adjusted to the improved competition, pro grind, and the wood bat. Most observers were encouraged with his natural ability. He spent his off-season working diligently to improve his agility and quickness.
Tools are available in spades when you watch Fields play the game. You can start anywhere and speak of above-average to plus skills across the board.
He is an above-average runner both in straight-line speed and in-game speed. He is an excellent base runner and he should be a base stealing threat as soon as he adjusts to the pro game; an adjustment he is expected to make with relative ease.
Fields' speed didn't completely play at shortstop as he lacked some range, but most scouts felt he was going to out-grow the position anyway. The Tigers wasted no time making the move with Fields, informing him earlier this week that he would be playing center field this spring. He has experience in center field in the past, and he should take to it quickly. His speed will play in the outfield, and he has a plus arm for the position.
Fields bat is still raw, but he shows future plus hitting ability, and at least future above-average power. He has good leverage in his swing, and he can already drive balls out to all fields with his natural strength.
The questions around Fields' offensive game center on the simple fact that he has yet to consistently face top notch competition playing in a northern state. He has put on impressive displays on the showcase circuit, but most scouts want to see him consistently put together those type of performances as a pro before they completely buy the bat.
Fields has the raw tools and the understanding of the game to become a star-level talent, but he is a long ways from reaching that high ceiling.
Did not play in 2009
Fields has not suffered major injury in his high school or extremely brief professional career. He is an outstanding physical specimen, and there are few injury concerns with him in the short term.
The recent position change muddies the projection for Fields in coming weeks. He was going to be in a strong battle to make the West Michigan roster and split time at shortstop and designated hitter. At this point, he will need to adapt to center field quickly, and show he's ready to hit pro pitching, to make the West Michigan roster on Opening Day.
Fields' performance is going to dictate the pace at which he moves through the organization, but on the surface he seems unlikely to move much quicker than a level at a time. The earliest he is likely to be making any significant big league noise is following the 2012 season, and that might even be pushing it a bit. Patience will be key for fans following Fields closely. Don't be discouraged by early struggles, as sometimes it cane take time for raw tools to translate to game skills.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.