AFL Spotlight: Detroit Tigers

Kiley takes a step back from breaking down AFL clubs one-by-one to take a closer look at the Tigers prospects from the Mesa club, with longer reports and new video on Corey Knebel and Tyler Collins.

See the AFL content index for previous scouting reports and videos for every team in the league. Click on the player's full name for previous content and more information.

Tyler Collins, LF

Collins has a squatty build and is a left field only fit due to below average speed and arm strength. He's backed into a corner profile-wise but has shown some potential with the bat. Collins needs his bat to carry him and he has some tools: fringy raw power from the left side with some feel to hit and a direct, line drive cut. In 2012 at Hi-A Lakeland, he hit .290/.371/.429 with as many walks as strikeouts at age 22, looking like he could turn into a fringe regular or solid bench bat at the big league level. in 2013, he took a big step backwards at AA, hitting .240/.323/.438 with more than twice as many strikeouts as walks, but finally showing game power with 21 bombs. Collins doesn't have the raw power to make this approach work in the big leagues, but if he can replicate his OBP from 2012 this season, he's got a chance to carve out a Matt Stairs-like niche.

Devon Travis, 2B

It's easy to count out Travis somewhat once you see him as he's also backed into a corner profile-wise as a 5'9/180, right-handed hitting second baseman. Travis has as little power as you think but plays an excellent second base and while I only saw one game from him and didn't get a good look at his speed, he looked like an above average runner. Travis has changed his swing mechanics a good bit from college but kept his good sense of the strike zone. He made hard contact on the three game swings I saw, with excellent triple-slash and plate discipline numbers against lower level competition in 2013. Travis will be challenged in 2014 at age 23 in AA after raking at Lo-A and Hi-A in 2013 (.351/.418/.518 combined line) and will have a chance to prove if he can carve out a niche as an energetic bench type after entering the minor leagues as a low profile senior sign out of Florida State.

Dixon Machado, SS

Machado can play a fringy to average big league shortstop, which will keep him in demand for years, but the bat hasn't quite come around yet. Machado has some bat speed and a little raw power but is overmatched by better stuff as his approach is just okay and injuries have kept him from getting the necessary ABs to improve his feel to hit to catch up with his glove. Machado will be 22 in Hi-A next year and has been promoted before his bat's been ready for each level due to his defensive prowess and tools, so a strong, healthy spring could help him take a huge step forward as the ability is there.

Corey Knebel, RHR

Knebel had some well-publicized discipline issues at Texas before the 2013 draft and has a high-effort, quirky delivery that limits him to relief but the stuff is for real, which is why he went in the sandwich round to the power-arm obsessed Tigers. Knebel sat 93-95 mph with some cut and flashed a plus hook at 81-83 mph that showed the bite to be a 65 pitch on the 20-80 scale, the same grade I would give his fastball on this short look. He makes his quirky delivery work for him and works quickly and aggressively around the zone. I think despite some less-than-ideal qualities, Knebel has a late-inning mindset, the stuff to back it up and enough command to make it work, so he has as good a chance as anyone in the minor leagues currently to become a big league closer.

Blaine Hardy, LHR

Hardy is a 26-year-old lefty that turns 27 before Opening Day but has been in AAA the last four seasons, pitching 64 innings for Toledo last season. The delivery is a little stiff and upright from the windup, with a crossfire angle and some effort at release. Hardy delivers from a high 3/4 angle and sat 87-89 mph with a pretty straight fastball for me but the off-speed and deception is the separator here. His hard curveball at 75-77 mph is above average at times with tight rotation and his 78-80 mph changeup is a solid-average pitch to keep hitters honest. Lefties with a pulse always have a chance, but there isn't more than a middle reliever here and Hardy may have already topped out as a solid AAA reliever.

Kenny Faulk, LHR

Faulk is also a 26-year-old lefty that will turn 27 during the 2014 season, though his career got started later and his 44 innings in Toledo in 2012 were his first exposure to the level. He's similar to Hardy, working from a high slot with some effort to his delivery, working 87-89 mph when I saw him. The off-speed stuff is the best part here, but his 76 mph changeup and 80 mph slider were both just solid-average, so I can't see him getting a call tot he big leagues without a relatively big change to what I saw.

Thomas Collier, RHR

Collier is younger than Hardy and Faulk at 23 and just finished most of the season at Hi-A Lakeland, working 2 innings in the outing I saw. He sat 88-91 mph with an below average fastball like the Hardy and Faulk, but in a longer outing showed a slider, curveball and changeup. Collier's 83-85 mph slider was used most often and was pretty inconsistent, mostly below average but flashing average potential. His 80-81 mph changeup was used less and was clearly better, flashing above average potential but never used against righties, limiting his upside against same-side hitters at upper levels until he makes some changes.

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