JUPITER, Fla. -- For the second straight year, the Tigers have found an athletic outfielder out of its spring tryout camp. Whether Jiwan James follows Wynton Bernard's trajectory remains to be seen, but after seeing the former Phillies prospect try out last week, the Tigers are going to give him a shot, signing him to a Minor League deal.
James, who turns 26 next month, hit the Phillies top prospect rankings after back-to-back 30-steal seasons in A-ball in 2010 and 2011. From there, however, his career slowed for knee surgery and then another procedure to deal with Crohn's Disease. Former Tigers pitching prospect Adam Pettyjohn had a somewhat similar condition, ulcerative colitis, that slowed his career.
The injuries and ailments cost James parts of the last three seasons, and the Phillies released him last June after a flare-up of Crohn's. He had signed a few weeks ago to play independent ball with the Bridgeport Bluefish of the Atlantic League until the Tigers encouraged him to try out for them last Monday.
James stood out during the camp, enough that the Tigers wanted to give him a shot. After going over medical records and a physical, the deal became official. James is expected to report to Minor League camp on Tuesday, and could open the year at Class A Lakeland.
If he makes it, James could help fill a major void at the middle levels between a projected deep outfield at Triple-A Toledo and top Draft pick Derek Hill's starting point.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.