Collins getting chance to prove himself

Tigers seeing what they have in young outfielder

Collins getting chance to prove himself

CINCINNATI -- It's time for the Tigers to figure out what they have in Tyler Collins. What the Tigers find could potentially impact their offseason dealings.

Monday's start against the Reds was Collins' 13th start in 18 games, and his fourth in a row in a string that included a prominent left-handed pitcher in Cole Hamels, off whom he singled twice. He is progressing from a platoon option to the outfielder receiving the vast majority of the playing time in left, at the expense of Rajai Davis.

While Davis -- who has served capably in left and center field and as a fourth outfielder for two seasons -- is a free agent at season's end, the 23-year-old Collins won't be arbitration eligible for at least another two seasons. If the Tigers are going to try to fill another spot on their positional roster in-house for next season, he has the best shot.

"I think he has a great opportunity to prove that he deserves to be at the big league level on a regular basis," manager Brad Ausmus said Monday.

The opportunity opened when the Tigers traded Yoenis Cespedes at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Detroit is expected to make an attempt at re-signing Cespedes this offseason should he reach free agency, but the Cuban slugger's star turn with the Mets could make the bright lights of New York enticing for him. Other teams are expected to enter the bidding in an offseason when many clubs are looking for offensive help.

No one would suggest Collins could approach Cespedes' production. The question the Tigers could have to face is what they would do if Cespedes signs elsewhere, whether they would turn toward one of the other prominent left fielders on the market -- Justin Upton is also eligible at season's end -- or look to take another route. More relevant for Collins would be how the Tigers would fill out their outfield roster or mix in left after a free-agent signing or trade.

"He has some speed," Ausmus said of Collins. "He has the ability to run the bases, score from first on a double. He does have power, left-handed bat. He could spell a center fielder if we needed him to."

So far, Collins has responded well to the opportunity, putting up pretty much the same type production he provided as a part-time player against right-handed pitchers.

"I think the biggest hurdle, which he is in the process of jumping, is he attacked the game of baseball like a football player, instead of letting the game come to him sometimes," Ausmus said. "He'd overswing or he'd overthrow the ball in the outfield sometimes. Letting the game come to you makes things easier."

That quality, Ausmus said, often develops with playing time. For now, he's getting it.

"It's also easier the more experience you gain. You don't see a lot of veterans playing the game that way. They tend to slow the game down."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.