Tigers prospect Green heading to Japan

Tigers prospect Green heading to Japan

Dean Green had a .306 career average over parts of six seasons in the Tigers' farm system. What he didn't have was a position with the Tigers. So when he had an opportunity to forge a new path overseas, the slugging prospect took it.

The Tigers announced Wednesday that they've sold Green's contract to the Yakult Swallows of Japan's Central League, allowing Green to follow the Far Eastern path taken by several American hitters who have been stuck just shy of the big leagues.

Green released a statement on Twitter later in the day, thanking the Tigers organization, staff members and fans.

"The fans bring an energy to the stadium that is indescribable as a player, and makes it enjoyable to perform," Green wrote. "Thank you all for your encouragement and support throughout the years, and I hope that I have made a lasting impression on all of you as well. I'm looking forward to the next chapter in my baseball career with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows!"

Green hit at every stop up the Tigers system after Detroit drafted him in the 11th round out of Barry University in Florida in 2011. He posted back-to-back strong seasons at Double-A Erie in 2014 and 2015, then broke through at Triple-A Toledo this summer. He hit .296 with 23 home runs and 108 RBIs between the two stops this season, and .306 with an .850 OPS for his Minor League career.

The problem wasn't his bat so much as his position. Though Green has played in 591 Minor League games, he has been the designated hitter for most of them. He has played in the field in 161 career games, including 135 games, all at first base.

In another organization, his hitting might have forced a spot. But with the Tigers boasting Miguel Cabrera at first base and Victor Martinez at DH, Green's path has been blocked. He had a crash course at first base when Cabrera missed a month with a calf injury in 2015, but Detroit went with other options to fill in.

The 27-year-old Green never made it to the big leagues in Detroit. He would've been eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter, and was a year away from Minor League free agency, but found his opportunity with Yakult, which finished fifth in the six-team Central League this season. Green could help fill the offensive void of another transplant, former Mariners outfield prospect Wladimir Balentien, who hit 185 home runs for the Swallows over the last five seasons, but reportedly might return to the United States next season.

Others who found success in Japan before returning stateside include former Tigers great Cecil Fielder. Former Toledo Mud Hen and Minor League career home run leader Mike Hessman also played in Japan for a season between Triple-A stops. Another ex-Hen, Brad Eldred, has hit 101 homers for the Hiroshima Carp since leaving Toledo in 2012.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. 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.