Collins hopes to run with opportunity in Detroit

Center fielder knows speed will help at vast Comerica Park, on basepaths

Collins hopes to run with opportunity in Detroit

DETROIT -- Tyler Collins is ready to make a run at the Tigers' center-field vacancy. He spent the offseason getting himself ready to run.

After spending last year with a listed weight of 215 pounds, Collins said at TigerFest that he's down to 205. He spent his winter workouts focused on getting lean rather than simply building power.

After a 2016 season that saw him play more games in center in Detroit than in the two corner spots combined, and an offseason that began with Cameron Maybin being traded to the Angels, the motive is pretty clear: Collins wants to run -- on the bases and in center field.

Collins' RBI triple

"I'm trying to," Collins said. "There's a lot of outfield out there."

It's the factor that makes center field at Comerica Park more demanding of a speedy skill set than arguably most Major League ballparks. Start in center in Detroit, and 400-plus foot drives to left-center are not only in the park, they're in play.

While it's difficult to evaluate a center fielder's metrics based on just 29 games in center last year, covering 207 total innings, data from Statcast™ helps demonstrate the kind of center fielder Collins can be. Of the 79 putouts Collins made across all three outfield spots, none were characterized as a highlight catch based on distance covered and league-wide percentages of similar plays. That said, Collins also converted all but one "easy" plays. He made slightly more "tough" plays for outs than he allowed hits. And he covered a good amount of ground on fly balls with enough hang time, covering 100 feet or more four times according to data.

Collins' diving catch

In center, Collins was very good on fly balls hit deep, straightaway, as well as toward either gap. He had more challenges charging in on balls.

Collins doesn't just want to utilize speed in the outfield. On the basepaths, he wants to be a better tablesetter. With three career stolen bases in five Major League attempts, he has never been much of a danger to swipe a bag, despite stealing 20 bases in 23 attempts at Class A Lakeland in 2012. He has been more of a presence taking extra bases, going first to third in half of his opportunities, according to baseball-reference. He was 2-for-2 scoring from first base on a double.

"I watch the game and I see what a tool speed really is," Collins said. "And I think it can be as powerful as any of them. I can run, so why not get a little bit quicker too? Get around those bases, get Miggy [Miguel Cabrera] a couple extra RBIs, see if it'll get him to buy me something?"

As the potential left-handed hitter in a center-field platoon, potentially complementing recent trade acquisition and right-handed hitter Mikie Mahtook, Collins has a good opportunity for it, maybe better than at any point in his career so far. He doesn't want to be too slow to pounce on it.

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.