The odds of making a major league baseball team’s roster are astronomically small. Tyler Collins knows that. Every player in each of the 30 Major League Baseball organizations knows that.
But when the former Northwest product came to Detroit’s spring training in February, he started with the parent club – and never left camp. As they say, he wouldn’t go away.
And that’s always a good thing for a young player trying to make an impression. Collins, 24, kept hitting and hitting and hitting. While the .241 batting average wasn’t anything to get excited about, the nine extra-base hits were.
Collins had three home runs, three doubles and three triples. That caught Detroit rookie manager Brad Ausmus’ attention.
“There's a little bit of danger in his bat,” Ausmus said to MLB’s Detroit beat writer Jason Beck back in March. “You saw it… his ability to drive the ball. He's certainly been talked about quite a bit.”
Then Collins caught a break. When Detroit outfielder Larry Dierks had to miss the start of the season with back surgery, the Tigers needed a left-handed bat. Collins became the choice and started the 2014 season on the roster.
Collins scored the game-winning run on Opening Day (March 31) against Kansas City, 4-1. He made his first Major League start against Kansas City left-hander Jason Vargas in the second game, batting second and in front of American League MVP Miguel Cabrera.
Collins’ time in the big leagues lasted for two weeks. He went 2-for-14 (.143) with a pair of singles before being sent down the Tigers’ Triple A affiliate in Toledo to get more playing time and to keep working on his stroke. He could not be reached for comment in this story.
With players like Collins, there’s always that delicate decision of keeping them on the big league roster and have them coming off the bench. But if you are a young player like Collins then that kind of usage negatively impacts him. He needs the at bats to stay in routine, refine his swing and play to a level that should Detroit recall him the next time, Collins will stick. The good news is that Collins remains on Detroit’s 40-man roster.
Since his return to Toledo, Collins has been playing at a pretty steady pace. The power is pretty solid with nine home runs and 34 RBIs. What he will have to work on is making better contact. He’s striking out about 24 percent of the time – that’s too much for a player who wants to make a big league team – and his on-base percentage is decent at 31 percent. Plus, he would be the first to tell you that his doubles numbers (6) have to come up because doubles are a better indication of a player’s true power.
But the only way for Collins to stay in the Detroit brain trust’s mindset is to continue to refine all elements of his game and make adjustments. Baseball is all about adjustments. Discounting the two-week stay with the Tigers, this is the highest level he has played. Collins showed his power in 2013 with Double A Erie with 21 home runs and 29 doubles.
The odds are Detroit would prefer to keep him in Toledo until management knows he’s ready.