Tigers prospect Daniel Fields healthy, starts hot
Maybe this season Daniel Fields gets a break. The good kind.
He has had his share of the flip side: a torn abdominal muscle that messed up his 2012 season, a concussion in 2013, and then, last year, a fractured thumb that slashed two months from what stood to be meaningful time for an outfielder the Tigers could soon need.
Fields, 24, and a big bonus ($1.6 million) draft pick when he signed out of U-D Jesuit High in 2009, is beginning 2015 furiously. In Triple A Toledo's back-to-back games Friday and Saturday at Columbus, Fields was 7-for-10 with a home run, triple, and two doubles. He plays center field for the Mud Hens and is batting .343.
"He's still a work in progress as far as staying inside the ball, and staying through the pitch," Toledo manager Larry Parrish said during a Sunday morning conversation. "He's not rolling over the ball as much.
"He still, sometimes, wants to spin on the ball and the bat comes around the ball. He takes some pitches he could drive and rolls 'em over, or hooks them foul. And when a good pitcher gives you one of those and you hit it foul, it just gives him one more chance to make a good pitch on you."
Fields is a left-handed batter who stands 6-foot-2, weighs 215 pounds, and looks as if he was built according to the official big-league outfielder's blueprint.
"He's got a great body," Parrish said, adding, with a chuckle: "I don't know where he got it from — he's a lot bigger than Bruce."
That would be Bruce Fields, the former Tigers outfielder, batting and bench coach, who now works as the Tigers' roving minor-league batting instructor, and who happens to be Daniel's dad.
Long before and ever since Daniel signed with the Tigers, father and son have spent endless hours chiseling a swing the Tigers only hope has put Fields on a path for Comerica Park.
The reason is obvious and potentially acute. The Tigers could be losing a pair of outfielders, Yoenis Cespedes and Rajai Davis, to free agency this autumn.
Steven Moya is in Detroit's plans for regular outfield work in 2015, but even if he does arrive as an everyday option, the Tigers will need depth they, for now, would prefer to derive from either Fields or his corner outfield teammate, Tyler Collins.
"They're viable guys for us," said Al Avila, the Tigers assistant general manager who watches over Detroit's farm system. "They're all very important for us.
"Fields has been swinging the bat real well and obviously hitting with some power. He's got all the tools to make it work. I think the biggest thing is for him to simply stay healthy."
Parrish has used Fields occasionally in left field but otherwise has him policing center.
"Arm-wise, he's slightly below-average, but a lot of center fielders don't have real strong arms," Parrish said. "He's more of a (Curtis) Granderson type, defensively, so for him to play out there he's going to have to hit."
Fields understood as much when he chose the Tigers in 2009 over a handsome scholarship offer from the University of Michigan, which wanted him wearing a maize and blue baseball uniform.
But the Tigers had drafted Fields in the sixth round and were so intent on signing him they paid one of the heavier bonuses in club history.
Now, they want his bat, which during spring camp impressed manager Brad Ausmus and others, to steadily show in 2015 that a prospect can be of help in Detroit.