Nick Castellanos is the Tigers' best hitting prospect and the guy to watch at high Class A Lakeland, but he's joined by a host of players looking to break through. Right fielder Avisail Garcia has been pushed through the system, which is why he hasn't hit much since he was a 17-year-old in the Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer League back in 2008. Now 20, Garcia will get a chance to catch his breath with a return to the Florida State League, where he'll have to show that he can hit in games and is more than just a physical specimen with intriguing tools. Lefthanders Alex Burgos and Bryan Flynn will be in the rotation, while king-sized reliever Bruce Rondon will see if he can find the plate with his 100 mph fastball. Shortstop Dixon Machado is a defensive wizard with a light bat, while outfielder Tyler Collins, a sixth-round pick in 2011, is a natural hitter and an intriguing sleeper.
Leap Of Faith
Lefthander Drew Smyly made the biggest jump, winning a job in the major league rotation despite being a 22-year-old with just eight Double-A games on his resume. He's polished for his age, though, and the Tigers do like to push their better young pitchers. Outfielder Danry Vasquez had a .306 OBP last year as a 17-year-old in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, but the Tigers are sending him to low Class A West Michigan. Vasquez has some feel for hitting, but he needs to get a lot stronger to be able to hit the ball with more authority, so don't expect a breakout season here.
Where Is That Guy?
Righthander Brenny Paulino touches 97 mph and is so long and lanky that he may throw even harder in the future. The Tigers' No. 6 prospect pitched well in the GCL last year but won't make the jump to full-season ball just yet. Paulino, 19, will probably go to short-season Connecticut when the New York-Penn League season opens in June.
Time Is Running Out
Andy Oliver is lefthanded and throws hard, but is there anything else there? Oliver has had big league tests in 2010 and 2011, neither of which went well, nor did his Triple-A season last year, when he finished with a 4.71 ERA in 147 innings. Now 24, Oliver needs to come up with a reliable secondary pitch and show he can throw his fastball for strikes. Having outfielder Daniel Fields start his career in the Florida State League in 2010 straight out of high school was always a strange decision for a player who was never lauded for his hitting. Now 21, Fields is back for his third tour in the FSL, where he'll have to change the opinions of scouts who have major reservations about his bat.
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