Collins Hitting His Stride For Tigers





DETROIT—The Tigers liked outfielder Tyler Collins enough to select him in the sixth round of the 2011 draft.

The organization has been even more impressed with the way the 21-year-old Texas native has swung the bat since turning pro.

As a freshman at Baylor in 2010, Collins hit .404/.459/.506 in 29 games before transferring to Howard JC in Texas. Last season he was named NJCAA national player of the year after nearly winning the national junior college triple crown.Collins finished at .488/.561/.949, leading all junior college hitters with 19 home runs.

Collins signed with the Tigers for $210,000, joined short-season Connecticut and hit .313/.360/.534 in 42 games, leading the squad with eight homers.

This winter, he traveled down under to play in the Australian Baseball League, and his first trial against older, more experienced pitchers hadn't slowed his bat much. In his first 36 games with the Sydney Blue Sox, Collins batted .289/.369/.459, ranking among the league leaders with 10 doubles and earning the all-star game MVP with a 2-for-5 night that included a three-run homer.

Despite his stocky 5-foot-11, 205-pound build, Collins has shown surprising speed and baserunning savvy. Collins stole six bases for Connecticut in 42 games, adding four more steals with Sydney.

Mostly a right fielder in college, Collins switched to left as a pro. But his lively lefthanded bat, not his fielding, will need to be his ticket to the majors. And early in his pro career, that ticket has been a hot one.

TIGER TALES

• A total of 18 players received non-roster invitations to big league spring training. Among those invites were third baseman Nick Castellanos and lefthander Drew Smyly.

• The Tigers signed righthander Chris Bootcheck, a former Angels prospect, as a minor league free agent. Bootcheck's father, Daniel, was a lefthander in the Tigers organization from 1967-73.