The Detroit Tigers believed they were ahead of the game when they traded for Cameron Maybin. They believed they would platoon Maybin and Tyler Collins in left field with Anthony Gose in center field and J.D. Martinez in right field.
In 2015, the Tigers opened the season with 13 position players and 12 pitchers (five starters, seven relievers). Of those 13 position players, there were the nine starters, a backup catcher (James McCann at the time), two utility infielders (Andrew Romine and Hernan Perez), and a fourth outfielder (Rajai Davis).
If the Tigers use the same thought process in 2016, they would work with the team’s starting nine, Cameron Maybin, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Andrew Romine, and one other player. Detroit would need another left handed bat in their lineup, especially off the bench. That bat should be Tyler Collins, but there is no guarantee.
The Tigers have not produced much home grown talent, but Collins, James McCann, and Nick Castellanos are the exceptions. In 2015, Collins produced at a .266/.316/.417 split with four home runs and 25 RBI. Those splits are better than both McCann (.264/.397/.387) and Castellanos (.255/.308/.419).
Collins did not get to play as much as Castellanos or McCann, but when he played, he produced. Collins was one of the few bright spots for the Tigers in the second half of the season, and played his way onto the Tigers’ roster.
Collins’s biggest competition for a spot on the roster is Dixon Machado. Teams usually like to carry multiple utility men, one who can play multiple infield spots like Machado at second, shortstop, and third, and Romine at all of the infield positions with a possibility of moonlighting in the outfield. Besides Jim Leyland‘s love for him, the Tigers carried Don Kelly for his versatility.
Don Kelly is not walking back through the Tigers’ doors, but the Detroit may value a Don Kelly-like versatility, and Collins does not bring that. Instead, Collins brings a solid left handed bat off of the bench. However, his addition shortens the Tigers’ bench defensively. Early on, Collins’s bat may be more valuable, but Detroit may miss flexibility as the season progresses.
The Detroit Tigers should keep Tyler Collins on their roster to start the season, but manager Brad Ausmus will need to be smart to use Romine efficiently. If Romine is used in a game too early, the Tigers could be out of options late in games. If the Tigers use Collins wisely in late game situations, Romine can still be used for his defense and to play multiple positions, which is exactly what the Tigers need Romine to do.