Awhile back, when we were just getting TPR going, Jordan and I were playing around with the idea of interviewing more established scout/prospect-type writers, with the hopes of gaining valuable insight into not only the prospects of the Tigers, but into the world of prospecting itself. The first name that came to my mind was James R. Chipman, formerly on Motor City Bengals and now Lakeland correspondent for TigsTown.com. Jay has been incredibly helpful to me in particular as I’ve traveled along this writing path, and he’s the first guy I think of to tweet/DM/email whenever I have a question. Having just today been appointed lead minor leagues/prospect writer at BlessYouBoys.com, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I wouldn’t have gone this far without Jay’s guidance and words of wisdom.
Without further ado, I present our interview with James R. Chipman:
-TPR: Do you think Dixon Machado will ever hit enough to be an every day SS in the majors?
James R. Chipman: It was an absolute treat watching Machado on a regular basis last season. Realistically, the odds of him being an “everyday” shortstop are against him though. At least to this point, the bat just hasn’t come around enough yet to suggest that he can hit enough to play regularly in the show.
Let’s not negate how special young Dixon is though. After all, Machado won’t even turn 21-years-old until the end of February. His defensive skill set will continue to be his calling card. Machado features outstanding range, great footwork, soft hands and a cannon for an arm. If he can bulk up a bit and learn to hit with even a smidgen of power, his chances will increase.
-TPR: How much will Brenny Paulino’s missed season affect his growth going forward? Do you think he has top of the rotation potential?
James R. Chipman: Missing an entire season is never a good thing for a prospect. That being said, it’s also not the end of the world. Only time will tell how Brenny Paulino responds to his shoulder surgery and absence from the field. I’m not terribly concerned though and I don’t think you should be either. After all, age is on his side, he’s only nineteen.
As for his “top of the rotation potential”, there are many variables now. Can he still consistently throw the heat? Can he do so pain free? Can he polish his secondary offerings? Time will tell.
-TPR: Who are you higher on between Tyler Gibson and Tyler Collins?
James R. Chipman: Hands down: Tyler Collins. I observed Collins on a regular basis and quickly became a fan of his talent and work ethic. He comes through in the clutch, he’s patient, and he features solid gap power and decent speed. From an offensive standpoint, he reminds me a bit of Andy Dirks.
Don’t write off Tyler Gibson though. His true colors didn’t exactly shine through last season’s mediocre numbers. Gibby is a legit five-tool prospect. Give him some time.
-TPR: Will Eugenio Suarez be the Tigers’ every day SS in 2014?
James R. Chipman: I am intrigued and I look forward to observing Suarez once he’s promoted to Lakeland. That’s a very aggressive statement that you made though. To hold true, you’re assuming that Suarez is promoted to Class-A Lakeland next year—-Machado will likely repeat Lakeland–and that he will pass through AA-Erie and Triple-A Toledo as well. Anything is possible I guess. Then again, I don’t necessarily see Suarez “starting” on a regular basis in Detroit period.
-TPR: Will Avisail Garcia be ranked a top 100 prospect this offseason? Also about Avi, will he ever pull the ball or hit for power?
James R. Chipman: He should be. I know if I were generating a Top 100 list Garcia would easily make the cut.
Garcia can pull the ball. Will he do it at that level consistently? Meh, I don’t know, probably. Anything is possible. Garcia is still young and I see no reason why he won’t continue to sharpen his tools. One thing is certain, I guarantee he hits for more power. His BP sessions in Lakeland were amazing. The power is there, don’t forget, Avi won the Home Run Derby in the FSL last season.
-TPR: What should Tiger fans expect reasonably from Steven Moya?
James R. Chipman: Power. Lots of power.
It’s a shame that his season was cut short. I am interested to see how he responds to the Tommy John surgery.
People need to be more patient though. His development will take time. I fail to understand why everyone is hell bent on rushing these guys. Be excited. Just stop placing unrealistic expectations and arrival times on some of these young prospects.
-TPR: Been hearing reports of Will Clinard having a wipeout cutter. Is this someone to keep an eye on going forward?
James R. Chipman: I haven’t seen him in action yet. Honestly, I can’t even tell you much about him except for what I’ve read. He has a big frame and a solid low-90s fastball with late life. Baseball America likes him and scouts seem interested too. He’s on my radar.
-TPR: Have you had a chance to watch Austin Schotts or Jake Thompson?
James R. Chipman: Yes. I am big on both of them too.
-TPR: Does Drew VerHagen profile better as a reliever or starter?
James R. Chipman: VerHagen was solid for Lakeland down the stretch in the rotation. I expect the Tigers to continue developing him as a starter. Long term, I see him profiling better as a reliever though.
-TPR: Does Hernan Perez profile as anything above a utility guy?
James R. Chipman: I believe Perez profiles as more of a utility infielder. Regardless, those who haven’t seen him yet will be very impressed. He handles the bat well, runs well and is gifted defensively.
-TPR: Will Bruce Rondon be closing any time during 2013?
James R. Chipman: Yes. Bruce Rondon “should” be closing out games for the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens next season.
Rondon is oozing with all of the qualities that you look for in a stud late-inning reliever. We’re all aware of that though, right?
With all due respect, I think the secondary offerings need polishing. If and when he’s added to the roster next season, it’s bridging the gap to the ninth. I just can’t see the Detroit Tigers handing the keys to the Cadillac–closing out games–to an inexperienced rookie.
-TPR: Hua Wei Lo is a converted position player. I’ve heard he has a live arm, but is there any projectability as a pitcher there?
James R. Chipman: I had the opportunity to watch him once last season. The extent of his “projectability” is debatable amongst the scouts. I think he’s worth keeping an eye on to a certain extent. He didn’t crack TigsTown’s Top 50 and he wouldn’t crack mine this season either.
-TPR: How projectable is Danry Vazquez? He was obviously overmatched at A-, but fared much better at Connecticut, which, given his age, is still impressive.
James R. Chipman: Vasquez is the epitome of a top prospect. He is very projectable. That being said, he is only eighteen-years-old. It’s only reasonable to expect him to stumble a bit during his journey.
-TPR: After the 4th round, did the Tigers get any worthwhile prospects in this year’s draft?
James R. Chipman: I believe that there are several worthwhile prospects in that bunch. Relievers Joe Rogers, Jordan John, Julio Felix and even Will Clinard come to mind. Position prospects Devon Travis and Jake Stewart are intriguing as well.
So there you have it. Many thanks to Jay for taking the time to answer some questions for us, and if you have the means to do so, a subscription to TigsTown.com is strongly recommended. Paul, Mark, and James (amongst others) do an outstanding job over there.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the big news that came out today. I had approached Kurt at BYB a few months ago, before TPR even existed, about possibly contributing to BYB in the area of minor leagues/prospects. Kurt was very gracious, but said that they weren’t looking for anyone at that time. Today, I received an email from Kurt , offering me the position of Deputy Editor/Lead Minor Leagues and Prospects Writer at BYB. I was completely shocked, and unspeakably excited/thrilled. Kurt was kind enough to allow the entirety of the TPR staff to join the BYB family as well. The way this “merger” will work is that TPR will essentially be added to BYB as a module of sorts. We will still be known as Tigers Prospect Report, but now it will be Tigers Prospect Report at Bless You Boys. Immensely increased exposure, ridiculously better formatting, and scores of newfound opportunities await us at BYB, and I cannot wait to get started. We will continue to strive to bring you all the very best minor league/prospects/scouting coverage that is possible, and sincerely hope you will join us on this new journey.
Thanks for reading, and as always, Go Tigers!