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Interviews

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!

 

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Aaron Westlake, the Tigers 3rd round pick in 2011 from the University of Vanderbilt, posted some decent numbers this year at West Michigan. His line in 2012 goes as follows, .249/.320/.391/.711/ 123 Games. 465 AB, 116 H, 35 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 69 RBI, 56 R, 47 BB, 105 K, 4 SB. Aaron is big guy (6’4″ 235) so, you’d expect to more home runs. Although, he did rack up 35 doubles in his first full season in the minors. Aaron plays the first base position so, if he’s going to make it to the big leagues, he’ll have to either hit or field his way there. Nevertheless, he’ll be a nice organizational player.

Here is an interview Aaron and I had back last Winter before Spring Training. Hope you enjoy.

TPR: What’s the one thing you have to have on long road trips?

AW: Have to have an iPod or some type of device that plays music.

TPR: Any Pre-Game superstitions?

AW: Don’t have any superstitions.

TPR: Who was the person you looked up to growing up?

AW: I looked up to my parents growing up. They have taught me the right way to live life and to live it to the fullest.

TPR: Who influenced you as far as playing the game of baseball?

AW: My Dad influenced me the most. He would always find time to help me any way he could with the game, whether is was throwing BP to me, hitting me ground balls, or simply playing catch.

TPR: Why did you choose the number you chose, any special reason or was it just given to you?

AW: I did not choose the number I was given.

TPR: Best manager you have ever played for throughout your career?

AW: Tim Corbin at Vanderbilt has been the best manager I have played for throughout my career so far. He taught me not only lessons about baseball, but life lessons as well.

TPR: Best player you have played with or against?

AW: I have had the opportunity to play with and against many great players. I would have to say the best player I was fortunate to play with so far has been Sonny Gray who I played with for 3 years at Vanderbilt, and who was drafted by the A’s in the first round in last year’s draft.

TPR: If you could have gone pro or played any other sport besides baseball, what would it have been and why?

AW: Would have played golf. I grew up playing golf a lot as well, and like playing the game.

TPR: Best/worst parks to play in? (or cities to travel to)

AW: Since I signed later, I missed most of the away trips at Short Season in Norwich. For the places I went, State College (Penn State) and Lowell, were some fun cities we traveled to.

TPR: Where do you see yourself in 20 years?

AW: Coaching or some sort of financial management.

Thanks again to Aaron for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions for the TPR. The writers and readers of the Tigers Prospect Report thank you as well. Good luck on your journey to the Big Leagues.

Follow Aaron on Twitter

– Travis aka Tiger Travie

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Austin Schotts, drafted straight out of high school, is one of the Tigers up and coming prospects. During his tenure in HS, Austin played mostly short stop. But once he was drafted by the Tigers, he was converted to a center fielder. Schotts spent most of the 2012 season playing for the GCL Tigers (Rookie) in Florida. He was called up to the Lakeland Tigers (Class-A) later in the year but only played in a few games.

Austin took some time earlier this year out of his busy schedule to partake in an interview for the readers of the Tigers Prospect Report. Here are the questions with Austin’s answered applied:

TPR: When we’re you first exposed to the game of baseball?

AS: My dad actually brought a baseball and a football to the hospital when I was born and introduced me to both. My dad played baseball in college and my older brother played so I was around the game right away. I think the first actual team I was on was when I was four or five years old. I remember watching home videos of my second birthday and I was swinging a dust pan while my grandpa pitched me balls in the living room.

TPR: Being a two-sport athlete in high school, what made you go the baseball route instead of football?

AS: That was a really tough decision. I always have loved both so much. I had some offers to play both. It was after my senior football season when I decided that I was going to play baseball only. I just felt like I could have a career on the baseball field.

TPR: How would you describe your game?

AS: I would say aggressive. I play hard every time I am on the field. I want to hit the ball, get on base and use my speed. I am excited to keep learning and to get better every day.

TPR: You were drafted in the 3rd round by the Tigers, did that surprise you at all? Or, were you just happy to be drafted?

AS: I had decided that if I wasn’t drafted in the first three rounds that I would play ball in college. I had a great scholarship to Oklahoma State and was just happy knowing that I would be playing for a great school or be blessed enough to start living my dream after high school. So to answer your question I was MORE than happy that I was drafted and glad it happened in the first three rounds.

TPR: What were your first initial thoughts when you heard your named called?

AS: I wasn’t called until pick 121 which was toward the end of the third round. I was actually figuring that I wasn’t going to be called and that I was going to Oklahoma State instead. I have no idea what my initial thought was. I just remember jumping out of my chair when my name was called. We were all screaming and crying. My phone was blowing up. I couldn’t believe it. It was one of the best days of my life for sure.

TPR: In high school you played shortstop and since being drafted by the Tigers, you moved to centerfield. How has that transition been so far?

AS: I miss the fast pace in the infield but I am liking centerfield too. I still have things to learn but have my coach, Basilio Cabrera, and my roommate, Ismael Salgado, are helping me a lot. I am just happy to be playing and will play wherever they feel I am needed the most.

TPR: Your GCL (Gulf Coast League) stats are pretty impressive thus far ( .310 3HR 21RBI 15SB), what has been the key to your early success?

AS: I just give 100% every time I am on the field. Every day I learn something new. Some days are good and some days aren’t. I just have to believe in myself and keep playing the best I can every day. I just play the game pitch by pitch.

TPR: Turning things away from baseball a bit, what are some of your favorite things to do in your free time?

AS: I like to hit and play pool and ping pong.

TPR: Person you looked up to growing up?

AS: There wasn’t just one person who I looked up to. Obviously my big brother, T.J., has always been there with me every step of the way. T.J. was always better than me at sports so I had to work hard to keep up with him. My parents and my grandparents were also always there too. I also believe that God has a huge part in everything I do and He has been a big influence on the person I am today.

TPR: Favorite baseball player? Then and now?

AS: I always liked watching Rickey Henderson and Pete Rose clips. Now I would have to say that Mike Trout is one of my favorite players. He has done so well at such a young age and is a lot of fun to watch.

TPR: Favorite sports teams? Professional and collegiate?

AS: I was raised a Chicago Bears fan and a Notre Dame fan. When I was born my room was all Notre Dame and as I got older I switched to Chicago Bears. It was always football. I never really watched much baseball for some reason. I guess I was too busy playing outside. Now my favorite team is the Detroit Tigers for sure!

TPR: Any pre-game rituals?

AS: No. I just try and get as focused as possible and pray that I do the best that I can.

TPR: Favorite music to listen to and or artists?

AS: I listen to all different kinds of music. Rock, rap, country, oldies…just depends on the mood I am in and who I am with. Now that I have a roommate from Puerto Rico I even listen to his Spanish music. LOL

TPR: If not for being a pro baseball player, what would your profession be?

AS: If baseball wasn’t an option I would have for sure kept playing football. There is just something about football that I can’t explain! The adrenalin, hitting people, running by people…it is all just so much fun.

TPR: Final question, where do you see yourself in 30 years?

AS: I will be 48 so I don’t know if I will still be playing or not but if my body lets me I will be on the field still! If not, I want to be coaching or doing something where I can be on a field or around the game of baseball the rest of my life. It’s all I ever want to do if I am blessed enough to.

I’d like to personally thank Austin for taking the time to do this interview. It was great getting to learn some new things about and up and coming Tigers player.

Welp, that’s it for this installment of the Tigers Prospect Report Interview Segment. Be sure to tune in next time when we’ll be bringing you more great interviews from Tigers prospects.

– Travis aka Tiger Travie

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