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Cameron becoming gem of Verlander deal

Athletic outfielder could serve as model for Tigers entering '18 Deadline
MLB.com @beckjason

ERIE, Pa. -- Daz Cameron was 22 months old when the White Sox traded his father to the Reds after the 1998 season. Mike Cameron was a talented young center fielder, just two full seasons into his big league career, but the White Sox liked a young slugger in Cincinnati's system named Paul Konerko.

Daz was coming off his third birthday when his dad was traded again to Seattle. The elder Cameron was a cog in a Reds team that came within a tiebreaker of a playoff berth, but he wasn't hometown hero Ken Griffey Jr.

ERIE, Pa. -- Daz Cameron was 22 months old when the White Sox traded his father to the Reds after the 1998 season. Mike Cameron was a talented young center fielder, just two full seasons into his big league career, but the White Sox liked a young slugger in Cincinnati's system named Paul Konerko.

Daz was coming off his third birthday when his dad was traded again to Seattle. The elder Cameron was a cog in a Reds team that came within a tiebreaker of a playoff berth, but he wasn't hometown hero Ken Griffey Jr.

So when the Astros traded their former first-round pick, Daz Cameron, to the Tigers last August to add Justin Verlander, the young outfielder got a bit of advice from his dad.

"He told me, 'It's going to be kind of like you just got drafted, just meeting the guys and getting to know everybody,'" Cameron said. "But he said, 'Once you step in between the lines, it's just the game, and you go about your business.'"

Eleven months later, business is going well. And as the Tigers near another July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline looking to continue restocking their farm system, the 21-year-old outfielder is the kind of athletic offensive prospect the Tigers would love more of.

Cameron ranks 10th -- fourth among position players -- on MLB Pipeline's list of top Tigers prospects. He will likely move up the list when it's updated later this summer.

"He's going to be a special player to watch, exciting for Detroit Tigers fans," Double-A Erie SeaWovles manager Andrew Graham said.

Cameron has shown flashes of power, an abundance of speed and an improved defense in his first full season -- split between Class A Advanced Lakeland and Erie -- in the Tigers' system, and plenty of all those skill in a month with the SeaWolves. Now, he's showing the ability to adjust.

"For me, it's just focusing in on what I can do. That's been the key," Cameron said. "I have to be able to hit my pitch when it's there and let my athleticism take over. I'm not a guy that's going to pull the ball a lot. I'm going to spray it all over the field. My goal is to go out there and have fun and not worry about scouting reports."

Eastern League scouting reports took time to catch up with Cameron, who hit line drives all over UPMC Park in Erie for two weeks. It's not just that he went 18-for-44 (.409) over his first 11 Double-A games, but that seven of those hits went for extra bases, including two homers and two triples. He scored 10 runs, drove in 10, walked six times and stole four bases without being caught. Half the balls he put in play went for hits.

Video: DET@ATL: Cameron rips RBI ground-rule double

Then, of course, came the bounce-back, a 3-for-30 skid with 11 strikeouts and a .158 BABIP. He hit two more triples, but he tried to do something similar each time up.

"Instead of being locked in, he was trying to do too much," Graham said. "Next thing you know, the other team is saying, 'OK, don't throw anything over the dish right here. Let's go outside and see if he chases.' And he bit on a couple.

"He had a situation where we had runners in scoring position and a base open. They threw him three curveballs. He swung at three balls. And you talk to him and say, 'Hey, would you throw a strike right there with a base open and you're the hottest hitter in the league right now?' He's like, 'No.' And I said, 'Well, there you go.' But the maturity he has, he learned from that. And the next time that happened, he just sat there and got into a hitter's count, and then grinded out the at-bat."

This is where Cameron is now -- not tearing up the league, not slumping, but learning. He posted three two-hit games last weekend against Altoona, but in different fashions. He singled twice last Saturday, but with runners at the corners in the ninth inning with a two-run deficit, he struck out on three pitches, chasing an 0-2 offering.

The next day, Cameron took a first-pitch ball in the first inning with a runner on first, then sent a fastball to the top of the hockey arena that towers over left field. An inning later, he lined an RBI single into the other gap.

"Great approaches," Graham said. "He's still, at times, swinging at the ball in the dirt, which he didn't do earlier. … I can't say he's struggling; he's still doing an unbelievable job. But compared to what we saw the first 15 games? When he started saying, 'Man, I went 0-fer,' I said, 'You're not going to hit .450 and slug 1.500 your whole life.' But the way that he worked to get out of that little slump that he had, it shows how mature and how much of a professional he is for a 21-year-old."

Cameron credits that to lessons he has learned through the Astros' and Tigers' systems.

"I think in some parts of analytics, it was good for me to take in and learn about some little things," Cameron said. "I think [in Houston's system], I learned about the zone better and how to swing at better pitches and wait for my pitch and don't miss it. Over here, it's getting back to the mentality of things in terms of just keeping it simple. I think that, meshed together, has helped me progress and keep getting better."

That doesn't mean the Tigers will push Cameron to Detroit soon. They'll likely exercise similar patience with Cameron as they have with fellow outfield prospect Christin Stewart, letting Cameron learn his way through tears and slumps along the way. But with so few all-around outfield prospects in the system, Cameron has become a building block.

"For me, I just want to go out there and have fun and play, and the rest will take care of itself," he said. "I mean, yeah, you think about [the big leagues] sometimes, like, 'Oh, man, I'm getting close.' But the main thing is to go out there and play the game and help the team win."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.

Detroit Tigers, Daz Cameron