Detroit Tigers prospect Daz Cameron may be better than his MLB dad
Daz Cameron represents success for the Tigers' organization, one of several youngsters who have progressed this summer
TOLEDO — Down a hallway.
Past the indoor batting cage in Fifth Third Field.
Into the Toledo Mud Hens’ clubhouse.
You will find somebody with an interesting take on Daz Cameron, the Detroit Tigers' center fielder of the future.
Cameron sits at his locker in the back corner.
But that’s not where we will start.
Let’s start with the old guy, the one with the interesting perspective.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a 33-year-old catcher, reclines on a comfortable, black lawn chair — a special privilege for somebody who has played 890 games in the big leagues. And that has put Saltalamacchia into an interesting situation.
In 2010, he played for the Boston Red Sox and one of his teammates was Mike Cameron, then a 37-year-old center fielder near the end of his career.
Now, Saltalamacchia, who played for the Tigers in 2016, is playing for the Mud Hens and one of his teammates is Cameron’s son, Daz, a 21-year-old center fielder, who has taken a rocket ride through the Tigers’ system this season. He started at High-A Lakeland, jumped to Double-A Erie in mid-June, and moved to Toledo beginning Aug. 17.
“Cam is a stud,” Saltalamacchia said. “I played with his dad so it makes me feel really old that I played with two generations.”
Saltalamacchia uses the same nickname for both father and son, which makes a conversation rather tricky to follow.
“Cam — such a hard worker, always paying attention,” Saltalamacchia said.
“Who? Daz or Mike?” I ask.
“Both,” he laughed. “They are the same. You see the way they play the game, it’s almost identical. The way they go after balls in the outfield. Their stance. They are almost identical. I see a lot of resemblance in each other. I can see Cam, I mean Daz, his potential at the plate. He can be a .300 hitter. He is beyond his years right now. Sometime next year, if (the Tigers organization) wanted to, I feel like he could be in the big leagues and help that team win.”
A noteworthy assessment considering Daz Cameron started the season by playing 58 games in Lakeland. After 53 games in Erie, he’s in Toledo hitting .200 (6-for-30) through eight games.
But anybody who watches Daz Cameron sees something special. Something familiar. You can see his father, Mike Cameron, who played 17 years in the Major Leagues for eight different teams and won three Gold Gloves.
“Mike had a tremendous career,” Saltalamacchia said. “I see a kid who can be, if not, better.”
Boom. There it is. The thing every father wants.
For his son to eclipse himself.
And Saltalamachia sees the potential for that to happen.
“Mike Cameron is really good at teaching the game and he expects the best out of his teammates,” Saltalamacchia said. “I know he expects the best out of his son. I’m sure he calls the kid every night and says, ‘Hey man, you could have done this better. Or you could have done that.'
"Daz is a great kid and he listens. I know he wants to get better every game.”
Saltalamacchia’s appreciation for Daz Cameron starts with his work ethic and attitude.
“He’s top step every inning," he said. "He works hard, always wants to learn. His dad was the same type of guy, a hard worker, always paying attention to what’s going on. Probably one of the best teammates I’ve had. Daz has only been here two weeks, but you can see how he carries himself.”
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Envisioning a trio's future
I found Daz Cameron in the corner of the clubhouse, at a locker next to Christin Stewart. Dawel Lugo sat on a stool a few feet away. It was interesting to find all three close together, because it’s not hard to envision all of them playing together in Comerica Park.
Sooner rather than later.
Stewart is the Tigers' No. 6 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.com, two spots higher than Cameron. Lugo is No. 14.
Both Stewart and Lugo are expected to be called up to the Tigers when Major League teams are allowed to expand their rosters Saturday.
“He’s a good person, a great guy,” Cameron said about Stewart. “I think he’s going to be really good. The talent. The power. It’s something I haven’t seen up close.”
Stewart and Cameron have formed a fast friendship.
Game respects game.
“Oh, Daz is awesome,” Stewart said. “He’s a Georgia boy like me, so we get along pretty well. Obviously, his locker is right next to mine. He’s a five-tool player. He can do a little bit of everything. He’s got great speed. Great in the outfield. Can hit. Has a little bit of pop. I mean, he’s going to be a really good player.”
On Friday, Stewart hit a home run an estimated 440 feet.
Cameron had a special view of it, from the on-deck circle.
“I mean, wow, that’s definitely the farthest ball I’ve seen hit in person,” Cameron said. “He has ridiculous pop. It’s crazy to go out there and watch it in front of me. That’s the first home run like that, that I’ve seen up close and personal, on deck. I got the great view of it.”
Stewart is hitting .252 with 21 home runs, although he has had an inconsistent season.
At the end of May, it seemed like he was destined to go to Detroit quickly. He was hitting .281 with 13 home runs.
But he is hitting .224 with six home runs in 43 games since the All-Star break.
“I don’t think he’s tapped into what his power can be,” Saltalamacchia said. “He has the power to go opposite field. Once he figures out he can hit it out to all fields, he’s going to be a lot more dangerous of a hitter.”
While most of the talent in the Tigers’ minor league system can be found at Erie and Lakeland, Cameron, Stewart and Lugo represent the near future. Lugo has hit .273 with three home runs in 120 games.
“The guy is amazing,” Cameron said about Lugo. “All around, he’s a good player. Good glove. The guy is just amazing. Cool as all can be out there. It’s great to be around all these guys.”
This has been another year of transition for the Tigers’ organization. While the big league club has struggled, as expected, it has been a success in the minors, as several players have progressed and jumped to different levels. Brock Deatherage and Kody Clemens are now in Lakeland. Parker Meadows moved up to Connecticut (Short-Season A). Matt Manning jumped from Low-A West Michigan to Erie. Alex Faedo, the team's 2017 first-round pick, is in Erie.
And you have Cameron, Stewart and Lugo, waiting to go to Detroit.
Stewart and Lugo are expected to arrive later this week.
And if you believe the old guy in the lawn chair, Cameron could be there next season.
Contact Jeff Seidel: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.