For Daz Cameron, expectations and hype are nothing new.
Cameron, who ranks sixth on Dave Eddy’s Prospects1500 Tigers top 50 rankings, has been preparing to be a pro baseball player for as long as he can remember. His father, Mike Cameron was a 17-year major league veteran. He was a staple in centerfield as a Gold Glove winner and compiled 1,700 hits, 278 home runs, and drove in 968 runs.
For Daz Cameron, he has been around the game his whole life and was on the traveling amateur baseball circuit since he was basically out of grade school. For Cameron, this exposure has prepared him well for where he is now – one step away from his life-long dream of being a big leaguer like his father before.
“It just prepares you for adversity,” Cameron said. “There are a lot of critics and you just have to focus your mind on just going out there and helping the ballclub win a game.”
With all of the pre-draft hype surrounding Cameron, that said adversity came early. Cameron said that the draft process is crazy. He was ranked the number 12 and number five prospect going into the draft by ESPN and Baseball America, respectively. However, signability became an issue and he fell all the way to 37th overall to the Houston Astros in 2015.
“You go in there thinking, you could be ranked top 10 on the list, then you could not get drafted because of money concerns,” Cameron said. “I try not to dive too much into it, but I knew what I needed from the draft was going to be taken care of, because of the resources I was thankful to have. It was a good experience to go through to see the business side of baseball, so to speak.”
When asked how close he was to attending Florida State, where he had previously committed, Cameron said he was pretty sure if he fell much lower, he was bound to Tallahassee. However, Cameron was ecstatic to be selected by a team with the recent player development track record as the Astros.
After a solid first professional year, Cameron showed flashes. However, in 2016 Cameron hit just .212 between two levels in his first taste of full-season ball. His season ultimately ended with a broken finger from a hit by pitch. He rebounded nicely in 2017, posting a .815 OPS 120 games in High-A before he was traded to Detroit. Cameron admitted that his game has grown a lot from where he started when he was drafted. He also realizes that there is always room to get better in every aspect of the game and he will continue to work to do so.
“(The improvement) is definitely from experience,” Cameron said. “When you go through something, you always learn from it. Whether it be the mental part of it or the physical part of it, you always tune into what needs to be worked on more. You just continue to get better from that.”
One aspect that Cameron had to rebound from was learning a new organization when he was part of the Justin Verlander return at the waiver trade deadline on August 31, 2017. Verlander went on to help the Astros win the World Series. Cameron said that it was pretty cool to be part of that history.
“It was surreal at first,” Cameron said. “You got traded for Justin Verlander. I mean, even the guys that I got traded with. It is Justin Verlander. He’s a Hall of Famer. It was kind of cool to be a part of that.”
He also said that he was pleased to come to the Detroit Tigers organization. He said that the coaches and the environment are great.
Following the trade, Cameron saw three different levels last season and then had a strong Spring Training with the Tigers to start 2019. In 16 spring games with the big club, Cameron hit .382 with five doubles, a triple, and a pair of home runs. This also gave him the exposure to showcase the five tools that he possesses on the biggest stage for the club that acquired him just over a year prior.
“I really like (Cameron’s) game a lot,” Toledo hitting coach Mike Hessman said. “He’s got a lot of tools, a lot of skills. He can play the outfield. Obviously, he can hit. He grew up around his dad, around the ball field and has been in and out of clubhouses all of his life, so he knows the drill. He knows the routine. For a young kid, 22- 23- years-old with the ability to prepare himself for the game is unbelievable.”
Hessman said that more importantly, he knows how to take care of his body and what it needs. Hessman called his approach smart. Rather than overwhelming himself, Hessman said that Cameron takes a big league approach of working in the right places with his time, rather than wearing himself down where it is not needed.
“I think if he can stay healthy and keep progressing, he should be able to play this game for a long time,” Hessman said.
Ryan Palencer is a lifelong baseball fan who covers the Triple-A International League upper level MiLB prospects. He is located in Indianapolis, which features the AAA Indians. Ryan has covered Minor League, Major League, and All-Star games with Pirates Prospects prior to joining Prospects1500. Follow him on Twitter @RyanPalencer.