MINNEAPOLIS — For the first time since 2013, the Tigers drafted two pitchers in the first round of the MLB Draft. Like that Draft, Detroit rounded out its first round with a University of Texas Longhorn who dropped down some boards and into the Tigers’ laps, snagging right-hander Ty Madden with the 32nd overall pick.
A year after the Tigers went with six hitters and no pitchers in an abbreviated Draft, maybe a flip of the script was fitting.
“We always want to get the best guys, and the pitching worked into that,” Tigers amateur scouting director Scott Pleis said Sunday night. “We did want to get some arms, and it really worked out good. We got two great pitchers today.”
Whether or not a return to a pitching-heavy Draft was part of the Tigers’ plans, Madden was too good to pass up with their Competitive Balance selection. He was MLB Pipeline’s ninth-ranked prospect coming in, and third-ranked college pitcher after Vanderbilt’s Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker.
Madden earned Big 12 Pitcher of the Year honors this spring at Texas, striking out 137 batters over 113 2/3 innings to go with a 7-5 record. Opponents batted just .188 against him. He picked up added attention in the Longhorns’ run to the College World Series, where he struck out 18 batters over 13 innings in two starts at Omaha.
After Madden raised eyebrows with a 99 mph fastball in fall ball, he threw more consistently and effectively with a mid-90s sinker and a biting mid-80s slider. Add in a changeup and a slider, and he has a chance for a full repertoire as a starter.
“To be honest with you, we were surprised that he fell that far,” Pleis said. “We thought he was going to be kind of a ‘tweener [between the Tigers’ picks]. I saw him early in the spring, and I probably saw his best game.
“[He’s] a competitor. Great arm, good slider, shows a good changeup too, just kind of a workhorse guy on the mound with a great competitive edge to him.”
Even at No. 32, Madden is the highest-drafted Longhorns pitcher since Taylor Jungmann went 12th overall to the Brewers in 2011. The last pitcher from the school to go in the first round also went to Detroit back in 2013, when the Tigers used a sandwich pick on former Texas closer Corey Knebel. He went 39th overall, 19 picks after the Tigers used their top pick on University of Florida right-hander Jonathon Crawford. Both were eventually traded, but Knebel pitched eight games for the Tigers in 2014 before going to the Rangers for Joakim Soria.