Seasoned bat best fits rising Tigers’ needs ahead of deep MLB Draft

Detroit News

Next year’s Tigers draft will be different, and all because the Tigers no longer are one of MLB’s most stressed teams.

They will pick 12th overall, which is the deepest they’ve drafted in five years, during which Casey Mize, Riley Greene, Spencer Torkelson, and Jackson Jobe were added with top-five turns the Tigers got as consolation for losing so doggone many baseball games (103.3 average from 2017-19).

Not since they were left to snag Alex Faedo with the 18th overall choice in 2017 have the Tigers owned a first-round pick so removed from pick-of-the-litter privileges as they gear up for next July’s talent show.

The happier reality for a revived Tigers franchise is that the 2022 MLB Draft ranks, in the view of scouts nationwide, as one of the deepest in the past 25 years. It bears scads of talent, with college bats surprisingly plentiful. And that just happens to best fit a Tigers farm system and big-league roster still hunting for Grade-A lineup lumber.

More: Ten players who could entice Tigers at No. 12 in the 2022 MLB Draft

Even a dozen picks into the July sweepstakes (nothing official yet, but MLB teams assume it will begin two nights before the July 12 All-Star game in 2021), the Tigers could be looking at an up-the-middle hitter who might play second base, the outfield, or even catcher.

Robert Moore, a switch-hitter from the University of Arkansas who can play shortstop or second base, is one who might last until the Tigers’ first turn.

Jacob Berry, another switch hitter, and a third baseman from one of the Tigers’ favorite grooming grounds, Louisiana State (via the University of Arizona), also could sit until No. 12 overall due to the 2022 draft’s pure depth.

Another possibility to consider is Detroit will go for a catcher when Dillon Dingler is pretty much the sum total of a team’s front-line catching depth. In that case, Daniel Susac (University of Arizona) and Kevin Parada (Georgia Tech), could easily be too good for the Tigers to bypass should either of those gents slip just far enough to be sitting at that 12th slot. The same could apply to Hayden Dunhurst, who catches for the University of Mississippi and who will be measured next spring against prime-cut Southeastern Conference pitching.

More: Detroit News 2022 Top 50 Detroit Tigers prospects

There are outfielders, also. Lots of outfielders with bats MLB scouts will brand as “projectable” — likely to hold up against big-league pitching — will be stacked within this well-stocked 2022 draft-day warehouse that scouts insist will be no letdown by the time 2022’s spring schedules wrap up.

Brock Jones, from Stanford, is expected to be a top-five gift, but after Jones it’s possible that power-punching Chase DeLauter of James Madison, or Virginia Tech’s Gavin Cross, could drop to 12. Same with a scenario where either Dylan Beavers of Cal, or Cayden Wallace — another of those Razorback prime-timers Arkansas will flaunt in 2022 — could convince Tigers scouts they’re getting at No. 12 overall a player who might be a top-five talent in other, less well-endowed drafts.

Not to be dismissed are thoughts the Tigers could cross up everyone and go a different route. They did just that last July in collaring prep pitcher Jackson Jobe when most outside of the Tigers’ sanctum sanctorum figured they were bent on drafting a shortstop with their 2021 third-overall turn.

In a draft this bountiful, the Tigers always can decide a college, or prep, pitcher is too talented to ignore. Peyton Pallette is yet another of those Arkansas super-talents piled so high the Razorbacks might win the College — or MLB — World Series in 2022. Another candidate who could seduce Tigers scouts is Alabama lefty Connor Prielipp. Dylan Lesko, a power-pitching prize from Buford, Georgia, looms as bait for a Tigers team that understands the moment you think you have adequate organizational pitching is the moment you’ve walked into a personnel trap.

Prep gold is there for grabbing on the position side, also. Termarr Johnson, of Mays High in Atlanta, is so gifted that he is more likely to be picked first than 12th in July’s first round, with the same possibility in play for Druw Jones, son of ex-Braves celebrity, Andruw Jones, as well as Elijah Green of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

There always will be preseason stocks that will rise and fall, maybe dramatically, next spring. But it’s the overall body of next year’s talent that isn’t likely to depreciate or disappoint.

By the time two more college infielders — Brooks Lee of Cal Poly, and Jace Jung from Texas Tech — are stuffed into the probable early first-round class picture, the Tigers can feel doubly good about their potential options at 12-overall.

As for the Tigers …

It is the safest of 2022 predictions that the Tigers, ahead of next year’s talent fest, will announce from the summit of Mt. Everest their intentions to “draft the best player available” with that 12th turn.

And that vow should not be viewed cynically.

Except …

The Tigers are building to win, preferably in a hurry. Percentages and roster needs are such that they would, ideally, prefer a bat and two-way lineup regular destined for manager AJ Hinch’s playoff-hungry lineup.

That equates, most directly, to a college player who might be a couple of seasons from playing in Detroit. The Tigers are in this MLB business for the long term, yes, but they understand that a cast of superb talents arriving at relatively the same age and with the brunt of their years in Detroit ahead of them, is a nifty blueprint for becoming a meaningful October team.

The Tigers crossed up a few folks last July when they jumped on Jobe. Expecting a repeat, a prep pitching surprise, to be their pick next July stretches preseason imaginations as 2022’s rich draft crop begins to mature.

Expect a bat. A college hitter, to be specific. And if he happens to play second base, catcher, or can blast pitches while neatly covering Comerica’s outfield acreage, the Tigers are waiting with a first-round invitation to join Hinch’s gang in Detroit.

Lynn Henning is a freelance writer and former Detroit News sports reporter.

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