With expectations the Tigers will prefer a college bat from a 2022 draft crop studded with hitters, here are 10 first-round possibilities for Detroit when next year’s MLB Draft convenes:
► 1. Robert Moore, 2B/3B, University of Arkansas: He happens to be the son of Dayton Moore, the Royals general manager, so make what you might of front-office temptations and the fact Kansas City is picking ninth overall, three turns ahead of Detroit. Robert Moore, though, is a 5-foot-9, 170-pound, switch-hitter who most likely will play at second base. He has some sock in that both-sides bat, with two-way skills that make him solid first-round stock.
► 2. Gavin Cross, OF, Virginia Tech: The Tigers understand left-hand power is a lineup premium. Here it is, in the person of Cross, who also has an arm bold enough for right field. The size is there (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) and so is the bat. In drafts less lush than 2022’s bounty promises, Cross would be gone within four or five picks. He still could be.
► 3. Cayden Wallace, 3B/OF, University of Arkansas: Right-handed swinger, with punch, who can handle third base but probably will shift to right field in the big leagues. Wallace hit 14 homers last spring for the Razorbacks. It’s important to note he will be 20 next July. Scouts love players who have over-performed relative to age, especially when they’re 6-foot, 205 pounds, and have his ability to wallop good pitching.
► 4. Carter Young, SS, Vanderbilt: Leave it to Vandy to serve up a switch-hitting dazzler who could be up-the-middle wealth for some lucky MLB team. Young is 6-foot, 180, and those who followed him closely last season saw him slam 16 home runs, which is doubly impressive when you’re working regularly against SEC pitching. Young has time next spring to iron out any swing-and-miss traps scouts will especially be watching for.
► 5. Cade Doughty, 3B, Louisiana State: The Tigers have an institutional attraction to LSU players, which might or might not be a helpful habit. Regardless, there is a right-handed hitter (6-1, 195) of prowess who plays for the Bayou State’s version of the Tigers. He can mash the ball with extra-base pop and figures to drop anchor at second base if and when he cracks the big leagues.
► 6. Dylan Beavers, OF, Cal: Those magic words left-handed power apply to Beavers, who towers at 6-4 and still played center field for the Bears. Beavers clubbed 18 home runs last spring, which made him rather uncomfortable for Pac-12 pitchers. The Tigers will have multiple, seductive choices at that 12th spot, and Beavers could tempt.
► 7. Hayden Dunhurst, C, University of Mississippi: The cover-boy catchers heading into 2022 are Daniel Susac (Arizona) and Kevin Parada (Georgia Tech). But the SEC has a dandy in Dunhurst (5-11, 220), who has a left-handed bat the analytics gang finds to be most intriguing. His overall game could make him irresistible, even as early as 12th overall.
► 8. Zach Neto, SS, Campbell: Probably isn’t happening, not for the Tigers, when they’ve been collecting young shortstops with the expectation one — one, anyway — will pan out. It’s also questionable that a small-school guy can offer the steady brand of pitching matchups scouts need to see during a long spring schedule. Still, he burned up the Cape Cod League last summer, he has enough size (6-1, 190), and he can play anywhere, with shortstop looking like a long-term option.
► 9. Jacob Berry, 3B, LSU: Based on what he has done to date, there is no serious chance Berry will be sitting there at 12, waiting for the Tigers to pounce. Here is a switch-hitting wizard who stings the ball with mayhem in mind. He is 6-foot, 205, and because of so-so defense likely isn’t sticking at third base, but big deal. He showed plenty of what counts — hitting — at the University of Arizona before agreeing to join his coach, Jay Johnson, at Baton Rouge as both men move from the southwest to the southeast.
► 10. Hunter Barco, LH starter, University of Florida: We must consider that these are the Tigers. And that means a pitcher, especially a SEC pitcher, can always win the front office’s hearts. Barco is a lefty, of course, who stands 6-4, and suddenly, as radar guns and rpm-gauges pop next spring, you can see a team from Detroit succumbing to a sales pitch it finds completely defensible.
Lynn Henning is a freelancer writer and former Detroit News sports reporter.