This year’s MLB draft presents a new challenge for the Detroit Tigers.
The Tigers have selected in the top five in each of the past four: No. 1 overall in 2018 (Casey Mize), No. 5 in 2019 (Riley Greene), No. 1 in 2020 (Spencer Torkelson) and No. 3 in 2021 (Jackson Jobe).
This time, the organization has the No. 12 pick.
“This is where you make your money,” ESPN draft expert Kiley McDaniel told the Free Press on Thursday. “The fair criticism of what they’ve done is a lot of people can pick the right guy when you’re picking first, third and fifth overall. But this year, if you can nail this pick when everybody’s going haywire trying to figure out what’s going on, then you earn your money.”
Selecting a high school player would surprise, considering the Tigers have stated their rebuild is over. Drafting a college hitter makes the most sense and seems like the initial plan.
The 2022 MLB draft begins at 7 p.m. July 17 in Los Angeles, with the Baltimore Orioles picking No. 1 overall.
Typically, the Tigers would be in the mix for a prep pitcher like Brock Porter, a right-handed pitcher from Orchard Lake St. Mary’s. (Porter is committed to Clemson.) But college players are less risky, and the Tigers — simply based on the state of the organization and prolonged rebuild — don’t have the luxury of allowing another young pitcher to marinate in the minor leagues.
Three college players are all but guaranteed to be selected by the time the Tigers pick at No. 12: Georgia Tech catcher Kevin Parada, Chipola Junior College third baseman Cam Collier and LSU outfielder Jacob Berry. Cal Poly third baseman Brooks Lee appears either in or just outside that top tier, and Virginia Tech outfielder Gavin Cross isn’t far behind.
The Tigers must prepare for the second tier of college players, which includes Cross, Tennessee outfielder Jordan Beck, Alabama left-hander Connor Prielipp, Texas Tech second baseman Jace Jung and Campbell shortstop Zach Neto.
Since the Tigers are positioned near the front of the second tier, they could elect to pick a college player toward the back of that tier, sign them under slot value and get creative in the second round with the bonus pool money saved.
The New York Mets, armed with two top-15 picks, make their first choice one spot before the Tigers.
The Tigers hold the No. 51 overall pick, in the second round, and No. 171 in the fourth round.
They traded the No. 71 pick (Competitive Balance Round B) — and Isaac Paredes — to the Tampa Bay Rays for Austin Meadows in April. They forfeited their third-highest pick, which now belongs to the Boston Red Sox at No. 79, upon signing left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez in November.
This year’s draft lacks depth in college hitting. An argument could be made for 12 different college hitters with the 12th pick. Deciding where those players stack up is what the Tigers (and several teams) must sort out before the draft begins.
“I tend to think the Tigers will learn more toward the bigger, power-based guys as opposed to the smaller speed and defense guys,” McDaniel said. “I think the Torkelson, (Izaac) Pacheco guys are more of their type. More the corner outfield guys. … Who are the college corner power-based position players ranked from 10 through 30? That’s the list.”
Here’s a look at six players — including one high school player — the Tigers could draft at No. 12 overall, with McDaniel’s exclusive in-depth analysis:
Vitals: 6 feet 3, 210 pounds.
What McDaniel thinks: “There’s a chance he gets there. The negative is there’s been some nagging injuries, like miss a week or two here or there. That’s where you’d hesitate. I’m not sure there’s a plus-tool there. But he’s a decent center fielder that’ll probably settle into right field. He’s a good hitter with a track record of hitting and a pretty swing. He’s got above-average and plus-power that he gets to at some level in games. That’s another question: How much power does he get to? He’s also not the most natural athlete in the world, so he’s another guy like (Jace) Jung, where it’s like, what does he look like six, seven years from now? I think he’ll be fine. He will be playing right field, so the expectations are kind of low. You’re not getting Riley Greene or Justin Crawford, your graceful athlete. All of these college guys are on more of the blocky (side), like this guy is going to do what he does. These guys kind of are what they are.”
Vitals: 6-3, 225.
What McDaniel thinks: “That’s another good one. He is very polarizing. … He had a low batting average, a lot of strikeouts and not a lot of walks in the SEC, obviously, a conference the Tigers love to go to, which is the best one in amateur baseball, so that’s a good place to start. He might have 30-35 home run power, probably a left fielder. The body, the swing, the athlete, everything looks right. People think he might be able to play center field. There’s a little bit of Jayson Werth, to give you a mental image of what it is. But his pitch selection is not good. That’s what is leading to the strikeouts. Some people look at that stuff and will say, ‘We can make a mechanical adjustment, we can give him some cues, we can get him to lay off the slider in the dirt. We can teach him to do that more than we could teach him to be Jayson Werth, so we’re OK with it.’ People can talk themselves into it.
“But the current version of him, most people look at that, from scouting perspective, as maybe a late first rounder. This guy seems very risky: a right-handed hitting corner guy that swings and misses too much. It’s pretty easy to look at that and be like, no thanks. But the components are so good, so teams that really believe in their development, everybody thinks they can fix it at some level when they see guys like that. If you’re in the Tigers’ spot of trying to find a little more upside in the college bat class, that’s the guy you talked yourself into.”
Vitals: 6-2, 210.
What McDaniel thinks: “Prielipp didn’t pitch in a game this year. He only threw in bullpens recently. I think he fits the profile of the teams that want to create big-league pitching depth with guys that have swing-and-miss stuff. He’s maybe the only guy. Again, there’s different looks because nobody’s seen him throw in a game in over a year, and he threw seven times in college. It’s very risky. At the combine, he made a lot of money. He was sitting 93 (mph). In the past, he sat 95. He’ll get there eventually. It was at least a 60, maybe 70-grade breaking ball. He was throwing strikes. It’s a Robbie Ray-type vibe. If you look at the delivery, there’s some similar stuff in the way he turns, and the breaking ball is better than the fastball. When he’s performed, it’s 3,000 rpm and he threw strikes. He checks a lot of those boxes. But again, he’s pitched seven times since high school. If you’re looking for some ceiling and want big-league pitching depth and the short path to the big leagues, you can see people talking themselves into him. There’s not a lot of bad info to look at.”
Vitals: 6-0, 205.
What McDaniel thinks: “He is the quintessential, like, not super-exciting but steady college bat that will be a big leaguer of some quality. We’ll charitably call it a mature frame. You don’t really know how that’s going to age. It already looks like some stage of Matt Stairs. He plays second base, can probably play third base. But again, because you have that concern of where the body goes, you have to prepare for, he may be first base and left field only. If that’s the case, you then are like, ‘All right, this guy can hit.’ He has a good approach. He’s hit everywhere. Obviously, his brother (Josh Jung, drafted No. 8 overall by the Texas Rangers in 2019) has hit. He has above-average raw power, call it 20-22 homers. But his swing is such that he’s basically selling out for contact. His bat path is a little bit shorter and in the zone for a long time, which means you’re giving up a little bit of power. If you can have a fringy infielder who will hit .280 with 15 homers, are you doing a backflip? No, you’d like to get a little more ceiling. I think (teams are) like, this guy’s fine, and at 12, maybe that’s what we should expect in this kind of draft.”
Vitals: 6-0, 185.
What McDaniel thinks: “He’s a plus runner, above-average defender. He has surprisingly good power, but if you look at his swing, it almost looks like a softball swing at some level. He’s doing a leg thing; he’s doing a hand thing. He can’t do that when guys are throwing 95 on the black and have a good breaking ball that (hitters) can’t lay off. He’s going to have to tone it down. But he also has a really good track record of making contact. I think a lot of the numbers teams are like, ‘This guy is literally everything, and if he loses a little bit of power, he’s a low-end, everyday shortstop.’ Teams will take that guy. He can play center field, second base and third. There’s that sort of Marwin Gonzalez upside. If he doesn’t hit, you can play him everywhere. There’s a margin for error that doesn’t exist when you pick a Torkelson, where if he doesn’t hit, he’s kind of useless. That’s the risk taking those guys with the high floor. You might hit the floor, and that’s the problem. With Neto, it’s hard to imagine him not making the big leagues, being useful and being a fan favorite that can play all over the field. Those guys don’t hit waivers that often, guys that can put the ball in play. That’s definitely useful and makes you feel comfortable. But if you’re not happy with what you’re looking at on the college hitters, and you’re looking for upside, I don’t think he’s your guy.”
Vitals: 6-3, 175.
What McDaniel thinks: “If the Tigers want to get the next Riley Greene, Torkelson, those guys, there’s not that guy maybe in this draft at all, but definitely not at their pick. You could see them sort of venturing into Justin Crawford, the high school guys (Jett Williams). The kid is an 80-grade runner. He’s 6-2, lankly and electric. And his dad is Carl Crawford. That’s really exciting, but it’s a lot riskier. I think they’ll land on the college bats if they’re being real, but I think they’re exploring everything and trying to figure out what fits what they want.”