The Detroit Tigers went back to the well of college bats in both the first and second round of the 2022 MLB Draft by selecting Oklahoma shortstop Peyton Graham 51st overall.
After taking Jace Jung with the 12th overall pick the Tigers plan for hitting is clear. Take power and develop the hit tool. Both picks, however, do not completely lack a hit tool just because they are power over hit right now.
The team continued to just be patient and take the best player that falls into their lap. Many pundits projected Graham as a first round talent. FanGraphs, for example, had him as the 10th best overall prospect in the class, though others weren’t quite that optimistic.
Graham projects with average or better tools across the board at his ceiling. Offensively he is a power over contact-type bat. That played out during the college season with high strikeout numbers. As the season progressed a swing change led to less strikeouts and more hard contact. His approach is very good and he can hit for plenty of power. When he’s working counts the power plays very well and he’ll draw his share of walks in the process.
His power comes from quick hands and nice shoulder/hip separation in his swing. Graham gets his bat through the zone very quickly and the ball can scream off his bat when he catches the barrel. He’s shown the ability to keep his hands back when he recognizes offspeed and still put the ball in play with some authority, alleviating some prior concerns.
While he’s been predominantly a shortstop, his arm is more than capable of handling third base. That might be where he winds up long term. He’s a good defender with good instincts on the dirt. He is a capable shortstop at this point, but he might outgrow the position as the frame continues to fill out. He’s a great athlete, which helps on this side of the ball, as well.
One of the most interesting parts about Graham is the room left to project on his frame. He’s listed at 6’3”, 185 pounds. He still has plenty of room to grow, which might move him off the shortstop position but add some more power to his profile as well.
While his ceiling is above average tools across the board, a more realistic outcome might be above average power with a fringe hit tool. That should still translate to a solid every day major leaguer. He instantly will rank among the top of Tiger position player prospects. And for my money is already the best shortstop prospect in the organization. Not that there was a ton of competition for that spot. Graham was a very good value pick, but he also addressed a need within the organization. Pretty good for the Tigers.
Looking Forward To Day 2
Day 2 of the MLB Draft will start with pick number 81, but we won’t see the Tigers until pick 117. That’s a lot of time to wait and see who might be around. There are some interesting names left on the board for when the festivities kick off tomorrow.
The consensus best player left on the board is easily the local star Brock Porter. Though at this point he’s likely to stay there for awhile and wind up going to college. Unless the Tigers can pull some pool money magic and get a hometown discount, which is a stretch even for a pipe dream like this.
My personal favorite name left on the board is the southpaw from Florida State Bryce Hubbart. He might be there at 117 and it would be an interesting move to make. His velocity is in the 89-92 MPH area right now, but he stands to add some velo. He does throw the ‘invisiball’ though, which is appealing.
UGA RHP Jonathan Cannon and UCF RHP Connor Staine are another pair of interesting arms. Each provide something different, but both would make for good picks some time on day two.
Future reliver and famous fireballer Ben Joyce is still on the board. His value comes from his 105 MPH fastball. He’s a quick moving-type and certainly a bullpen arm that could go pretty early on.
Some hitters that could be in play include a Cape performer in OF Colby Thomas. He has some big power, which the Tigers like. He also comes with massive hit tool questions and a torn labrum. Perhaps the best hitter left after the first 80 picks is SS Max Martin from Moorestown. He’s a twitchy athlete whose shown some pop in the past.
One more name I want to throw out there is Jeric Curtis, an outfielder from Tomball Memorial. The offensive skills aren’t quite there yet, but the are improving. What separates Curtis is what is potential 80-grade speed. The speed and defense model hasn’t been the teams forte in the past, but if Curtis is still on the board late on day two it might be worth it.
Hopefully the Tigers can add another interesting bat or two over the next few rounds. They’ll no doubt be hauling in plenty of good pitching for their development staff to tune up on Tuesday as well. The club has done a better job finding value beyond the top 2-3 rounds recently, and without another pick until the fourth round, they’ll need to continue that trend.