Henning: Tigers scoop up nine pitchers on final day of MLB Draft

Detroit News

Scott Pleis should have called the police Tuesday.

The Tigers were grand-theft victims after having been “picked” numerous times on Day 3 of the 2022 MLB Draft.

But, ah, getting the charges to stick — there’s the problem in 2022 as MLB teams marshaling the same analytics data and merging it with the same scouting reports lock in on very much the same players on their respective draft boards.

“It happened a lot – a lot today,” Pleis, who heads amateur scouting for the Tigers, said after Detroit took 10 more players — nine of them pitchers — in the final 10 rounds of the 20-round 2022 Draft.

“Everybody’s got an analytics team. Everyone’s looking at the same information — at the guys with good metrics and stats. Everybody’s trying to get them.

“It was tough.”

Thus, the 11th through the 15th rounds, which began the day, “just gets destroyed,” Pleis said. “We got picked (a desired player was scooped-up just before Detroit selected).

“That happens.”

Well, it does when last year’s seeming breakthrough for the Tigers dropped them to a 12th-slot turn in each of the 2022 draft’s rounds. That enabled Tuesday’s thievery to be felt acutely as the Twins and Royals and Rockies selected just ahead of the Tigers’ turns, and without Pleis naming them as suspects, clearly were involved in the pilfering.

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Not that it was a shutout.

“We did get some good players, some good starting pitchers, some left-handers — a good group of guys to work with. There are a couple of athletes in there.”

The emphasis Tuesday was obvious and expected.

The Tigers had keyed on bats during the draft’s first 10 rounds, which left room Tuesday to hope some of those latter-round arms might evolve as pitchers, more than hitters, tend to do.

The only hitter taken was Dom Johnson, an outfielder from Kansas State.

The Tigers otherwise gambled heavily on pitchers, strikeout pitchers largely, hoping big arms — even if strikes might be an occasional issue — can evolve under the watch of Detroit’s new and touted development corps.

“We like guys who strike guys out,” Pleis said. “It’s all about metrics and fastballs. At this point in the draft, you’ve got to give a little bit with some of the numbers.”

The players Detroit chose were taken accordingly:

11th round: Joe Miller, 22, right-handed pitcher, 5-foot-10, 195 pounds, University of Pennsylvania: 3.63 ERA in 13 games and 11 starts, 1.34 WHIP, 74 innings, 91 strikeouts, 36 walks.

“We’ve known about him for a long time,” Pleis said. “Fastball up to 93, slider, curveball.”

►12th round: Cole Stupp, 21, right-handed starter, 6-4, 205, University of Kentucky. There were alarmingly high numbers in 2022 (6.31 ERA, 2.03 WHIP, 41 hits in 25.2 innings), as well as

a forearm injury ended his season in late May. But he was a Friday night (ace pitcher) starter for the Wildcats and the Tigers say he’s healed. They like the power upside and those 36 strikeouts in 25-plus innings.”

“He’s going to be fine,” Pleis said. “We’ve known about his injury. We’ve talked to the proper people. He’s going to start, he throws strikes, and we feel like we got a good one there. He’s got a fastball, slider, and change, and his change is really good.”

►13th round: Dom Johnson, 21, outfielder, right-handed hitter, 5-9, 185, Kansas State (transferred from Oklahoma State). 57 games in 2022, .345 batting average, .419 on-base, 1.012 OPS, with 12 home runs and 20 doubles.

“Good athlete who’s going to play the outfield,” Pleis said. “Speed, throws — good baseball player.”

►14th round: Joe Adametz, 22, left-handed starter, 6-5, 190, Liberty University. Started in 16 games for Liberty: 2.51 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 86 innings, 94 hits, 84 strikeouts, 25 walks.

Pleis: “Throws strikes. Fastball, change-up is his best pitch, knows how to pitch.”

►15th round: Patrick Pridgen, 23, right-handed starter, 6-5, 190, Florida International (transferred from University of Oregon and North Iowa Area Community College): 14 starts, 71.2 innings, 112 strikeouts, 29 walks for strikeouts-to-walks ratios of 14.1/5.5.

“He’s up to 95, 96,” Pleis said of Pridgen’s fastball. “We like that pick.”

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►16th round: Quinn Gudaitis, 23, right-handed starter, 6-7, 225, University of Illinois-Springfield: 17 games (14 starts), 66.1 innings, 64 hits, 100 strikeouts, 29 walks (13.6/3.9 strikeouts-walks ratios).

►17th round: Cole Patten, 22, right-handed starter, 6-4, 192, Villanova. He started 13 games, with 77 strikeouts in 86 innings.

“Another starter, another strike-thrower – fastball, change-up, improved breaking ball. I think he’s going to be fine.”

►18th round: Chris Williams, Jr., left-handed pitcher, 6-2, 205, William Carey University. Converted outfielder who found his niche pitching.

“Really interesting,” Pleis said of a pitcher who throws hard and has the physical specs the Tigers found more than appealing.

►19th round: Albert Oliva Velez, 20, right-handed starter, 6-2, 194, New Mexico Military institute. Oliva Velez comes from Bareloneta, Puerto Rico, and pitched at the Carlos Beltran Academy before shifting to New Mexico MI.

“Big ceiling here,” Pleis said. “Fastball – I think he sat 93, 94, for us. Curveball, messes around with a split a little bit. Big upside here.”

►20th round: Drew Conover, 20, right-handed starter, 6-5, 190, Seton Hall.

“Really good stuff – great stuff,” Pleis said of a four-year sophomore (COVID eligibility), who walked 37 batters in 42.1 innings during his Seton Hall career. “He needs to fine-tune his control numbers, but when we get these guys, we’re thinking about who you’re going to be handing them off to (development staff).

“With really big guys, you’re always trying to refine their power.”

The Tigers now will try and sign all 19 of the players they drafted during the Sunday-through-Tuesday flesh festival that doubles as the MLB Draft.

Pleis said he was convinced all would be offering their autographs on contracts ahead of the Aug. 1 deadline.

After that, it’s on to Lakeland, Florida, for boot camp – and for months and years of grooming the Tigers hope will deliver more than a few big-leaguers to Detroit.

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

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