A night at the casino proved to be a winner Tuesday for the Tigers.
Despite having the sixth-poorest finish among 30 MLB teams in 2022, the Tigers made off with the third-overall pick in the first-ever MLB Draft Lottery, which was staged at the Winter Meetings in San Diego.
It was a happy change in dice-rolls for a Detroit pro sports team that, especially with respect to the Red Wings’ recent lottery forays, has not always fared well with these draft-slot drawings.
The Tigers will now sit in cozy position to grab one of the college hitters who, seven months before the 2023 Draft gets rolling, already stand as the richest trove of talents in America’s amateur ranks.
“Every opportunity to go acquire an impact, young player, is sacred,” said Scott Harris, who only 10 weeks ago began his job as the Tigers’ new front-office chief. “Now, we are even closer to the top of the draft.
“We’re going to get to a place in this organization where we are not picking in the top of the draft. That ultimately is the goal.”
The Pirates pulled next July’s first overall pick, while the Nationals will select second, just ahead of the Tigers, who drafted 12th in 2022.
The Tigers will have a top-five pick for the fifth time in the last six seasons. They also had a third-round turn in 2021 that earned them pitcher Jackson Jobe, then a prep right-hander who finished his upbeat 2022 season at high-Single A West Michigan.
The Tigers had a 7.5% chance Tuesday of winning the first-overall choice and a 24% shot at drafting among the first three clubs. It was a 28.5% bet they would finish as deep as eighth.
They had a 98.8% a probability of pick in the draft’s top nine, with even deeper odds against them selecting as late as 12th, which would have been as far back as Tuesday’s lottery would have allowed.
The lottery was added to MLB’s most recent contract with the Players Association as a means to prevent teams from “tanking” – casually accepting defeats with a first-overall, or exceptionally early, draft turn regarded as a potential enticement to lose.
The NFL is now the only major pro sport without a draft lottery.
Two months remain before colleges begin their 2023 baseball seasons. But it is the college ranks – a favorite for MLB scouts who can more easily project big-league talent – that stands in scouts’ eyes as an above-average vintage and, early on, is overriding prep talent as teams begin to stare seriously at July’s sweepstakes.
Among the early crop Tigers scouts now will be hunting with that third-overall pick:
∎ Brock Wilken, 3B, Wake Forest, 6-4, 225, right-handed batter: He had 23 homers in 60 games last season for the Demon Deacons, then held up in Cape Cod League duels, hitting five more homers. He had a .368 on-base percentage and .718 OPS against quality college pitchers.
∎ Drew Bowser, 3B/1B, Stanford, 6-4, 226, RH batter: Power and on-base wiles drive his MLB potential. He played prep ball at the same high school (Harvard-Westlake) from which one-time Tigers hotshot Brennan Boesch also hailed.
∎ Dylan Crews, OF, LSU, 6-1, 203, RH batter: Attacks pitches and wrecks them. And yet Crews has a stern school-principal’s approach at the plate. Power, speed, squares up the ball – just a rich parcel of pluses.
∎ Wyatt Langford, OF, University of Florida, 6-1, 225, RH batter: Swings for average and for power. Loves to spit at fringe pitches and take walks when pitchers won’t cooperate. And, delighting the Tigers and manager AJ Hinch – Langford can play about any place on the field except umpire.
∎ Enrique Bradfield, CF, Vanderbilt, 6-1, 190, LH batter: Marvelous skills, highlighted by sprinter speed. Also specializes in getting on base and then turning those basepaths into a NASCAR track. Toss in his defense and Bradfield has the look of a splendid soon-to-be MLB starter.
∎ Jacob Wilson, 3B/SS, Grand Canyon, 6-3, 190, RH batter: Plays in a smaller-school conference. But his Cape Cod League work last summer convinced scouts he’s big-league-ticketed.
∎ Brayden Taylor, 3B, TCU, 6-1, 175, LH batter: Harris and his scouting gurus will love Taylor, who has power and walks more than he strikes out. Does not turn 21 until May, a big factor for evaluators who know competing against generally older players, and exceling, portends a probable fast MLB path.
∎ Jack Hurley, CF, Virginia Tech, 6-foot-, 185, LH batter: Could be a top-five finalist by next July. A wide swatch of talents for this very blue-chipper.
∎ Tommy Troy, 2B/SS, Stanford, 5-10, 197, RH batter: Burned up the Cape Cod League (.937 OPS) last season, which is where scouts often decide if a prospect has legit big-league mettle.
∎ Jacob Gonzalez, 3B/1B/OF, University of Mississippi, 6-3, 190, RH batter: Just a file-full of skills owned by Gonzalez, who, nonetheless, will need during his junior season to show that his bat, and power, will rise after a relatively so-so sophomore year.
∎ Travis Honeyman, OF, Boston College, 6-2, 190, RH batter: Can play all the outfield stations. Has shown enough flash at the plate to make him a possible Top 10 fit.
∎ Chase Dollander, right-handed pitcher, University of Tennessee, 6-3, 192: Tigers would seem to be so-so on drafting pitching over hitting with a turn this early, but Dollander might tempt them. He has a fastball into the high 90s, as well as three additional pitches he tosses with aplomb.
A whopping 18 teams were involved in Tuesday night’s lottery. The order among those teams heading into next July’s draft is:
- Red Sox
- White Sox
Lynn Henning is a freelance writer and former Detroit News reporter. Detroit News staff writer Chris McCosky contributed to this story