Analyst: Tigers’ draft consensus a bit of a mystery as No. 3 overall pick looms

Detroit News

The MLB Draft starts Sunday night, and runs through Tuesday, with 20 rounds total.

Detroit — When it comes to the 2023 Major League Baseball Draft, the Tigers appear to be a bit of a wild card — or, at least as much of a wild card a team can be holding the No. 3 overall pick.

The Tigers’ top lieutenants who are overseeing the team’s picks all come from different backgrounds, starting with president Scott Harris, who is running his first draft as a team CEO after taking over the Tigers in mid-September. Assistant general manager Rob Metzler comes from the Tampa Bay Rays, and director of amateur scouting Mark Conner comes from the San Diego Padres.

“That’s been a source of speculation from people in the draft world,” Kiley McDaniel, ESPN baseball draft analyst, said during a teleconference this week. “Harris doesn’t necessarily have a, like, he-makes-the-picks track record. He’s always been like underneath someone else, whether it’s Theo (Epstein with the Chicago Cubs) or Farhan (Zaidi with the San Francisco Giants). So we don’t really know where he stands.

“I know people he’s talked to have told me, like, ‘Oh, you know, he’s open-minded, he can be talked into anything,'” McDaniel continued, “but I think the general point of view is he’s probably going to want the sort of safer, quicker-to-the-big-leagues college bat, all things being equal.”

The MLB Draft is Sunday night, in Seattle, site of this year’s All-Star Game. This year marks the fourth time in the last six drafts the Tigers will pick in the top three, having taken pitcher Jackson Jobe No. 3 in 2021, first baseman Spencer Torkelson No. 1 in 2020 and pitcher Casey Mize No. 1 in 2018.

There are two names high on the draft board that appear to be the best fits for Detroit, judging by all the analysis and mock drafts: outfielder Wyatt Langford from Florida and outfielder Dylan Crews from LSU.

Much depends on what happens ahead of Detroit. The Pittsburgh Pirates are picking No. 1, and the Washington Nationals are picking No. 2. Washington has long been tied to LSU pitcher Paul Skenes.

It’s a mystery how the Tigers’ scouting department will reach a consensus.

“Mark Conner came from San Diego, where they’re not super into analytics and take a bunch of high school guys and don’t mind bucking consensus and taking guys they like, which is almost like the opposite of what I just said Scott is,” McDaniel said. “And Metzler comes from Tampa … who is like, we will do anything at any time. And also doesn’t really care what anybody thinks or what the consensus rankings are, and isn’t married to analytics.

“So what I just described was basically three totally different points on a line of where the spectrum of where they could stand on things.”

Langford has long been tied to the Tigers, after back-to-back monster seasons at Florida. The last two years, he had a combined 47 home runs and 120 RBIs. This past season, he had an on-base percentage of .498.

But Langford is starting to get some hype for No. 1 overall to Pittsburgh. That’s where Keith Law, of The Athletic, had him slotted in his latest mock draft.

That would be an upside pick, over polish.

“I think Langford scratches the itch that Conner and Metzler may have from more of a traditional scouting background,” said McDaniel, who likens Langford, physically, to an NFL player, like a goal-line running back or middle linebacker. “This is more upside, this is more exciting.

“I’d say Langford fits them the best, and he also may have the best chance of getting to the third pick. And I also don’t think Langford has like a, let’s play for the Yankees and live in New York and have a bunch of endorsements kind of personality. I think Detroit might actually fit him a little better.”

But, will Langford still be there at No. 3? Law said in his mock draft that there are signs that Crews might be wanting over-slot money to sign, and that could be steering the Pirates toward Langford.

With Skenes seemingly Washington-bound (he’s drawing Stephen Strasburg comps), that seemingly would put Crews in the Tigers’ lap.

Not a bad problem to have, even if Langford projects to hit more home runs and steal more bases.

“It’s sort of the polish and the history is like the gap between them,” McDaniel said of Langford and Crews, the latter who won the 2023 Golden Spikes Award (Langford was a semifinalist). “How much do you value that and do you think Langford will make those strides, or do you just think he can’t play center field and he’s not going to steal any bases and he’s not going to get to all his power? Or, you know, how much do you want to imagine and how much do you want to have faith in your development people (that they) can help him make that next step.

“I’m going to go with the scouting point of view.”

The other players in Law’s top 10 of his latest mock draft are: Max Clark, outfielder, Franklin (Indiana) Community High; Jacob Gonzalez, shortstop, Mississippi; Braden Taylor, third baseman, TCU; Walker Jenkins, outfielder, South Brunswick High (Southport, North Carolina); Kyle Teel, catcher, Virginia; Rhett Lowder, right-hander, Wake Forest; and Tai Peete, shortstop, Trinity Christian High (Sharpsburg, Georgia).

Sunday’s kickoff to the MLB Draft, broadcast on ESPN and MLB Network, will feature the first round, Competitive Balance Round A, the second round, Competitive Balance Round B and three second-round compensation picks. Rounds three through 10 are Monday, and Rounds 11 through 20 are Tuesday.

Twitter: @tonypaul1984

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