Tigers ‘maximize opportunity’ on Day 2 of Draft

Detroit Tigers

DETROIT – One day after the Tigers drafted high-school stars from northern states with their two first-round picks, the trend continued on Day 2 of the MLB Draft.

Lefty Paul Wilson and slugging infielder Carson Rucker are two highly-ranked high-school players committed to power college programs in Oregon State and Tennessee, respectively, but the Tigers saw an opportunity to try to leverage their spending pool, second-highest in the Draft this year at $15,747,200, and earlier picks to get them to turn pro now.

That’s not just a reaction to the course of the Draft. There’s a lot of planning involved in putting the team in a good position.

“I think we’re really pleased with the preparation from our whole group to give us opportunities to weigh each pick, and the picture of the Draft class entirely,” assistant general manager Rob Metzler said. “That’s the best way I could communicate it. Every pick has influence on another pick, because there’s a bonus pool system. We’re going to be as aggressive as possible to use all of our resources. You have to maximize the opportunity as best you can, and I feel like we were able to do that throughout Day 1 and Day 2.”

Credit also goes to the scouting staff, which scoured everywhere from high school to college ball, the MLB Draft League and the MLB Draft Combine to find opportunities.

“One of the things about the philosophy that we have is, we’re scouting all the way up to the end,” scouting director Mark Conner said. “With the Draft being moved back to July the last few years, it is extended a little bit, but these are great opportunities.”

Round 3: Paul Wilson, LHP, Lakeridge HS (Lake Oswego, Ore.)
Notable skill: Wilson has a fastball that approaches the mid-90s with carry, and pairs it with a power curveball. He has the makings of a good changeup as a third pitch if he can slow down his timing, polish the delivery on it and make it more consistent.

Fun fact: Wilson is the son of former Giants pitcher Trevor Wilson, who played from 1988 to 1998 and pitched twice at Tiger Stadium in his final MLB season with the Angels. The younger Wilson is also best friends with Noble Meyer, who went 10th overall to the Marlins.

Quotable: “My dad has taught me everything I know about baseball, and I’ve seen him pitch on video a little bit. I think it’s awesome that he did what he did and played in the Majors for a while. So how he describes it is he tried to develop my motion and my delivery as a more refined version of his. Instead of going over the head with [my hands and] a huge leg kick, it’s just my nose dropping down to my hands, then just a normal leg kick and going down the mountain.” — Wilson

Round 4: Carson Rucker, 3B, Goodpasture Christian HS (Madison, Tenn.)
Notable skill: Rucker has raw power in his right-handed swing, with the potential for 20-plus homer seasons if he continues to add strength while maintaining his quick stroke. He played shortstop in high school but will likely move to third base.

Fun fact: Rucker played in the 2016 Little League World Series with Goodletsville, Tenn., which reached the U.S. finals. He won back-to-back Tennessee Mr. Baseball awards.

Quotable: “Really good body, tall, projectable, long, loose. He’s got some strength to him right now and is probably going to fill out. Long term, we’ll see if he ends up staying at short. But it’s a really good swing with high bat-to-ball capabilities and emerging power. For his size, he’ll show you plus run times.” — Conner

Round 5: Jaden Hamm, RHP, Middle Tennessee State
Notable skill: The first college pitcher drafted by the Tigers this year has a big, high-spin curveball as his best pitch, paired with a fastball that has touched 97 mph but usually sat 91-93 this spring. That combination could be good enough to make him a reliever, but he could have a starter’s mix if he firms up consistency on his changeup and hones his all-around command.

Fun fact: Hamm was drafted just six picks after fellow Middle Tennessee pitcher Eriq Swan, who went to the Dodgers with a fourth-round compensation pick.

Quotable: “As we hand him off to player development, they’re going to be excited to work with him. He is an absolute sponge for knowledge. And that is a big part of the process for selecting him; we know his eagerness to learn and develop.” — Conner

Round 6: Bennett Lee, C, Wake Forest
Notable skill: Lee brings good bat control and strike-zone knowledge at the plate to a good all-around catching game. He was the everyday backstop for a Wake Forest pitching staff that helped lift the team on a run to the College World Series.

Fun fact: Lee started his career at Tulane, where current Tigers catcher Jake Rogers was a standout. Before that, Lee was a star at Tampa Jesuit HS.

Quotable: “I think a huge specialty of mine is relationships and leadership. Just extracting performance out of those guys and really getting close to all the pitchers is a huge strength of mine, as well as receiving and handling the bat and having consistent, quality at-bats.” — Lee

Round 7: John Peck, SS, Pepperdine
Notable skill: Peck is a solid defensive shortstop with an above-average arm and the skills to stick there, but he also played around the infield and got some outfield work, which fits him into Detroit’s view of versatility. He has the bat speed to catch up with fastballs, though he struggled to hit with a wood bat on the Cape Cod League last summer and tended to chase.

Fun fact: Peck follows in the footsteps of Danny Worth, who played shortstop at Pepperdine and was drafted by the Tigers in the second round of the 2007 Draft. Worth played parts of five seasons in Detroit.

Quotable: “Underperformed this year, but one of the best players on the West Coast for years. Great kid, hard worker and great family. … And he had the best fielding and hitting coach for the last three years.” — Worth

Round 8: Jatnk Diaz, RHP, Hazleton Area HS (Pa.)
Notable skill: Diaz, a big teenager at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, did not pitch his senior year of high school after moving from the Dominican Republic. He opened eyes in the MLB Draft League with nine strikeouts over 9 1/3 innings pitching against college players. His fastball topped out at 97 miles per hour while sitting at 94-95, complemented by a high-spin slider that reportedly topped 2,700 rpm.

Fun fact: Just two players from Hazelton High School have reached the Majors. Joe Maddon was not one of them, but the Hazleton native found his calling as an MLB manager.

Quotable: “He would throw bullpens on the side [in high school], and our guys got a chance to see him there and tracked him into the Draft League. He’s a big, strong young man that’s got a lively fastball and some real feel changeup. He’s an exciting player. We’re thrilled.” — Conner

Round 9: Hayden Minton, RHP, Missouri State
Notable skill: Minton, who pitched three seasons at Missouri State with a junior college season in between, showed flashes of great stuff at times in his college career. His fastball reported reached 96 mph but more often sat around 89-92. His slider was sometimes solid. He finished second in the Missouri Valley Conference with 96 strikeouts and a 3.56 strikeout-to-walk ratio this past season.

Fun fact: Minton hopes to follow in the footsteps of left-hander Matt Hall, whom the Tigers drafted out of Missouri State in the sixth round of the 2015 Draft. He made it to Detroit as a September callup in 2018, then pitched in 16 games for the Tigers in 2019.

Round 10: Andrew Sears, LHP, UConn
Notable skill: Sears had a difficult jump from Rhode Island College to the Big East, but despite a 6.24 ERA in 14 starts, he still struck out 74 batters over 62 innings. He throws from an unorthodox arm angle that makes his 78-82 mph slider more effective, paired with a 91-94 mph fastball.

Fun fact: The only UConn product to ever play for the Tigers was Walt Dropo, who tied an MLB record by recording a hit in 12 consecutive plate appearances in 1952.

Quotable: “He is a big-bodied left-hander that has shown the ability to log a lot of innings over the years. He throws from a low slot that adds a lot of deception and playability to his fastball, decent feel for a slider and changeup right now.” — Conner

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