Gonzaga LHP Marco Gonzales - Christopher Anderson
The MLB Draft doesn't take place until June, a solid 3 months from now. But because I can't seem to get enough of scouting and projecting, I figured now would be as good a time as any to take a look at who the Tigers could possibly be targeting with their first couple picks.
Keep in mind, drafting in baseball is not at all like football or basketball. You don't draft with the idea of any particular selection stepping in and helping your team the very next season. For example, in the NFL, you want as many of your draft picks as possible to step right in and start for your team. Personally, I am a Lions fan (God help me). I want them to select Eric Fisher, an offensive tackle, with their first pick in next months' draft. Fisher would be able to step in on day 1 and start at LT for the Lions. That's not how baseball works. While the current roster may say "oh we need a SS or oh we need a closer", the Tigers aren't going to go into the draft thinking "we need to draft a SS with our first pick."
Keep in mind, these are just some names that I think will be A) Possibly on the board when the Tigers pick in June (No.'s 21 and 38 to start), and B) May be of interest to the Tigers. This is not a mock draft, nor do I have any evidence "tying" the Tigers to any one guy.
-LHP Marco Gonzales, Gonzaga
Gonzales is a command/control lefty with an average fastball (89-92 mostly), fringy to average breaking stuff (both a slider and a curve, although I prefer the slider), and a plus changeup. The change is truly a plus pitch, showing excellent fade, good sink, and thrown from the same arm slot and arm speed as his fastball, which maximizes it's deception. He also has present plus command of his fastball, and overall above-average command. He's one of those "pitchability" guys, who knows how to pitch, has a solid arsenal, and when combined with plus command, gives him the upside of a #3-4 starter. Maybe he's not the high impact/high upside guy that fans clamor for, but I'm a fan of his, and I think he's as close to a "sure thing" as there is in the draft.
-3B Eric Jagielo, Notre Dame
This is a guy who I've actually seen in person, although when I saw him he was playing OF. His calling card is plus raw power from the left side, and reports say that he will at least have average hit projection as well, making him good for 20-25 HR's a year if everything falls together correctly. He's struggled a bit at 3B, but he has the athleticism and tools to turn into an average (maybe even solid-average) defender there. He's a guy who comes with good upside, but he also carries the risk of possibly having to move off 3B either to LF (average arm wouldn't play well from RF) or to 1B, which would decrease his value.
-SS Oscar Mercado, Gaither HS (FL)
I had the opportunity to watch tape of Mercado from the Perfect Game World Series, and he strikes me as one of the few draft prospects in this class who actually have the ability to stay at SS in the major leagues. Mercado is a plus runner who will steal bases wherever he ends up, and has the athleticism and tools to stick at SS long term. He combines good instincts, a quick first step, and solid hands to show as a future plus defender with a potential plus arm. He leaves a bit to be desired offensively, but he has a nice swing and more pop than you'd expect from his frame. Overall, he's a high upside. boom or bust type that in all likelihood will be gone before the Tigers pick,
-RHP Kohl Stewart, St. Pius X HS (TX)
Stewart has top 10 stuff and talent, but signability concerns may push him down the board. He's currently committed to Texas A&M to play quarterback for the football team, and has yet to publicly state whether or not he would consider signing with an MLB team and waive his football commitment. He's a power righty, sitting in the 92-95 range already while touching 96-97, a plus slider, projectable curve, and useable changeup. He also shows the ability to command all of his pitches down in the zone, which not only helps him miss a ton of bats, but also elicit weak contact. Stewart is a Top 10, maybe top 5 pick in this draft if healthy and all that, but his commitment to Texas A&M may push him down draft boards.
-LHP Tom Windle, University of Minnesota
In a much anticipated matchup with potential 1st overall pick Sean Manea this past Friday, Windle impressed scouts and more or less cemented himself as a late 1st round pick. I think I'd like him better at #38 than #21, but hey I should still write him up right? Windle shows 3 pitches, a fastball that sits in the average velocity range at 88-92, a slider that, while not plus, shows solid-average projection, and a changeup that is presently above-average, and may end up plus as he develops. He doesn't have a ton of projection left (more than Marco Gonzales though), so I could see him playing with 3 solid average or higher pitches by the time his fastball adds a tick or two of velo. For a lefty, that signifies a #4 starter or so, and with his present polish he looks like another "safe" bet, although there's hardly such a thing in baseball.
-3B Colin Moran, North Carolina
Moran might be one of the best pure hitters in this class, with scouts throwing future 60+ grades on his hit tool. The problem here is that he doesn't have a ton of power and isn't all that defensively at 3B, so while the bat is nice, some people have trouble projecting him to the next level. If he can become an average 3B, the bat will definitely play and he'd be a very valuable player. But if the D can't improve, then he's forced across the diamond to 1B, where the lack of power is troublesome. I don't doubt that Moran will play in the majors due to the advanced hit tool, but the question is how much value will a team get out of him? If he was a plus defender at 3B, I'd be willing to bet that he'd be a top 10 pick. But we'll see.
-OF Ryan Boldt, Red Wing HS (Minnesota)
Boldt is a guy who I fell in love with on film, but doesn't have any loud tools. He's a plus runner with a plus arm from CF, and shows the defensive ability to stay in CF long term as well. He has solid instincts out there, and while he's still raw, his speed and overall athleticism allow him to play the position well, and he'll only get better as the instincts develop. A left handed hitter, he profiles as a top of the order guy who will get on base plenty, steal bases, and hit with gap power. In short, Boldt is a potential impact CF in the long term, but he'll do so without any "loud" or plus-plus tools.
-RHP Andrew Thurman, UC-Irvine
Thurman has the potential to be an impact starter down the line, but it takes some significant projection to see it. He throws 4 pitches, with a fastball that already gets up to 96-97 with projection remaining, a potential plus change that misses bats, and both a slider and curve. The problem here is that both the slider and curve grade out below average, which obviously limit his upside. If he can turn one of the breaking balls into an above average pitch, a #3 starter ceiling exists here. If he can't, he looks like he's headed for the bullpen where he could still profile as a closer with a future 70 fastball.
Ok folks. That's it for now. I'll do this again in a couple weeks when the draft board is a bit clearer. Also, if you want to know my personal favorites for this years class, check out GA prep outfielder Clint Frazier and University of Oklahoma RHP Jon Gray. Neither of them project to last past the top 10, so they're not really plausible for the Tigers, but those are my two favorite prospects as of right now.