Detroit's first pick in the draft this year is at 76, which means that anything resembling normal draft day coverage of "who will the Tigers pick" is ridiculous and self defeating. To give you an idea of how challenging figuring out this puzzle is, Matt Wallace (our MattinToledo) compared it to predicting the twentieth move in a chess match. That's pretty accurate. A lot of scouts and prospect watchers don't even know who is going first, let alone 76th.
But if there's anything I'm good at, it's ridiculous, self-defeating research projects. So I've prepared a handful of scouting reports of players that Detroit might pick or that might be around when Detroit picks. Know that there's a strong chance we don't get any of these players, but hey. It's the anticipation that makes draft day fun.
Josh Bell, OF, TX HS
Josh Bell is a top 10 talent in this year's draft. With good solid hit and power tools from both sides of the plate, Bell looks like he could be a traditional middle-of-the-order impact hitter that some have compared to guys like Cliff Floyd. His defense looks weaker- he'll move to a corner outfield spot in the end. The reason I'm even talking about Bell though is that he recently declared his intention to go to Texas instead of opting to sign with a major league baseball team. But the Tigers are one team that would have the financial resources and testicular fortitude to try to sign Bell away from school, with a potential six-million dollar deal. He's risky, but the upside here is tremendous.
Matt Purke, LHP, TCU
Purke has a 90-95 mph heater with a plus curve, a very good slider and a decent change. The curve is his real dominant pitch, and it projects very well at the big league level- potentially as a plus-plus pitch. Purke was drafted in the first round of the 2009 Draft by the Texas Rangers, but failed to sign. Many thought that Purke would end up as a first rounder this year, and his stuff would indicate that he would be. There's just one problem with Purke: health. Not only did he suffer from a bout of shoulder bursitis in April, but his velocity has dropped recently and TCU is worried about his arm, even going so far as to shut him down in the short-term so he'll be healthy for the College World Series. It's likely a team like Boston or the Yankees steal him early, but it's also possible the health concerns knock him out of the first day, in which case Detroit might snap him up.
Dillon Maples, RHP, NC HS
Maples was Detroit's first selection in the Minor League Ball mock draft this weekend, and while it's likely he's gone before the supplemental round, he's the type of guy Detroit would likely sign. With a fastball that sits in the low-90's that has late movement and a solid curveball that flashes plus, he's the type of pitcher that looks like a Detroit power arm. He does have a strong commitment from UNC, but commitments to UNC haven't stopped the Tigers in the past (see Porcello, Rick).
Julius Gaines, SS, GA HS
Gaines is a defensive wizard from a Georgia high school. The bat is questionable, but he does have a nice line drive swing. Gaines is an athletic young prep player, which means he's got a boatload of tools, though the only ones that stand out as of now are defensive ones. Gaines will definitely stick at shortstop throughout his career- the only question is whether he can hit enough.
Tyler Beede, RHP, MA HS
Beede is a big guy- he stands 6'4" and weighs 200 pounds- with a good fastball that sits between 88 and 93, touching 95 on occasion. The fastball also features late life. His change looks like a potential plus pitch with excellent sink and arm speed. He also has a curve that looks promising, and advanced command for his age. Beede also has a very strong commitment to Vanderbilt which will take large amounts of money to break. Luckily, the Tigers have the ability to break the bank, and have shown a desire to do so in the past.
Brett Austin, C, NC HS
Austin is a pretty solid high school catching prospect. He is a switch hitting bat, and he projects to stay that way, though there are some mechanical problems with his swing from the right side. He does not hit for power, and is instead more of a line drive hitter. The other problem with Austin is his defense: his arm strength isn't great and he isn't an athlete, which means that he might have some challenges behind the plate.
Joe Ross, RHP, CA HS
Ross' bloodlines bear mentioning first: his brother is Oakland righthander Tyson Ross. His fastball is pretty fantastic, sitting in the low 90's and touching 96. He has a good breaking pitch (I've read both slider and curveball) and a promising changeup. He's a very good talent, but he has a strong commitment to UCLA, so the Tigers may be able to steal him away from that commitment with a large paycheck.
Brandon Martin, SS, CA HS
Martin is a raw prep shortstop with good makeup and a great package of tools. He's small at 5'11" and 160 pounds, but he worked to add some bulk in the offseason and while he'll never be a power hitter, he has the potential for average power. He also has a good line-drive swing, so even if he isn't hitting for power, he has the potential to have offensive value. Martin's athletic ability means he has the ability to be good at the shortstop position, and he has both good range and a good arm, so he won't outgrow the position. Martin isn't perfect, but he's a nice little package of tools that could help in the middle infield over the long-term.
Adam Conley, LHP, Washington State
Let's face it, it wouldn't be a Tigers draft post without one reliever, would it? Conley took his big fastball to the rotation for Washington State this year, and he got tired near the end of the year. The fastball sits in the low 90's, but has touched 97 in relief and 95 while in the rotation. He has a sinking two-seam fastball and an okay change, but his slider needs some work. Conley might stick in the rotation, but he's a gamble that reminds me a bit of Andy Oliver when he was drafted.
Derek Fisher, OF, PA HS
Fisher might as well be in Siberia for all baseball scouts care. Pennsylvania is a cold-weather state, so players from there are generally underscouted. Fisher looks like a decent player though, with bigtime power on a nice frame. He isn't fast and will have to move to left field eventually. Fisher also has problems with plate discipline: he is too passive on strikes and too prone to chase breaking pitches out of the zone. He'll also be expensive, but he's got boatloads of potential.