We are just over two weeks away from the 2015 MLB draft, a time-honored tradition that most Detroit Tigers fans have embraced with the same enthusiasm of mowing their lawn. After several years of late-round draft slots and forfeited first round picks, the Tigers will be more relevant than usual come June 8, 2015. The Tigers have three of the first 65 picks of the draft, and could help restock a farm system ranked among the worst in baseball prior to the 2015 season.
One of the biggest critics of the Tigers' system last winter was Keith Law, one of ESPN's MLB Insiders. Law, who ranked the Tigers' system dead last in all of baseball, released his first mock draft of the year ($) this week. Law projects that the Tigers will take right-handed pitcher Kyle Funkhouser, a power arm from the University of Louisville.
Funkhouser is 7-5 with a 3.29 ERA in 15 starts for the Cardinals this season. He leads the team with 98 1/3 innings pitched and has racked up 93 strikeouts to 42 walks. Opponents are hitting just .231 against him with only one home run this season. He was roughed up by the Clemson Tigers in his last start, allowing seven runs (five earned) on nine hits in just five innings. The Cardinals are currently ranked ninth in the nation with a 43-15 record, so Funkhouser should see more action as the team plays into the College World Series.
While the Cardinals do not play in the Southeastern Conference (as so many other Tigers picks have in recent years), Funkhouser checks off all of the boxes that the Tigers have looked for in recent years. A mid-90s fastball? Funkhouser's sits from 92-94 and can reach 96 miles per hour. Is he big? Standing at 6'2" and weighing 220 pounds, Funkhouser has the same sturdy build that can be found throughout the Tigers' farm system. Can he move quickly through the system? As a college pitcher in a major program, one would think so.
Funkhouser has one of the cleaner bills of health in a particularly injury-riddled draft class, but his command is what will likely keep him from jumping into the upper echelon of the first round. ESPN projects that Funkhouser could be a future No. 3 starter if everything clicks, but his command and off-speed pitches will need to improve.
Law also notes that the Tigers could be interested in righthander Jacob Nix, high school pitcher Ashe Russell, Texas prep bat Ke'Bryan Hayes, and high school catcher Tyler Stephenson. You may remember Nix from headlines after last year's draft, when the Houston Astros were forced to void their contract with him after failing to sign No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken.