There are no sure-fire superstars in this year's MLB Draft. Every year is an absolute crapshoot, but this year is particularly nuts for one reason or another. The Detroit Tigers have been linked to multiple players, among them college pitcher Dakota Hudson, high schoolers Matt Manning and Riley Pint, and University of Tennessee third baseman Nick Senzel.
Senzel is a college batter who plays second and third base. He has been grouped quite frequently with other top bats in the draft, such as Corey Ray, Blake Rutherford, and Kyle Lewis. Two of those names have been in the mix as potential first overall picks, so he can't be faulted on his company.
There are conflicting reports on where he will stay long-term, but most think of him as a second or third baseman. Jesse Burkhart of FanGraphs gave his opinion in the FanGraphs Scouting Report.
On the routine plays, you’ll see some stiffness in his fielding actions, but the natural instincts come out when he plays fast, and I think his hands are just good enough to stick [at second] long term. He also has the requisite above-average arm strength. My concern with him playing second base is that he wouldn’t be able to cover the ground, and turning a double play probably wouldn’t come easily. The hand actions just aren’t the quick, compact variety that you see from major-league middle infielders.
Cormican of The Good Phight expands on this concern in his summation of Senzel.
Senzel is an Above-Average runner which suggests he could have good range up the middle. The concern here is largely with his hands. A large part of the demands of Second Base defense involves a quick exchange from glove to throwing hand while spinning to make the throw to First on double-plays. A few reports which had been of him playing Second noted this as a potential issue in that he doesn't seem natural at that. Additionally you don't see many stocky Second Basemen, suggesting he would be a rather odd profile there.
While it would be good to have a second baseman in the system that is worth something and isn't named Ian Kinsler, the rule is "never draft for need", so there goes that argument. However, the Tigers may value Senzel above other players available.
While his defense is serviceable, it is not what has launched Senzel into the top-10 conversation. He's also an average to above average runner, that's not his calling card either. What scouts really like about him is his bat.
His bat is what gives him the potential to be special, it is what he thrives on, and it it what has put him in the conversation to be picked by the Tigers. This paragraph from MLB.com's 200 Draft List detailing his accomplishments is all the justification that could be needed:
Senzel established himself as a productive college hitter during his first two seasons at Tennessee, then boosted his stock considerably with his performance in the Cape Cod League last summer. He led the Cape in runs (33), hits (56), doubles (16), RBIs (33), extra-base hits (21), total bases (86), slugging (.558) and OPS (.976), earning MVP honors and winning the league's Top Prospect Award from scouts. He posted similar numbers this spring, topping the Southeastern Conference with 25 doubles and ranking second with a 1.051 OPS.
The bat is real. It projects to hit for good power and better average, and he looks to be an effective 2-hole batter in his prime, hitting.280-.290 with 15-20 home runs. Fueled by Sports cites his "tremendous bat speed" and "excellent patience at the plate" as the reason he excels on the offensive side of the ball.
His run and arm tools both grade at average to sightly above average.
While he may not have nearly as high a ceiling as players like Riley Pint, Jason Groome, or Kyle Lewis, Senzel has one of the highest floors, and he will probably contribute to a major league team in some manner.
Should the Tigers draft him? Well, that all comes down to personal philosophy. The New York Mets have built a World Series team out of a pitching juggernaut and an offense that occasionally works, and the Cubs have built a team of equal caliber from a ridiculous offense and middle of the road pitching.
Will the Tigers draft him? We'll just have to wait and see.