Everybody loves Brady Singer.
MLB Pipeline released its second mock draft since the end of the 2017 season on the Dec. 5. Unsurprisingly, things are different than the first time around. One of the big changes is Brady Singer's selection by the Detroit Tigers at the top spot. In its recently published Top-50 draft prospects list for 2018, they assigned the precocious pitcher 65 grades for both his fastball and his slider using the 20-80 grading scale.
Singer's fastball sits at 95-96 miles per hour, hardly double-plus (70 grade) velocity. However, he pairs that velocity with life that creates a deadly weapon. He inspires ugly swings and weak contact on the offering, which is good enough to play in the majors right now. He pairs it with a slider that rivals former teammate and 2017 Tigers draftee Alex Faedo's. The combination is more than enough to dominate college hitters.
However, in the pro ranks, a starter must have a changeup to keep hitters off his fastball, no matter how good that fastball may be. Singer's change isn't nearly as knee-buckling as his other two weapons, but it is a pitch present in his arsenal. With repetition and professional instruction, it should be major league average in time.
Command is what completes this package. Many pitchers with stuff as venomous as Singer's are completely unable to spot their offerings in the strike zone — a weakness that relegates them to the bullpen or prevents them from being successful at the higher levels altogether. However, he has enough polish to harness his pitches, and MLB Pipeline projects his command to be above-average at its best.
In their brief commentary regarding the pick, MLB Pipeline talent evaluators Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo had only glowing remarks about the Florida Gator. "He has everything teams look for in a college pitcher," said Callis, "stuff, polish, makeup and a track record of excelling on the biggest stages [including the] College World Series, Cape Cod League." Mayo echoed his statements, saying "Alex Faedo and A.J. Puk are former Gators who looked like potential No. 1 overall picks and didn't quite get there, but Singer might be a better all-around pitcher than they were in college."
Singer has pitched well in his time at Florida. In 2017, he pitched a team-high 126 innings, fanning 129 batters. That totals to 9.21 strikeouts per nine innings. He also limited free passes, allowing only 2.29 walks per nine. While these numbers are very good, they also aren't the kind of incredible stats that many top picks have posted in their college careers.
That said, Singer showed marked improvement over the previous season. His raw stuff is so overpowering that another leap is completely plausible. If he under-performs in 2018, there may be cause for concern, but it is too early to become upset over statistics.
At this time, the only real worry about Singer is his health. While no one can detract from the overwhelming quality of his raw stuff, there are those who take issue with his delivery. He employs an arm slot that is a bit lower than usual, increasing his deception and movement. However, there are some who take exception with it, saying it is violent and will damage his long-term health. In fact, the only reason that he was allowed to go to college in the first place was because of a failed physical after being selected in the second round of the 2015 draft.
While the Tigers are projected by most to select Singer, that may change quickly. The 2018 draft class is one that has been called by many one of the best in recent years. There have even been comparisons to the 2011 draft class, one that saw the selection of Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Dylan Bundy, Francisco Lindor, Sonny Gray, George Springer, and José Fernández, among others. It seems unlikely that this kind of depth will fail to produce a serious competitor for the top spot in 2018.
However, unlike his predecessors from the ranks of Florida's pitching staff with designs on the first pick, Singer is a well-rounded player at this stage in his career. Thanks to a better fastball, he is less reliant on his slider than Faedo was. Singer has better command than former teammate A.J. Puk, and leans on his pure velocity less than Puk did while in college.
If everything clicks, Singer has a fantastic career ahead of him. That could very well mean years of dominance wearing the Old English D, the spearhead of a rebuilt Tigers ballclub. As things stand today, it looks like Detroit will try to make that possibility came to life, taking Singer with the first overall pick in the 2018 draft.
Video for gifs h/t Adam McInturff