To say that the Detroit Tigers have a “type” on draft day would be an understatement. Their predilection for hard-throwing pitchers is well known throughout baseball, to the point that it’s nearly impossible to find a mock draft that doesn’t project the Tigers selecting a flame-thrower with their first round pick.
The Tigers are a bit more nuanced than that, though. While they have overwhelmingly preferred to draft hard-throwing pitchers with their early picks throughout the past decade, they have taken a broader approach in the first round. Two years ago, they used a supplemental round pick on outfielder Christin Stewart, who is now one of their top prospects at Double-A Erie. In 2014, they selected speedy outfielder Derek Hill in the first round. Nick Castellanos and Cameron Maybin were also high school position players the Tigers selected in the first round in 2010 and 2005, respectively.
With the draft just a few weeks away, it’s time to start introducing some of the names we might hear when the Tigers are on the clock at No. 18 overall. When applicable, we have linked draft profiles provided by Minor League Ball, SB Nation’s excellent baseball prospect community.
Advanced college pitchers
RHP Alex Faedo - Florida
The Tigers have not been shy about drafting SEC pitchers in the past, and selected University of Florida product Jonathon Crawford with the 20th overall pick of the 2013 draft. According to Minor League Ball, Faedo might be the best of Florida’s recent bumper crop of hard-throwing arms, which includes Crawford and 2016 first rounder A.J. Puk. Faedo has enjoyed a monster season with the Gators, striking out 106 batters in 90 1⁄3 innings while limiting opponents to a 2.89 ERA. With his velocity reportedly returning to the mid-to-upper 90s he could reach prior to having offseason knee surgery last year, the only question might be whether Faedo lasts until the Tigers’ pick at No. 18 overall.
RHP Tanner Houck - Missouri
Ah, here we go. Houck stands 6’5, weighs 220 pounds, and can throw a fastball through a brick wall. He has been clocked as high as 97-98 miles per hour in the past, though as Minor League Ball’s John Sickels notes, Houck’s velocity hasn’t been quite as high this season. MLB Pipeline noted that Houck’s fastball has a lot of movement to it, so the slight dip in velocity might not be an issue long term. He needs to develop his secondary pitches, but has demonstrated solid command with just 21 walks in 90 1⁄3 innings for the Missouri Tigers this year.
RHP Alex Lange - LSU
Unlike Houck, Alex Lange has a plus secondary offering to go with his excellent fastball. That second pitch is a power curveball that received a 60 grade from MLB Pipeline, who graded him as their No. 19 prospect in this year’s draft. His fastball sits anywhere from 92-96 miles per hour, and has helped him rack up 111 strikeouts in 90 1⁄3 innings for the Tigers this year. He does have 33 walks in that span, though, calling his command into question. LSU has a great track record of turning out top-level pitchers, with Aaron Nola and Kevin Gausman serving as recent examples.
LHP Brendon Little - State College JC (FL)
At first glance, the 20-year-old lefthander doesn’t necessarily fit the profile of a typical Tigers draft pick. He’s left-handed, for one, and did not pitch at a major college program (save for a brief stint at North Carolina before transferring). However, he has a fastball that has touched as high as 97 miles per hour and a power 12-6 curveball good enough to make him MLB Pipeline’s No. 35 prospect in this year’s draft. Other sites like ESPN are even more excited, ranking him at No. 17.
RHP Nate Pearson - Central Florida JC
According to Baseball America’s J.J Cooper, nearly 100 scouts were on hand when Pearson faced off against Brendon Little in early February. The two are both likely to be first round picks, with Pearson looking like the riskier of the two. He is large, at 6’6 and weighing 240 pounds. He throws very hard, with a fastball that has touched 97 miles per hour. However, he already has an elbow surgery on his record, and his iffy secondary stuff might eventually limit him to relief work. He ranks squarely in the 30s according to all sites, including MLB Pipeline (No. 38).
High school flamethrowers
RHP Shane Baz - Concordia Lutheran HS (TX)
He’s big, he’s from Texas, and he throws really hard. Shane Baz should be one of the first prep arms drafted in this year’s class, perhaps early enough that he might be a stretch to include on this list. Both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline have him ranked as this draft’s No. 12 prospect. With a plus fastball and cutter already in tow and a curveball in the works, he has one of the more advanced arsenals for a prep pitcher in this class. Most of his weaknesses — iffy command, a wonky changeup — are typical for high school pitchers. Not many have his natural talent, though.
LHP Trevor Rogers - Carlsbad HS (NM)
The Tigers haven’t drafted many lefthanders this high in their history, but Rogers might be worth the risk if he is still available. Standing a lanky 6’6, he can reach the mid-90s with his fastball. His delivery looks rather effortless to boot, and his long limbs add some natural deception to his motion. Like most high schoolers, his secondary pitchers and command both need work, but he has some of the highest upside of any player in this year’s draft. MLB Pipeline ranked him their No. 23 prospect in the 2017 class.
RHP Hans Crouse - Dana Hills HS (CA)
Taking Crouse at No. 18 overall might be a bit of a reach for the Tigers, but they have not been afraid to go get their guy in years past. Standing 6’5 and weighing 190 pounds, the Southern Cal commit has been squarely ranked in the 20-29 range by nearly all draft prospect ranking sites. MLB Pipeline has him 29th, while ESPN says he’s the 22nd best prospect in the class. Like so many other prep arms, he features a mid-90s fastball and developing secondary pitches. His profile isn’t quite as rosy, with a bit more effort to his delivery than some like to see. Still, he’s a likely first rounder in this class.
Honorable mention: RHP Sam Carlson
SS Nick Allen - Francis W. Parker HS (CA)
Seeing an article titled “Short frame, big game” about a potential first round pick doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence, but the slight shortstop has the tools and makeup to be an excellent up-the-middle player for whichever team calls his name on draft night. Listed as MLB.com’s No. 28 prospect for this year’s draft class, Allen drew near-plus grades for four of five tools, with power (30) being the lone and obvious exception. He won’t be a home run hitter at the next level, but as MLB.com says, “the one thing no one questions is Allen's ability to stick at shortstop.”
OF Quentin Holmes - Monsignor McClancy Memorial HS (NY)
A lanky, athletic player with speed to burn, Holmes is the quintessential boom-or-bust prep talent. His hit and power tools are relatively raw — though MLB Pipeline notes he has some nice bat-to-ball skills — but he has true 80-grade speed. This makes him a serious threat on the basepaths and a potential Gold Glove caliber defender in the outfield. His entire profile will be riding on his bat taking the necessary strides at the professional level, though.
SS Logan Warmoth - North Carolina
If Warmoth can stick at shortstop at the professional level, he will probably be a pretty good prospect. The UNC product has a better hit tool than most, with MLB Pipeline grading it at 55. They also hint that he could hit 12-15 home runs at the big league level at his peak. However, his profile is limited by a lack of a true standout tool, and there are questions about his arm strength. While this gives him a relatively high floor, he will need to progress both offensively and defensively if he is to be an impact player. He’s a safe pick, for better or worse, but might end up at second base long-term.
OF Bubba Thompson - McGill-Toolen Catholic HS (AL)
My favorite prospect based on name alone, Thompson is a 6’2 righty with five-tool potential. Minor League Ball labeled him “a 65-70 runner with a 60-arm,” and mentioned his burgeoning power stroke. He looks like he will add onto his frame as he matures, giving him even more power potential down the road. The biggest question seems to be around his hit tool, but a strong spring has sent his stock skyward as we approach draft day. He is athletic enough to have earned football scholarships from multiple SEC schools, and will likely stick in center field at the next level.