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MLB draft 2017: RHP Colton Hock could be on the Tigers’ radar

Hock will likely go in the early rounds of the draft and the Tigers could target him.

San Francisco Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers have a history of drafting power pitchers in high rounds, both right- and left-handed. This was the theme under former president and general manager Dave Dombrowski, who grabbed 11 pitchers with the 16 first (and supplemental) round picks he had during his tenure in Detroit. The trend continued last year under current GM Al Avila, who spent six of the team’s first nine draft picks on pitchers in 2016.

The Tigers are particularly known for drafting hard-throwing pitchers from big college programs. Colton Hock, a junior at Stanford University, fits this mold to a tee. He’s a lanky right-handed pitcher with four pitches: a fastball, curveball, changeup, and cutter. His cutter is brand new and largely immature, though, and as a result will not be taken into consideration here. So we’ll say he has three pitches and quite a bit of potential. He is currently ranked as the No. 93 draft prospect by MLB Pipeline, down from No. 18 previously.

Hock is exactly the sort of player the Tigers have targeted with their early-round draft picks the last several years. He’s a big, 6’4, 220 pound college righty that throws hard — his fastball has been up to 97 mph — so don’t be shocked if the Tigers snag him with one of their early picks.

Strengths

With a build like his, Hock is strong and has the stamina to be an innings-eater in the future. He pitched as a starter in the Cape Cod League over the summer of 2016 and did quite well in that position, though that period of time is the only time he has started lately — Hock has been in the bullpen his entire college career.

The Pennsylvania native has flourished in the closer role this season, racking up 16 save in 26 appearances. He limited opponents to a 1.94 ERA and a .211 batting average, with 35 strikeouts in 46 13 innings. Typically, you would not want a pitcher to have a bullpen role in college as it limits their overall upside, but Hock has done quite well in that spot.

His curveball is extremely effective. It was scouted at 55 on the 20-80 scale by MLB.com, and it is by far Hock’s best pitch. He can throw it for swinging strikes periodically due to its deception. Scout.com, which ranked Hock as the No. 44 draft prospect, said his curveball is a “power curve with tight spin, that has some slurve-break to it in the mid 80's (mph).” It seems the curveball can do nothing but improve, and if it gets even better, watch out.

Weaknesses

Hock’s fastball had been averaging 95 miles per hour in the Cape Cod League, but has regressed to 90-91 mph — though it has been up to 93 mph at times recently. His delivery takes a lot of effort, resulting in a loss of command and velocity as he gets deeper into his outings. This is likely part of the reason he ultimately pitches out of the bullpen, as it could affect his overall stamina as a starter. It’s unknown whether he could sustain his velocity and effectiveness deep into games.

Due to his role in the bullpen, his changeup has been used infrequently. It has always been his worst pitch, and needs a lot of work to become reliable and consistent. This is key, because it is notoriously difficult to make it to even the higher levels of the minor leagues as a starter with only two pitches. With the threat of regression from Hock’s fastball, it could be nearly impossible for him to get past Double-A.

Outlook

If Hock can work out the kinks in his delivery and find his fastball velocity again, he has the potential to reach the high minors or even the major leagues. He has the ability to be a back-end bullpen piece or a lower rotation starter, perhaps a fourth or fifth starter.

While Hock was originally predicted to go in the first round even as recently as a few months ago, I no longer see that happening. I do believe he’ll go in one of the early rounds, though, to a team that feels they can work out his issues. If a team can sort out his delivery and make him into a decent starter, they should have a steal on their hands. He has potential to be an effective reliever too, but that limits his overall upside.