With the 2018 season in the rearview mirror and fading fast, prospect season is quickly approaching. That means the slow trickle of information about the 2019 amateur draft is slowly gaining momentum. MLB Pipeline released their first top 50 draft prospects list for next season on Wednesday morning, followed up by an early mock draft on Thursday.
With the fifth overall selection, the Detroit Tigers are in an excellent position to further bolster the rapidly-improving farm system. With a pick so high, there will surely be a toolsy young batter or polished, high-upside pitcher available. The experts over at MLB.com predict the player in Detroit’s crosshairs will be Duke lefthander Graeme Stinson.
Stinson profiles similarly to how current Tigers prospect Alex Faedo did as a collegian.
Slinging a plus fastball from a funky delivery — although Stinson’s contains fewer red flags — and confounding hitters with a devastating slider, he buries Division I competition in strikeouts. It’s generally accepted that D1 Baseball’s talent level is somewhere between Low- and High-A, putting his current production on par with frontline arms in the Whitecaps and Flying Tigers rotations.
Unlike many of Detroit’s arms, however, Stinson doesn’t have to develop a changeup from scratch. He had a feel for the offering as far back as high school, which most prospects don’t do. While the slider has become his weapon of choice, the change hasn’t fallen by the wayside either. MLB Pipeline projects it to be a major-league average pitch. That is enough to keep guys off balance and send them packing with one of his other pitches.
“[Stinson’s] change up was his best secondary pitch,” wrote Perfect Game back in 2016, before the emergence of his breaking ball. “[It] has some deception with good arm speed and late diving action.”
The parallels to Faedo don’t end there, but it gets less rosy from here on out. Faedo, of course, was not regarded nearly as well by evaluators in 2018 as at the time he was drafted due to a drop-off in stuff. There were whispers that the loss of pep in Faedo’s fastball was due to poor conditioning over the offseason. Stinson is referred to as already being soft-bodied in MLB.com’s scouting report. Every pitcher is different, of course, and it’d be foolish to judge one by the successes and failures of another. That said, it’s difficult to put these pitchers side-by-side and not see red flags.
Others may be bothered if the Tigers select Stinson for another reason: he’s a pitcher. The farm is already well-stocked with arms, from Auburn University phenom Casey Mize to recent infield convert Carlos Guzman, to everything in between, Detroit doesn’t lack for intriguing pitching prospects. Taking another pitcher would be throwing away an opportunity to pick up an impact bat to supplement the cream of the crop.
Going with another pitcher might not be a totally unreasonable thing to do, though. Pitchers wash out at a stunning rate and are a much higher injury risk than position players. Any team who wants to take the DIY route to a solid pitching staff needs to stock up on as many young arms as they can.
There are other options too
If the Tigers want to grab another polished arm but are scared off from Stinson due to his lack of athleticism, or would rather take a higher-upside arm, Cater Stewart might be a fit. If that name rings a bell, it’s because he was drafted eighth overall by the Atlanta Braves in 2018. The two were unable to reach a contract agreement due to a wrist issue. He instead shipped off to join the college ranks and will play with Eastern Florida State Junior College next year.
Stewart will be draft-eligible again in 2019. Perfect Game recently ranked him as the fifth-best talent in the class, right in line with the Tigers’ first round selection. The dynamic fastball-curveball combination that landed him a spot in the top 10 of last year’s draft, combined with an extra season’s worth of polish, could be enough to lure Detroit’s attention.
Regardless of what happens, we still have six months before we find out who general manager Al Avila and company zero in on. At this point last year, Florida righthander Brady Singer was the prohibitive favorite to be picked first overall by Detroit, and he ended up falling to Kansas City with the 18th pick. There is still plenty time for things to change.