Before the college baseball season got underway, Brady Singer, the Florida Gators’ junior, was held as the likely first overall pick in June’s amateur draft. A lackluster start from Singer quickly saw him give way to Auburn’s ace, Casey Mize. A series of huge starts from Mize early in the college season saw his stock soaring. His outing Friday night was another masterpiece, and with less than two months to go, Mize continues to look like the Detroit Tigers’ most likely selection.
Mize spun a complete game gem on Friday night against Mississippi State. He allowed one run on five hits, punching out nine, and once again didn’t walk a single batter. It was also a much needed performance for the Auburn Tigers after a four-game skid, and six losses in their last seven. Mize and his fellow upperclassmen held a players only meeting before the game, and then Mize went out there and shoved. He threw 76 of 106 pitches for strikes, and then sounded every bit like an ace afterwards.
Through nine starts, Mize has 86 strikeouts to just four walks, which is ridiculous. He now has two complete games, and is averaging exactly seven innings a start. With many sites already projecting Mize the first overall pick, you have to think it’s getting tough for anyone to dislodge him without things going badly awry.
Baseball America released a new mock draft recently that again affirmed Mize as their projected number one overall. 2080 Baseball concurred.
#MLBDraft Top 125 ranking locked last Friday, publishes tomorrow. Here's a preview...— 2080 Baseball (@2080ball) April 9, 2018
1. Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn
2. Shane McClanahan, LHP, South Florida
3. Jarred Kelenic, OF, Waukesha West (WI)
4. Ethan Hankins, RHP, Forsyth Central (GA)
5. Travis Swaggerty, OF, South Alabama
Obviously the Detroit Tigers have a deserved reputation for loving right-handed power pitchers. They’ve selected Beau Burrows, Matt Manning and Alex Faedo with their last three first round picks. Other than Faedo, that’s a tilt toward somewhat riskier prep arms as well. While Ethan Hankins looks like a particularly exciting prep pitching prospect, Mize is a safer bet and another dominant college ace with leadership qualities to pair with Faedo. If Mize continues to post good numbers and stays healthy, he’s going to remain the likeliest choice for the Tigers.
Cooling the power arms race
On the other hand, the Tigers have a good deal of quality pitching depth in their system now. They have a good set of catching prospects. What they lack are impact bats and high end middle infielders. Other than shortstop Isaac Paredes and center fielder Daz Cameron, stock isn’t particularly high on interesting positional prospects like slugger Christin Stewart or defensive wizard Derek Hill. Second baseman Dawel Lugo and outfielder Mike Gerber look like potentially average major leaguers. But the Tigers are going to need to acquire some legitimate high-end bats, either through trades, free agency or the draft in order to turn the franchise back into a contender.
There are a few position players that still should be in real consideration by the Tigers’ front office. One of them, at least, is actually rumored by a credible source to be seriously in general manager Al Avila’s crosshairs. Possibly even as their favorite over Casey Mize.
Wisconsin prep center fielder Jarred Kelenic has done nothing but raise his stock so far this season. He has the speed to handle center field in the majors eventually, though long-term he may profile better in a corner spot where his plus arm will be brought to bear more effectively. He also packs a quality hit tool with legitimate power potential to boot. 2080 Baseball had him ranked third overall. FanGraphs prospect writer Kiley McDaniel raised some eyebrows this week when he reported that the Tigers were seriously considering Kelenic as the number one pick in the draft.
Been hearing this for a month but hearing it more now: the Tigers are looking at Waukesha HS (WI) center fielder Jarred Kelenic as the #1 overall pick. Not just a rumor designed to get other player's prices down. Auburn RHP Casey Mize is still the favorite right now to go 1-1.— Kiley McDaniel (@kileymcd) April 9, 2018
2080 Baseball has some recent clips of Kellenic at the dish in showcase form.
That is serious bat speed, power and barrel control from an 18-year-old and it’s playing very well in-game this spring. At 6’1”, 195 pounds he’s not a towering specimen, but there’s room for a little more strength and if his ability to read pitches and make good contact develops, there’s the potential for a star at a key position in Kelenic.
Certainly things can change before draft day. No doubt someone currently in the top ten will slip while others rise. Right now, however, Mize and Kelenic seem like the two names the Detroit Tigers will be choosing from as they deliberate on a very important decision for the future of the franchise. Should they fall out of favor with Avila’s staff between now and then, Alec Bohm may be the guy to replace them. The Wichita State junior third baseman has generated a lot of buzz this spring, and a strong showing from now until draft day could still turn the Tigers’ heads his way.
Bohm may not quite have the hands to stick at third base, but he can run a bit and he has that most popular tool of all; huge raw power. Just as importantly he’s shown significant improvement in approach this spring, allowing him to select better pitches to drive. As a result he’s showing off that thump to its fullest with three grand slams among eight home runs in 120 at bats. Minor League Ball’s John Sickels produced a good report on Bohm this week, and he’s been generally drawing a ton of enthusiasm from draft hounds recently.
Mize is still the guy
Until proven otherwise, you can probably still look at Casey Mize as the favorite here. His power fastball/splitter combination has drawn rave reviews all spring and he has the makings of a plus slider to go along with them. His command is well advanced and the Tigers could have themselves a major league starting pitcher by 2020 if everything broke right.
Just don’t ignore those dissenting voices suggesting that the Tigers are really tempted to try and score big with a position player, particularly if they think they can get one at a key position. Jerred Kelenic remains the leading candidate in that pool, but Alex Bohm or even a big push by someone like Nick Madrigal could shift some draft boards. If the Tigers like what they see if the coming weeks, they may lean toward trying to balance a system full of quality pitching prospects with the type of player that could power a future contender.