The Detroit Tigers have a longstanding tradition of selecting hard-throwing right-handed pitchers in the MLB draft. Looking back over the last 15 years, the Tigers have selected right-handed pitchers with their first pick 10 times. Among them are Cy Young winners Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello. More recently, guys like Beau Burrows, Matt Manning, and Alex Faedo have joined the organization.
It appears they will be sticking with the known model this year, as almost all predictions point to the Tigers selecting RHP Casey Mize with their first round draft pick in June. According to the most current FanGraphs mock draft, Mize is all but a sure bet unless he implodes ahead of the draft or somehow doesn’t pass his medical. If Mize were not to be the guy the Tigers take, they would likely go for center fielder Jarred Kelenic — whom FanGraphs projects to be taken fifth — or third base prospect Alec Bohm, whom is projected second.
FanGraphs aren’t the only experts suggesting Mize will the the Tigers selection. Baseball America suggests Mize will be the most logical selection for the team, with this to say about the righty:
Only the White Sox have been more college-heavy in the top five rounds since 2013 than the Tigers. Additionally, during that same span and round range, the Tigers have selected the third-highest percentage of pitchers behind the Braves and the Cubs...With Detroit’s history of power arms, it might also be hard to pass up McClanahan’s stuff from the left side.
Likewise, ESPN Insider’s Keith Law has said the Tigers will take Mize. While none of this means Mize will 100 percent be the guy the Tigers take, he does fit the profile of their established preference, and with the first selection in the draft belonging to the team, they won’t want to waste it. The last time they were able to select so high in the draft (second) they took Verlander, and no doubt they are attempting to recreate that magic here.
The concerns of Mize’s health are not unfounded, as he previously missed parts of his 2017 sophomore season due to arm fatigue. While this is not the best indicator of having a starting pitcher’s long-term durability, it will absolutely be something the Tigers are looking at before they consider drafting him.
Mize’s upside can’t be ignored, though. Even with the arm fatigue, he pitched 84 innings through 12 starts and collected a 2.04 ERA with 109 strikeouts and a scant nine walks. Thus far in 2018, he has a 6-0 record, a 2.11 ERA, and as Minor League Ball best phrased it, “an unworldly 70/3 K/BB in 47 innings, allowing just 25 hits.”
At 6’3 and 220 pounds, Mize fits the prototypical physical build of a starting pitcher. He will have just turned 21 at the draft, making him a good age for a developing young arm as well.
John Sickels of Minor League Ball broke down what Mize has to offer that will make him so appealing to the team:
His fastball has been 93-95 with peaks at 96 all spring. The pitch has above-average movement yet he commands it well, which is almost unfair considering how good his secondary stuff is.
Mize features a plus-quality cutter, a plus-quality splitter used in change-up counts, and a solid-average breaking ball (described as a slider, a slurve, or a curve depending on the source) distinct from the faster/harder cutter. The splitter is particularly nasty, described by Perfect Game as “devastating.” With four quality offerings his arsenal is unusually deep, even for a college pitcher from a major program.
If Mize stays healthy, he certainly looks like a solid candidate for the Tigers to take with their first overall pick.