The Detroit Tigers stunned absolutely no one when, at 7:06 p.m. on Monday evening, they selected right-handed pitcher Casey Mize with the first overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. After months of internal deliberation and discussion among fans and evaluators, the list was narrowed to three pre-draft. Both Bart and Singer seemed like viable options, but Mize’s undisputed status as the top prospect in the class seemingly won out in Detroit’s eyes.
Some have complained that, while his college numbers are incredible, Mize fits the same old bill. They say he’s another pitcher off the end of Detroit’s cloning machine, just another stereotypical Tigers prospect. “He’s a righty.” “He can throw hard.” “He’s from the SEC.” It’s as plain as day.
However, the final and key aspect of that stereotype is that when the ball leaves those pitchers’ hands, they have little idea where it will end up. Mize cemented his status as the top talent of the 2018 draft class with near-flawless command of his explosive stuff. By its own virtue, that separates him from the myriad of other pitchers the Tigers have drafted — and the rest of his draft class.
ESPN’s Keith Law said it best when he labeled Mize one of the best picks of the draft so far.
“The Tigers had the first pick in a draft with one player who was clearly the best and they took him. Sometimes you deserve credit for not screwing up a good thing.”
Law is absolutely correct. It has been nearly a year since the Tigers’ rebuild officially started, and on the whole, early returns are underwhelming. General manager Al Avila needed this draft to go off without a hitch to give the Tigers’ system some extra punch. He was in a perfect place to do that with the first overall pick in the draft.
When the pick came down as Mize, it set a clear organizational tone: draft the best player available. Just as much for what he is as what he could be, that player was Casey Mize.
The question of who to take was a much tougher one in the second round than the first. The big names that had been sliding were snapped up just before the Tigers could get a hold of them. The ones that were not are considered close to un-signable due to enormous demands.
Avila opted to take prep outfielder Parker Meadows with the Tigers’ second pick on Monday night. Unlike many of the team’s high draft picks of late, Meadows is a highly athletic position player who offers an exciting package of talents. On his best nights, he can show scouts four plus tools: power, speed, arm, and a strong glove.
He is often most praised for his defense — he takes efficient routes and gets to the ball quickly with long strides. It’s his ability to impact both sides of the ball that makes him truly exciting. He has a hit tool that took a big leap in the right direction this year and the power to make it worthwhile. He will be the most well-rounded position player in the system immediately upon his signing.
Meadows’ addition is a good sign for multiple reasons. First, it is the second year in a row that the Tigers have done something creative with their second pick. Instead of returning to the status quo and taking a low-risk, low-reward college arm, they tried something different. It isn’t always the results that matter in a scenario like this, but the willingness to give new ideas a shot.
It worked well last year; the Tigers got a guy they liked more than the industry in Reynaldo Rivera, and saved the money on his bonus to sign fifth round pick Sam McMillan. This year, they decided to shoot for the moon. This particular pick may not work out. Prep players wash out at an incredible rate. However, it’s refreshing to see a historically bland front office broadening their horizons.
The needs of the farm system were also addressed with this pick. The Tigers’ pipeline is woefully short on impact bats, a fact that is loudly bemoaned across the internet. Meadows is just that: an impact bat. While he will never win a batting title or hit 40 bombs, he is a dynamic athlete who will stick at a premium position while contributing at the plate. This isn’t drafting for need — it’s drafting for impact. The impact player just so happens to neatly fill a void at the top of the Tigers’ farm.
All in all, Avila and the rest of Detroit’s brass did a good job on Monday night. There is something to be said for simply not making a silly mistake, especially in such a pressurized situation. As this draft continues to unfold, it will continue to be their mission to not fall on their face. That’s all the more we can ask.