Much of the digital ink written about the Detroit Tigers’ 2018 draft class has been centered around Casey Mize, whom they selected with the first overall pick, and for good reason. He’s a remarkable prospect who will become the system’s headliner the moment he signs. However, possessing the position at the top of the each round of the draft, the Tigers were in a great position to snag some high-upside talent that may have otherwise been unavailable.
Here’s what you need to know about Detroit’s selections from Day 2, rounds three through 10.
2B Kody Clemens, 3rd round (79th overall)
The mandatory first sentence in a Kody Clemens scouting report is that his father is enormously successful pitcher Roger Clemens, but Kody is a good ballplayer in his own right. His value is tied up in his bat. Texas saw their second baseman enjoy a monster 2018 season that included a .344/.432/.700 batting line and 21 home runs. He isn’t the fastest runner, and therefore isn’t a threat on the bases, but the power is real.
Clemens plays an average second base and should be able to stick there long term. If he can’t, he may not get to the power often enough to float the profile at third, and he isn’t rangy enough to play good corner outfield defense. That said, he is praised for his intangibles and #grit. There isn’t really too much reason to doubt his high-floor profile as a bat-first middle infielder.
OF Kingston Liniak, 4th round (105th overall)
While it will be his bat that determines his ultimate role, most of Liniak’s value is tied up in his glove. He is a plus runner and does above-average work in the field with plenty of range, where his wheels work better than on the bases. He has an arm that would work well in a corner, but will remain in center as a pro thanks to his other tools. Baseball America notes that he “cleaned up his swing” over the past season, and has seen an uptick in his hit tool as a result.
There is some raw power to tap into as well, but it isn’t very substantial. Scouts would like to see Liniak add some bulk to his currently lanky 6’3 frame. If he does, it could add some juice to his swing, although it would potentially come at the expense of the speed he utilizes so well in the field. Either way, he’s already a better prospect than, say, Troy Montgomery and will likely command an over-slot bonus.
LHP Adam Wolf, 5th round (135th overall)
Wolf and third-rounder Kody Clemens really feel like the picks that will pay for the spending spree the Tigers indulged themselves in by taking Mize, Parker Meadows, and Liniak. A relatively safe college arm from the University of Louisville, Wolf isn’t an overly exciting prospect, but is a solid choice. He has a fastball that sits in the 88-91 mile per hour range, bumping 92 mph once in a while.
He throws three secondary pitches, all just about as average as the fastball. The curve and changeup work fine when he takes hitters off-guard using them, with the change probably a tick ahead of the curve. Wolf’s best of the three is a cutter which sometimes morphs into a slider. It’s a pitch he taught himself by Googling “Mariano Rivera cutter.” Between his abundance of pitches and the ability to extract the most value from them, he will play as a starter. He’s a back-end type that should make quick work of the low minors but will face real challenges at Double-A and above.
RHP Hugh Smith, 6th round (165th overall)
Nicknamed “Huge Smith” for good reason, the top prospect in Division III baseball stands head and shoulders above most ballplayers. Realistically, he stands head and... upper torso above most people. The 6’10 starter from Whitworth has a fun story that Baseball America wrote in detail. The short version is that he wasn’t planning on playing baseball at all before a chance encounter with a coach convinced him to transfer from the University of Washington to the smaller Washington school, where he would get to pitch.
A deception guy who only threw in the mid-80s three years ago, Smith now lives off his heater, which reaches the high 90s — an undisputed plus or better pitch. MLB.com is least optimistic, though, projecting both the change and slider to be below average long-term. Others seem to like his secondaries. Baseball America gives preference to the breaking ball, stating it has a chance to be plus. Smith’s pitching coach at Whitworth cites “a really good feel for his changeup.”
OF Eric De La Rosa, 7th round (195th overall)
De La Rosa reminds me of a poor man’s version of Parker Meadows, the outfielder drafted in the second round by Detroit’s front office. At 6’4 and 175 pounds, De la Rosa is quite lean. He has long strides that translate well to defensive actions in center field. He should remain up the middle long term. His arm could support a move to the corner if need be, but the bat may not. While he has plus raw power, red flags are existant in the portfolio. Baseball America vocalizes scouts’ concerns well.
The concern about De La Rosa is he feasted on poor pitching and he showed a propensity to expand the strike zone when faced with better velocity. Scouts who like De La Rosa see a player whose tools keep getting better and think he could grow into an everyday regular with 20 homers and 20 stolen bases. Others are skeptical of his age and competition level and think he’ll run into trouble hitting in the low minors.
SS Jeremiah Burks, 8th round (225th overall)
While he wasn’t ranked in the Top 500 prospects list produced by Baseball America, Burks seems to be just as toolsy as any other pick this year. He’s a quick runner, and his athleticism is what got him drafted. According to the Detroit Free Press, the Tigers plan to utilize him as a versatile guy in both the middle infield and the outfield. He will be fine at any of those positions; he’s a rangy defender with a good arm. He can hit for a little bit of power, but he strikes out too much and will need a better approach to hit well in pro ball.
LHP Tarik Skubal, 9th round (255th overall)
Lefties with power stuff don’t come around all too often, so when one does, there’s always a team that will take a flyer on him. Skubal fits that bill — he hits 95 mph with life, pairing it with a slider and a change that comes and goes. He struck out 11.93 batters per nine innings this season, but also walked way too many hitters to truly dominate. There’s enough of an arsenal to start if pro instruction can iron out those command troubles. If not, a power lefty in the bullpen is nothing to sneeze at. Regardless of the eventual outcome, this is great value in the ninth round.
OF Brock Deatherage, 10th round (285th overall)
It’s kind of amazing to me that Deatherage was on the board when the Tigers opened the 10th round. His portfolio offers a plus arm, plenty of range in center, and 80-grade speed on the bases. According to Baseball America, he also is able to hit for above-average power. However, his hit tool is the wart that let him fall to this spot. “There’s no real kind way of saying it,” writes Rob Ozga, “but his approach is simply a mess.” Baseball America elaborated, citing a long swing and a poor batting eye. If he can clean up his swing, he’s an ultra-athletic center fielder with a top-of-the-scale power/speed combination. If not, he’ll flame out in remarkable fashion.