The Detroit Tigers don’t often draft players like Chase Strumpf. Normally a club to go after shortstops, catchers, and outfielders when they are not drafting hard-throwing pitchers, the Tigers broke from their mold when they took second baseman Kody Clemens with their third round pick back in 2018. How out of character was this for them? The last time the Tigers took a second baseman in the top 15 rounds of the draft prior to Clemens was Devon Travis, a 13th round pick in 2012. You have to go all the way back to 2010 to find one they took in the first 10 rounds (Corey Jones is your trivia answer, by the way).
Now, they have a chance to do it two years in a row. UCLA second baseman Chase Strumpf was widely regarded as the top college second baseman in the country prior to the start of the 2019 season, but saw his stock take a bit of a hit after he struggled to hit early on this year. He has gotten back on track lately, though, and should be taken somewhere in the top 50 to 60 picks of this year’s draft.
Strumpf’s profile is a limited one — he is definitely a bat-first player, and doesn’t have the tools to play short or third — but he has the kind of offensive upside the Tigers’ farm system has lacked for several years now. One might suggest a team should “never draft for need,” but Stumpf fits into the “guys that can hit” bin that the Tigers have struggled to fill in recent years.
Draft day age: 21
MLB Pipeline draft prospect rank: 40
Previously drafted: N/A
MLB Pipeline Scouting Grades: 2B Chase Strumpf
Strumpf’s bat is his carrying tool. The 21-year-old second baseman enjoyed a monster sophomore season at UCLA in 2018, hitting .363/.475/.633 with 12 home runs. He got off to a slow start as a junior, denting his draft stock somewhat, but has come on strong lately. Through 52 games this year, Strumpf is hitting .295/.436/.479, with nearly as many walks (41) as strikeouts (49).
Strumpf is more of a hit-over-power player, with an above-average hit tool, per MLB Pipeline. Baseball America likes just about everything in Strumpf’s offensive profile, even though he has dropped down to No. 44 on their list.
The 6-foot-1 second baseman has a quiet set up at the plate and has consistently shown excellent bat-to-ball skills, with an impressive ability to backspin the ball to the opposite field in right-center. He has also displayed a strong knowledge of the strike zone, increasing his walk rate from nine percent during his freshman campaign to 15.4 percent through 37 games as a junior.
Quinn Ireland of Sports Info Solutions had an even more glowing report of Strumpf’s abilities.
Strumpf’s strongest tool is his advanced approach at the plate. With almost a walk per game, he has a very keen eye that should lead to a high on-base percentage, regardless if he ends up hitting for a high average. That being said, he is an excellent hitter who should at least be average at the next level with decent power, to boot. His power has increased greatly since his days as a freshman, and he should develop into at least a plus power hitter– he has the potential to be a consistent 20-homer bat in the pros.
I’m not sure about the power projection above — everywhere else has him about average, or slightly worse — but Strumpf has shown a knack for hitting for average and getting on base over his past two years with the Bruins.
The biggest knock on Strumpf is that he is a second baseman, full stop. He doesn’t have the range to play shortstop or the arm to play on the left side of the infield, nor the raw power to slide over to first base or a corner outfield spot. Worse yet, he might not be a particularly good second baseman at the professional level. Says Baseball America:
While some scouts view him as an everyday second basemen, Strumpf is an offensive-minded infielder who can make most of the routine plays at second base, but will struggle to make the difficult ones with below-average range and arm strength that flashes solid but is usually a 45-grade tool.
MLB Pipeline says Strumpf “should be a reliable defender at second base,” but that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of his skills. He doesn’t have the defensive ceiling of a player who moves off shortstop to second, nor the wider range of positional outcomes.
Strumpf’s speed is also a question mark. MLB Pipeline grades him as a fringe-average runner, and they (or anyone else) have little else to say about his baserunning acumen. He has only stolen seven bases in his career at UCLA, and is just 3-for-6 in steal attempts this year. That below-average speed also impacts his range at second base, which isn’t great.
Draft position: second round?
Projecting the first round of the MLB draft is notoriously difficult, but the plethora of mock drafts available around the internet give us an ideas as to who the Tigers are interested in, and where various players will end up. After that? We have no clue. Strumpf is the No. 40 prospect on MLB Pipeline’s board and ranked 44th by Baseball America, so it’s probably safe to assume he will end up somewhere around that point on draft day. He might even be a player that could be signed for slightly under slot value — he has little reason to go back to school, so I don’t know how much leverage he will have in negotiations — if he is taken high enough in the second round.