The 2019 MLB draft is less than one week away, and the top of the first round is finally starting to take shape. Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman is still the odds-on favorite to go first overall to the Baltimore Orioles, followed by prep shortstop Bobby Witt Jr.
After that? Nobody knows.
Okay, that’s not quite true. MLB draft experts know which players will go in the next three or four picks. They just don’t know the order of said picks yet. And, if previous years are any indication, we won’t know either until the draft itself takes place at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, June 3.
This goes double for the Detroit Tigers, who are at the whim of the two teams immediately above them — the Chicago White Sox and Miami Marlins — in the first round of the draft. Most mock drafts have the Tigers taking one of three different hitters, in large part due to the players the Sox and Marlins take prior to Detroit’s No. 5 overall pick.
Let’s take a look at the most recent mock drafts around the internet, and see who the experts think the Tigers will land.
ESPN (Keith Law): OF Riley Greene
Keith Law’s latest mock draft is perhaps the closest to the “chalk” picks we’ve seen throughout the spring. His top three picks — Rutschman, Witt, and Cal first baseman Andrew Vaughn — have been widely projected in those positions for most of the calendar year, and the Marlins have been linked to Vanderbilt outfielder J.J. Bleday for a couple of months now.
That leaves Greene, a talented bat-first prospect that is considered one of the best hitters in the entire class. MLB Pipeline thinks he could be a plus hitter at his peak, with above-average power to boot. Law had similar things to say when he ranked Greene the No. 6 prospect in the class earlier this year.
Greene cost himself a little bit at this year’s National High School Invitational tournament at the USA Baseball complex, showing more swing-and-miss than scouts expected, although his swing is sound and he has plus hand speed, missing more due to timing than any mechanical issues. He’s a future left fielder who needs to work on his reads on fly balls, so the hope is that his hit and power tools both end up above-average to plus, leaving him as at least a regular in a corner.
Law also had Greene heading to Detroit in his first mock draft, published on May 6.
Baseball America: 1B Andrew Vaughn
Baseball America’s latest mock seems to be the preferred result for most of the Tigers fanbase, as BA’s experts have Vaughn falling past the White Sox and Marlins to Detroit at No. 5 overall. Vaughn is widely considered the best hitter in the entire draft class, and one that should speed through the minor leagues thanks to his advanced approach at the plate, “preternatural feel for the strike zone,” and plus grades for both his hitting ability as well as his in-game power. The former Golden Spikes winner is the No. 3 prospect on most draft boards, making him a bit of a steal at fifth overall.
Here’s what BA had to say about Vaughn.
It sounds like Detroit really likes Riley Greene, but in this situation it would be hard to pass up Vaughn. Like Greene, Vaughn is a bat-first prospect with weaker supplemental tools, but his bat is much more proven and possesses much more impact potential. Getting Vaughn here could give the organization another fast-moving, impact prospect to go along with 2018 No. 1 overall pick Casey Mize.
Law also noted that the fifth pick was likely Vaughn’s floor, a strong hint that the Tigers won’t pass on him if he becomes available — even if Greene is in the mix.
The Athletic: OF J.J. Bleday
This seems like the most unlikely outcome of the bunch, if only because the Marlins have scouted Bleday so heavily throughout the spring. The 21-year-old has enjoyed a breakout junior season at Vanderbilt, hitting .359/.467/.752 with 26 home runs, which lead the nation. The Marlins could throw everyone for a loop and take toolsy outfielder Hunter Bishop — their other top target according to both Law and Baseball America — or they could stick with Bleday, whom Derek Jeter went to go see in person last weekend.
What if all hell breaks loose?
Let’s say the Marlins do go after Bishop, a player many imagined would fall to the back of the top 10. The White Sox may also fall in love with shortstop C.J. Abrams’ upside — something no fewer than four different sites have predicted in the past seven days — leaving all three of Vaughn, Bleday, and Greene available for the Tigers to select. Who would Detroit take if they had their pick of the litter?
Based on what others have described, it seems like Vaughn is the pick in this scenario. He hasn’t fallen past the Tigers in a single mock draft that I have seen this spring, and his near-ready bat is something this system could sorely use. If Vaughn is gone, it’s a toss-up between Bleday and Greene. More mocks have projected Greene to the Tigers than Bleday this spring, but only because Miami has been so enamored with the Vanderbilt product during this cycle.
Or they could take a pitcher — Law noted that they like TCU lefthander Nick Lodolo — and make us all angry.