The front offices of MLB clubs are filled with people who like things a certain way. Each organization has a style, a modus operandi, if you will. In few places is a team’s philosophy more evident than in the war rooms of the MLB amateur draft. The Texas Rangers love to draft players with a high ceiling, banking on their potential to outweigh the risk. The Mariners often go the other way, opting for high-floor college players. The Dodgers are good at finding solid players with well-rounded profiles that slip through the cracks, and their farm has flourished as a result.
The Tigers developed a well-deserved reputation as being attracted to low-risk-low-reward players — especially high-velocity collegiate arms and defense-first catchers — over the better part of both this decade and the last one. After last year, though? Who knows?
While trying to predict any particulars beyond the first and second rounds is essentially a waste of time, it’s still fun to sift through draft rankings and try to find players whose names may come up again on draft day. Here’s a few the Tigers may be looking at, in no particular order.
Tre Fletcher, OF, Deering (Maine) HS
Fletcher is a bit like a poor man’s Parker Meadows or Monte Harrison. He’s young and dynamic, reclassifying from the 2020 draft class to be eligible this season. If the draft were based solely on a player’s best day of the whole cycle, he would probably be talked about at as a slam-dunk first round talent. Big picture, though, his development will be a massive undertaking for the organization that decides to spring for the upside he offers.
The tools are there for Fletcher to succeed. He regularly shows plus run times, raw power, and arm strength, and has the potential to be outstanding in the field. Nonetheless, his approach at the plate leaves a great deal to be desired — he utilizes a big leg kick and some think he will need to revamp his entire swing. Moreover, his speed would be a fantastic weapon if he used it correctly, but instead, he takes mediocre routes in the outfield and gets poor jumps when stealing.
If everything comes together for Fletcher, he will be an enviable player that any team would covet. There’s not a whole lot of room for error, though, and he could also flame out in spectacular fashion.
Antoine Kelly, LHP, Wabash Valley
Old habits die hard, and a return to tendencies displayed prominently in former years could lead the Tigers to snatch up this southpaw. Kelly uses a clean delivery to hurl a plus-or-better fastball which anchors his arsenal. He has been up to 97 miles per hour with regularity, and scouts anticipate him reaching triple digits with pro instruction. The Padres made a strong run at him in last year’s draft, but he opted for junior college instead, making him draft-eligible again this season. Therefore, despite being a college arm, he’s also still only 19, and has projection in his near-ideal 6’6 frame.
There’s always a catch, though, and Kelly is no exception. As you might imagine, he has a bit of trouble throwing strikes, but that is due in large part to his non-ideal mechanics. The bigger issue lies in the fact that, as MLB Pipeline puts it, “he hasn’t shown much aptitude for spinning the ball.” His slider and changeup are presently well below average, and while the slider shows promise, the changeup will need a major overhaul for him to continue starting long-term.
Nasim Nunez, SS, Collins Hill (Ga.) HS
Nunez is, at present, the best prospect on this list. He can bring outstanding defensive ability to the table and that’s what will get him drafted. His overall profile is reminiscent of 2017 draftee Nick Allen, a small shortstop who relies on his on-field ability to make up for his limited ability at the the plate. Nunez is a plus runner who is able to steal bases and uses his wheels well on defense, getting to balls quickly and effectively. Baseball America notes that he also has a remarkable arm, capable of making throws from various arm angles and while on the run with surprising accuracy.
At the plate, Nunez can make sufficient contact but doesn’t put much of a charge into the ball. He should be able to switch-hit long term and isn’t particularly overmatched from one side or the other. He simply won’t make a big impact on the offensive side of the game.
Whichever team eventually drafts Nunez will have to invest heavily in the athletic teenager. He may be a tough sign — he has very little to lose by deciding to test his skills against more polished pitching in an attempt to improve his draft stock. In the event he does sign, he’s a long-term project and it will be a long time before he can make a case for the big leagues. Even if he never hits, though, evaluators are optimistic about his chances as a utility guy. His glove is just that good.
Ivan Johnson, 2B/SS, Chipola
Johnson has a bat that is well-suited for all around offensive contribution. According to Baseball America, he has with quick hands and a workable swing from both sides of the plate. He will also display above-average raw power in batting practice and can bring most of it into gameplay. Johnson has done well for himself as a part of Chipola’s ballclub, hitting .389/.500/.606 with almost as many walks as strikeouts. However, his swing comes and goes at times, and he has struggled with strikeouts in the past. He can also struggle with off-speed stuff at times, an issue that is more pronounced from the left side.
A shortstop for now, Johnson is not a particularly vibrant defender and will more than likely end up at second base. There’s nothing wrong with that, it just puts a little more pressure on his bat to show up in pro ball. There is nothing especially captivating about Johnson’s raw skills, but he’s a high-floor infielder who is easy to envision serving a bench role in the majors not too long from now.
Carter Bins, C, Fresno State
Bins is a well-rounded catcher with a good defensive resumé, and has a career line of .286/.380/.458 at Fresno State. His skillset is skewed slightly to the defensive side, and he has a reputation as being very good behind the plate. Phrases like “smooth actions” and “soft hands” and “good reflexes” are usually tossed around along with praises for for his baseball IQ and feel for the game.
He’s a better hitter than most bat-first catchers and makes hard contact. At the same time, he has been steadily improving his walk rate and strikeout rate. The trouble is that scouts are unsure whether his improved approach will translate to the pros and him improved peripherals have come at the expense of his power output.
Extra Credit: OF Jake Mangum is a scrappy center fielder with speed who makes tons of contact but rarely walks and has very little power. RHP Kyle Brnovich has a huge curveball that makes hitter looks silly but he’s tapped out at 92 mph. C Cooper Johnson had a reputation as a defensively gifted backstop coming out of high school but teams were too skittish about his bat to take him early. Not much has changed. RHP Morgan McSweeny has a plus fastball and two breaking balls but he struggles to throw strikes. 1B Spencer Brickhouse is an advanced college masher but is limited to first base, and even that’s iffy. OF Glenallen Hill Jr. carries concerns about his very small size and sometimes vacant hit tool but displays an electrifying power-speed combination. IF/OF Gabe Holt is a nose-to-toes line drives hitter with game-changing speed but doesn’t have particularly soft hands and, while rangy, struggles in the outfield.
There are a number of other guys that deserve a line here, but I’m out of space. Feel free to ask draft related questions in the comments section — we’ll be around to answer as many of them as we can throughout the next few days.