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MLB draft 2019 preview: Tigers exploring options with No. 5 overall pick

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The Tigers have a few different players on their radar as the MLB draft opens up on Monday.

Kansas City Royals v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

The 2019 MLB draft is here! Fans and pundits alike have been busy for months now trying to project how the first round of the draft will unfold, and all of our questions will finally be answered in just a few short hours.

The Detroit Tigers hold the No. 5 overall pick, and we have profiled several players on the Tigers’ radar in the first round and beyond. Their choice seems to be narrowed down to just a few names, but is still at the mercy of the four clubs picking ahead of them.

This may seem like review for those that have followed closely throughout the draft cycle, but let’s take a look at the top names in the draft, and how we expect the first round to shake out.

First, the important stuff

Time: 7:00 p.m.
Media: MLB Network, MLB.com
Rounds: 1-2, plus compensation rounds
Tigers picks: No. 5, No. 47

Gone before No. 5

Adley Rutschman, C, Oregon State

Rutschman has been listed as the top prospect in this year’s draft for the entire cycle, and nothing but a few wayward rumors and Baltimore’s infamous medical staff could potentially knock him out of this spot. He is a plus hitter with plenty of raw power, and a solid defender behind the plate to boot. He has drawn comparisons to players like Matt Wieters — fitting, considering his likely destination — and the only real knock on him is that he doesn’t run well. His other four tools are projected as plus across the board, though, and he is probably the safest pick in the entire draft.

Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Colleyville Heritage H.S. (TX)

Witt appears to be a lock to go No. 2 overall, even if the Orioles somehow pass on Rutschman with the top pick. The young shortstop has five-tool potential, though there are some questions about how well his hit tool will translate to the pro level. Scouts have raved about his makeup and work ethic, which has naturally drawn the eye of the Royals’ front office. He has 20-20 potential (if not more), and should easily stick at short despite a sturdy 6’0, 180-pound frame.

On Detroit’s radar

Riley Greene, OF, Hagerty H.S. (FL)

The Tigers have had eyes on Greene for the entire draft cycle, and he seems to be the odds-on favorite to land at No. 5 overall. A potential plus hitter with above-average power, Greene has drawn rave reviews from his coaches for his natural hitting ability. Those same coaches (one of which appears to be his father) also scoff at evaluations that question Greene’s speed and athleticism. A 6.62 second 60-yard dash time (measured by Perfect Game) is a point in their favor, but he still seems destined to end up in a corner at the pro level. That’s not a dealbreaker, though, as Greene’s bat is the real draw here.

Andrew Vaughn, 1B, Cal

Vaughn seems to be the preferred draft target for most Tigers fans, as the 2018 Golden Spikes winner is widely considered to be the best bat in the entire draft class. ESPN’s Keith Law noted that the Tigers will not pass on Vaughn if he falls to them at No. 5, but he (and others) project that Vaughn will get snapped up before we even get that far. Vaughn has enough athleticism to potentially move to third base or the outfield at the pro level, but some believe he should just stick at first so he can focus on mashing his way to the big leagues in short order.

J.J. Bleday, OF, Vanderbilt

Bleday has shot up draft boards this spring thanks to an NCAA-leading 26 home runs, answering questions about his ability to tap into his considerable raw power. The 6’3 right fielder has plenty of thump in his bat, and has been mashing for the better part of a calendar year now, thanks to a strong showing in last summer’s Cape Cod League. Bleday is well-rounded, as a solid fielder with a plus arm, but likely won’t fall far enough to land with the Tigers; the Marlins seem particularly enamored with Bleday at No. 4 overall, though they could always go in another direction.

Longshots

C.J. Abrams, SS, Blessed Trinity H.S. (GA)

Abrams is a hyper-athletic shortstop and one of the fastest players in the entire draft class. He could end up anywhere from third overall to the White Sox, who seemingly view him in the same light as current shortstop Tim Anderson, down to sixth overall, where the Padres seem poised to grab whichever hitters falls in their lap. Abrams could play anywhere up the middle, either at short, where his plus arm will shine, or in center field. He has drawn praise for his feel to hit, and many think he will tap into a bit of power as he fills out his lanky 6’1 frame. He’s only in the “longshot” category because it seems like the Tigers prefer others to him even if he were to be available.

Hunter Bishop, OF, Arizona State

Bishop is a bit more of a boom-or-bust talent than most top-10 college bats, but what a boom he could be. He is 6’5 but also a plus runner, leaving many to believe he could stick in center field long term. He has plenty of raw power in that long frame as well, making him a potential 20-20 candidate if everything comes together at the pro level. His hit tool is a bit of a question mark — long arms and limbs translate to a long swing — but he has drawn plenty of walks in three years at Arizona State, and has made a lot more contact in a breakout junior season.

Nick Lodolo, LHP, TCU

The consensus top pitcher on the board is always a possibility for the Tigers, something Keith Law noted in his latest mock draft on Monday morning. Lodolo has an above-average fastball that hits the mid-90s, but some are concerned about how well it will play against professional hitters. His off-speed stuff is fine, but nothing lethal, and unless he further refines his delivery, he profiles as more of a mid-rotation starter. I think it’s safe to say that many fans would be disappointed if the Tigers grabbed him at No. 5 overall.

Possible second round (or later) options

Tommy Henry, LHP, Michigan

Henry’s velocity has bounced around a bit this spring, but at his best he sits in the low-90s with a pair of solid off-speed pitches to keep opposing hitters off balance. He will likely be Michigan’s highest draft pick since 2010.

Chase Strumpf, 2B, UCLA

The Tigers haven’t been ones to draft bat-first second basemen — 2018 third rounder Kody Clemens was the first one they had taken in the top 10 rounds in the last decade — but Strumpf should hit enough to make up for concerns about his size or lack of arm strength.

Daniel Espino, RHP, Georgia Premier Academy (GA)

Espino seems destined for college after an up-and-down spring, but the Tigers (or another team) could convince him to stick in the pros with a nice signing bonus. Espino is similar to 2014 first round pick Beau Burrows in that he is a bit undersized (6’2) yet still physically maxed out, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Tigers go after Espino’s high-octane arm.

Michael Toglia, 1B, UCLA

This pick wouldn’t make much sense if the Tigers grab Vaughn in the first round, but Toglia is a talented, patient hitter who should move quickly through the minor leagues. He is more athletic than your average first baseman as well, and some project a move to a corner outfield spot when he reaches the pros.

Antoine Kelly, LHP, Wabash Valley

Here’s what Jay had to say about this high-powered lefthander.

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.

Latest mock drafts

We will update these throughout the day as more trickle in.

ESPN (Keith Law): OF Riley Greene
Baseball America: OF Riley Greene
MLB Pipeline: OF Riley Greene
FanGraphs: OF Riley Greene
The Athletic: OF J.J. Bleday