Day one of the 2019 MLB draft is in the books, and the Detroit Tigers are off to a solid start. While some are disappointed they didn’t land a college bat like J.J. Bleday or Andrew Vaughn in the first round, 87 percent of readers are happy with the Tigers’ first two picks as of early Tuesday morning.
On day two of the draft, we will see the Tigers (and others) make all of their picks from rounds 3 to 10. There is still plenty of talent available on the board, and the Tigers have the fifth pick of the day, No. 83 overall. Let’s take a look at who could still be around* for their next selection.
Maurice Hampton, OF, Memphis University (Tenn.) H.S.
Hampton is a tooled-up prep bat with one of the more exciting power-speed combinations available to teams this year. He gets the very most out of his small 6’0 frame — evaluators see a runner that approaches double-plus status and has potential for plus raw power. There are questions as to how much he will be able to tap into that raw power thanks to his less than ideal swing mechanics and free-swinging approach. He should be able to stick in center, though, and if it all clicks, Hampton will be a massively valuable asset. He is committed to LSU to play both baseball and football, and may be a difficult sign.
Hunter Barco, LHP, The Bolles School (Fla.)
Barco is a bit of a spin rate darling, although in a different way than you might think. His fastball and breaking ball aren’t anything special, but he could have a real weapon in his extraordinarily low-spin changeup. The offering comes in at the 900-1,100 rpm range, well below where a change usually sits. FanGraphs pegs it as already above major league average, and a potential 65 FV pitch, which would be an incredible outcome. His fastball looks to gain velocity as he fills out his 6’4 frame and his slider shows promise, but it’s that devastating changeup that will draw the most interest.
Tyler Callihan, SS/3B, Providence (Fla.) H.S.
A prep prospect with a bat-first profile, Callihan is without a sure defensive home at the next level. Most believe that he will settle in at third base, but has also seen time at short, would profile in the outfield corners, and has a non-zero chance of winding up behind the plate. “Callihan barreled up top pitching last summer during the showcase circuit,” noted Baseball America, “routinely showing in-game power against 90-plus mph velocity, and he has continued to perform against strong competition this spring.” He could be a run producer at the highest level if everything turns out, and a team that believes in his bat and has money to play with could make a serious run at signing him.
Brooks Lee, SS, San Luis Obispo (Calif.) H.S.
Probably the least exciting of the prospects listed here, Lee is a top draft target because of his unusually polished gameplay, not big-time tools. A prep shortstop who should be able to stick up the middle is always going to draw a lot of interest from teams on Draft day — though his defensive actions may portend a move to the keystone. His hand-eye coordination is a big point in his favor; it allows him to make the most of an unsightly uppercut swing. He probably won’t contribute too much power and isn’t a burner, but he is a good bet to move up the ranks quickly compared to his high school peers.
Drew Mendoza, 3B, Florida State
The Tigers’ 36th round selection back in 2016, Mendoza stands out more for his physicality than his performance. At 6’5 and 230 pounds, it’s impossible to miss him, and as you would imagine, his build is a real asset on offense. He comes with potential for even more than plus raw power and the ability to get quite a bit of it into games. His performance at Florida State has been lacking at times, though, and evaluators are concerned that his defense won’t hold up. He is also susceptible to a high amount of strikeouts. When it comes down to it, though, Mendoza is an attractive option for teams looking for fast-moving bats that are willing to overlook his obvious warts.
Spencer Jones, 1B/RHP, La Costa Canyon (Calif.) H.S.
If it hadn’t been for an elbow fracture and the corresponding corrective surgery this spring, Jones would probably be off the board right now. He has a great deal of potential on both sides of the ball, and will draw obvious comparisons to Tampa Bay Rays prospect Brendan McKay. As a pitcher, Jones throws in the low 90s and gets a ton of movement on his fastball. He also has a good curveball that could eventually be plus. His changeup isn’t much of a factor, though some think he will be able to coax it to average status.
Standing at 6’7, Jones is a surprisingly good defender at first base and shows plenty of raw pop to go along with plus run times. However, he’s also a long-term project and needs to develop a consistent swing to harness his bat speed. Whichever team drafts him will need to buy into what they saw last summer, because he will need to be bought out from his Vanderbilt commitment that would probably allow him to continue playing both ways, which is less assured in pro ball.
*RHP Matthew Allan and RHP Jack Leiter are two of the best players still on the board, but they are known as tough signs and likely won’t be pursued very seriously. Instead, expect them to head to college.