The first round of the 2020 MLB draft was a maelstrom of unexpected picks, starting with the Baltimore Orioles’ selection second overall. The fallout resulted in a group of picks that made mock drafts look more like March Madness brackets than the educated work of knowledgable insiders. Fortunately for the Detroit Tigers, because things went sideways on Day One of the draft, the players available to the team with the 38th overall pick are a better group than anticipated.
The team is in a unique situation. Being the first pick of the day, they have until 5:00 p.m. ET to make phones calls to various players and advisors in an attempt to figure out their financial situation with total certainty of who is available. Commanding the second-largest bonus pool, a sum of $13,325,700, they have the financial flexibility to buy out a player who wasn’t expected to be available at this pick or try to float someone down to their next pick.
With that in mind, here are some of the players who will may be the subject of Detroit’s attention as they zero in on their second pick of the draft,
RHP Clayton Beeter, Texas Tech
Beeter comes with a track record of missing bats at the college level. Armed with a good breaking ball and a fastball that touches the upper 90’s with a violent delivery, he comes with a reliever risk tag. Through 41.2 innings at Texas Tech, he punched out 73 hitters while only walking 24. One thing to note is that he’s an analytics darling. In a pre-draft video, Brian Sakowski pointed out that Beeter’s spin rates are very good.
OF Daniel Cabrera, LSU
Cabrera makes an attractive target for the offensively starved Detroit Tigers because he has a polished swing that should transition nicely to professional ball. The question is whether he’ll hit for enough power to justify an everyday role in left field, which is his best fit on defense. With a mature approach, good barrel control, and enough bat speed to extend hope for in-game power, he’s a solid bet to make it to the majors even if he never becomes a star.
C Dillon Dingler, Ohio State
The college season was cut short, but that didn’t stop Dingler from hitting five homers through 13 games. What’s interesting about him is that his college career started off with him splitting time between the catcher position and centerfield. He’s athletic for the catcher position with a potentially high defensive ceiling. Offensively, the Ohio State product is a work in progress. He flashed power, but doesn’t have a track record of it.
LHP Dax Fulton, Mustang HS (Oklahoma)
Fulton was expected to easily crack the first round when scouting of the 2020 class began, but he underwent Tommy John surgery in September and wasn’t able to throw a single competitive pitch for scouts afterward as a result. Make no mistake, he’s still an attractive prospect - the lack of information won’t make as much of an impact on him as in a normal year because no one was able to play much pre-draft. He sports a large, projectable frame and a plus curveball.
RHP JT Ginn, Mississippi State
Before Tommy John ended his college season Ginn was seen as a first round talent. He features an upper 90’s fastball with late life and a plus slider. There’s some [Jay: I’d call it significant] reliever risk involved if he can’t continue the development of his changeup, but he’s a talented arm. The Dodgers made him a first rounder out of high school, but he chose to go to school instead. Ginn promises higher upside, but the last time the Tigers took a former Dodger first rounder, it was Kyle Funkhouser.
RHP Jared Jones, La Mirada HS (California)
In terms of raw stuff, Jones has some of the best among this class’ prep arms. He’ll throw an upper 90’s fastball with a slider that flashes plus and a workable changeup. Raw stuff is great, but his biggest drawback is that he struggles with command. Jones is a true athlete. His fantastic stuff on the mound overshadows the fact that he could also be a two-way player as an outfielder. He’d have to be swayed from a commitment to Texas.
RHP Jared Kelley, Refugio HS (Texas)
Armed with a power fastball and a wipeout changeup, Kelley was considered for most of the spring to be one of the three elite high school pitchers in this draft class. The other two - Nick Bitsko and Mick Abel - both found homes in the first round. There’s some reliever risk due to Kelley’s lack of a consistently average curveball, but his other two pitches are lethal enough that he could make a living in the ‘pen with out one. He’s bound to be pricer than most players in this range, but the Tigers will probably have leftover money from the first overall slot value and can make up the difference in the following rounds.
SS Casey Martin, Arkansas
If the Tigers are eying a shortstop at 38 overall, Martin might be the best available for the position. He’s got enough defensive skill to stick at shortstop. Add to that, speed and raw power that he can still access thanks to some loft in his swing. The downside here is he’s got a lot of swing and miss, in 143 games he struck out 157 times. There are times power manifests itself, but the hit tool can hold back the pop.
RHP Chris McMahon, Miami
Part of a potent one-two punch at the front end of Miami’s rotation, McMahon is a capable pitcher with a starter’s arsenal. To a certain extent, he’s a victim of the depth of the 2020 draft class. A pitcher with his level of polish and quality of stuff would probably be a first rounder most years. His fastball reaches the mid-to-upper 90s and a changeup that flashes plus is the out pitch. He’ll need to improve the consistency of his slider but he’s a high-floor prospect who could reach the majors quickly.
RHP Cole Wilcox, UGA
Wilcox was a top-30 prospect in his draft class as a high schooler, but he made it to campus at UGA, where he was a top-30 prospect in his draft class again in 2020. As a draft-eligible sophomore, he has quite a bit of leverage and may have extracted a hefty bonus had he been taken in the first round. Teams got skittish about his relatively straight fastball, though, and he came out of Day One still on the board. Now, he’s expected to return to campus and try hs luck again next year, when he’ll have a full season to show off his improved command and sharper breaking ball to accompany his power heater.