The NFL Draft is always a good reminder that the MLB Draft is only two months away. Though it’s later than usual this year, starting on July 11th, the Detroit Tigers have a plethora of picks in the top 100, picking at 3, 32, 39, and 74. They even pick at 103, too. Let’s face it. There isn’t all that much else to look forward to right now.
Coming off a 2020 draft class that drew praise as one of the top classes of any team, there’s a lot to live up to. There are numerous intriguing names in this class, and even the potential for a longtime darling of the draft, right-handed Vanderbilt ace, Kumar Rocker, to make it to the Tigers. That doesn’t mean that will be the direction the team goes, necessarily. It also doesn’t mean for certain Rocker makes it past the first two picks. Remember, we are a year removed from the Orioles shocking everyone by taking Heston Kjerstad 2nd overall.
As we near the draft there is a clearer picture of what a potential draft class might look like. Things can still change drastically over the final weeks of the college baseball regular season, but it appears there is at least something taking shape. So, I want to embark on the impossible task of making the first five picks for the Tigers. When doing something like this, it’d be more shocking if I didn’t go 0-for-5, but it’s still a fun thought exercise. Either way this should give you a rough idea of some of the possibilities shaping up for the Tigers.
For the first two picks there are a couple different ways I could see things shaking out depending on how the Tigers spread out their bonus pool. So I’ll be throwing two darts for those picks.
3rd overall - RHP Kumar Rocker, Vanderbilt or SS Marcelo Mayer, Eastlake H.S.
It may seem like Rocker is a no brainer, but that’s not exactly the case. He’s had a good year in college, and he hasn’t done much to hurt his draft stock other than his velocity being a little bit down at times. That said, a lot of the concern is that Rocker doesn’t have much of a ceiling left, even though he may not need one. That isn’t an indictment on Rocker, he’s very, very good and it would be a good pick for the Tigers at three. Certainly Tigers pitching coach Chris Fetter will be chomping at the bit to get an arm like Rocker under his tutelage.
On the other hand, the presence of Fetter, and the Tigers relative strength in arms, organizationally, could well encourage them to go another direction this year.
The other option I see is to take a prep shortstop, and good one at that. Mayer has a swing as smooth at butter. To put it simply, he’s just a hitter. The power has been creeping in, but his hit tool is the carrying tool at the moment, and it might be one of the best in the entire class. Jordan Lawlar could go before the Tigers, but even if he doesn’t I think Mayer is the pick. If I had to pick between if I think it’ll be Rocker or Mayer right now, I say Mayer.
Really beginning to think Chula Vista, Calif. SS Marcelo Mayer doesn't make it out of the top five. He's 8 for 13 with 4 homers to start the spring. Here's one from today. There's still a ton of projection in his frame/physicality. Going to get a lot stronger.#MLBDraft pic.twitter.com/C3IYGFmfAr— Joe Doyle (@JoeDoyleMiLB) March 7, 2021
32nd overall - OF Christian Franklin, Arkansas or RHP Thatcher Hurd, Mira Costa
Both of these picks could be really fun. Franklin is a college bat with a track record of hitting the ball, and for that matter hitting it hard. He’s shown the ability to hit for power, and it likely to continue to do that through the professional ranks. Franklin sprinkles in an above average speed tool, too. So why is he available at 32? Strikeouts. He takes walks, but there are swing and miss questions to his game. Significant enough that he realistically could fall to the Tigers here.
Hurd would more than likely require the Tigers to go overslot, which isn’t an issue. If they wanted this righty, they would know if they were willing to spend what he wants. Hurd seems like a guy that Fetter would absolutely love thanks to big spin rates and projection. His quick, smooth arm can run a fastball up in the low 90’s right now with a slider that pushes 3000 RPMs. The boost in his draft stock is still relatively recent—not unusual for prep pitchers—but it seems like he’s got the ingredients to be a really nice pick here.
39th overall - SS Alex Mooney, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Prep
Originally when putting this together I slotted Mooney in at 32. However, it’s realistic to believe he would make it the extra seven picks. He made his mark against some of the country’s top prep talent by reaching base five times at the Perfect Game All-American event, where he took home MVP honors. His compact swing is a really nice one. He’s likely to go right around this level, and with two picks in the 30-range, the Tigers can play the hometown card to add a solid infielder to the system. If Mayer is the pick at 3rd overall, this makes for a fun pair of infielders from the 2021 draft.
74th overall - LHP Matt Mikulski, Fordham
This was, without a doubt, the hardest pick to figure out. There were a bunch of names I pondered before finally settling in on Mikulski. To be honest it’s very unlikely he is even available at this spot, but there’s a method to my madness. The reason I settled on Mikulski is because of the way it appeared the Tigers brass handled the 2020 draft. They let the talent come to them. There are questions about consistency in his command and if he can develop a third pitch. I think there’s a solid chance Detroit jumps on someone who falls down the board, and that could be someone like Mikulski in this position.
Fordham LHP Matt Mikulski (#40 on latest PG T400) cruising along at 91-94 over first three, bumped a 5 in first. Filling zone & showing 3 pitches for strikes. pic.twitter.com/kI9BAVNikE— PG College Baseball (@PGCollegeBall) May 1, 2021
103rd overall - LHP Steve Hajjar, Michigan
This will be the most popular player mocked to the Tigers anywhere because of the Fetter connection. That also may not be a bad thing. Hajjar gained a lot of prominence during the time Fetter was with the Wolverines and since has fallen down boards. That is due to a velocity drop from mid-90’s to lower 90’s on the fastball, but maybe Fetter can unlock something lost and land the Tigers a real bargain here. The fact remains it’s likely the Tigers pitching coach will want Hajjar and as things stand this is a very reasonable slot to grab him.
These are a handful of names that more likely than not won’t be taken by the Tigers. This would be a very good start to the 2021 draft, however. One thing to note, let’s just say somehow I’m right about every single one of these (I’m not), that would be a VERY bonus pool friendly start for the Tigers.
I’m fairly confident that the 3rd overall conversation will come down to Rocker or Mayer, but the question is which one. Maybe another name like Henry Davis hypes his way into the conversation, but it seems unlikely. Other than that, the rest of them are made from a combination of players who could be available and would help the Tigers. If nothing else, this shows what kind of impact having five picks in the top 103 can have on a farm system. A good draft could go a long way.
If you’re seeing this and thinking it’s a lot of arms, I wouldn’t argue. It’s important to remember that in baseball you don’t draft for positional need. Adding an influx of pitching with a couple solid hitters in the first 103 picks of the 2021 draft would be just as good as going hitting dominant. The key is to bring in talent.
In a week, all of these picks might seem like pipe dreams or look awful, it’s the nature of the beast. Beyond the very top guys, evaluations vary more and more widely as you move down the board in the second and third rounds, and beyond. The draft is in July, but with the Tigers well below .500 to start the 2021 season it’s hard not to start dreaming on the future already.