As the calendar turns to June, the mind of baseball’s prospect junkies is drifting to the upcoming MLB Amateur Draft, slated to begin on Sunday, July 17. The Tigers, accustomed, at this point, to making one of the first selections of the day, will be in a more respectable position as the 12th team on the clock thanks to their 77-85 record in 2021.
That positioning hardly prevents them from having a crack at some high-end talent, though, as stars can come from any portion of the draft. Furthermore, it will make for a more interesting draft cycle among the draft enthusiasts who follow Detroit. No more will the argument be between two or three players. A wide range of archetypes are available near the middle of the first round, not to mention that someone always falls out of the expected top group of prospects.
In a recent mock draft published by the experts at MLB Pipeline, the Tigers selected Brock Porter, a right handed pitcher from Orchard Lake St. Mary’s high school. “The first pitcher comes off the board, with the Tigers staying in their own backyard,” wrote MLB Pipeline. “It’s possible they keep the hitter streak going with Arizona catcher Daniel Susac or if one of the aforementioned bats ahead gets to them.”
A few things stand put immediately when reading that brief breakdown. First, it’s hardly a offense to take the best pitching prospect in the draft nearly halfway through the first round — pun intended. Secondly, it serves as a reminder that everything is fluid this time of year. It’s entirely possible the team has eyes for Porter, but at this point, it’s just an educated guess. The language in the accompanying blurb makes that clear.
It’s also immediately obvious when reading up on Porter that he has one heck of an arm. The fact that he might be on the board for the Tigers at 12th overall is a testament to just how deep this class is at the top, especially among the hitters.
Brock Porter (22 MI) started for the West firing heaters in the 94-97 range. FB-CB overlay here, landing this breaker in the zone at 79-mph. Also got a K on an upper-70s CH which is a legit S/M weapon! #PGAA https://t.co/sKXzvClsAt pic.twitter.com/PvdGXuF4U2— Perfect Game All-American Classic (@PGAllAmerican) February 2, 2022
Porter isn’t like the hurlers that populated Detroit’s far throughout the early and mid 2010s. He has the well-roundedness and body control to boast four legit pitches — a fastball, slider, curve, and change — of which none are projected as merely a change of pace. The MLB Pipeline scouting report seems to indicate that he’s not too much of a project. “Other than continuing to refine his feel for spin, Porter doesn’t need much beyond experience and continued good health,” they wrote.
His 6-foot-4-inch frame is big enough to pack a punch behind his fastball, but not too big for plenty of functional athleticism on the mound. If you allow yourself to detach from the sour emotions that have often accompanied high school pitchers in the past, he’s really an exciting prospect.
How does that fact that the Tigers seem to be pulling a legit pitching prospect out of nowhere every other week impact this decision? That can be argued in both directions. On the one hand, the team’s development wizards aren’t literal wizards and it takes a baseline of talent to build upon for a good MLB player to emerge. On the other hand, it becomes easier to justify passing on a pitcher when there’s a high level of confidence in the Tigers’ ability to turn young pitchers into MLB players, and low levels of confidence in them developing hitters that aren’t first round talents to begin with.
The other player mentioned in the mock draft, Daniel Susac, is a modern catcher who can hit for average and power. Behind the plate, he has a strong arm and he’s projected to continue catching at the next level.
C Daniel Susac (So.) shows off the power w/ this go-ahead HR to deep CF. Potential first round pick. Strong frame produces advanced power that plays in-game often. Has plus catch and throw ability behind the plate #PGDraft @ArizonaBaseball @vcervinoPG @B_Sakowski_PG pic.twitter.com/Fpe3qUorjh— Perfect Game Four Corners (@PG_FourCorners) March 30, 2022
Susac has been a notable prospect since his high school years, but he didn’t go pro because teams weren’t willing to buy him out of his commitment to Arizona. He has only two years of playing time under his belt, but he clearly outclassed the pitching he faced. Slashing .367/.432/.598, his numbers are buoyed by a massive batting average on balls in play. While that would be a strong indicator of regression in an MLB player, the best college players often sport a well above-average BABIP.
As both Porter and Susac are expected to be taken in this range, neither would be a particular reach unless someone stunning falls from the top of the draft.