It’s almost draft time and that means new prospects will soon enter the fold of the Detroit Tigers organization. It also means there will be some decisions to make regarding who to take based an a number of different factors. The Tigers pick 12th overall when the draft kicks off on Sunday, July 17th.
Before jumping into potential targets for Detroit, it’s important to understand the full scope of what they will be able to do on draft night. That all starts with the bonus pool money, which is assigned based on the slot value assigned to each pick held by a team. Therefore not all slot values are created equal.
Bonus Pool Breakdown
For the Tigers, they have $8,024,900 in bonus pool money. More than half of that total is the assigned slot value for the 12th overall pick, which is set at $4,587,900. Depending on the bonus demands it would take to sign whoever is taken at that value, the team may spend more or less than that total. If the sign the player for under slot, then they would have more money to spend later in the draft, conversely if they go over slot then they will have to save money later in the draft.
The slot values for the picks decrease with each pick, so by the time the Tigers pick again in the second round at 51st overall, the slot value is $1,509,800. Following that they won’t pick until the fourth round, at which point they will pick in every round for the remainder of the draft. There were two potential picks that the Tigers would’ve had, but they either traded or forfeited. When acquiring Austin Meadows the Competitive Balance Round B pick was sent to Tampa Bay along with Isaac Paredes. Their third round pick was forfeited with the signing of Eduardo Rodriguez.
As a result of their first foray at trying to build a potential playoff team and the related loss of picks, the Tigers first two selections are crucial to finding talent. Whether that will make them conservative, looking to at least get safe value for those picks, or whether they’ll take a swing at some of the more tooled up and potentially risky options will be a key storyline to watch. Based on recent strategy, and a fairly equivalent pool of talent available at 12th overall, we could guess that the Tigers will look to save a little money there with a college arm and take a swing at a high school player in the second round with the 51st overall selection. But much depends on what happens in front of them.
Who Is Available?
Losing two picks early raises the stakes for getting value on whoever is picked at 12. This is unfamiliar territory for the Tigers, who haven’t picked outside of the top 10 since taking Alex Faedo in 2017. There will be plenty of good options available.
It should be no secret that Detroit could use a boost to their hitting prospects, but it can’t be assumed that’s the route they will choose to go. Because of the separation between when a player is drafted and when they start providing value at the major league level, it’s usually better to draft the best player available. Getting too upset at passing on a position player who likely wouldn’t debut until 2025 or later anyway isn’t good for your health. For the Tigers, yes that means they’re pretty likely to draft another pitcher.
High School Pitchers
After taking Jackson Jobe third overall a year ago, it would be very risky to go the route of another prep arm. They are the riskiest group during draft time. The upside is always enticing. Sometimes you get Clayton Kershaw, but usually it doesn’t turn out that well. In the case of Jobe the team is betting on some incredible pitch data to eventually add up to nasty major league stuff and command. In the case of Matt Manning, taken in the 8th round back in 2016, they were betting on raw athleticism and low mileage. There are a couple of potential prep pitcher possibilities for the Tigers, but not many.
The first is a local kid from Orchard Lake St. Mary’s named Brock Porter. He’s a righty who has topped out a 99 MPH with an extremely advanced changeup and a pair of breaking balls that show promise, but are inconsistent. Of the high school pitching options, Porter seems most likely because of his combination of present talent and upside. His geographic location is just a bonus.
Dylan Lesko from Buford High School in Georgia is another potential prep arm. There hasn’t been much, if any, smoke connecting the Tigers to Lesko, but that doesn’t mean anything. He’s another righty who can touch 99 MPH with an advanced changeup and two breaking pitches. There are certain things to like here, though Lesko should be considered an unlikely selection by Detroit.
There are a pair of lefties that both seem like longshot picks as well, but are still potential first round talents. They are Brandon Barriera and Noah Shultz. The former throws a turbo sinker that’s been up to 98 MPH with a wipeout slider. He adds to that a changeup and cutter. Shultz is a big southpaw, listed at 6’9”, from Oswego in Illinois with a profile reminiscent of former Tigers first rounder Andrew Miller.
High School Bats
This is a group the Tigers have had success with if you judge the early returns of their most recent high school hitter selection, Riley Greene.
There are plenty of high octane college bats in this class such as Druw Jones, Jackson Holliday, Elijah Green, and Termarr Johnson. None of those should be available to the Tigers. That said, the draft is weird and unpredictable, so their bonus demands might make one of them available. That would mean the Tigers go way overslot right out of the gate.
The only problem with that is that they may not be meeting with these players that aren’t projected to be available, so they would be going blind into trying to plan that bonus pool money. Then again, maybe they have met with them. That’s part of the mystery. In the end, the Tigers only have two picks in the top 100, and have every reason to just go after the best player they can land.
Outside of the big four, two of whom have MLB bloodlines and one has NFL bloodlines, there’s likely only one high school bat the Tigers might consider at 12th overall. That is Rockwall-Heath right-handed hitting shortstop Jett Williams. It’s a longshot considering he’s usually projected to be picked in the 20’s, but if Detroit buys into the upside it’s not impossible. He’s a fluid defender who projects anywhere on the dirt with a hit over power type profile. Some scouts believe his ceiling is a plus hitter with average power. A player like that may get a little more love as the era of the infield shift is bound to come to an end.
If there were ever a year not to draft a college arm, this year looked like the one. Especially after an injury to Landon Sims, the likely top college arm entering the season. However, more arms have emerged that could be of interest to Detroit. In fact, they’ve been connected to a couple of them. None scream out as the obvious selection like the last first round college arm the Tigers selected, Casey Mize.
The biggest connection to the Tigers I’ve heard from this crop of players is Alabama LHP Connor Prielipp. A year ago this was the name atop many draft rankings, but things have changed. He got Tommy John surgery in May of 2021. He’s still been bounced around in projections as a first rounder because he has excellent command of a fastball that tops out in the upper-90’s, a slider with elite tier spin data, and a solid changeup. There’s no denying the talent, but there’s also plenty of risk involved. The Tigers do like him — that appears to be Al Avila front and center for Prielipp’s showcase in the clip below — so it wouldn’t be surprising if it was a risk they were willing to take.
If there were a pitcher built for everything the Tigers have been looking for the last few years, it would be Oklahoma’s Cade Horton. Because of that, I truly believe this is a legitimate option in the first round. He was a two-way star in high school, but has focused on pitching in college. After undergoing Tommy John in 2021, he was recovering to start this season. It wasn’t until the playoffs where Horton was unleashed and we saw how good he really is. His draft stock went through the roof. His fastball and slider combination are legit weapons with data and metrics to match. That will get the front office’s attention.
Beyond those two, the other college arms projected to the back half of the first round that have an outside chance of being in play are Oregon State lefty Cooper Hjerpe and Gonzaga righty Gabriel Hughes. Hjerpe is another data darling with unique traits, so it’s a safe bet that the Tigers have thought about it. He has a very low release height, which helps his fastball play up in the zone. Hughes has a big fastball and slider combination. There’s some polish needed, but there are few evaluators that doubt he’s a first round talent.
He’s not technically a college arm anymore, but it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that Detroit considers Kumar Rocker, too. They liked him last year. It’s perhaps the biggest risk of any, but the Tigers don’t shy away from that.
Save the best for last, right? This draft is top heavy with college bats. That could be a blessing for the Tigers, because they might just get a talented hitter that slides out of the top 10. The organization has also proved a willingness to move these players through the system quickly if they perform, as evidenced by Spencer Torkelson.
There is one player in particular that the Tigers are believed to be very interested in, and that is Jacob Berry from LSU. It’s easy to see why, too. He’s straight up one of the best hitters in this class. There’s no getting around it. His swing is advanced, his hit tool could be plus with average or better power. It’s a potential impact bat. He loses draft value because he doesn’t really have a position. He might be able to handle left field, he could try third base, or he may be a first baseman. No one really knows.
There are three college bats that I would personally love here. Texas Tech’s Jace Jung, Campbell’s Zach Neto, or Virginia Tech’s Gavin Cross. All three could potentially be available, or they could all be gone. That’s the territory they are projected in.
Jung might be my favorite player in this draft. He’s a bat first, probable third baseman with a power over hit profile. However, his strike zone recognition is fantastic so he walks plenty and limits strikeouts. Jung could move quickly, and the Tigers need the help. Neto is a shortstop with a quirky setup, but he hits the ball. His hit tool is fantastic and he knows how to tap into some power at the plate. Cross might be the best of this trio, and the least likely to be available to the Tigers. He’s an outfielder who can flat out hit. He sprays the ball to all fields and he can do it with power.
In the land of dreams and wishes, Cal Poly’s Brooks Lee, Chipola College’s Cam Collier, and Georgia Tech’s Kevin Parada are also potential bats that could slip out of the top 10. Those three might have to slip out of the top 5 first. It’s highly unlikely they are available, but if they are then that’s good news for the Tigers. It’s not technically impossible, but it’s about as close as you can get.
Early in the cycle there were more than a few pundits to mock Arizona catcher Daniel Susac to the Tigers, but that connections seems to have faded with time. He’s an offensive minded backstop with a strong arm behind the plate. His bat is the key, however. It’s power over hit, but that’s only because he has massive power potential. The hit tool may lag behind a bit, though at his ceiling could be above average.
The last two names here are a pair of Tennessee outfielders who are not likely to be at the top of the Tigers board when their pick comes around. Drew Gilbert and Jordan Beck are both first round talents, however. Gilbert is a really fun player who shows nice plate discipline. He can show off power to his pull side, but when he’s behind in counts he does what he needs to in order to get on base. He wouldn’t be a bad option at all. Beck is power driven all the way. He’s got a big frame that he uses well to drive the ball with authority.
Of note, James Madison University outfielder Chase DeLauter was a popular name following an offensive explosion in the Cape Cod League last summer, but is no longer expected to be a first round pick. If he is, he’s likely to slide in at the end of the round.
What Will The Tigers Do?
In the last couple years the Tigers have prioritized a few things. For pitchers, they like at least one pitch to have high spin, among other traits. Hence Jobe and his 3000+ RPM slider going third overall last year. On the hitting side, they seem to have been targeting hitters with big power upside like Izaac Pacheco from last year’s draft. Along with Parker Meadows, that’s two of the last four drafts where the Tigers have taken a swing at a toolsy prep hitter, hoping to hit the jackpot. Possibly something like that is in store again if the Tigers can land a bit of a bargain in the first round.
Still, the Tigers sit in a position where they can play to what has been a strength of theirs the last couple of years. They can take the player that falls to them. They’ve done a decent job of that recently, and it’s brought guys like Dillon Dingler, Ty Madden, and even Colt Keith into the fold. That would likely make for the best outcome.
For good or ill, risk doesn’t scare Detroit much in the draft. They’ve been known to get their guy no matter what, and that is the wild card in this scenario. So whoever winds up going 12th overall, it’s probably going to be someone that’s been high atop their draft board for awhile. One or two surprising moves early in the first round can always reshuffle the deck a bit, but unless one of the better college bats falls to them, the Tigers will likely be adding to their pitching pipeline once again.