Al Avila has one thing going for him and that is his recent drafts have produced Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning, Riley Greene, Dillon Dingler and Spencer Torkelson. Four of the six were first round picks in the top 10 though, making them a bit easier than what teams like the Dodgers and Rays do every year. Still there’s plenty of top 5 picks even that flop badly: Mark Appel, Matt Bush, Matt Hobgood, Donavan Tate, Danny Hultzen, Brady Aiken, Tyler Kolek, the list goes on. To completely disregard what Avila did as luck or just picking the obvious choice is a bit unfair and I will give him credit in that his player evaluation seems to be solid with drafting, even in the Rule 5 draft with Baddoo and role player Victor Reyes despite his other shortcomings. This years pick will be a true test though as the Tigers need to keep building to a brighter future and need another big contributor and picking at 3 they have a shot for that. With the only player likely to be gone before their pick that we know of being Marcelo Mayer there’s probably 7-8 players Avila will have to choose from. I will break down some of these prospects and how they could fit with Detroit and their skills along with the risks of taking them. First I will dive into the risks.
The Tigers have recently been linked to prep righty Jackson Jobe who is impressive because he has the potential for five plus pitches one day and is the top prep arm as a well-polished 18 year old. There’s no glaring flaws in Jobe other than he will have to develop and will take a while and there’s some questions about what pitches will play really well. His fastball is considered his best pitch but the question will be how many plus pitches will he actually develop and will his fastball really be good enough to justify the risk. Right now it’s not a crazy high spin or velocity pitch so there is some of that risk there. He also doesn’t really line up with the Tigers window to compete. Now the window thing can be unfair because at 3 you should be taking the best player available but it adds another wrinkle in that he will likely have an MLB ETA of 2025/26. I also pulled the numbers on the three areas the Tigers are considering and here is a table of prep arms drafted in the first round (including the supplemental round which was considered this until I believe 2011 on Baseball Reference and now it is just considered part of the first round):
Prep Pitchers in Round 1
*Removed Kaleb Cowart as he came up as a third baseman
Now this chart needs some context so let’s look at the prep shortstops (which there are plenty) and college arms; of which the Tigers probably are only looking at Jack Leiter despite Sam Bachman and Kumar Rocker being decent options if they picked lower:
*Removed Casey Kelly, Sergio Santos and Mat Bush as they converted to pitchers
So when looking at these charts, adjusted MLB is just taking out all prep players since 2017 since they need a while to develop and not counting the college arms from 2020 (2019 would’ve been a fair cut-off too but they didn’t need that extra help). You can see taking a college arm is the smartest move in terms of getting an MLB player since 2000 but that college arms typically have a lower average WAR per MLB player probably because some are rushed up and end up relievers. A prep shortstop may have to change positions (guys like Justin Upton were drafted as a prep shortstop) but they also provide a better WAR on average. Looking at the table you’ll notice one scary trend though that makes me want the Tigers to stay away from Jobe:
|2010||1s||38||FrRnd||38||Blue Jays||Y||$600,000||*Noah Syndergaard||RHP||16|
|2010||1s||34||FrRnd||34||Blue Jays||Y||$775,000||*Aaron Sanchez||RHP||9.4|
|2012||1s||41||FrRnd||41||Astros||Y||$2,500,000||*Lance McCullers Jr.||RHP||8.4|
|2011||1s||46||FrRnd||46||Blue Jays||Y||$500,000||*Joe Musgrove||RHP||6|
|2010||1||19||FrRnd||19||Astros via Tigers||Y||$1,305,000||*Mike Foltynewicz||RHP||5.3|
|2010||1||29||FrRnd||29||Angels via Red Sox||Y||$1,116,000||*Cam Bedrosian||RHP||1.4|
|2014||1||33||FrRnd||33||Red Sox||Y||$1,500,000||Michael Kopech||RHP||1.3|
|2013||1||10||FrRnd||10||Blue Jays||N||Phil Bickford||RHP||0.2|
|2011||1||24||FrRnd||24||Rays via Red Sox||Y||$1,600,000||*Taylor Guerrieri||RHP||0.2|
|2011||1s||36||FrRnd||36||Red Sox||Y||$1,550,000||*Henry Owens||LHP||0.1|
|2013||1||28||FrRnd||28||Cardinals via Brewers||Y||$1,785,300||*Rob Kaminsky||LHP||-0.1|
|2011||1||21||FrRnd||21||Blue Jays||N||Tyler Beede||RHP||-0.3|
These are the guys who have made their MLB debut after being a first round prep pitcher since 2010. You can see that since the beginning of the decade the prep pitchers have been harder to saddle down. There’s some talent in there but a lot of it also comes from 2010-12. It seems that lately what teams do doesn’t cater to the high school arm. Also, high school arms have always made it the MLB at a lower rate due to injury risk and developmental hardships that other players don’t seem to get bit as hard on. To be fair though this isn’t all doom and gloom. Jose Fernandez was on track to be a legend in Miami, Joe Musgrove is having a great season and Lucas Giolito has become an ace for the White Sox but overall you have to have a lot of talent to overcome this stigma and for me it presents just too much of a risk picking third for the Tigers to take Jobe. For Jobe to overcome this, he’d need to be really good to justify the pick and while he is good but I am not sold he is the type of pitcher worth that risk as he has no qualities that stand way out to me.
The one college arm the Tigers could take is Vanderbilt righty Jack Leiter who is a complete package with a really good fastball and solid secondaries his flawless mechanics and big league bloodlines have already stolen the spotlight as he dominated the SEC, which is already very high competition level and by any measure whether scouting or statistical he absolutely held his own and then some. Now it is sounding like the Rangers may be in on Leiter at two but there is really no reason for the Tigers not take him if he’s there. He’s closest to the majors fitting in with their window and could create a Leiter-Mize-Skubal-Manning-Turnbull rotation. He also is just really polished for being a pitching prospect. Most top pitching prospect usually have a few more question marks that come along with them whereas Leiter has a pretty solid floor as a major league starter in the middle of the rotation. To repeat, he should be the Tigers top name on their draft board and if he’s there he’s kind of that slam dunk pick.
|COLLEGE P||WAR STD||10.27412977|
|HS P||WAR STD||13.40912056|
|HS SS||WAR STD||12.60140462|
One last table as we go into prep shortstops. They are also a safer pick in terms of WAR distribution, meaning there’s less variance. Since we know the top of the leaderboard for prep SS actually has guys with similar WAR numbers you can infer that there is less big misses for guys who make it up to the MLB than prep pitchers. Like in most cases a college pitcher is safer (any college player tends to be a safer pick in 95% of cases) but if Leiter is gone there probably isn’t great value there.
Now for the prep shortstops. Personally I like Brady House and Khalil Watson the most but Marcelo Mayer and Jordan Lawler are also held in high terms and Lawler seems to be the most polished of the bunch while Mayer seems like he may be the best shortstop for now. House’s big concern is that he may eventually need to move off of shortstop and to third with his 6’4″ frame but if the Tigers drafted him they could try to keep him at shortstop and I have heard some scouts say he could stick at shortstop. House generates a ton of power and doesn’t have many holes in swing though he’s much more likely to hit 35 homers than hit .300 every season I see him as an impact bat. Watson is a quick twitch athlete who will be exciting to watch whether it be at shortstop or in center field and has blazing speed to threaten at least 40 steals a year and fast hands and strength at the plate that will keep him alive in counts and help him get on base. I think that Watson and House have a ton of offensive potential and Lawler is the steadier bat that may just be a solid every day shortstop with a good hit tool. Mayer will not likely be there but he has the makings of a star with some development.
I really like House a lot though and have come around on him. He can hit bombs and has a good launch angle/exit velocity combination that will play. He is quiet at the plate but has easy power and a good bat path and a really strong body and good series of movements that allows for him to make the loud contact that he does. I think he will end up at third base but it is a position of need for the Tigers and he could move quickly through the minors. I think that at third he could be a plus defender too if he moves over. He’s also proven he can hit with a wooden bat well already. He also seems to have a good Baseball IQ and has learned to stay within his swing to create power, a swing like mentioned above that can get to about any pitch in any part of the zone when he doesn’t completely sell out for power and get long. A slugger with a good all-around ability to field, run and also hit solidly is always a great option at three. His power will play in any ballpark. He may even be the safest pick as another bat, as they say there’s no such thing as a pitching prospect, though Leiter is as close to it as you’re going to see if that is true.
One last thing is that Henry Davis may be there and he is a top talent, but with Dillon Dingler in tow and the fact that the prep shortstops are mainly valued higher by the Tigers, I really don’t see him getting much consideration despite the top tier talent he is.
Overall this is how I would rank the big board if I were in the Tigers draft room:
- SP Jack Leiter
- SS Brady House
- SS Marcelo Mayer
- SS Khalil Watson
- SS Jordan Lawler
- SP Jackson Jobe
The Tigers also pick at 32 and 39. They could go high upside there or draft a prep player with some potential. Safer college bats I like for them are Matheu Nelson, who raked at FSU this year and Chrsitian Franklin who hits the ball harder than most players in this draft as well as Connor Norby who has a good hit tool. Prep players vary due to signability concerns though I do believe Alex Mooney will be an impact player one day and a guy the Tigers should target at one of those two picks as well as Peyton Stovall, a big prep hit tool guy and Daylen Lile who is the same but has a chance to be a really well-rounded outfielder. Canadian Calvin Ziegler could be a high pick if the Tigers are willing to go above slot for a big arm they could develop into a really good pitcher as he has the makings of a solid arm. Another name I’d like as a Tigers fan is Reed Trimble, who had a great year and has solid power and speed. This draft really has a lot of talent from top to bottom and these are just a few of the top names I like for the Tigers.
All Draft Tables from Baseball Reference