Michael Conforto: The Detroit Tigers Next Potential Move

potential detroit tigers free agent target michael conforto
Credit: Robert Sabo

The Detroit Tigers definitely made a splash in signing shortstop Javier Baez to a 6 year, $140 million deal. It was disappointing to some fans who wanted Carlos Correa or Trevor Story. One thing it brings them in flexibility in payroll to make another move. A move that could really put a finishing touch on the off-season and help the Detroit Tigers contend soon and make their line-up legitimate such as signing Michael Conforto.

Opening

First things first, we know Baez brings excitement to the game. He has a great power-speed combo, along with multiple Fielding Bible awards, and he has averaged a 6 WAR per 650 plate appearances since 2018. And he’s is still only 28. The thing that has made Baez inconsistent though is his hyper-aggressive plate approach. This led him to only a 59 OPS+ in the shortened 2020 season.

His swinging strike percentage was over 10% higher than league average since he entered the league, as well as his contact%. His aggressive approach has led him into his near MVP 2018 season but has also been a determent as by wRC+ and OPS+ he’s only about 3-4% above league average in his career.

A good proxy for plate discipline, in my opinion, is K%-BB% because if you are a smart passive hitter but overly patient they will both be higher, and if you swing aggressively but smartly then your K% will still likely be lower because you are making good swing decisions. Think of a guy like Jose Altuve, who swings often at the first pitch and is considered a great hitter despite his aggressiveness. He has roughly a 5% K-BB% in his career.

The issue for the Tigers is Baez joins Jonathan Schoop as one of the top four hitters on the team, and Schoop is also famous for a low plate discipline and bad swing decisions.  Baez has a 24.5% K-BB% and Schoop has an 18.3%. Now Baez isn’t expected to improve that, but it is something that if focused on in training can be improved slightly — but that’s if it doesn’t take away from his current game.

Robbie Grossman, who is among the lead leaders in walks, helps the Tigers get on base. This wins them games, but they need to add another impact bat who gets on base to help. Baez and Schoop can then sit in the middle of the order to drive these guys in.

Let’s play a game

Player A

127 OPS+, 3.5 WAR/650 PA, 30 HR/162 games, .259/.364/.473 average slash line, 592 games

Player B

127 OPS+,  4.5 WAR/650 PA, 29 HR/162 games, .277/357/.484 average slash line, 500 games

These numbers are since 2017. Player B gets a positional WAR boost. Player A is Michael Conforto and Player B is Carlos Correa. Conforto is less valuable sure, but he also plays a different position that hurts him. With the bat, these two are similar players. Since the Tigers have addressed their shortstop need and have a great defender there, Conforto is the cheaper option that Tigers should be able to afford — not to mention that he has been more durable.

After 2020 Conforto looked to possibly and even better hitter but he had a down year in 2021, something most projection systems see him being able to bounce back from. He also has a 2:1 K:BB ratio which is a lot better and a high OBP so he can both get on for the power hitters and take care of business himself, helping shore up the line-up of one of their bigger weaknesses that they have currently.

Another solid thing about Conforto is in recent years he has improved against left handed pitchers, though he still has a platoon split that would play a minor effect sometimes.

Conforto also could be given just a 1 year prove-it deal that would be more than affordable for the Tigers for around 20 million or possibly a 2-3 year deal for around 20 million a year. I am wondering if the Tigers could offer a 4 year, 80 million dollar deal that he would jump at. Conforto isn’t a superstar but he’s another guy that keeps the line-up going.

He has no standout metrics but he has been a consistently solid hitter in his career. Corforto is a good approach at the plate and a good swing that produce solid numbers. He is slightly below average in right field but he would shore up the mish-mash of Tigers outfielders available as well.

Potential Opening Day Lineup

1. LF Robbie Grossman

2. 3B Jeimer Candelario

3. RF Michael Conforto

4. SS Javier Baez

5. 1B Jonathan Schoop

6. DH Miguel Cabrera

7. CF Akil Baddoo

8. C Tucker Barnhart/Eric Haase

9. 2B Harold Castro

Conforto also wouldn’t lose much power at Comerica as his homers tend to fly and he has a solid LA/high percentile exit velocity combo and last year is xwOBA signaled bad luck. If he can get the ball off the ground more then he would be even better too. He’s not Carlos Correa with his insane tools but he isn’t far behind with his bat. He may be just what the Tigers need.

The Tigers could also sign another starter pitcher with the money saved and figure to add possibly one relief pitcher. But, I think Conforto would be the investment, or bang for their buck if they go shorter term. I’m not worried about the fact when Riley Greene comes up there would be four starter caliber outfielders.

Depth isn’t bad to have and those situations tend to work themselves out anyways via injury, play, and so on. I am confident Michael Conforto would become the Detroit Tigers’ best outfielder, at least until Greene starts to break out.

2021-22 Detroit Tigers Offseason

Detroit Tigers Off-season
Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Let’s take a look at the Detroit Tigers offseason. This offseason could be a huge one for the Tigers who have a core in place now with Greene, Torkelson, Mize, Skubal and Manning. They have some other interesting players and some solid veterans as well. They seem to be a step away from a winning season after taking a huge step in the right direction. After embracing a more analytical thinking along with a culture change under AJ Hinch and Chris Fetter. Here’s how I’d navigate their off-season if I were GM.

Free Agents

RHP Jose Urena

RHP Julio Teheran

LHP Derek Holland

RHP Erasmo Ramirez

RHP Wily Peralta

The Tigers are losing a bunch of veteran pitchers, which will be a position of need. None of these pitchers are good though. Yes Wily Peralta had a solid 2021, but his career has been inconsistent. There is a lot of better options out there. Urena and Holland supply some innings but overall are below average pitchers. And at this point in their careers without much room to go up. Teheran was a complete bust due to injury and only started one game for the Tigers. He was an All-Star once but he doesn’t have much going for him. His sinker as his only serviceable pitch at this point in his career. Ramirez was a roster filler and could be brought back on a minor league depth deal.

Trades/ Signings

Acquire OF Kevin Kiermaier from Tampa Bay Rays for 3B Isaac Paredes, OF Jake Robson

When you look at the Tigers, one thing they lacked big time last season was defense. In fact by many measures they were dead last. This includes defensive runs on FanGraphs which pegged the Tigers at over negative 60 runs. That is slightly more than 6 wins that the defense cost them. With a young pitching staff this should be a huge priority for the Tigers this off-season.

The Rays are looking to shed salary and Keirmaier is generational defensive outfielder that can mainly play center field. He can also play the corners with his great arm. He fits the park very well too as he has led the league in triples before and Comerica Park is the top park to hit triples in baseball. The Tigers wouldn’t have to give up a top prospect due to his $12 million salary. Paredes was at one point a borderline top 100 propsect and has shown good plate skills and done impressive things in the minors.

Paredes just doesn’t fit in the Tigers plans at this point it seems as Schoop will slide to second, Kreidler has seemingly passed him in favorability and Candelario was one of the best Tigers in 2020-21. He has an issue with bat speed and also has an inconsistent swing path which led to him having a very low average exit velocity, but he has power and plate discipline if he can do some bat speed training and work out the smaller intricacies in his swing and quiet down his hands.

Paredes would be a solid get for the Rays who could use him at third base with Joey Wendle as a trade candidate. Robson is a major league ready lefty that could step in and fill Kiermaier’s spot on the roster. He has good bat skills as well, with a more small ball and classic lead-off hitter approach. As he gets on base and he can flat out hit. I think for the salary relief the Rays would make a deal like this. The Tigers would improve their outfield defense overnight.

Acquire IF Euribiel Angeles, RHP Moises Lugo from the Padres for RHP Michael Fulmer

I was on the fence about what to do with Fulmer. He was brilliant in a relief role and he’s not going to be overly expensive for a setup man. If the Tigers go out and get defense and spend on a pitcher and position player in free agency though they will probably shed some payroll and Fulmer doesn’t fit into their long term plans. They also have a lot of relievers they could try out to see who sticks like Jason Foley, Angel DeJesus and Alex Lange among others and AJ Hinch already said Gregory Soto will be the closer in 2021 and Jose Cisnero and Kyle Funkhouser will be solid setup men.

This makes Fulmer expendable and I think he could bring back some prospects with decent potential as well as the Tigers still want to stay somewhat young. The Padres bullpen wasn’t really a strength despite their depth and Mark Melancon could leave in free agency. I see this as a solid fit as Fulmer has shown he can pitch high leverage and he also can go multiple innings if needed and has that starter background.  Angeles I got to see play with Fort Wayne and his bat looks legitimate along with the impressive reports on him with the bat.

Angeles’s stock is rising and eventually I could see him at second or third. The fact he reached high A at such a young age is promising too. Lugo could end up as a starter or reliever. He dominated in single A and had a good showing in a few AA games. He gets a lot of swings and misses with a high effort delivery that plays up his fastball. His fastball and slider combo helped him keep over a 30% CSW with Fort Wayne. He is a project a bit with his command needing refinement and a side effect of that may be fixing up his delivery but he’s the type of young arm the organization wants.

Non-Tender Drew Hutchison, Niko Goodrum and Ian Krol

The two pitchers were more placeholders last year. Krol has always had an electric arm but he’s never been able to command it for a whole year and while he did a solid job last year, I don’t trust him in 2022. Hutchison picked up some much needed innings but didn’t look good while doing so and there’s no reason to use a 40 man roster spot on him.

Goodrum is tougher one as he plays everywhere and has been a mainstay of the rebuild, producing some really productive seasons as a utilityman. It’s gotten to the point though where he just isn’t one of the 26 best players you could break with and not worth the salary as it was pretty hard to find a positive in his game last year and he battled constant injury issues. His hitting ability has declined really badly the past two seasons and there isn’t enough for me to think he will be above average in any aspect.

I also think Kody Clemens in AAA could fill his role with a much higher ceiling and roughly the same baseline expectation. I would also possibly try and sneak Grayson Greiner through waivers to open the 40 man roster spot and be able to keep him as depth. Garneau will likely serve as a third catcher and compete for a backup role in camp, which is fine because every team will carry 3-4 catchers on the 40 man.

Note: This payroll and Keirmaier’s acquisition payroll would roughly offset, I think the Tigers could add $50-60 AAV in free agency putting them just under $150 million, slightly above league average, don’t forget Miggy’s contract is up soon though…

Sign SS Carlos Correa to a 10-year, $350 million dollar deal

Correa being a free agent is like when A-Rod was in 2001. A potentially franchise altering deal and what the Tigers have keep their payroll over 60 million dollars below average for. It’s always harder to write these blips because who wouldn’t want one of the best shortstops in the game, he’s obviously really good and hits the ball hard. Let’s examine a few things though.

I don’t think this deal would handcuff the Tigers as Miguel Cabrera’s contract will come off the books soon and Correa will be signed through his age 36 season, to put this in perspective Miguel Cabrera’s last super productive season was at age 33, so you’d be paying for 7 great seasons and 1-2 so-so and only 1-2 bad seasons, he could still even be a league average hitter at age 36, Albert Pujols was.

Correa is a shortstop though and could easily age better as he should be able to eventually make the slide to third base, something he looked pretty good doing for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic a few years ago. I firmly believe he will hit through that age. There’s also the injury concern but half of his injuries were contact play (hit-by-pitch, collision) type injuries so he really isn’t as injury prone as some make him out to be. He’s the safest of all the free agents because of his age and frankly the fact he has the highest ceiling. He can hit for power and has post-season experience as a leader of a team that made 5 straight CS’s.

If the Tigers don’t get him then Seager and Story wouldn’t be disappointing by any stretch and they are All-Stars as well, but Correa should be the main target and reuniting him with Hinch to become the clubhouse leader and core piece of the next playoff team in Detroit should be the goal. He’d fit right into the middle of the line-up and he may have his best years in Detroit, he’s just one of the best hitters, his power and everything will play anywhere. Correa also was always a slightly above average defender but he saved 20 runs and won the Fielding Bible Award this year, so he’d be another step in fixing the defense for the club. This would be right around the Lindor deal, slightly topping it and likely worth every penny. He’d make an instant impact.

Sign SP Justin Verlander to a 2-year, $30 million dollar deal

The Tigers could still afford one more mid-range deal. Verlander is coming off Tommy John Surgery and is almost 40, so this deal would be a win-win for both sides. This is also more than Corey Kluber got coming to the Yankees last year, so I think the AAV is fair. Verlander wouldn’t need to be an ace and could just provide a solid arm who will rack up 180-200 good innings and be a great mentor to the young pitching staff as well. He still looked to have it before his TJ and though there is some risk here ultimately you are bringing back a future Hall of Fame pitcher. There are some other veteran arms to look at if they don’t get Verlander. Eduardo Rodriguez who could fit in at Comerica, Steven Matz or Anthony DesClefani.

Sign C Manny Pina to a 1 year, $5 million dollar deal

Pina? 5 million? He has power but he’s 35 and has never been considered good, what gives? Without Jake Rogers and with Dillon Dingler at least a year away the Tigers will need a stopgap. Dustin Garneau will only go so far despite his impressive performance in 2021.  Pina is a great pitch framer, can handle a good, young pitching staff and has a really good arm. There’s a good platoon catcher when you need one and the Tigers should be all over him to split time with Haase this year.

Sign SP Mike Foltynewicz to a 1 year, $3 million incentive laden deal

This is mainly due to the fact the Tigers lost Spencer Turnbull and Matthew Boyd to surgeries for at least a decent chunk of 2022. With Alex Faedo and Joey Wentz needing more time before they debut due to their own TJ surgeries. Foltynewicz would be a solid innings eater and reclamation project attempt for Chris Fetter.

Foltynewicz has a really good slider and not much spin on his fastball, suggesting maybe he should try a sinker-slider combo with his changeup as an out pitch, a pitch that seems to tunnel off his fastball/sinker. He probably needs to throw the 4 seamer sparingly and ditch the curveball but Fetter knows best. Foltynewicz also has the highest ceiling of any innings eater type guy on the market that won’t be overly expensive. He seems to have solid command, limiting his walks but he’s leaving too many pitches in the happy zone, and that will be the biggest fix. He has been there before though as a former All-Star.

If I were to target a reliever, Corey Knebel seems like the best investment. He’s been mostly solid and a strikeout machine in his career. In wouldn’t invest too much in relievers though as it can pay off but is more often pretty risky with relievers being somewhat more unpredictable from year to year.

Note: This is roughly $58 million in added payroll

Line-Up after mid-April

  1. RF Robbie Grossman
  2. CF Riley Greene
  3. SS Carlos Correa
  4. 2B Jonathan Schoop
  5. 3B Jeimer Canderlario
  6. 1B Spencer Torkelson
  7. DH Miguel Cabrera
  8. C Eric Haase
  9. LF Akil Baddoo

OF Kevin Keirmaier

C Manny Pina

OF Derek Hill

IF Kody Clemens

SP Justin Verlander

Casey Mize

Tarik Skubal

Matt Manning

Mike Foltynewicz

CL Greogry Soto

SU Jose Cisnero

SU Kyle Funkhouser

MR Alex Lange

Jason Foley

Joe Jimenez

Rony Garcia

LR Tyler Alexander

Start in big leagues until mid-April: OF Victor Reyes, UT Harold Castro

Next Up: SS Willi Castro, C Dustin Garneau, UT Zack Short, OF Daz Cameron, P Paul Richan, P Logan Shore, P Drew Carlton, P Angel DeJesus, P Joe Navilhon

IL: C Jake Rogers, SP Spencer Turnbull, SP Matthew Boyd

Overall

The bullpen after the main 4 guys has some questions. But guys in the system pipeline will have to come up and fight for spots and earn them. Similar to what Funkhouser did in 2022. The Tigers should also look into stockpiling high upside arms on a minor league deals. As those usually have the best hit rate for guys who sign those kinds of deals. There’s still some holes and they may be a year or so away. This will put the Tigers in a good position to compete.

Also the defense is looking better and the line-up as well. They will need a few more prospects to hit. Eventually we will see Dingler, Faedo, Wentz, Kreidler and some high octane relief arms. Also, this will be a big season for Daz Cameron and his future with the club. It be impressing in Toledo or Detroit with the chances he gets. I think this team best case could challenge the White Sox and worst case would be around .500.

Vols travel to Columbia to take on the Missouri Tigers.

by Paul Leatherman

Tiyon Evans looks to score vs Florida

by Paul Leatherman

Early on in the Heupel era; the Tennessee Volunteers have been beating themselves more than being out-manned in their two losses so far in the season. Coach Heupel has spoke to this problem with zero excuses. Heupel has stated many times that the team has to execute better, plain and simple. Whether that be the fault of the players or the coaching staff, it’s clear to see that the Vols need to win this game in Columbia for many reasons. Recruiting and continuing to win over this fan base will prove crucial for Heupel, and these are games you have to win to do so. So, what do the Vols need to do to split the road trip? It’s quite simple really.

Stop the running game.

Tyler Baron attacks Florida’s defensive line.

The Missouri Tigers have been able to generate yards and points consistently throughout in the young season. The tigers have rushed for 634 yards this season, 417 of these yards come from RB Tyler Badie. Badie is averaging 6.3 yards per carry and has scored 5 TD on the ground this season. Heupel has stressed this in his press conferences leading up to this game. When asked about Badie, coach Heupel stated,

“For them, offensively, everything kind of goes through that running back. Whether that’s the run game or him being heavily involved in the pass game, the guys (Badie) been dynamic, near top in the country in total yards and productivity, really good football player….”

Head Coach Josh Heupel on Missouri running back Tyler Badie

It’s clear to see that limited the Tigers’ run game will be crucial to a Tennessee win.

Take advantage of a struggling defense.

Whether or not Hendon Hooker is good to go for the Volunteers after suffering an apparent upper-body injury last week vs Florida, Tennessee’s offense should have a big day. Missouri’s defense has been abysmal so far through four games this season. The Tigers defense is allowing north of 450 yards per game and has not held an opponent under 20 points all season. Missouri has allowed 268 yards of rushing per game to opponents. This benefits the Vols heavily, especially if Hooker is a no-go. Joe Milton lll has struggled to throw the ball deep all season, and the Vols will need to lean on running backs Tiyon Evans and Jabari Small to carry the offensive load for Tennessee. The Vols are in great position for a big road win, which at this point in a season, where the scheduling gets worse before it gets better. It is crucial for Heupel to win games like this if he looks to be bowl eligible in year one.

It’s clear to see that the stars are aligning for the Vols to secure their first SEC win of the season against a lack-luster Missouri team. If the Vols defense can limit the running game and the offense can win the ground game, the Vols should walk out of Columbia with a comfortable win.

My prediction: Tennessee 45, Missouri 28.

Tigers Setting Up For Strong September Finish

Evan Petzold/Detroit Free Press

Four straight wins to kick off the second half later, and the Tigers have remained one of the hottest teams in baseball, despite their skid leading into the All-Star break.

However, with the best record in the American League, the White Sox have the division all but mathematically secured. Furthermore, the Tigers still find themselves a daunting 9.5 games out of a Wild Card spot with less than two weeks until the trade deadline.

Make no mistake about it the Tigers continue to stack wins at an impressive clip, all with a seemingly empty cupboard. Manager AJ Hinch might not be an unsung hero, as Tigers fans and media have passionately sung his praises, but the results produced from the product on the field should place Hinch in discussions for Manager Of the Year.

Yet despite their continued success, the Tigers won’t be buyers come July 31st. They have to overcome too much at a price too steep, just to contend for a postseason position. But this doesn’t mean they will be sellers, nor should they.

They’ve already made moves to position themselves to continue to compete well into August/September.

To begin the second half, the Tigers called up Derek Hill and Isaac Parades, while DFA’ing Nomar Mazara. Long overdue moves.

Mazara’s demotion is a surprise to nobody. His production, both in the field and at the plate, was abysmal while also taking away a roster spot from pieces expected to be in the Tigers’ next window.

Enter Derek Hill.

Hill’s offensive struggles have been well-documented ever since the Tigers selected him 23rd overall in 2014. Fortunately for him, he doesn’t need to hit. Hill’s defensive prowess along with his elite speed will provide a necessary asset for a young pitching staff in the expansive outfield of Comerica Park. Any offensive provided will be a net bonus.

The team we see take the field right now will likely be the group AJ Hinch will ride out the rest of the year with (Unless Riley Greene continues to demolish minor league pitching).

If Detroit can find themselves in the thick of a playoff hunt nearing the end of the season without sacrificing any of their poker chips, they will have vastly exceeded even their expectations.

At this point, it’s evaluation time for AJ Hinch and the front office to see which pieces will remain in the Tigers foundation for their next exciting window.

Who Should The Tigers Take?

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

Made MLB55.96%
Positive WAR40.41%
Adjusted MLB62.79%
WAR/Player3.823316062
WAR/MLB6.832407407
Game/MLB122.962963
Signed92.23%

*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:

Prep SS

MADE MLB58.57%
Positive WAR38.57%
Adjusted MLB70.69%
WAR/Player4.45
WAR/MLB8.197368421
Game/MLB489.6578947
Signed100%

*Removed Casey Kelly, Sergio Santos and Mat Bush as they converted to pitchers

College Arms

MADE MLB71.37%
Positive WAR51.53%
Adjusted MLB74.50%
WAR/Player3.695801527
WAR/MLB5.178074866
Game/MLB141.6470588
Signed96.56%

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:

YearRndDTOvPckFrRndRdPckTmSignedBonusNamePosWAR
20101s 38FrRnd38Blue JaysY$600,000*Noah Syndergaard RHP16
20111 14FrRnd14MarlinsY$2,000,000Jose Fernandez RHP14.2
20111s 52FrRnd52RaysY$684,000*Blake Snell LHP11.2
20111s 44FrRnd44MetsY$937,500*Michael Fulmer RHP9.4
20101s 34FrRnd34Blue JaysY$775,000*Aaron Sanchez RHP9.4
20101s 43FrRnd43MarinersY$800,000*Taijuan Walker RHP9
20121s 32FrRnd32TwinsY$1,550,000*Jose Berrios RHP8.9
20141 34FrRnd34CardinalsY$2,000,000Jack Flaherty RHP8.7
20101 2FrRnd2PiratesY$6,500,000Jameson Taillon RHP8.6
20121 7FrRnd7PadresY$3,000,000Max Fried LHP8.4
20121s 41FrRnd41AstrosY$2,500,000*Lance McCullers Jr. RHP8.4
20111 4FrRnd4OriolesY$4,000,000Dylan Bundy RHP8.4
20121 16FrRnd16NationalsY$2,925,000Lucas Giolito RHP7.7
20151 28FrRnd28BravesY$1,974,700Mike Soroka RHP6.1
20121s 33FrRnd33PadresY$1,200,000*Zach Eflin RHP6.1
20111s 46FrRnd46Blue JaysY$500,000*Joe Musgrove RHP6
20111s 7FrRnd7DiamondbacksY$5,000,000*Archie Bradley RHP5.5
20101 19FrRnd19Astros via TigersY$1,305,000*Mike Foltynewicz RHP5.3
20111 25FrRnd25PadresY$2,750,000Joe Ross RHP4.5
20161 3FrRnd3BravesY$4,000,000Ian Anderson RHP4
20171 13FrRnd13MarlinsY$3,400,000Trevor Rogers LHP3
20111s 49FrRnd49GiantsY$900,000*Kyle Crick RHP1.9
20101 29FrRnd29Angels via Red SoxY$1,116,000*Cam Bedrosian RHP1.4
20181 7FrRnd7PadresY$5,226,500Ryan Weathers LHP1.3
20141 33FrRnd33Red SoxY$1,500,000Michael Kopech RHP1.3
20101s 45FrRnd45RangersY$1,545,000*Luke Jackson RHP1.3
20151 14FrRnd14BravesY$3,042,400Kolby Allard LHP0.9
20121 21FrRnd21BravesY$1,650,000Lucas Sims RHP0.7
20151 42FrRnd42IndiansY$2,302,500Triston McKenzie RHP0.5
20131 22FrRnd22OriolesY$1,947,600Hunter Harvey RHP0.5
20131 10FrRnd10Blue JaysN Phil Bickford RHP0.2
20111 24FrRnd24Rays via Red SoxY$1,600,000*Taylor Guerrieri RHP0.2
20141 28FrRnd28RoyalsY$1,925,000Foster Griffin LHP0.1
20111s 36FrRnd36Red SoxY$1,550,000*Henry Owens LHP0.1
20131 4FrRnd4TwinsY$4,544,400Kohl Stewart RHP0.1
20141 31FrRnd31IndiansY$1,600,000Justus Sheffield LHP-0.1
20121s 56FrRnd56CubsY$911,700*Paul Blackburn RHP-0.1
20151 22FrRnd22TigersY$2,154,200Beau Burrows RHP-0.1
20131 28FrRnd28Cardinals via BrewersY$1,785,300*Rob Kaminsky LHP-0.1
20161 7FrRnd7MarlinsY$4,069,200Braxton Garrett LHP-0.2
20161 9FrRnd9TigersY$3,963,045Matt Manning RHP-0.2
20151 39FrRnd39CardinalsY$1,800,000Jake Woodford RHP-0.3
20111 21FrRnd21Blue JaysN Tyler Beede RHP-0.3
20101 28FrRnd28DodgersY$5,250,000Zach Lee RHP-0.3
20101s 50FrRnd50CardinalsY$1,300,000*Tyrell Jenkins RHP-0.4
20141 30FrRnd30RangersY$1,750,000Luis Ortiz RHP-0.4
20101 27FrRnd27PhilliesY$1,160,000Jesse Biddle LHP-0.7
20141 16FrRnd16DiamondbacksY$2,700,000Touki Toussaint RHP-1
20111 27FrRnd27RedsY$2,000,000Robert Stephenson RHP-1.1
20101 14FrRnd14BrewersN Dylan Covey RHP-2.7

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 PWAR STD10.27412977
HS PWAR STD13.40912056
HS SSWAR STD12.60140462

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:

  1. SP Jack Leiter
  2. SS Brady House
  3. SS Marcelo Mayer
  4. SS Khalil Watson
  5. SS Jordan Lawler
  6. 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