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2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Detroit Tigers

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Detroit in 2016

23 – Matt Manning
105 – Kyle Funkhouser
130 – Daniel Pinero
133 – Zac Houston
169 – Brady Policelli
284 – Mark Ecker
318 – Jacob Robson
363 – Will Savage
387 – Bryan Garcia
486 – Austin Athmann

Complete List of 2016 Detroit Draftees

1.9 – RHP Matt Manning

High school prospects are risky. High school pitching prospects are riskier. Righthanded high school pitching prospects are riskiest. That’s about the only mean thing I can say about Detroit taking Matt Manning (23) with the ninth overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft. Manning is really, really good. If you had to draw up the perfect righthanded high school pitching prospect, Manning would be it. I love his athleticism, easily some of the very best of any player at any position in this class. I love the way he pitches off his electric darting fastball, commanding it to all four corners with relative ease. I love the upside his breaking ball has shown even as it runs between a mid-70s curve and an upper-70s to low-80s slider. I love that he’s shown a changeup with promise even when he knows his fastball is all he ever needed against teenage competition. The only thing I don’t love about Manning is the inherent risk that comes with any high school pitching prospect. If you can get over that as I have, then you can fall in love with Manning, too. Love this pick. Detroit only signed three high school prospects, but Manning has a chance to be so good that no other selection in their draft will really matter.

4.115 – RHP Kyle Funkhouser

I’ve been as all over the place trying to figure out Kyle Funkhouser (105) as I have any other prospect in recent memory. I even devoted an entire post to him back in April 2015. Here’s a quick timeline of events from that post to the present day beginning in May 2015…

I’ve written about why Kyle Funkhouser intrigues me the way he does before, though I still will likely remain the low man on him as he enters pro ball. The narrative on him was kind of weird this spring as he was kind of the guy we all thought he was coming into the year, but the spin — and I was guilty of doing some of this myself — was that he was answering some of the pre-season questions about his game. I worried about his command, control, and third pitch coming into the season, and I still have worries about each of those areas today.

You know what, I think that’s a pretty fair summation of Funkhouser. Shut it down, we don’t need to go any further. I mean, we will because that’s just what we do, but this really does sum the big righthander from Louisville well. Command? Not great. Control? Definitely a concern. Unsure about the development of a third pitch? Heck, you could make a case that he needs to develop a more consistent second pitch right now. Let’s see what we saw in Funkhouser a few months later in October 2015…

Much electronic ink was spilled on Funkhouser last season, so I’ll be brief: he’s good. It’s unclear how good — I’d say more mid-rotation than ace, but reasonable minds may disagree — but he’s good. Of the many comps I threw out for him last year my favorite remains Jordan Zimmermann. If he can up his command and control game like Zimmermann, then he could hit that mid-rotation ceiling and keep pushing upwards.

From a stuff standpoint, I don’t think the Zimmermann comp is that bad. The command and control development, however, lag behind what Zimmermann showed at a similar age. This was the specific passage about Zimmermann that I was referring to…

I bring up Zimmermann not as a direct comp per se, but as a potential developmental path that Funkhouser could mirror once he hits the pro ranks. I think Funkhouser’s change should be given room to grow rather than ditched, but Zimmermann’s below average change was once said to have “promising action,” so what do any of us really know?

Predicting improvements in command and control is difficult for even the most seasoned scouts. Lots of time and effort spent breaking down a guy’s mechanics, athletic ability, aptitude for learning, willingness to receive instruction, and where/why he’s currently missing his spots go into it. Good command requires physical and mental strength, and finding an evaluator able to consistently read a young pitcher in both departments is a rare, if not impossible, thing. I’ve read just about everything written on Cliff Lee’s mid-career transformation and I still have no idea why he suddenly found command like he did. It’s a little bit like what I’ve been told about high school hitters: you can scout them as much as humanly possible, but nothing you’ll ever see them do as a teenage amateur can possibly equate to the day-to-day roller coaster ride of pro ball. They’ll either learn to hit in the pros or not. Same thing with a young guy and command: he’ll either learn it or he won’t. That’s what makes scouting more of an art than a science, and that’s what makes the mystic around it so appealing and frustrating all at once.

Anyway, back to Funkhouser. This time we jump to April 2016…

I hold out some hope that he’ll be a better pro than college pitcher because his raw stuff at its best is really that good, but there’s just so much inconsistency to his game that I can’t go all-in on him again. Maybe he’s fulfills the promise he showed last year, maybe he winds up more of a consistently inconsistent fifth starter/swingman type, or maybe he’s destined to a life of relief work. I no longer have any clue where his career is heading. I feel liberated.

I settled on this non-answer, and I think I’m really at peace with it all now. Funkhouser has flashed truly dominant stuff at times: 87-94 MPH (96-97 peak) fastball that moves, above-average 79-84 MPH slider, above-average 75-80 MPH curve, average mid-80s changeup, all commanded well enough in spurts. His biggest problem has been a longstanding inability to get all those pitches going at the same time. Some days he’ll scrap the slider for the curve entirely, other days the reverse will be true. On either day, there’s no guarantee that he can throw whatever breaking ball he’s going with for strikes. His changeup has steadily gotten firmer over the years; when his fastball is closer to the upper edge of his velocity band (90-95, 97 peak) then it can work as a nice timing disruptor, but when he’s more 87-91 (92-93 peak) with his heat then the changeup looks more like a batting practice pitch.

The massive deltas in his stuff on an outing by outing basis makes Funkhouser a really tough pitcher to make any bold predictions about. Instinctually, he feels like the kind of guy who just needs to find the right pitching coach at the right time to have the light bulb go off and become the long-time big league starting pitcher that his peak stuff suggests he could be. Or maybe not. Maybe he remains in the rotation, but has a career built on potential more than production; maybe he turns into an innings-eater who flashes upside but can never put it all together, a career path reminiscent of Brett Tomko’s. Or maybe he winds up in the bullpen and is allowed to focus on his fastball and one breaking ball, and his career takes off as a late-inning star. Or he’s more good than great in relief, but still has a long career pitching the sixth and seventh innings for a half-dozen different teams.

5.145 – RHP Mark Ecker

I love Mark Ecker (284). Every draft I struggle with where to rank college relievers and every year it feels like I get it wrong. Not so much with the individual evaluations, but definitely with where to rank straight relievers within the larger draft prospect landscape. One year I’ll overvalue them, the next year I’ll vow to never do that again and undervalue them, the next year I’ll go right back to overvaluing them, then I’ll overvalue just the top tier guys and ignore the next rung…it’s a mess. I think ranking Ecker as a tenth round prospect (give or take) undersells how good he is right now. It wouldn’t shock me at all to see him in the big leagues this upcoming year if that’s what Detroit needs. To make up for my underrating him in June, let’s write way too much about a fifth round college reliever…

Finding a comparable reliever to Ecker is surprisingly difficult. Did you know there are very few plus fastball/plus control relievers in Major League Baseball? It’s true! I’m using arbitrary standards here — more than 8.00 K/9, less than 2.00 BB/9, average fastball velocity 93+ MPH — and the pool of qualified relievers this decade comes out to just eleven possibilities. Of that eleven, none give me the kind of stuff close enough to Ecker to convince me to throw that comp on him. Liam Hendriks has ditched the change as he’s made the full-time transition to relief, Sean Doolittle is lefthanded and throws almost 90% fastballs, Rafael Betancourt is just short on velocity but not a terrible comp otherwise, and Robert Osuna relies more on his slider than his changeup. Junichi Tazawa might be the closest, but he technically throws a splitter rather than a changeup. The pitch serves a similar purpose, so maybe we should just allow it and call it a day. Mark Melancon would be perfect, but he almost literally never throws his changeup these days. Tony Watson is lefthanded, but fits the mold pretty well otherwise. Kelvin Herrera is a little too small and probably throws too many breaking balls, but he’s a decent facsimile for Ecker’s stuff/control combination otherwise. He might be the closest thing to Ecker that I can think of, though I’d be remiss to not at least mention Ryan Madson, my go-to fastball/changeup/control comp in these situations. Some combination of Herrera, Madson, and Melancon would be one heck of a reliever. That’s the kind of impact I think Ecker can have in the big leagues. In fact, there’s this from May 2016…

With a fastball capable of hitting the upper-90s and a mid-80s changeup with plus upside, he’s an honest big league closer candidate with continued development.

Sounds about right. Getting an arm with closer upside in the fifth round is a win every single time for me. Nice work by Detroit here.

6.175 – RHP Bryan Garcia

The Tigers pretty clearly went into this draft with the idea of adding players who will be ready quickly enough to help prop their present window of contention open a little bit longer. Outside of their first round pick (who happens to be a really good prospect and excellent trade capital if they go that route), every other selection all the way through round twenty-two was a college prospect. No snapshot of their draft better exemplifies their win-now philosophy than the back-to-back selections of Mark Ecker and Bryan Garcia (387). Like Ecker one round earlier, Bryan Garcia has the ability to pitch in the big leagues sooner rather than later. From March 2016…

Garcia has late-game reliever stuff (mid-90s FB, good SL) and pedigree (15.88 K/9 this year) to get himself drafted as one of the first true college relievers in his class.

His K/9 dipped all the way down to 13.03 by the end of the season and his low-80s slider morphed more into a curve, but Garcia finished the year more than holding up his end of the bargain. There’s a chance Garcia could be tried in the rotation — a pro contact who saw him this summer came away far more impressed with his changeup than I would have guessed — but letting him fire away in the bullpen with his mid-90s heat and potential plus breaking ball seems like the way to go. Like Ecker, I think he could pitch in the big leagues in 2017 if that’s how the Tigers want to play it.

7.205 – LHP Austin Sodders

Got a Matt Imhof comp for Austin Sodders late in the spring that I think is pretty fair. I don’t love the pick, but can appreciate the logic behind it. Sodders is a big lefthander with solid velocity (88-92), above-average deception and command, and the chance for two average offspeed pitches (CB, CU). If it all comes together for him, that’s a pretty valuable skill set.

8.235 – OF Jacob Robson

I like this one probably more than I should. Every team I’ve written about the past two weeks or so seems to draft at least two college center fielders known for their speed, defense, and minimal pop. I’ve always liked that profile, but lately am beginning to realize that the power component is even more important than conventional wisdom — which believes it to be very, very important, for the record — suggests. I’m sick of writing it, so I can only assume you’re sick of reading it, but the threat of power is an absolute necessity for any young hitter with the hopes of being an above-average offensive contributor in professional ball. Not everybody has to be a power hitter, but if you can’t hit for at least some power then you’re going to have a bad time in pro ball. The threat of an extra base hit changes the way you’re approached as a hitter.

That in mind, Jacob Robson’s (318) lack of pop is concerning. It limits his ceiling dependent on how you feel about his hit tool playing in the pros; you can talk yourself into him being more than a fifth outfielder if you believe, but he’s close to a “what you see is what you get” otherwise. I happen to like him and this pick a ton. That’s the power of the hit tool, I guess. Some guys just have a knack for consistent hard contact. That’s Robson. I’m not a scout so I lack some (but not all) of the reverence to the 20-80 scale that the pros share for it, but tossing around plus grades on an amateur’s hit tool is something even I don’t take lightly. I think Robson might have it. He might be able to hit enough singles and hustle doubles/triples to overcome his lack of power and become a starting quality player. His athleticism, speed, and center field range will also certainly help in that quest, but it’ll be the hit tool that separates him from so many similar players bouncing around the minor leagues. I’d call many players like Robson low-ceiling/moderate-floor types, but Robson himself gets a moderate-ceiling/moderate-floor tag. That’s not a whole lot better, but it is better.

9.265 – SS Daniel Pinero

There is no version of me in any alternate timeline who doesn’t appreciate a 6-5, 210 pound shortstop prospect. It should be no shock then that I’m an unabashed Daniel Pinero (130) fan. Pinero got better every season at Virginia while flashing big league tools across all areas of the game. I like his defense at shortstop more than anybody I’ve spoken to or read, so take the claim that he can stay at his college position in the pros with that in mind. Even if he has to move off short, he’s got all the skills needed (quick reactions, strong arm, body control) to excel at the hot corner. Offensively, Pinero will always have some swing-and-miss in his game (long levers will do that) and his speed has slowed down to average at best as he’s filled out over the years, but his power is on the rise, his approach is sound, and he goes into every at bat with a plan. I don’t think he’s a future star at the plate, but the chance to be an average offensive player with either average (shortstop) or above-average (third base) defense makes him a really nice prospect.

As far as value goes, it’s worth noting that I ranked Pinero only 54 spots lower than CJ Chatham, Red Sox second round pick who went 214 picks earlier. That may or may not mean something to you, but I look at it as Detroit getting a comparable talent much later in the draft. I think Pinero is a potential regular on the left side of the infield with a very realistic floor as a big league utility guy.

10.295 – OF Sam Machonis

Two years at Polk State (including this sophomore year: .310/.406/.470 with 20 BB/43 K and 14/15 SB in 200 AB) and two years at Florida Southern (combined .365/.443/.607 line with 38 BB/71 K and 26/32 SB in 394 AB) led Sam Machionis to Detroit on draft day 2016. Without being an expert on him from a scouting perspective, I’ll point out that his numbers, while very good on the whole, come with the glaring BB/K red flag that would scare me off using a top ten round pick on him. The scouting notes on him I do have — “strong arm, decent runner, can play all three outfield spots and first base, hits from both sides of the plate, handles velocity” — lean towards a potential bench contributor if he can curb some of his overly aggressive tendencies at the plate.

11.325 – RHP Zac Houston

Zac Houston (133) and his explosive 90-95 FB (97 peak) fastball is a pretty perfect fit in the eleventh round. He’s a live arm with college experience at Mississippi State that has seen ups (11.53 K/9 in 2015, 9.79 K/9 in 2016) and downs (6.47 BB/9 in 2015, 4.43 BB/9 in 2016). He did more of the same in his pro debut (14.90 K/9 and 4.56 BB/9 in 29.2 IP) while dominating on the scoreboard (0.30 ERA). It’s an imperfect comparison, but you can draw a shaky line between Houston and fourth round pick Kyle Funkhouser. Like the former Louisville star, Houston’s future role is as yet undetermined. His fastball will play in any role and his low-80s slider is quickly coming on as a potential second weapon, but the rest of his offspeed spread (cutter, curve, change) remain a work in progress. I think the bullpen is his best bet. If that’s the case, then a long career filled with strikeouts and walks could make him a very fun/frustrating reliever to watch.

With Funkhouser, Ecker, Garcia, Houston, Schreiber, Sittinger, and Schmidt all taken by Detroit in the draft’s top twenty rounds, the Tigers could have just formed the core of a young, electric, and cheap bullpen that will supplement their next contending team. It’s not sexy, but nailing down three or four knockout relievers in one draft class would be a major scouting and development win for a farm system in need of a W or two.

12.355 – OF Daniel Woodrow

Though long a prospect archetype I’ve enjoyed, I’ve grown suspicious of rangy center fielders with plus speed and no power of late. The “no power” thing is just too much of an offensive hurdle to jump; as we often say, it’s not so much the actual lack of power but the lack of power being a credible threat against bigger, smarter, better pitching. Of the many potential backup outfielders that follow the speed/defense/no power pattern in this class, I happen to like Daniel Woodrow of Creighton more than many of the others. There’s such a fine line between no power and very little power, but I think the small difference matters when it comes to how pitchers approach the opposition. Woodrow has just enough pop to continue being an effective table setter in the pros. He makes a ton of contact, has a decent approach, and provides all the aforementioned speed/defense (and arm strength). The upside isn’t huge, but Woodrow has a shot to make it as a fifth outfielder.

13.385 – C Brady Policelli

I’m an absolute sucker for Brady Policelli’s (169) defensive versatility, athleticism, and ability to excel at all of the little things. It’s dangerous territory for me because I’ve fallen in love with prospects like Policelli before with many topping out as fun college players and little more, but I can’t help but appreciate a legitimate defensive catcher with a really strong arm and footwork good enough to play shortstop for his college team in his draft year. I’ll go bold and say that Policelli has a long big league career as a standout defensive catcher with enough thump in his bat to have a few years worthy of being an everyday player.

14.415 – C Austin Athmann

This year’s college class has a chance to be viewed as one of the best of all-time. The talent level at the position . Detroit waited it out and landed a top ten round talent in most years all the way down in round fourteen. Austin Athmann (486) is a lock to stay behind the plate thanks to solid mobility, an average or better arm (more accurate than strong), and pro-level smarts in knowing how to handle a pitching staff. That alone gives him value this late in the draft, but Athmann adds on to it as a more than capable hitter with a chance for topping out as an average hitter with average power. The very optimistic forecast calls for starting catcher upside, but I’m more comfortable calling him a potential quality backup. That’s really nice value this late in the draft.

15.445 – RHP John Schreiber

John Schreiber dominated at Northwestern Ohio as a senior using a nasty fastball (90-95 MPH) and slider one-two punch. Definite middle relief upside here. Is this my shortest prospect breakdown so far? I think it is. Only problem is every word I write now artificially inflates the total. If you just skimmed through this and saw this nice little block of text, you’d have no real idea that the only bit of analysis I had to share on Schreiber this year.

16.475 – 2B Will Savage

As an self-proclaimed Ivy League baseball aficionado, I’ve seen a lot of Will Savage (363) over the years. Without fail, I’ve come away impressed with his game. There’s little flashy about Savage, but he’s got a knack for hard contact, above-average speed, and a chance to be a solid defender at second with more work. The problem with Savage is that he’s likely a second baseman and second baseman only in the pros; his arm and range are both stretched considerably on the left side of the infield. As much as I like him as a college hitter, I’m not sure the bat will be enough to carry him if his only path to the big leagues is as a second baseman. If Detroit can squeeze even a little defensive versatility out of him, then he’ll be in a much better position to climb the ladder.

17.505 – RHP Brandyn Sittinger

Brandyn Sittinger dominated at Ashland as a junior using a low- to mid-90s fastball and little else. He’s a consistent second pitch away from having the same middle relief upside as fellow state of Ohio product John Schreiber.

18.535 – 1B Niko Buentello

Niko Buentello as a lefthanded power bat with a decent approach and a shot to destroy righthanded pitching in the pros is enough for me to buy into him as a viable eighteenth round pick. It’s tough sledding making it as a first base only prospect, but, hey, somebody has to man the position, right?

19.565 – OF Dustin Frailey

I really like Dustin Frailey, a Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunner by way of Mt. San Antonio College who stayed under my radar until fairly late in the draft process. His draft year was outstanding by any measure (.376/.479/.593 with 30 BB/19 K and 23/27 SB) and his offensive game is a well-rounded blend of average power and above-average speed. There’s some sneaky fourth outfielder upside with Frailey.

20.595 – RHP Clate Schmidt

On Clate Schmidt from December 2015…

SR RHP Clate Schmidt has overcome a great deal to get back to position himself to a return to the mound this spring. His athleticism, fastball (90-94, 96 peak), and impressive low-80s slider make him a prospect to watch, and his story of perseverance makes him a player to appreciate. If the return to health in 2016 has him feeling more like himself this spring (i.e., he’s more 2014 than 2015), then his feel-good story should end with a potential top ten round draft selection and honest shot in pro ball.

Schmidt finished his final season at Clemson with the following numbers: 7.15 K/9, 2.21 BB/9, 4.83 ERA, 85.2 IP. I’d say that definitely puts him closer to the 2014 version (7.23 K/9 and 3.82 BB/9) than the 2015 version (5.54 K/9 and 3.98 BB/9), and that’s an encouraging sign for Schmidt’s career going forward. His stuff wasn’t quite back to what he showed at 100% — he was more 86-91 MPH with his fastball in 2016, though his 78-82 MPH changeup remained outstanding and his low-80s slider solidified itself as a solid third offering — but it’s still good enough to make a little noise in the pros. Giving him the ball in shorter outings with the instructions to let it fly (and sink) might prove to be the best move for him and the Tigers. As a reliever, I think Schmidt could pile up ground balls and miss enough bats to be really effective. That upside combined with the hidden value of bringing such a hard worker and positive influence like Schmidt into the organization makes this one of my favorite picks in the whole draft.

21.625 – RHP Joe Navilhon

The first of back-to-back undersized college righthanders taken by Detroit, Joe Navilhon has a decent fastball (88-92) that he dresses up with a highly effective low-80s changeup. Toss in a mid-70s breaking ball and the Tommy John survivor has enough going for him to get his chances as a potential middle relief prospect. I’m bearish on his odds of breaking through compared to some of the other intriguing relief arms stockpiled by Detroit in this class, but you never know.

22.655 – RHP Burris Warner

I’m always happy to see an undersized flame-thrower like Burris Warner get his shot in pro ball. Even if things don’t work out for Warner in the long run, remember that Detroit got an established college reliever capable of hitting the mid-90s (seen him up to 95 personally) with his fastball in the twenty-second round next time one of the national guys refuses to rank more than fifty or so prospects in a given class.

23.685 – C Bryan Torres

The Tigers signed only three high school prospects in this class. Matt Manning is the obvious headliner, but getting deals done with Bryan Torres here and Geraldo Gonzalez later is a nice little bonus. A really rough small sample debut doesn’t change the fact that Torres was a worthwhile gamble here in the twenty-third round.

24.715 – LHP Evan Hill

On any given outing you might see Evan Hill hit just about every single 80-something MPH with his fastball. At his best, Hill is more mid- to upper-80s (up to 92-93 peaks at his bestest best), but the long and lean lefthander could have more in the tank (or at least more consistency in what he’s already flashed) with pro strength training and instruction ahead of him. He could use the extra tick or two on his fastball because of his offspeed stuff is more functional than fabulous. I like what I’ve seen out of a mid- to upper-70s breaking ball that’ll flash above-average at times, but his cutter and changeup are nothing to write home about. A shift to the bullpen could accelerate some of those hopeful velocity gains and potentially sharpen up his breaking ball. That feels like his best shot at an extended pro career.

25.745 – RHP John Hayes

Joe Navilhon and Burris Warner were back-to-back undersized college righthanders taken by Detroit in rounds twenty-one and twenty-two. Now the Tigers go back-to-back with big college righthanders with John Hayes leading off. Hayes missed bats as a redshirt-senior at Wichita State (10.57 K/9), but didn’t quite get the job done when it came to run prevention (7.12 ERA). I’m glad Detroit saw past his struggles to see the good (88-93 FB, quality CU, usable SL) in Hayes.

26.775 – RHP Colyn O’Connell

Colyn O’Connell has the fastball (89-93, 95 peak) and frame (6-5, 215) to excite, but his junior year at Florida Atlantic (6.33 K/9 and 3.33 BB/9) was mostly underwhelming. To his credit, O’Connell did keep runs off the board (2.00 ERA in 27.0 IP). Things took a turn for the better in pro ball (8.40 K/9 and 3.60 BB/9) even as the ERA climbed a bit (3.90 in 30.0 IP). You’ll make that trade-off any day when it comes to projecting a pitcher’s future.

27.805 – SS Chad Sedio

The Tigers gave Chad Sedio an honest shot to play shortstop in pro ball and the early buzz on his defense there — in as much as there can ever be buzz about Chad Sedio’s glove — has been positive. The versatile defender also has experience at second, third (where I listed him pre-draft), and in the outfield, so a future as a bat-first utility player isn’t out of the question.

29.865 – 3B Hunter Swilling

Two big power years in a row at Samford (.324/.415/.622 and .292/.393/.557) were enough to get Hunter Swilling his shot in pro ball. His combined walk to strikeout ratio during that same stretch (60 BB/124 K) probably would have kept me away, but I understand the inclination to buy power when you can. To his credit, Swilling can do more than just swing for the fences. The righthanded power bat is also a pretty solid athlete with a strong arm well-suited for third base. I had him as a first base prospect in my notes (with some upside on the mound), but early returns on his glove at third in the pros have been decent. The overall package is still not really my cup of tea, but in the twenty-ninth round sometimes you have to open your mind to players you might not have considered otherwise.

30.895 – LHP Dalton Lundeen

Dalton Lundeen’s pro debut (6.48 K/9 and 2.52 BB/9) looked a whole heck of a lot like his senior season at Valparaiso (6.65 K/9 and 1.91 BB/9). That should give some indication as to what kind of pitcher he is, but I’ll do my part to paint a fuller picture by noting that Lundeen’s fastball lives mostly in the mid- to upper-80s and his slider is his primary out-pitch.

31.925 – SS Dalton Britt

First time in MLB Draft history a team has drafted back-to-back Dalton’s. Or so I’ll assume, anyway. Dalton Britt joins Dalton Lundeen in the Tigers organization after going off the board in the thirty-first round. Britt has always been one of those guys described to me as a better potential pro hitter than what he ever showed at Liberty. That persistent noise was what had me continuing to push the “strong hit tool” scouting note for Britt even as the college shortstop hovered just below a .300 batting average (.299 in 2014, .294 in 2015, .292 in 2016) during his last three college seasons. Of course there’s more to projecting a hit tool than just looking at past performance, but ignoring what has actually happened on the field isn’t a very sound evaluation strategy, either. Britt hasn’t been so bad that I’d toss out the positive scouting notes, so we’re more in the “wait and see” stage of his larger evaluation as he transitions to pro ball. If the scouting reports prove true, then the Tigers got themselves a really nice potential steal this late. Britt can certainly hold up his end of the bargain defensively (steady work at 2B, 3B, and SS), so even a slightly below-average big league bat would make him an interesting utility option down the line.

34.1015 – SS Gerardo Gonzalez

Finally, we get to the third signed high school prospect. I’ll admit that I was a little bit more excited about this one when I mistyped Gerardo Gonzalez’s first name as Geraldo, the name most of the internet has him listed under. Pro ball could really use a star named Geraldo. Gerardo Gonzalez had a rough debut, but he earned his fair share of walks, played solid defense at second, and finished the season as one of the younger 2016 draftees (not 18 until 12/21/16). There’s no such thing as a bad high school signing past round ten, so no shame in focusing on his modest strengths for now.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Alex Cunningham (Coastal Carolina), Conner O’Neill (Cal State Northridge), Keegan Thompson (Auburn), Jacob White (Weatherford JC), Drew Mendoza (Florida State), David Fleita (Cowley County JC), Josh Smith (LSU), Garrett Milchin (Florida), Dalton Feeney (North Carolina State)

2015 MLB Draft Reviews – Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers 2015 MLB Draft Picks

Many enjoy connecting teams to local geographic areas (Braves and their home state) or universities or even high schools (e.g., the Phillies going with Shane Watson and JP Crawford in back-to-back drafts out of Lakewood HS). I think it’s time we add the Tigers and Michigan State to the mix.

OF Cam Gibson (152) is the headlining Spartan talent with obvious connections to the Tigers organization beyond his collegiate affiliation. Here’s the pre-draft take…

In this class I look at Michigan State JR OF Cameron Gibson and see a slam dunk top five round draft prospect with the chance to play his way even higher (round two?). Judged solely as a hitter, however, smart people I’ve talked to liken him more to recent college players like Greg Allen, Tyler Holt, Mark Payton, and Taylor Dugas. Those guys, all favorites of mine once upon a time, were drafted in the sixth, fifth, seventh, and eighth rounds, respectively. I’m not sure what that necessarily says about Gibson’s draft stock (if anything!), so I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. The “as a hitter” qualifier above is not to be missed. Gibson’s range in center isn’t nearly on the level of any of those players, with one scout simply telling me he was “fine in center, better in a corner.” That corners figures to be left field as his arm is his one clearly below-average tool. Everything else could play average or better making the strong, athletic Gibson a potential regular if he can stick in center. If not, then he could make it work as a regular left fielder in today’s new world order of reduced offense. A plus glove with upside at the plate in left is a property worth investing in these days. An unexpected but amusing comparison I’ve heard for Gibson’s ceiling is Brady Anderson (sans 50 HR season). I like it, though I’m not sure if projecting Anderson’s plate discipline (remember it being good, but shocked how good) on any young hitter is fair.

The early pro returns have been interesting. Small sample size caveats apply, but Gibson’s raw power (average to above-average, held back largely by his swing) was thought by many as being more of a batting practice thing than true in-game present pop. His pro performance to date, however, is highlighted by an impressive showing of power (200+ ISO) and not quite as much plate discipline as his college production and general reputation as a hitter might have suggested. Whether or not it’s a short-season ball small sample anomaly or a indication of things to come remains to be seen. I still think of him of having the tweener profile that most likely ends in him working towards a fourth outfielder ceiling, but you never know.

I once compared Gibson’s teammate at Michigan State, 1B Blaise Salter, the 940th pick in this year’s draft, to the guy selected second overall, Alex Bregman. Stay with me here…

Michigan State SR C/1B Blaise Salter reminds me a little bit of Alex Bregman. I’ll pause for a second and let that ridiculous statement sink in. I’ve mentioned this before, but so many college-oriented analysts are quite vocal in their belief that Bregman will be able to stick at shortstop in the pros; pro guys, on the other hand, can’t wait to get him off the six-spot. As for Salter, most college guys you read and listen to will push the “hey, he’s improved a lot behind the plate and, sure, he’s not the most agile guy back there, but he’s a leader and pitchers like him, so maybe it’ll work” agenda. That’s cool and all, but then pro guys, literally to a man, respond with NOPE. I have him listed as a catcher for now because I think his drafting team will at least give it a shot. That’s because he might – and I can’t emphasis might enough – be playable back there, but also because it’s a bit of a stretch to imagine his bat playing anywhere else. It’s catcher or bust for Salter if he wants to climb the pro ladder. I actually like the hit tool more than most and think he’s a better athlete than given credit for, but it’ll come down to whether or not he’ll make enough contact to allow his plus power to go to use.

The Bregman part there reads funny today as we all know his defense just kept getting better and better as the season went on. Salter went the other direction — actually, that’s not 100% true: his defense remained his defense, but observers began looking him with a more discerning eye as draft day got closer — and the fact I deemed him “catcher or bust” then doesn’t bode well for his future. I still enjoy a team taking a local star with a later pick like this on the off chance you catch lightning in a bottle. It may not be the perfect way to build a roster, but give me a fun narrative in the 31st round any day. You need your fifth round pick (Gibson) to show you something, but why not go with what you know (at least as a tie-breaker) and boost a bit of local morale in round 31?

LHP Cam Vieaux was also drafted out of Michigan State by Detroit, but couldn’t come to terms. He’ll be one of the better returning veteran arms in the conference with a fastball that can hit 93 (88-92), an average or better breaking ball, and a quickly improving change. He’s also got size (6-5, 200) and a track record (two rock solid years) on his side. Good name to store away for 2016…and more on other unsigned Tigers pick to come.

Looking up the updated pro numbers on in-state college player (not a Spartan, but a Chippewa) 2B Pat MacKenzie (418) gave me a very fleeting yet disturbing Dylan Bosheers flashback. I really really really liked Bosheers as a prospect before the draft, but never really deducted enough points for being an older senior (23 this past May) in my overall evaluation of him. MacKenzie is even older (23 this past March) and locked into second base long-term, but damn if I still like him. His early season evaluation…

SR 2B Pat MacKenzie doesn’t have the raw tools of most prospects I’d personally rank him around, but there’s no ignoring his plus-plus plate discipline. How a player can put up a 46 BB to 17 K ratio while slugging just barely over .300 in a full college season I’ll never know, but it’s an impressive feat that earns my respect. If I’m selling MacKenzie to my boss, I’m highlighting his overall hard-working playing style with promises (fine, hopes) that maybe his outstanding mental approach to hitting will rub off some on his new pro teammates. He’s an underdog prospect to be sure, but I just plain like the guy.

That was written before his “power surge” as a senior. His final college season saw him hit a cool .348/.489/.435 in 207 AB. The increased pop looks nice, but most of the gains can be attributed to more singles as his ISO didn’t move as much as you’d think. Still, I stand by liking him as a patient, speedy, dependable middle infielder who is a wonderful addition to a minor league lineup as a 28th rounder.

Detroit also drafted a bunch of guys who didn’t play amateur ball in Michigan, if you can believe it. In fact, you could re-write that opening and come up with a theory that the Tigers love players from Tennessee. The biggest name of that group is OF Christin Stewart (118), formerly of the Volunteers. Here’s the pre-season take on him…

Stewart betrayed his patient, pro-ready approach last season in an effort to produce gaudier power numbers. It’s hard to blame him what with power being the most coveted singular tool in baseball these days, but the cost might prove to be greater than what it winds up being worth. On one hand, the change in approach worked as Stewart’s slugging percentage jumped about one hundred points from his freshman season. Unfortunately, the major dip in plate discipline — Stewart’s K/BB almost doubled from his first season to his sophomore year (1.48 to 2.80) — now creates a new question in his game that will need to be answered on the field before June. If all of that sounds overly negative, well, it’s not supposed to. Consider it more of a reality check for a really strong prospect than anything else. I’m still very much a believer in Stewart’s raw power (legitimately plus), hit tool (solidly above-average), and overall approach to hitting, past year production be damned.

And the mid-season update…

Tennessee JR OF Christin Stewart just keeps getting better and better and better as a hitter. With an above-average hit tool and honest plus raw power, his breakout season (happening right now!) was only a matter of time. I’ve been hard on him in the past because of my perceived disconnect between his consistently praised approach at the plate and below-average BB/K ratios (1/2 for most of his first two seasons), but I’m starting to buy in. When I hear this is a below-average draft, I think of players like Stewart who have emerged as worthwhile top three round picks – not just in this draft, but in any draft – and smile. If a down draft means a few pitching prospect have gotten injured and no stone cold mortal lock for 1-1 exists, then I guess this draft isn’t very good. If it means that there will be future big league regulars selected out of college as late as the fifth round, then I feel like we’re not on the same page. I try not to cheerlead, but the bad draft stuff is just laziness from paid professionals who really ought to try digging a little deeper.

Stewart’s season ended as an unmitigated success. Improvements were made in all areas of his game, most notably in his conversion of raw power to the real in-game stuff. I should have ranked him higher. Long-time readers know I enjoy comps because I think they can be both entertaining and informative so long as you aren’t the super literal type. I also like playing around with the constructs of what a comp is supposed to be in the first place. To that end, I share a prospect comparison so bizarre in the formation that it somehow feels right when it’s said and done…and yet I know I’d killed for it by some of the joyless comp-hating strawmen that exist elsewhere on the internet but haven’t yet realized this place exists. The comp is prefaced with “if you ignore body type, swing mechanics, and handedness…” so keep that in mind as I tell you that lefty hitting Christin Stewart (all 6-0, 200 pounds of him) reminds me of righthander Aaron Judge (6-7, 275 pounds). The two player are very different, obviously. Any multi-celled organism with functioning sight can see that. The comparison is meant to serve as a basis for what kind of professional results Stewart is capable of putting up. The two players go about things differently, but I see similar potential in each. It’s the rare case where I’m cool with focusing on results over process. If only I had passed the comparison on before the draft as I could have used the info to more accurately peg where Stewart (34th overall pick) might be drafted (Judge went 32nd).

Another Volunteer, SS AJ Simcox (302), fascinates me and I think you’ll see why in his pre-season report…

Though he hasn’t shown the kind of hitting acumen expected of him to date, all those I talked to can’t stop raving about his breakout potential for 2015 and professional upside. His defense is legit — range, hands, and arm are all average or better — and his as yet untapped offensive upside (above-average hit tool, average raw power, above-average speed, decent approach) is enough to give him a real chance to emerge as one of this class’ many shortstops that profile as regular players at the big league level. I write it often, but it bears repeating: I have no allegiance when it comes to college athletics, so I have no reason to prop up any particular program or prospect. Still, I find myself unusually bullish on all of these Volunteers and even I am curious if there’s some unknown reason why.

And then again from later in the season…

I haven’t heard a player get the “he’ll be a better pro than college player” treatment in a long time quite like Tennessee JR SS AJ Simcox. I’m not sure how to take that exactly. It almost sounds like a dig on the Tennessee coaching staff, but I find that hard to believe knowing what I do about the people they have in place there. I think it’s more likely explained by the differences in the pro grind – all baseball, all the time – versus the multitude of various interested parties pulling one’s attention away from the game in college. I don’t know anything specific to Simcox here, for the record. He could be as focused as can be and simply in need of an all-encompassing baseball environment because of personal preference.

I always take those kinds of bits of information with a healthy dose of skepticism, but hearing it multiple times from multiple people (none with an ax to grind re: Tennessee and their staff) makes you wonder. From a big picture perspective, I’d love to know how a belief like that gets started in the first place and whether or not there’s any legitimacy behind it as a general theory to explain why certain underachieving amateur players play better ball after signing pro contracts. It strikes me as something that can’t be “proven” one way or another, but could be sussed out for individual prospects by enterprising area scouts who still do the job of digging deep into getting to know a player’s entire backstory. Of course, it could also have no firm basis in reality and simply be used as a rationalization tool to prop up players that a scout still likes, be it personally or professionally, despite lackluster amateur performances. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, either: a big part of an area scout’s job once June comes is salesmanship, and any way that you can get a player drafted you believe in is all right with me.

Anyway, perhaps because I’ve been brainwashed by what I’ve been told, I like Simcox more than his college track record would suggest I might. If it all works, he has the chance to be an average all-around offensive player with a really good shot to stay at shortstop. The approach is still not where it needs to be, so projecting a utility future feels like the most logical realistic ceiling as of now. Interestingly enough, Simcox hit .293/.362/.378 in his draft year at Tennessee. So far as a professional he’s hit .310/.345/.370. I don’t know what that means (if anything), but there you go.

1B Tanner Donnels was announced as an infielder, but has predictably played the majority of his pro games thus far in right field. The former Loyola Marymount outfielder is a long shot, but his senior year production (.308/.401/.498 with 31 BB/24 K) makes him a reasonable gamble in round 21. 3B Josh Lester from Missouri is pretty much the infield version (.280/.363/.436 with 30 BB/30 K) while OF Cole Bauml (.350/.445/.663 with 22 BB/28 K) and OF Joey Havrilak (.347/.436/.507 with 32 BB/31 K) round out the outfield with Donnels. There aren’t big tools here, but Detroit deserves credit for putting a premium on college production with mid- to late-round picks. It’s very unlikely there’s a future big league player here, but adding individuals emotionally ready to handle the pro game can have an effect beyond the box score for minor league clubs.

I think the bat of SS Keaton Jones is too light to get him to the big leagues, but the glove remains pretty damn special. Not much has changed on his evaluation since the beginning of the draft season…

I also have to mention TCU rJR SS Keaton Jones, a player so good with the glove that he’ll get drafted almost no matter what he does at the plate this spring. The fact that he’s more than holding his own as a hitter for the first time collegiately is icing on the mid-round cake.

He finished the year “holding his own” to the tune of a .254/.333/.333 (20 BB/35 K) batting line. That’s…not great. So you can see what I’m saying about his glove considering he hit like that and still got himself drafted in the fifteenth round.

C Kade Scivicque (340) follows in the recent Tigers tradition of valuing defense and leadership ability in college catching prospects. I don’t think this is a bad way to do things: high-floor prospects like Bryan Holaday, James McCann, and now Scivicque that project to be quality big league backups at an important and historically difficult to develop position are net positives for your franchise. Guys like this also help give any minor league team a boost if you believe in the immeasurable positive impact of high-makeup players helping those around them grow and improve as I do (to a point). Additionally, paying backup catchers, utility infielders, fourth outfielders, and middle relievers the league minimum for three seasons is a great way to save some bucks to pay stars to fill out the top of the roster. It also goes without saying that the very idea of a player’s ceiling is something that we as fans of the game (evaluators, too) place on prospects. You draft enough high-floor future backup types and, who knows, one might just surpass expectations and turn into something real.

(A more negative view might be that drafting high-floor future backup types is fool’s gold because prospects like that often look better than their peers early on since they peak early for whatever reason. Or perhaps one might note that overdoing it with these types — and I’m not saying Detroit has done that — leads to a mediocre team of overextended backups incapable of playing winning ball together at the big league level, defense and leadership be damned. It’s almost as if taking a diversified approach to drafting is an important part of successful long-term roster construction. Crazy, right?)

It might be time to stop trying to figure out what makes LHP Matt Hall (270) work and just appreciate that it does. His fastball doesn’t lit up the gun (86-90), but he puts it where he wants it as consistently as any lefthander in the college game. He has three pitches that he can throw for a strike in any count and game situation (above-average 75-79 CB that flashes better and an average 80-82 CU) and an unimpeachable track record of success (12.67 K/9 in 108 IP of 2.17 ERA ball as a junior). He’s another player that I think I undervalued some (he was picked 190th overall), but I’m now on board. Nice grab by the Tigers pulling a potential quick-moving big league starting pitcher in the sixth round.

Even though I admitted to underrating Hall before the draft, I still had him fifty spots ahead of LHP Tyler Alexander (320). Detroit saw things differently and used a second round pick (65th overall) on Alexander. The two are actually pretty darn similar prospects with Alexander bringing in a bit more heat (87-92), a better change (87-81), and a breaking ball in need of refinement. Both guys are known for outstanding command — I wouldn’t call you crazy for preferring Alexander’s to Hall’s — while Alexander in particular has ridiculous control (1.00 BB/9 in 99 IP his freshman year, 0.92 BB/9 in 78 IP his sophomore year). Hall got the edge for me before the draft because of his history of missing more bats, but Detroit could very well be on to something with Alexander. Like Hall, he could be a quick-moving big league starter if it all keeps working with a realistic middle relief floor as a viable fallback.

There really should be an entire post devoted to RHP Trey Teakell (432). The TCU redshirt-senior might is one of this year’s most intriguing Rorschach test prospects. You can look at him and see whatever it is you’d like. The positive spin is that he’s a 6-5, 175 pound athlete with projection left, the ability to command four average or better pitches, and easy velocity (87-91, 93 peak) who steadily improved before his breakout final college season (8.31 K/9, almost two more strikeouts per nine than his previous best). The less positive look might counter with the reality that some guys don’t fill out and add velocity (6-5, 175 at 18 years old would be a different story), the lack of a clear put-away pitch, and a senior year spike in performance that can be explained by his advanced age (23) and/or success in a small sample (39 IP, the second fewest in his college career). The beauty of Teakell in my mind is that his draft position (9th round) almost perfectly splits the difference between the two possibilities. That first player sounds like an early pick while the second player is more of a mid- to late-round roster filling type. The ninth round is on the money. As for his future, I’d think getting a middle reliever out of the deal would represent coming out ahead.

The upside of RHP Mike Vinson exceeds that, as the redshirt-sophomore from Florida looks to have the goods to potentially pitch at the end of games out of the bullpen. The Tigers deserve a lot of credit for sticking with him despite his lack of work (under 30 innings total) since high school. Vinson’s upper-80s cutter is one of the best in this class and he’s able to combine it with a good fastball (88-93) to generate a lot of awkward swings. I really like this pick. The guy drafted one round earlier, RHP Ryan Milton, has similar swing-and-miss stuff (low-90s FB, good cutter) and has hit the ground running in pro ball. There’s some wildness with him, but he’s still a really nice get in round 23. Undersized RHP Dominic Moreno joins Milton as another solid senior sign relief option that put up big numbers in college (11.33 K/9 and 1.86 ERA in 58 senior year IP). He’s got that sinker/slider thing going for him that should help him to advance high enough in the minors to be one of those proverbial “one phone call away” types of AAA arms.

The college reliever with the highest upside is easily RHP Drew Smith (286). I’m not a wizened talent evaluator by any stretch and there’s plenty I haven’t seen and don’t yet know, so do try to hide your shock at the following statement, but seeing Smith throw is a really confusing experience. He has explosive stuff — 90-96 FB, 98-99 peak; average or better mid-70s CB; enough of a low-80s changeup that you can start imagining a future beyond the bullpen — and livable control, but rarely did college hitters appear fooled by what he threw up there. There’s enough noise with straight run prevention in small samples with unreliable defenses and scoring decisions and playing conditions and you get the point, but Smith’s two full seasons at Dallas Baptist resulted in ERAs of 5.79 and 4.39. That alone doesn’t bug me much, but a guy with his kind of stuff only striking out 7ish batters per nine is just hard to explain. I obviously still like him a whole heck of a lot as a prospect and could see him working himself into the relief ace that his physical talent suggests, it’s just that it might take some time for him to smooth out the delivery some and harness what he’s got. Of course, what do I know: Smith, in an effort to be as confusing as possible, has started his pro career with a pretty good ERA (0.29) with decent peripherals (11.0 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9) in 31 innings.

Finally we get to RHP Beau Burrows (18). I’ve said it before, but I really do find there to be almost an inverse relationship between a prospect’s talent and how much I’m able to write about him. First round no-brainers as talented as Burrows are hard to dive into it. He’s good, you know? I like his chances of being an above-average mid-rotation starting pitcher with a number two starter ceiling and a late-inning reliever best-case scenario floor (as always, any real floor is not escaping the minor leagues because baseball is a very hard game, but reading that over and over gets tiresome). Here were my pre-draft notes…

RHP Beau Burrows (Weatherford HS, Texas): 88-96 FB, 98 peak; FB moves a ton; 84-88 CU flashes above-average, moves it down to 81-85 at times; promising 78-82 CB, flashes above-average to plus; good command; good athlete; PG mechanics comp: Mike Mussina; PG comp: Grant Holmes; FAVORITE; 6-2, 200 pounds

I like Perfect Game’s Grant Holmes comparison a lot as a reference point. For fun, here are their debut seasons compared…

10.8 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 48.1 IP
10.6 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 28 IP

Top is Holmes, bottom is Burrows. On target so far. Burrows is a very easy to like prospect: big fastball that moves and he commands, breaking ball that could be a real weapon, more than good enough changeup, all with sound mechanics, athleticism, and the mound demeanor one would expect out of Texas high schooler who flirts with triple-digits. Now it’s just a matter of guiding him through the ups and downs of pro ball, tweaking and refining what needs polishing, and hoping he stays healthy enough to toe the rubber on a big league mound. I clearly like the pick for the Tigers (ranked him 18, drafted him 22), so we’ll see where it goes from here.

This might be a little unfair to pick on the Tigers and no other team so far, but it was definitely striking to see how much unsigned talent there was left on the table for Detroit after the signing deadline came and went. You could do this with a lot of teams and there are very logical reasons why some of these players didn’t sign that is of no fault at all to Detroit (losing Shumpert stings, but the rest were all fliers). Still, you could build a pretty strong team out of the ones who got away…

C Nick Dalesandro (346)
3B Daniel Pinero (98)
SS Nick Shumpert (101)
SS Trey Dawson (124)
OF Bryant Harris
OF Dayton Dugas (225)

RHP Cole McKay (74)
LHP Cam Vieaux
LHP Andrew Naderer
LHP Grant Wolfram

I don’t think it’s crazy to prefer McKay, Pinero, Shumpert, Dawson, and Dugas (the top five unsigned prospects by Detroit according to me) to Burrows, Stewart, Alexander, Smith, and Scivicque (their top five picks). It’s obviously a completely different risk profile and a moot point regardless, but it’s an interesting alternate timeline “what-if” that will never be resolved on this plane of existence. Pity. Here are the top 500 prospects that Detroit did manage to sign (again, according to me)…

18 – Beau Burrows
118 – Christin Stewart
152 – Cam Gibson
270 – Matt Hall
286 – Drew Smith
302 – AJ Simcox
320 – Tyler Alexander
340 – Kade Scivicque
418 – Pat MacKenzie
432 – Trey Teakell

2012 MLB Trade Deadline Deals and the Draft (UPDATED)

There figure to be at least a few more trades in the remaining hours between now and the trade deadline at 4:00 PM EST, so I’ll do my best to keep this post updated with whatever short and sweet notes I have on any recent draft prospects who have been dealt.

UPDATED: It is well after 4 PM, so here we go…

Bobby Borchering

Borchering is a player I once called one of my “absolute favorite bats” of the 2009 draft class. I also said he was an “outstanding pick” who I believed had the “best bat of any prep player.” He was the seventh best player in the 2009 MLB Draft, according to yours truly. So, what happened? Could a genius prognosticator possibly get it so wrong? Or is something more nefarious afoot? Probably the former, but let’s investigate anyway.

First, I should say that I remain a Borchering fan. I think he gets a bad rap in the prospect community for certain aspects of his game that aren’t entirely fair, but even a blind loyalist like myself finds it hard to argue with what seem to be the two biggest complaints concerning his game. Borchering’s strikeouts (28.1% of his career minor league at bats have ended in the sad, head shaking walk to the dugout) and subsequent lack of contact skills are obviously major concern one. Additionally, his defense at third, once thought to have the chance to be at least average in time (I said the following: “he’ll stick as a big league third baseman at least until his free agent years”), is now more appropriately graded as N/A, as any possibility of Borchering playing third base seems to out the window at this point. If he can hang in LF, however, then I think he could still reach the bigs as a potential power source capable of having some value through at least the end of his cheap rookie contract. If he had a discernible platoon split, preferably against lefthanded pitchers, then he’d make a really interesting, inexpensive platoon in left with the guy he was traded to Houston with.

Enough about the future, let’s go back to that aggressive draft ranking. Borchering as the seventh best player in the draft looks bad now, but, in my admittedly weak defense, the 2009 MLB Draft class was really, really shallow in hitting. In fact, I only had three position players among the top dozen 2009 prospects: Ackley (2nd overall) first, then Borchering (7th), and then Grant Green (8th). Further down the list you have the following: Donovan Tate (13th), Everett Williams (15th), Wil Myers (23rd), Luke Bailey (24th), Max Stassi (28th), Rich Poythress (29th), Matt Davidson (31st). Jason Kipnis (56th), Kyle Seager (65th), Nick Franklin (67th), Brett Jackson (70th), Billy Hamilton (80th), and Jonathan Singleton (99th). There was a decent hitter that I ranked 74th that year, but I’m not sure if Mike Trout has amounted to much of anything as of yet. Looking back at some of those names, I’m not quite sure how weak the draft class really was in hitting. It isn’t easy to compare recent drafts because so many players still have unfinished business developmentally, but a top group of Trout, Myers, Kipnis, Ackley, Singleton, Franklin, Hamilton, and, depending on your personal taste, some combination of Seager, Green, and/or Jackson really isn’t that bad. To take it a step ahead, though my faulty memory will surely leave a few names out, of the guys I didn’t rank in that top 100, both Brandon Belt and Paul Goldschmidt have shown promise as hitters as well.

Marc Krauss

Outside of ranking Krauss as the 89th best prospect in the 2009 Draft, I didn’t really write about the former Ohio star all that much. I remember liking his approach quite a bit, but being concerned that he might fall into the “tweener” trap that plagues so many bat-first corner outfield prospects. Without much value on defense, on the base paths, and, arguably, in the power department, there’s a lot of pressure on hitting/on-base ability to be legitimately great if you want a big league future. His 2012 AA performance has been encouraging, so I think there’s definitely hope he can make it in another year or so as a big league ready platoon (he has always drilled righties) bat.

Thomas Collier

Embarrassing admission alert: sometimes I completely forget about some of the players that I’ve written about. My dino-sized brain just can’t retain the baseball minutiae that it was able to hold. I remember liking Collier, so that’s good, right? Here’s what I said last year:

If one player stands out as a potential late round steal for Detroit, it’s San Jacinto JC RHP Tommy Collier (Round 22). Collier throws two plus pitches already, and, if healthy, has the chance to unleash his nasty slider once again. 

You can never rule out minor league pitchers with hard fastballs and plus sliders eventually hanging on to pitch relief innings in the big leagues someday. Collier fits that mold.

Leon Landry 

Wrote this back in the very earliest days of this site way back in December 2009:

JR OF Leon Landry (2010) had better be prepared for the onslaught of Jared Mitchell comps sure to be thrown his way this spring. The comparisons between the two football playing outfielders work in some ways (both players have plus speed and are ridiculous athletes, but each guy had a below-average arm), but fall apart in other areas, most notably in the power department. Landry has already shown as much present power through two seasons of collegiate development as Mitchell did through three. A more interesting crop of first round caliber talents in 2010 may push Landry’s draft position down past where Mitchell went in 2009 (23rd overall), but I’m willing to go on the record and say that his forthcoming monster junior season will catapult his overall prospect stock past his former two sport teammate’s. He’s a potential plus defender in center with good range but a below-average arm for the position.

I was about 100 picks off with my bold first round prediction for Landry as he wound up getting selected with the 109th overall pick to the Dodgers in 2010. He’s shown some power this year, but the gain in slugging from 2011 to 2012 (200 points!) might just have a little something to do with Landry spending the current season in the Cal League. This was his updated report written just before the draft in the spring of 2010:

14. Louisiana State JR OF Leon Landry (plus speed; plus athlete; raw in all phases; big power potential; legit defensive tools, but extremely inconsistent tracking balls in the air; 5-11, 195 pounds)

I think much of what was said then holds true today. Landry’s strengths remain his speed and, Cal League mirage or not, power upside. Mr. Obvious is hear to note that, yes, those are both pretty good strengths to have. I’m curious about whether or not he’s made any progress in the two areas of his game that concern me the most: rawness at the plate and rawness in the field. Landry’s weak BB-rate is a pretty good indicator of his continued rawness at the plate, though there could be underlying scouting observations (e.g. pitch recognition skills) that would tell a more colorful story. His rawness in the field is probably the most interesting single facet of the game at this point in his development: if he can play a competent or better CF, then he’s a future big leaguer, exact role (platoon partner to fifth OF) to be determined. If he’s limited to LF, things get dicey.

Seth Rosin

I miss February 2010, a far simpler time when a comparison to Boof Bonser had relevance on a draft website. Here’s Rosin’s first appearance on the site:

JR RHP Seth Rosin (2010) is build like a tank (6-6, 245) with the heavy artillery (sinking fastball at 88-92 MPH, peaking at 94) to go to battle. He’s secondary stuff (inconsistent mid-70s CB and a low-80s CU that needs a ton of work) currently lags behind, but I know of plenty scouts who believe both pitches will develop into at least usable options by the time he hits the high minors. Those scouts see him as a possible back of the rotation starter down the line, but I think his ceiling is closer to that of Boof Bonser. I know Bonser has 60 big league starts to his credit, but they were largely ineffectual innings. Now that he has switched to the bullpen in Boston, I’ve got a hunch that Bonser’s stuff will play up and make him an effective reliever going forward. Rosin’s future could very well play out the same way. Ineffectual fifth starter or dependable middle reliever? You make the call.

There was some good discussion in the comments section that fleshed the idea out with a little more depth:

The comparison to Bonser wasn’t meant to insult Rosin. Heck, Boof was a first round pick back in 2000, a draft spot that Rosin can only dream about. When I see Rosin, I see a pitcher without a current above-average or better secondary pitch at present. Bonser’s slider was/is miles ahead of Rosin’s curve. I acknowledged that many believe he’ll develop the offspeed stuff to pitch in the big leagues as a starter, but that’s something I’d need to see this spring before ranking him any higher on my personal board.

I still worry some about Rosin’s lack of a consistent second pitch, but his fastball, in terms of both his always excellent command and his professional uptick in velocity, has been so damn good that I’m not so sure he can’t find a niche in the big leagues based on his plus heater alone. I just so happened to be Gchatting with a pal as the Phillies/Giants trade went down. He asked for my thoughts, so here they were…totally uncensored, unedited, unformatted, and unsomethingsomething:

as for rosin, he’s 23.5 years old and still in high-A but ready for AA
real good fastball (velocity up in relief like most guys, so he’s mid-90s more regularly now), secondaries still lag behind (have heard the CU is ahead of the breaking ball — now a SL — but the SL has more of a chance in the long run), and, yeah, he’s still a real big dude (6-6, 250)
2:15 PM real good minor league numbers, too
2:16 PM like i said, should go right to Reading…if he does well there, he could be fighting for a spot in the big boy bullpen next spring

There you have it, folks: a glimpse into the inner-workings of a draft madman. I failed to originally mention to my buddy that Rosin has been pitching as a starter as of late. Many consider this an important detail — they aren’t wrong — but, for me, Rosin’s always been one of those fringe starting pitching prospect/really good middle relief prospect. Let him start now to get him the innings that could help him hone his offspeed stuff, but realize that his most likely destination is the seventh inning. Frequent readers know I like to comp players to death (legal notice: no player has literally died due to a comp), so it should come as no surprise that I think Rosin sounds a lot like another new Phillie reliever from a four-year university who was once selected within the top four rounds (breath) and just so happens to have a history starting in the past (breath) but has seen his career move forward as he developed a more well-rounded aresenal of pitches (breath) yet still remaining focused on his FB/SL combo, Josh Lindblom. My high school English teacher would be so proud/horrified at that sentence. Anyway, Rosin is Lindblom who is current injured Phillies reliever Mike Stutes. Comps on comps on comps on comps.

And, finally, the original Rosin/Minnesota baseball post inspired what I still consider to be the greatest comment I’ve ever gotten. I’ve reddened up the font a bit so that the full fury of his comment could be realized:

First of all I would just like to say that It is really sad that I would even acknowledge the moron that would write something with such little to no validity to anything that he would say. This guy prob just thought it would be a good idea to google search the guys on the Minnesota team and come up with no information outside of that. Also prob got cut from a high school baseball or if he did make the team he is prob that guy that thinks he is good enought to play college but never got asked let alone talked to any big league team Yet if you ask all his fat beer bellied never played a sport friends he told them he should be playing for the twins. Sorry about it worthless blogger. Get a job and move out of your parents basement.

Let’s move on.

Tommy Joseph

I like Tommy Joseph, I really do. Unfortunately, I don’t love him as much as everybody wanted me to today. Maybe I’m nuts, but it sure seemed like every reporter rushed to praise Joseph through the words of their unnamed “Rival NL Executive,” capped off by the always funny in his special little way Jon Heyman tweeting that he was told Tommy Joseph was “GREAT,” a sentiment that can only really be read in the voice of Tony the Tiger. I think Joseph is GOOD, and good is nothing to be down about. Truthfully, even getting me to the point where I’m cool with calling Joseph GOOD took some time. All week long, in anticipation of Hunter Pence winding up a Giant, I had prepared myself to stay calm if Joseph was the prospect centerpiece of a Phillies/Giants trade. “He’s nothing but a younger, slightly better version of a player already in their system (Sebastian Valle),” I thought. On top of that, I’ve never personally understood all of the Valle hype — raise an incredulous brow if  you must, but Baseball America did have him as the third ranked Phils prospect heading into the season — so I’ve been at a loss in trying to figure out why I should be happy the Phillies seemed so intent on acquiring his (younger, slightly better) doppelgänger? So how did a stubborn guy like me begin to soften his anti-Joseph stance? Read below:

Tommy Joseph (Arizona) – 6-1, 210 catcher from the same high school as Tim Alderson and Brandon Wood who has scouts buzzing this spring; some have him as a late first rounder and a top three overall catching prospect; big arm and tons of power; I want to put him higher, but still haven’t seen/heard/read enough to be sold on him –  if somebody has a compelling case, I’d love to hear it (that’s not me being snarky, I mean it – fill me in!); Arizona commit who has been compared to Ryan Doumit with more playable power

That was one of the earlier things I did on this site. The scouting notes are largely inconsequential compared to the larger context surrounding them. There was much wisdom in my younger self. “Still haven’t seen/heard/read enough to be sold on him” showed the values of patience, honesty, and abject transparency. “If somebody has a compelling case, I’d love to hear it” was an example of the importance of open-mindedness and the willingness to learn what we don’t already know. “Ryan Doumit with more playable power” was, well, honestly that was actually just a way of shoehorning Doumit into the conversation. Cool name, solid player, and the creepiest soulless black eyes you’ll ever have the privilege of staring into. Observe:

Not a day goes by when I don’t try to casually mention Ryan Doumit and his eyes of darkness in my everyday life. Now that this stroll down memory lane has taken a horrible turn, let’s just skip ahead to my initial unedited Gchat response:

maybe i’m just down on him because he’s just not my sort of catcher
ruiz is pretty much my ideal for the position – body type, athleticism, thinks like a pitcher, well-rounded offensive game
1:57 PM joseph, and valle for that matter, are both just a little too one-dimensional for me: huge power, but little patience and questionable defense
  that said, joseph’s power might be so good that it overcomes other shortcomings. plus, all the reports on his defense are exciting – they say he’s really, really improved back there
1:58 PM so what the hell…i’m on board

Analysis!

Zack Cox

I ranked Cox as the 36th best prospect available in the 2010 MLB Draft. On one hand I wasn’t as overboard in love with him as some seemed to be at the time. On the other hand, there’s no escaping the fact that I thought he’d be a really solid professional third baseman in relatively short order. On a different hand, I overshot the mark on arguably every single one of his tools, especially his hit tool, raw power, and foot speed. On my last hand (yes, I have four hands), I’m not quite ready to jump off the Cox as solid big league third baseman bandwagon just yet. Cox has moved quickly as a pro and I think a consolidation year is in order. Let him finish the year in AAA, then give him another half year at the same level in 2013. If the Marlins are patient, they might yet get the player many thought Cox could be. Here’s what I wrote on Cox before the draft in 2010:

Easily confused fellow that I am, I don’t quite understand the negativity surrounding Cox’s power potential that has come to the surface this season. It seems to me that he can’t really win with some people. Last year people oohed and aahed as he flashed prodigious raw power, but disappointed in the plate discipline department. This year he’s taken a much more patient, contact-oriented approach, but is getting heat for not hitting for the same power as he did his freshman year. I realize slugging .600+ and socking 20 extra base hits in college (like Cox has done so far in 2010) isn’t quite the feat it appears to be at first blush, but it’s still a decent indicator that the guy hasn’t been reduced to a singles only hitter this year. Now imagine the possibility that good professional coaching can help Cox unlock the secret of maintaining his gains in plate discipline and a high contact rate while simultaneously helping him rediscover the big power stroke of his first collegiate season. Sounds pretty good, right?

As arguably the draft’s top position player prospect, much has already been written about Cox’s toolset. The cliff notes version is this: potential plus bat, above-average present power but plus projection, 45/50 runner, plus arm, good defender. His worst tool is probably his speed, and, as you can see, even that project to be around average. I think Cox’s ceiling is below that of your typical top half of the first round college bat, but he’s still a relatively safe pick to be an above-average regular third baseman for a first division club.

Detroit Tigers 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Detroit 2011 Draft Selections

I’ve done enough of these draft reviews that I’m starting to repeat my repeats. I no longer can keep track of all of the silly claims (best draft, worst draft, whatever) that I’ve made so far. As I’ve surely said before, I’m not a huge fan of a team like Detroit taking so many college guys early on in the draft. When your first high school prospect is drafted in the fifteenth round, you’re doing it wrong.

Of course, you can always redeem yourself by simply drafting well. Whether we’re talking prospects from college, high school, junior college, or Cuba (looking in your direction, Onelki Garcia), the most important part of picking players is picking good players. I don’t like a college heavy approach, but if you are picking quality college players then who am I to complain?

That takes care of the top of Detroit’s draft. The back end was a mess. Brett Harrison, an overslot prep signing in the eighteenth round, was the last high school prospect signed by the Tigers. This probably doesn’t need to be said, but it isn’t good when you essentially stop drafting after round 18. Detroit managed to land a couple potential relief arms and a few org bats, but outside of intriguing 22nd round pick Tommy Collier, there is no impact upside. When you combine that with a college-heavy approach early on, you’re limiting the chances of landing a player who might contribute at or close to a star level in a big time way.

All I can do is throw up my hands and admit defeat when it comes to the Tigers first pick, Arkansas C James McCann. I figured teams would like him a lot more than I did, but never in my wildest fantasies did I think he’d crack the top two rounds. In my pre-draft comment (below), I said I’d spend upwards of a seventh rounder on him, but no more. Detroit obviously thought differently. Luckily for me, this is just the beginning. McCann’s pro career can go a lot of different ways from this point forward, so the jury is far from out when it comes time to determining whether or not this was a smart pick. Despite not being his biggest fan – from a prospect only and nothing personal standpoint – I’ll be rooting for him to exceed my expectations because by all accounts he is a really great guy. Still think he has a really good chance to become a steady professional backup catcher, though playing time might be hard to come by in an organization that has spent five picks in the draft’s top ten rounds over the past two years on catchers. They also have a pretty good young catcher at the big league level who figures to have a lock on the starting job for the foreseeable future.

I was impressed with the much discussed McCann’s well above-average athleticism and solid speed (for a catcher) in my admittedly quick look at him. His hit tool and power tool both project to around average (45 to 55, depending on the day) and his defense is already professional quality. I know I’ve been considered a McCann hater at times, but I think his relatively high floor (big league backup) makes him a worthy pick within the first seven to ten rounds.

There isn’t much to add about Vanderbilt 1B Aaron Westlake that hasn’t already been said. He has one clear big league tool (power) and a second that is average or better (hit), but is held back by the position he plays. If he hits in the minors, he’ll rise up. If he doesn’t hit, he’s sunk. There isn’t much of a speed/defense safety net, though there are some who think he is just athletic enough to be tried at various odd spots (corner OF, 3B, even C) around the diamond. His handedness (left) works in his favor in that he could potentially get platoon/pinch hit at bats against righthanded pitchers.

Westlake is going to hit as a professional, I’m sure of that much. Will he hit enough to hold down an everyday job at first? That’s the million dollar question, I suppose. He should be able to hit well enough against righthanded pitchers to at least work his way into a platoon role down the line. It could also be possible that his drafting team gets creativity with him, and tries him at a few different spots (corner OF, maybe a little third, perhaps some time behind the plate) a la Baltimore’s Jake Fox.

Can’t say I completely understand the selection of Kansas State 3B Jason King this early on (137th overall), but what do I know? King put up good numbers for the Wildcats and has ample power upside, but I don’t think he’ll hit enough to be a regular in an outfield corner, his likely landing spot down the line.

Texas SS Brandon Loy’s defense is big league quality already, so it really is just a matter of whether or not he can do enough damage with the stick to be a regular. With their 5th round pick (159th overall) in 2009, the St. Louis Cardinals took Miami SS Ryan Jackson. Loy, a player with a similar college background, also went off the board in the 5th round (167th overall). As Peter King might say the kids might say, “Just sayin’.”

Loy is a standout defensive player who makes up for his average foot speed with tremendous instincts and a plus arm that helps him execute all of the necessary throws from deep in the hole at short. He’s also a great athlete with awesome hand-eye coordination; that coordination is never more apparent than when he is called on to bunt, something he already does as well as the best big leaguer. I was slow to come around to Loy as a top prospect heading into the year, but the improvements with the bat have me thinking of him in a new light. Like Taylor Motter ranked one spot above him, Loy’s awesome defense should be his ticket to the big leagues, perhaps as a Paul Janish type down the road.

Howard JC OF Tyler Collins is similar from a basic scouting vantage point to Jason King. Both guys have big power, but project best as outfielders unable to play center. Guys like have to, wait for it, hit a ton to keep advancing in pro ball. I do like Collins’ pure hit tool over King’s and he is more of a natural in the outfield, so, you know, there’s that.

I was impressed Detroit got a deal done with Wichita State LHP Brian Flynn, a draft-eligible sophomore that many had pegged as likely to return for one more season with the Shockers. Lefties who are 6-8, 240ish pounds and can reach the mid-90s don’t come around too often, but it wasn’t just Flynn’s questionable signability that dropped him to the 7th round. At this precise moment in time, Flynn is a one-pitch pitcher. Even that one pitch, his fastball, isn’t that great an offering when you factor in his inconsistent ability to harness it. If the slider keeps developing and he shows he can work in the occasional change, then we might have a dark horse starting pitching prospect. If not, Flynn will try to make it in the competitive world of professional relief pitching.

Wichita State SO LHP Brian Flynn: 86-90 FB, peak 92; new peak of 94; command needs work; 6-8, 245 pounds

I lost track of Dallas Baptist OF Jason Krizan from early last season to just this very moment, so I’m pleasantly surprised to see he hit a Division I record for doubles this past year. Considering the only notes I had on him at the start of the year were “big power to gaps,” I can’t help but laugh. Krizan’s 2011 numbers have a distinct video game feel, but his lack of big tools – remember, a comment about his gap power was about the most positive thing said about him from a scouting perspective this past spring – keep him from being as good a prospect as his numbers might have you think. His inability to play center hurts him as well because, stop me if you’ve heard this before, if you want to play a big league corner outfield spot then you have to be able to hit, hit, and hit some more. With the right breaks Krizan could make it as a backup outfielder/pinch hitter, but he’d be stretched as an everyday player.

Kentucky OF Chad Wright profiles very similarly to the guy drafted one round ahead of him. He’s a “jack of all trades, master of none” prospect who is just good enough at everything to be interesting, but not quite good enough at any one thing to be a regular.

Kentucky JR OF Chad Wright (2011): average all around

I’ve written a lot about Vanderbilt C Curt Casali over the years, so I’ll make this brief: Curt Casali is going to play in the big leagues. I’ll go a step further and say he’s a better than 50/50 bet to outproduce the other SEC catcher taken by Detroit in the second round. I know I’m alone on this, but he reminds me a good bit of one-time catcher Josh Willingham at the plate. One thing that could definitely hold him back: I don’t know if he’s athletic enough to move out behind the plate if such a move is necessitated by his surgically reconstructed elbow.

Every game Casali plays is one game further removed from 2009 Tommy John surgery. The difference it has made in his defense behind the plate (more than just big league ready – he’d be in the upper half defensively of pro catchers) and his offense at the plate (near-plus raw power and a phenomenal whole field approach) give him the look of a future big leaguer to me. It is a rare senior that warrants draft consideration before round five, but Casali is an exception. Love this guy.

Barry 1B Dean Green (Round 11) got lost in the shuffle after transferring to Barry from Oklahoma State, but he’s a solid hitter with decent power. Michigan State OF Jeff Holm (Round 12) was a slick pick as one of the nation’s most intriguing senior signs. He has a long track record of excellent production, good speed, a great approach to hitting, and some defensive versatility (he plays a mean first base as well as average D in the outfield corners).

Michigan State SR OF Jeff Holm (2011): great approach; above-average to plus speed; gap power; average arm; average range in corner; has played 1B, but enough foot speed for corner; (340/411/534 – 28 BB/15 K – 22/25 SB – 206 AB)

I wanted all spring to champion Alabama-Birmingham RHP Ryan Woolley (Round 13), but his production (roughly 6 K/9) kept me from throwing any weight behind an endorsement. Down senior year aside, Woolley is a solid relief prospect with a good fastball that plays up in the bullpen and two offspeed pitches (slider and hard change) that flash above-average.

UAB SR RHP Ryan Woolley (2011): 90-91, topping at 92 with FB; has been up to 93-96 with FB; good 12-6 75-77 SL; power 82-83 CU; 6-1, 195 pounds; (6.75 K/9 – 4.64 BB/9 – 4.87 FIP – 64 IP*)

Stratford Academy (GA) OF Tyler Gibson (Round 15) might only have one plus tool, but it’s the right one to have. His big raw power gives him a chance to someday start in a corner, but he’s a long way away from being the player he’ll eventually be.

Green Valley HS (NV) 3B Brett Harrison (Round 18) got six figures mostly for his plus defensive upside and chance for a league average bat. I thought he could stick up the middle, but the Tigers prefer him at third.

My first draft originally had Harrison with the second base prospects, but a quick word from a smart guy suggested I was underselling his defensive upside. I believe a sampling of that quick word included the phrase “unbelievably light on his feet, like he is fielding on a cloud” or something weirdly poetic like that. There isn’t a whole lot there with the bat just yet, but after being told he had a “criminally underrated pure hit tool” I reconsidered and relented. Still not sold on the power ever coming around, but if he can combine an above-average hit tool with solid defense and a good arm, then we’ve got ourselves a nice looking prospect. There is an outside shot Harrison could go undrafted if teams are as convinced as my smart guy seems to be about his commitment to Hawaii.

If one player stands out as a potential late round steal for Detroit, it’s San Jacinto JC RHP Tommy Collier (Round 22). Collier throws two plus pitches already, and, if healthy, has the chance to unleash his nasty slider once again. He has the repertoire to start, but his health might necessitate a full-time switch to the bullpen. Mississippi LHP Matt Crouse (Round 24) is another arm with upside signed later on in the draft. His stuff was down this past spring, but he shows three average or better pitches when right and a projectable frame that could lead to a touch more velocity going forward. Southern California RHP Chad Smith (Round 17), who is equipped with a tidy low-90s heater/low-80s slider combo, could also make it as a reliever in pro ball

Mississippi JR LHP Matt Crouse: 86-88 FB, rare 91-92 peak; above-average CB that he leans on heavily; good CU; very projectable, but mechanics need cleaning up; 6-4, 185 pounds; stuff down this spring

Southern Cal JR RHP Chad Smith (2011): 90-92 FB; 93 peak; 80-84 SL; 6-3, 210

I can’t wait to see what Wichita State has planned for returning senior RHP Mitch Mormann (Round 25). He already has a plus fastball, both in terms of velocity and movement, and a slider that works as a solid second pitch in the bullpen. If his changeup shows progress, he could start this spring. If not, he could be on the short list of top college relievers for the 2012 Draft.

SR RHP Mitch Mormann (2012): 93-95 FB with great sink, 96 peak; average 83-85 SL; raw CU; 6-6, 255 pounds

Minnesota RHP Scott Matyas (Round 27) retired after just four rocky pro appearances, so, yeah, that’s that. He was going to be my sleeper pick, too. Glad I double-checked!

Minnesota SR RHP Scott Matyas: sits 88-91, 94 peak FB; above-average low-70s CB; good cutter; good command; mixes in upper-70s CU; really good athlete; 6-4, 220; Tommy John survivor

Missouri State RHP Dan Kickham (Round 33) might be the best of the sorry lot of players signed by Detroit after the 25th round. His fastball is too straight and his slider more good than great, but he has a chance to rise up in the system with some early pro successes.

Missouri State JR RHP Dan Kickham: 88-92 FB without much movement; average 81-83 SL; reliever; 6-4, 210

Portage HS (MI) 1B Ryan Krill (Round 40) is off to Michigan State. Well, I suppose he’s already there (it is almost November, after all), but you know what I mean. He has the chance to hit right away for a Spartans team that looks pretty decent on paper.

Krill is another prospect I was slow to come around on, but I’m buying into his mix of strong defensive tools, super athleticism, and big upside with the bat. Like Jacob Anderson before him, he’s got the wheels and instincts to play some outfield as a pro. There is enough to like about Krill that you can dream on him being a league average hitter and above-average glove at first down the line if everything works out. That may not sound all that sexy, and there is plenty of risk involved with assuming “everything works out,” but you have to remember how much you have to hit if you want to play first base in the bigs. As much as I like Krill now, I’ll be the first to admit that each and every one of these mid-round high school first basemen will all have to make major strides in pro ball (i.e. have “everything work out”) to begin to reach their upper level projections. Life is tough when you don’t have a fallback plan, I guess.