Eight months remain for various young hitters’ biceps to balloon and still be available for the Tigers five picks into next June’s baseball draft.

Detroit finished with the same record in 2018 as in 2017 — 64-98 — but will find itself four draft picks deeper in June because of a baseball season that had a sellout crowd of crummy teams.

The Tigers need a bat, of course. Lots of them. And, as tends to be their fate, there probably will be few of the franchise version unclaimed when they select fifth overall.

The Tigers are rather tired of grabbing first-round pitchers. They were weary last June when they had a pick-of-the-litter selection at first overall. They took a pitcher, anyway, Casey Mize, not only because he has a chance to be very good, but because they concluded the can’t-miss All-Star bat you would be obliged to take at first overall simply wasn’t present.

Next year is not a great bet to be better. It’s also not terribly smart to assess drafts until another spring of baseball has wrapped up and the college/prep landscapes have shown who, during the past year, grew into a monster.

For now, prepare for the possibility some of these gents will be mentioned with respect to the Tigers.

More: Possible first-round Tigers draft picks in 2019

There are a handful of shortstops probably destined for the top 10 or 15, headed by a guy who could well find himself in a very few years at Camden Yards in Baltimore, which has the first pick: Bobby Witt Jr., a prep dazzler from Colleyville, Texas. Braden Shewmake of Texas A&M, Bryson Stott of Nevada-Las Vegas, and prepster C.J. Abrams of Roswell, Ga., all could be top-five material.

There is a pair of mauling third basemen to consider: Josh Jung (Texas Tech) and Rece Hinds, a high schooler from, Niceville, Fla.

The best outfield position talent might be Riley Greene, of Hagerty High, outside of Orlando, Fla., or maybe Matt Wallner, a 6-foot-5, left-handed masher from Southern Mississippi, who also could be that trophy first baseman the Tigers farm lacks.

And since catchers have rare-jewel value, either organizationally, or as heavy retail trade chips, the Tigers might be left with a couple of projected top-five picks unclaimed: Adley Rutschman (Oregon State) or Shea Langeliers (Baylor).

More: Mensching: Tigers' future doesn't look too bright

This will all be sorted out heading into June. Scouts are paid to study these kids with CIA-grade resolve for finding pluses and minuses. Once you fold into the equation analytics staffers who inspect DNA, growth patterns, strikeout rates, and everything but credit scores (correction: those are probably examined, also), you feel more comfortable than in past eras taking a stab with a pick as juicy as fifth overall.

The Tigers appeared to do well with their 2018 draft as they got a bit more adventuresome. They stayed away from safer picks that too many times in the past turned soggy and instead applied a bit more derring-do, which brought to them potential later-round gifts in Brock Deatherage (10th round) and Tarik Skubal (ninth).

They also took a pair of hitters in the second and third rounds, Parker Meadows and Kody Clemens, which as far as summer performances indicate, probably were shrewd snags.

A draft-day gift?

At this point it’s necessary to glaze eyes and explain the possibility Detroit will receive draft-day gifts in 2019 and 2020.

It has to do with that nebulous world known as baseball’s competitive balance system.

This is an area of baseball’s solar system that can be analyzed only through the equivalent of a Hubble Telescope, but it comes down to awarding an extra, early-round draft pick to teams that qualify as truly needy.

It’s determined by market size, a team’s revenues, and by winning percentage. Finish low enough in those cumulative scores and you, too, could be a winner!

More: Tigers serious about cleaning up minor leagues

Fourteen teams last June got an extra pick, either before the second, or third, rounds of the draft. Even with their moribund season in 2017 the Tigers didn’t qualify, all because they still drew more than 2 million at the gate, they had a solid TV and broadcast audience, and because of the mysterious ways in which market size are measured.

It seems Detroit isn’t as disadvantaged as some nationally might believe.

The Tigers always have been on the borderline, but have been judged and calibrated as being not in the same deprived state as 14 teams from 2018, all of which claimed extra prizes: Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, San Diego, Arizona, Kansas City, Cleveland, Colorado, St. Louis, Miami, Oakland, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and Minnesota.

How 'bout that? All those college kids heading to San Diego, Denver, and South Beach didn’t realize they were gambling on impoverished areas nearing economic collapse. But, at least in baseball’s eyes, Detroit has it all over those locales.

Al Avila, the Tigers general manager who heads Detroit’s baseball economic boon, mentioned cryptically Saturday the Tigers just might be closing in on public assistance from Commissioner Rob Manfred’s office, in the manner of being eligible for one of those competitive balance picks, as they’re called.

The calculations aren’t complete. But a 64-98 record and the first year of sub-2 million attendance at Comerica Park since 2004 at least invites executive thoughts the Tigers are nearing eligibility for one of those extra soup-kitchen picks.

Nick's time

There is another potential benefit to being among baseball’s poor.

It comes in the form of compensation should you lose a big-name free agent, which a year from now could be a guy named Nick Castellanos.

This gets sticky, but bear with us, because a farm system’s health could get a sizable upgrade if certain parts click:

Castellanos figures to have a very nice season in 2019 as he turns 27. He could, of course, become part of a summer trade, should his bat and a contender’s offensive needs mesh.

If he isn’t dealt, the Tigers, assuming they will not have offered him a long-term extension because they are not now of a mind to do so, likely will make Castellanos a fat qualifying offer (pushing $20 million) to stick with them for 2020.

Should the qualifying offer be made, and should Castellanos sign with another team for $50 million or more, the Tigers will get an extra pick ahead of the fourth round in 2020. Unless, that is, they by then are one of those competitive balance welfare recipients, which would instead give them a pick just before the second, or third, rounds, depending upon their state of destitution.

So, much is churning as the Tigers get ready for 2019 and for what they pray will be another uptick in a more fertile farm that should get added nutrition from next year’s — and 2020’s — drafts.

But even now it's worth taking a peek at what's ahead in terms of new flesh that will be coming Detroit's way in June. Some of the above will be factoring in future playoff drama. If there's enough of that talent to last five picks into the 2019 draft, one of those helping hands could be Comerica Park-bound.

Twitter: @Lynn_Henning

2019 top draft prospects

Here are the top five prospects in both college and high school for the 2019 draft, according to and Baseball America


1. Adley Rutschman, C, Oregon State

2. Andrew Vaughn, 1B, California

3. Logan Davidson, SS, Clemson

4. Shea Langeliers, C, Baylor

5. Nick Lodolo, LHP, TCU

High school

1. Bobby Witt, Jr., SS, Colleyville (Texas) Heritage

2. Brennan Malone, RHP, IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)

3. Daniel Espino, RHP, Georgia Premier Academy (Stateboro, Ga.)

4. Riley Greene, OF, Hagerty (Oviedo, Fla.)

5. Rece Hinds, 3B, IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)

Baseball America


1. Adley Rutschman, C, Oregon State

2. Shea Langeliers, C, Baylor

3. Josh Jung, 3B, Texas Tech

4. Logan Davidson, SS, Clemson

5. Zack Thompson, LHP, Kentucky

High school

1. Bobby Witt, Jr., SS, Colleyville (Texas) Heritage

2. C.J. Abrams, SS, Blesssed Trinity (Roswell, Ga.)

3. Riley Greene, OF, Hagerty (Oviedo, Fla.)

4. Brennan Malone, RHP, IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)

5. Rece Hinds, 3B, Niceville (Fla.)