Will Pint and his 102-mph arm fall to Tigers?

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Riley Pint

Detroit -- Dave Dombrowski loved him some power arms, and, as such, made them a prime priority in most Major League Baseball drafts.

Al Avila is running the show in Detroit now, and we're about to find out if he has a similar philosophy.

"It's been similar to past years," said Scott Pleis, Tigers amateur scouting director. "Our philosophy and a lot of things stayed intact."

The Tigers pick ninth overall in the draft, which starts Thursday, with the first two rounds plus two sandwich, lottery rounds, and continues through the end of the 40th round Saturday.

Under Dombrowski, the Tigers took a pitcher -- and usually a very hard-thrower -- with 10 of 13 first-round draft picks, most recently right-hander Beau Burrows, a Texas high-school right-hander, last June.

Six of the 10 pitchers were out of college, led by Justin Verlander; four were out of high school, led by Rick Porcello.

While Pleis stuck to the best-player-available mantra used by so many personnel people in so many sports, the Tigers might have incentive to go the college route this year, if they feel pressure to have the pick prove impactful as soon as possible, considering they are short-handed in this draft. Because they signed free agents Jordan Zimmermann (Washington Nationals) and Justin Upton (San Diego Padres) this offseason, the penalty for lavish spending was forfeiting their second- and third-round picks. Their first-round pick was protected, because their last-place finish put them in the top 10.

But if they go the high school route, all eyes seem to be on right-hander Riley Pint, of St. Thomas Aquinas in Overland Park, Kansas. Pint, at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, has drawn some comparisons to Verlander, which made Pleis cringe a bit when he met with reporters Wednesday.

"I hate those. That's a lot of pressure to put on somebody," Pleis said. "He's a very impressive kid. He's got really good stuff.

"I didn't see Verlander in high school ... but ability-wise, you could go there."

It's no secret David Chadd, who ran the draft under Dombrowski and now is an assistant general manager to Avila, knows well the talent in Missouri and Kansas, and Pint is a real prize, with a fastball that has been clocked at 102 mph, to go with a good curveball and change-up.

As a senior, pitching under the heavy scrutiny of gobs of scouts each time out, he was 7-1 with a 0.43 ERA, and 87 strikeouts to 25 walks in 49 innings. He allowed just 21 hits and, as an added bonus, batted .579, playing second base when he wasn't pitching.

"Every team wanted to beat him so bad," said Lorne Parks, his high school coach who said Pint's one loss was because of poor run support. "He had very good poise."

The question is, will Pint -- who could've been a Division I basketball prospect, until ankle, finger and nose injuries during his junior season convinced him to focus solely on his meal ticket, baseball -- be available at No. 9? Many projections have him going top-five, and unlike in football and basketball, ballclubs can't trade up in baseball to assure they get the prospect they covet the most.

Pint is committed to LSU, but almost certainly will be going pro, considering he's likely to get between $3.5 million and $7 million, depending on his final draft position. If the Tigers get him, he'll eat up a massive chunk of their allotted $5.24-million draft pool. Slot value for the No. 9 pick is around $3.5 million.

Tigers can’t afford to miss on first-round draft pick

If Plan A falls through, the Tigers could turn again to one of their favorite wells, Vanderbilt, which has right-hander Jordan Sheffield, who had Tommy John surgery while in high school, but still packs quite a powerful punch despite not even being quite 6-foot tall. His uncle is former Tiger Gary Sheffield.

Pleis said it wouldn't be ideal to take a kid with Tommy John on his medicals, but it's not out of the question, either, if trainer Kevin Rand gave his blessing, and the kid in question hadn't lost any significant velocity or missed any string of starts.

"It wouldn't keep me from taking a guy in the right situation," Pleis said.

The No. 9 pick is the highest the Tigers have drafted since 2009, when they selected a high school right-hander, Jacob Turner. Andrew Miller (2006, sixth) and Verlander (2004, second) were the last Tigers' picks earlier than the ninth round.

Of statewide interest, several players from Michigan and Michigan State figure to be drafted, but none too early. The consensus top state prospect is Western Michigan left-hander Keegan Akin, who could go in the first three rounds, and possibly first two. Akin, of Midland, has received correspondence from all 30 major-league teams.

Legendary shortstop Alan Trammell will represent the Tigers at the MLB draft in New York on Thursday, while the Tigers war room does its work in Detroit. Former manager Jim Leyland for a second consecutive year will be in the war room, at Chadd's request, before a planned trip to check out some prospects at Double-A Erie.

MLB draft was no big deal to Ausmus in 1987


When: Thursday-Saturday

Schedule: First two rounds, including two lottery rounds, Thursday, starting at 7 p.m.; rounds 3-10 Friday, starting at 1 p.m.; rounds 11-30 Saturday, starting at noon.

TV: MLB Network on Thursday; live draft tracker available at MLB.com.

Tigers selections: They have the No. 9 overall pick Thursday, but then don't pick again until the fourth round Saturday, because of forfeited second- and third-round picks to sign free agents Jordan Zimmermann (Nationals) and Justin Upton (Padres).