Draft profile: Tigers get a good read on McCain

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Editor’s note: Latest in a series looking at the Tigers’ first 10 draft picks.

Not many early 20-somethings are all that jazzed about the prospect of making the long bus rides that are simply part of life in the minor leagues.

Garrett McCain, though, actually is looking forward to them.

A self-described “avid reader” — but he doesn’t like the term “bookworm” — he’s always working his way through this book or that book, and now will have ample time to plow through his wish list.

“The more I can know, not only only about this game, but also about being a better person,” McCain said recently, during a phone conversation with The News. “I’m usually trying to read a book or have my nose in some kind of literature.

“I’m currently reading a book called ‘No Easy Day’ about the Osama bin Laden raid, by one of the soldiers. Outside of that, my most recent read focused on the mental side of baseball, about how to control situations and how to react when things don’t go your way.

“It was baseball, but it also wasn’t baseball. I’m kind of broad. It doesn’t have to be sports.”

His professional career for the foreseeable future will be in sports, though, as a 10th-round draft pick by the Tigers last week. The outfielder from Oklahoma State wasted little time signing his first contract, for slot value, of $132,600.

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McCain now is down in Lakeland, Fla., where the schedule is light for a few days for the top prospects, most of whom kill the time before accepting their first assignments — short-season A-ball Connecticut is likely for McCain — to binge-watch Netflix.

McCain isn’t like most prospects, although ...

“I get my fair share of that, as well,” he said. “But any time I can stay away from my phone or my TV screen, I usually do that.”

McCain also likes to play some golf and catch some rays, typical stuff. And, oh, of course, he loves himself some baseball.

He batted .388 with four home runs and 43 RBIs in 57 games for Oklahoma State this past season as a junior, and is a kid the Tigers call “toolsy.” McCain played quarterback for his high-school team in Texas, and also played basketball and ran track.

“And every kid played soccer,” McCain said.

He’s likely to start with the Tigers at his preferred position, which is center field, but he also can play both corners.

McCain’s speed is one of his best attributes, as he stole 19 bases in 20 attempts this past season, and that one caught-stealing was really a pickoff when he went on first movement, and got burned. So, really, he never was caught stealing in the traditional sense.

“Caught stealing with an asterisk,” McCain said, laughing.

While the speed is above-average, it’s not exactly “burner” quality, said David Chadd, Tigers assistant general manager.

Mostly, he’s smart and efficient when he runs the bases, which probably is music to the ears of Tigers’ fans not overly enamored with all the blunders on the bases at the major-league level.

“He’s not like an 8 (speed rating), but he can run and he competes and he can swing the bat a little bit,” said Scott Pleis, the Tigers’ director of amateur scouting. “He’s not gonna be a guy that’s gonna go out and hit a ton of home runs. He’s got power, but we don’t expect him to hit 30 (home runs).

“He’s a toolsy outfielder and he’s gonna be a good one.”

McCain, a .405 career hitter in high school, can only hope to have a fraction of the career as his idol, Kalamazoo native and Yankees legend Derek Jeter.

Jeter, of course, played shortstop, and shortstop always was McCain’s dream position, but he was left-handed, and he learned at an early age that left-handed throwers don’t play shortstop. He didn’t even get to play shortstop in Little League.

“I just like the way he played the game, and for so long,” McCain said of Jeter. “He did things the right way, he was a leader. The success aside, overall he was just an ambassador for the game of baseball. That’s just kind of what drew me toward him.

“He didn’t look like he was doing a job. He looked like he was a kid out there.

“And that’s kind of the way I want to continue to play this game.”

Get to know ...

Garrett McCain, OF

Age: 21 (Feb. 28, 1996)

Height/weight: 6-0/180

Hometown: Wylie, Texas

College: Oklahoma State

Draft: 10th round, 305th overall ($132,600 value)

Fun fact: He was Most Outstanding Player in the Big 12 Championship, where Oklahoma State won the tournament and earned an NCAA Tournament invitation. He had six hits and seven RBIs in the last two games.