Editor’s note: Latest in a series looking at the Tigers’ first 10 draft picks.
Growing up southwest of Chicago, Brad Bass was in the minority, as a huge White Sox fan.
The Major League Baseball Draft sure has given him a chuckle, thanks to the two biggest rivals of the White Sox.
“I used to hate the Cubs, and that was weird, too, because out of high school, I got drafted by the Cubs,” Bass said, with a laugh, the other day. “Now, the Tigers, too. Hey, man, I’m open to anything.”
Bass, a right-hander from Notre Dame, was selected in the seventh round of the draft by the Tigers, and has signed for slot value of $189,100. He was drafted in the 33rd round out of high school by the Cubs, but decided to head to South Bend.
Good choice, as he improved his stock significantly, and made an important transition, too.
He began his career at Notre Dame as a reliever, but his junior year, he became a starter, and posted a 3.74 ERA while striking out 80 in 84.1 innings.
Bass is assigned to short-season Single-A Connecticut, and awaiting word whether the Tigers will keep him starting, or try him in relief. Given the workload of his just-completed starting season, they could ease him into the bullpen, then unleash him as a starter again next year.
Starting is Bass’ preference.
“I always wanted to be a starter, and I think I have the capability of being a starter,” Bass said. “I always challenged myself to develop that third pitch that kind of defines yourself from reliever to a starter. I worked on my change-up all summer, playing catch with it.
“And I would say as the season progressed, I trusted it more and more. It’s a thing where you have to keep working on it consistently. It’s definitely still a work in progress.”
Bass, 21, had success out of the bullpen as a freshman, with a 1.91 ERA in 19 appearances (just one start), but things went south as a sophomore, when he was rocked for 16 earned runs and 18 hits in 12.1 innings over 11 relief appearances, and also suffered an injury.
That summer, though, he turned things around in the Cape Cod League out of the bullpen, opening up some scouts’ eyes. Still, when he got back to South Bend, he set out to be a starter, and outside of the season’s opening weekend, that was his role, for the first time, consistently, since early on in high school. As a prep star, he was ranked the No. 5 overall player out of Illinois.
Bass’ fastball sits low 90s, though out of the bullpen, it sat more mid-90s and occasionally even touched 97, as he could let it fly in shorter stints. His second-best pitch is his slider, at 83-84.
He was a bit surprised the Tigers drafted him, as they weren’t one of the teams that seemed hot to trot. The Cubs, White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers seemed more interested. But he’s thrilled to be starting his professional career.
“They’re still talking about both of them,” Bass said of Tigers’ brass, contemplating the route he should take. “I’m hoping it’s gonna lean toward starting.
“As a starter, once a week you’re going in. As a reliever, the mind set is totally different, you have to be ready to go every single day you get to the field. As a starter, you have those days you can prepare yourself.”
There’s also an added benefit to being a starter, who pitches every fifth day — more golfing.
It’s not a coincidence starting pitchers, like, say, Justin Verlander, tend to have the better games on the links.
That’s one of the big passions for Bass, a big kid, at 6-foot-6 and 253 pounds. He’s also a Netflix and movies fan; his last trip to the theater, he saw “Wonder Woman,” and, like most, liked it.
“I wish I had my clubs down here with me,” Bass, also a four-year basketball player in high school, said with a laugh. “I’d definitely be playing.”
Get to know ...
Brad Bass, RHP
Age: 21 (Feb. 15, 1996)
Hometown: New Lenox, Ill.
College: Notre Dame
Draft: seventh round, 215th overall ($189,100)
Fun fact: Bass really grabbed scouts’ attention in the 2016 Cape Cod League, posting a 1.56 ERA in 23 innings, following a rough, injury-plagued sophomore season at Notre Dame.