This is a weekly look by Lynn Henning of The Detroit News at the candidates the Tigers could consider with the No. 1 pick in June's draft.
For scouts across North America, only 46 more shopping days remain until the June 4 big-league baseball draft.
The Tigers are happy to be picking first overall, or as happy as they can be given that baseball’s worst record from the previous season is always the determinant of draft order.
They would be happier, too, if they were looking at guaranteed gold. They aren’t. Not in 2018, and especially not in baseball, where draft picks equate to an expensive night at the casino.
Among the best of the talent Detroit, and other big-league clubs, are examining as The Detroit News continues with its weekly plunge into the Tigers Top Ten Draft Watch:
1. Casey Mize, RH starter, Auburn, 6-3, 220: He’s almost boring as he racks up one superb start after another. Last weekend against Mississippi State: nine innings, five hits, one run, seven strikeouts, no walks. Season updates are required, only because they’re an exercise in disbelief: 63 innings, 84 strikeouts, four walks. Mize has no serious competition for that top spot. Not yet. Last week: 1.
2. Matt Liberatore, LH starter, Mountain Ridge High, Glendale, Ariz., 6-5, 200: Should a medical wrinkle develop with Mize between now and June 4, it’s more than possible the Tigers would grab Liberatore. He has the size, delivery, left arm and mature repertoire that could make him one of those rare prep picks at first overall. Liberatore has whiffed 61 batters in 35 innings. The Tigers analytics department no doubt has been busy with his size and age projections. He’s probably the runner-up, for now, to Mize. Last week: 2.
3. Travis Swaggerty, CF, University of South Alabama, 5-11, 180: Swaggerty isn’t a newbie. He came into the spring with a handsome portfolio and has since spruced up his credentials, primarily by showing lots of power for a guy just under six feet tall. He has nine homers and 15 extra-base hits in 34 games. He runs like a track guy, has an excellent eye, and of course plays center field. Good credentials alongside a 1.075 OPS. The Tigers are so aching to take a bat, Swaggerty could play his way into some June thoughts. Last week: Unranked.
4. Brady Singer, RH starter, University of Florida, 6-5, 210: He and Mize are supposed to duel April 27, which even if you’re not a big college baseball fan, will be drama worth following. Singer’s last start was emblematic of why the Tigers aren’t forgetting about the Gators ace. He went seven innings against Missouri, allowed one hit, struck out six and walked three. On the season, he’s striking out just over a batter an inning and walking a hitter every four innings. Going to be a Top Five choice, almost assuredly. Last week: 3.
5. Jackson Kowar, RH starter, University of Florida, 6-6, 210: The Tigers drafted him three years ago out of Charlotte (North Carolina) Christian High and could, conceivably, go his way again. Kowar then decided 40th-round money wasn’t worth bypassing his Gators scholarship, which was good strategy, because he’s got a nearly guaranteed first-round ticket in 2018. He’s just behind Singer in status and profile. But last week’s game against Missouri was typical of Kowar: seven innings, six hits, two runs, nine strikeouts, a walk. Last week: 4.
6. Alec Bohm, 3B, Wichita State, 6-5, 220: Nice numbers for a college junior and right-handed batter: .349 in 34 games, .459 on-base percentage, .605 slugging, for a 1.065 OPS. Not yet the brand of player the Tigers will seriously ponder at 1-1. But with six-plus weeks to go, don’t count out anyone in the 2018 draft. Last week: Unranked.
7. Logan Gilbert, RH starter, RH starter, Stetson University, 6-6, 210: He won’t go away, not with his size and stuff. Had a typical Gilbert start last week against Lipscomb, which is not to be confused with the Houston Astros: eight innings, five hits, two runs, 11 strikeouts, no walks. On the season: 87 whiffs and 15 walks in 62-1/3 innings. Only 42 hits against him. The Tigers know all about him. First overall? Not likely. But keep an eye out. Last week: 6.
8. Jarred Kelenic, OF, Waukesha West (Wisconsin) High, 6-1, 195: He graduated in January and no longer is an official citizen of Waukesha West. He will play travel baseball between now and June and the Tigers absolutely will pay attention. If they think he can handle premium pitching, and, to date, he hasn’t had sufficient chance to show how he might tackle the toughest stuff, the Tigers will be tempted. Last week: 8.
9. Shane McClanahan, LH starter, University of South Florida, 6-1, 173: Might be living on borrowed time as a Top 10 guy. He was bruised in his last start against East Carolina (three innings, six runs, five walks) and looks to some appraisers as if he and his triple-digit fastball might ultimately be headed for a big-league bullpen. Last week: 5.
10. Joey Bart, C, Georgia Tech, 6-3, 225: The position, his size, his bat, good combination of pluses for another Yellowjackets prodigy who will please some organization hungry for inventory at a place where blue chips are always prized. He is a right-handed hitter with 11 home runs and a .357 batting average. Last week: 10.
Dropped from this week’s list: Ryan Rolison, left-handed starter, University of Mississippi. Rolison was fine last weekend against Vanderbilt and could re-apply for top-10 admission. But he just misses this week’s cut.