Their scouts are armed with radar guns and laptops. And, in some cases, with new tires on cars that are about to see their odometers spin crazily during the next three months.
The Tigers have the first overall pick in the June 4 amateur draft. And, if denied a franchise player the landscape suggests probably isn’t available in 2018, the Tigers at least want the habitual All-Star who should be ready to be plucked from America’s college or high school diamonds.
There is some marvelous talent on the landscape, pitchers and hitters. Among the best as The Detroit News continues with its weekly dive into the Tigers Top Ten Draft Watch:
1. Casey Mize, RH starter, Auburn, 6-3, 220: He tossed a nifty no-hitter against Northeastern last week and isn’t abandoning last week’s top spot. Mize struck out 13 batters in his seven-inning gem and destroyed hitters galore with his fastball (95-97) and wipeout split-finger pitch. He probably ranks today as the closest any player in 2018 comes to a consensus first-overall grab. Emphasis on today. It’s a long haul until June 4. Last week: 1
2. Matt Liberatore, LH starter, Mountain Ridge High, Glendale, Ariz., 6-5, 200: Scouts have been wearing out rental cars or turning in heavy mileage as they flood suburban Phoenix in a bid to see Liberatore. He has a scholarship waiting at the University of Arizona. But a few million bucks are awaiting this central-casting left-hander who, even if he is a teenager, looks like a cactus-flavored version of Clayton Kershaw. Last week: 2
3. Nolan Gorman, SS, Sandra Day O’Connor High, Glendale, Ariz., 6-1, 210: Still considered the top power-hitting prospect in prep or college baseball. He bats left-handed and probably will move to either second base, or more likely, third base, once he’s playing on the farm. Gorman’s another reason, in tandem with Liberatore, why scouts are feasting on high school games in Glendale. Last week: 3
4. Shane McClanahan, LH starter, University of South Florida, 6-1, 173: Early in the 2018 season, McClanahan’s done what might be expected from a guy with a 100-mph fastball. He has murdered hitters, with 41 strikeouts in 24 innings. McClanahan isn’t the tall-timber starter teams like the Tigers typically chase. And it’s possible he’ll end up as a reliever. But what an arm, either way. Last week: 4
5. Ryan Rolison, LH starter, University of Mississippi, 6-3, 205: Rolison hasn’t been dynamic in the early going. But he has such smoothness and pitching poise, as well as a curveball that helps polish his repertoire, that radar guns are secondary. He still gets his strikeouts (32 in 23 innings this season), just as another left-hander, Cliff Lee, got his during Lee’s big-league prime. Last week: 5
6. Travis Swaggerty, CF, University of South Alabama, 5-11, 180: Swaggerty is a left-handed stick who, early in the year, already is carrying a 1.193 OPS on top of a .340 batting average. This is a guy with power well beyond his size. Up-the-middle talents with his hitting tools are among baseball’s rarer commodities. Last week: 6
7. Nick Madrigal, 2B, Oregon State, 5-7, 160, 2B: Once he heals from a broken left wrist, watch out. Madrigal is a gifted batsman, with power. When a guy his size swings this brand of right-handed bat, go ahead and join all the others who see in him an Oregon State version of Jose Altuve. Last week: 7
8. Logan Gilbert, RH starter, Stetson University, 6-6, 210: Take a gander at his measurements. Then factor in the upper-90s fastball, along with three other pitches, and you understand why teams see a top-of-the-rotation stud in Gilbert. Last week: 8
9. Jarred Kelenic, OF, Waukesha West High, Waukesha, Wisconsin, 6-1, 196: Kelenic is straight from the Gabe Kapler School of Body Building, for those who remember a one-time Tigers player’s musculature. Kelenic happens to have one advantage over Kapler: He’s a very good hitter, with a very good skill set for right field. He also bats left-handed. You don’t often find hotshot baseball prospects from Wisconsin’s tundra. But the Dairyland state has a potential prize in the super-intense Kelenic. It is possible the Tigers bite with that first pick and keep Kelenic from his Louisville commitment. Last week: Not ranked.
10. Connor Scott, OF, Plant High, Tampa, Florida, 6-4, 180: He’s supposedly headed this autumn to the University of Florida. But don’t bet on it. Scott looks like a left-handed-hitting sequoia. The difference is how much poise and prowess this teenager flashes. Difficult to see him as a first-overall pick. But don’t be surprised if he’s top 10 on draft day — a low top-10 pick. Last week: Not ranked.
Those who dropped from this week’s top 10:
Brice Turang, SS, Santiago High, Corona, Calif., 6-1, 165: Nothing wrong with Turang. But last week’s 10th-place seat has been filled, for now, by Scott.
Ethan Hankins, RH starter, Forsyth Central High, Cumming, Ga.: 6-6, 210: Tough to keep your place in the Top 10 (he was ranked ninth last week) when you’re on the sidelines with a sore shoulder. Tough, tough break for Hankins. Early reports are encouraging, in terms of no serious issues, but that’s not helping Hankins’ status heading into June.