Tigers all but set with Mize at No. 1, but who's their pick at 44?
In their hunt for a trophy bat, which the Tigers need on their farm as badly as a tractor is needed on a typical agricultural spread, Detroit's scouts have eyeballed everyone who even half-resembles a hitter they can defensibly draft with Monday night's first overall pick.
Their tentative feeling is that the lumber simply isn't there. There's not a hitter they believe can help through the years as much as Auburn pitcher Casey Mize.
It means that unless Mize steps from the mound Friday in Auburn's NCAA regional game holding his elbow or pointing to his shoulder or showing some sign of catastrophe, the Tigers probably make him 2018's grand draft prize.
"I don't know if there's a can't-miss," said Tigers general manager Al Avila, sizing up the 2018 draft crop during a Wednesday briefing at Comerica Park. "But I still feel confident we'll make a good pick.
"You're picking 1-1, in the first round, you don't want to swing and miss."
Should the percentage pick hold and Mize is seized first Monday, the Tigers can be expected to raise shot glasses ahead of their next turn, at No. 44 overall, and clink to the gambling gods as they shoot for a bat and position prospect.
It's not a sure thing. If there's a dynamite arm that has drifted deeper than they anticipated, the Tigers could snag another pitcher. But figure on a bat. And don't be shocked if it perhaps comes from the group below, although any name could surface once the first round and compensation picks have been culled.
■ Nick Schnell, OF, Roncalli High, Indianapolis, 6-2, 180: No guarantee, at all, that Schnell will be around at 44. But if he is, the Tigers could bite on a left-handed slugger with center-field skills and enough arm to play right. He's a Louisville commit, but the money and opportunity should be adequate to steer him from the Cardinals. Very good athlete who also pitches.
■ Jordan Groshans, SS, Magnolia (Texas) High, 6-4, 190: Has enough arm to stick at short, but could also move to third. His bat is fast. His size and fleet feet make him a dandy when his right-handed swing holds such promise. He has pledged his next years to the University of Kansas, but that vow probably doesn't last past Monday.
■ Parker Meadows, OF, Grayson (Ga.) High, 6-4, 195: Another outfielder who, like Schnell, probably doesn't make it to 44. Some debate about his left-handed stroke holding up and making him more than a fourth outfielder. But his size and upside, along with the usual list of pluses scouts appreciate, mean he'll probably abandon that Clemson scholarship and sign with a team that likely grabs him ahead of 44. His brother, Austin, debuted two weeks ago with the Pirates.
■ Blaze Alexander, SS, Bishop Verot High/IMG Academy, Cape Coral, Fla., 6-1, 175: Powerhouse arm, and nice right-handed stick who could easily tempt the Tigers. It's the old story with a prep prospect on Alexander's level: His bat will decide how far he goes. In other words, he'll either develop as a hitter or become another Danny Worth, who had the defense but never could quite handle big-league pitching.
■ Raynel Delgado, SS, Calvary Lakes Christian High, Miami Lakes, Fla., 6-2, 185: Always a bonus when a quality prospect can switch-hit, and Delgado can do it, pretty much equally from each side. Good size and nice physical gifts for a young man who otherwise has said he'll play at Florida International. This is Tigers general manager Al Avila's old hunting grounds, which probably doesn't matter. But an interesting tidbit should the Tigers take a chance with Delgado.
■ Jake McCarthy, OF, University of Virginia, 6-2, 200: He was hurt early (left wrist) but is back intact and has a left-handed bat the Tigers could find alluring. He's a center fielder who can dazzle, even if his arm is only so-so. The Pirates drafted him out of high school but failed to talk him out of his Virginia invitation. His brother, Joe, plays in the Rays system.
■ Nico Hoerner, SS, Stanford, 5-11, 203: If the Tigers are looking for a guy they like more than Nick Madrigal, the Oregon State star who's a fan-favorite in this year's Tigers draft, they might be pondering Hoerner, who probably will move to second base. He bats right-handed and has a nice .894 OPS for Stanford. This is about where Hoerner figures to go Monday night, so keep him in mind.
■ Tanner Dodson, OF/RHP, University of California, 6-1, 170: The debate about Dodson is whether he'll be drafted as a pitcher, or as a switch-hitting outfielder. He has appeal both ways. The Tigers, and most teams, appear to think of him more as a hitter and position investment. His swing is a bit funky, but that isn't scaring away scouts who see a potential center fielder and leadoff batter — if they like him more as a position venture.
The Tigers, of course, surprised everyone a year ago when their second pick turned into Reynaldo Rivera, a whopping (6-6, 250) left-handed batter from a Florida junior college.
They could be just as sneaky Monday night when the draft's 44th turn arrives. But some of the above figure to be available. And if the Tigers decide that's their guy, it would hardly be blindside news — not when a bat stands to be their preference should Mize pitch with a flourish Friday ahead of Monday evening's probable Tigers phone call.