This year’s MLB Draft is top-heavy with hitters. The Tigers picking fifth, need impactful bats.
The biggest positive story with the organization this spring has been an impressive crop of pitchers at Double-A Erie, led by Matt Manning, Alex Faedo and Casey Mize — the franchise’s last three first round picks.
Short on projectable power in the minors, the top of the draft board seems to favor Detroit with an array of options, mostly at the collegiate level.
Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman and Texas prep shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. are believed to be the top prospects on the board, so we’ll leave them off this list.
But then, there’s a little uncertainty and plenty of power.
However, as Tigers director of amateur scouting Scott Pleis warned Friday: “You don’t want to draft by need and pass on somebody who is quite a bit better just because you think you need one thing or another.”
Here are seven players, in alphabetical order, the Tigers could take a long look at Monday night:
► CJ Abrams, Roswell (Ga.) Blessed Trinity Catholic, SS: The high school shortstop seems to be the safest bet for No. 3 to the White Sox, which could mean two straight prep shortstops at 2-3 after Witt.
Abrams is a left-handed hitter and fast, but also raw and lacks Witt’s power potential, which could be a problem for the Tigers, even if Abrams slides.
► Hunter Bishop, Arizona State, OF: The most toolsy college prospect, the 6-foot-5 Bishop projects to be able to hit and run at a big-league level.
The Sun Devils center fielder has improved in Tempe and entered Sunday with 22 home runs and a team-leading 12 stolen bases.
The Tigers going with the left-handed hitting Bishop could signal that there were signability issues with other prospects.
► JJ Bleday, Vanderbilt, OF: The powerful Bleday will be the next high Vandy pick, joining the likes of former Tigers pitcher David Price, who was picked first in 2007.
The left-handed Bleday, who played youth travel ball for summers in Michigan, had 26 home runs to lead the NCAA entering Sunday.
Bleday’s stock and confidence rose with a strong finish last summer — three home runs in the final eight games — in the wood bat Cape Cod League.
► Riley Greene, Oviedo (Fla.) Hagerty, OF: Greene is the player most linked to the Tigers, with the assumption Andrew Vaughn is scooped up by the White Sox at No. 3 or Marlins at No. 4.
The left-handed batting prep star Greene has immense offensive upside and likely eventually moves from his current center field position to the corner of the outfield or infield.
Though with the need for solid bats in the organization, it’s worth questioning whether the Tigers can stomach the risk of taking a high school hitter.
► Nick Lodolo, TCU, LHP: Sure, the Tigers have pitching prospects, but no elite ones from the left side.
The lanky 6-foot-6 starter doesn’t offer anything tantalizing, but a solid lefty would be helpful, although lefties have fallen out of favor in MLB over the years.
Lodolo can throw three pitches with control, can pump it to the mid-90s and is a safe pick for pitching standards.
► Alek Manoah, West Virginia, RHP: We can’t just ignore the club’s fascination with right-handed power arms, can we? This one wouldn’t appease the fan base, but the 6-foot-6, 270-pound Manoah fits the mold of pitchers the Tigers have drafted highly the past few decades.
Manoah was rolling at the right time lately until Duke scored four runs off him Saturday in the regionals, putting the Mountaineers’ season in peril.
Andrew Vaughn, California, 1B: Many fans are holding out hope that Vaughn will be playing first base at Comerica Park sooner rather than later.
The biggest hurdle to that happening someday is four teams passing on the Cal power hitter — the only right-handed hitter on this list — who could become a two-time Golden Spikes winner this month.
Vaughn has shown patience and power throughout his career, but average defense and size could fulfill hopes for a slide.
► When: 7 p.m. Monday (Rounds 1 and 2), 1 p.m. Tuesday (Rounds 3-10); noon Wednesday (Rounds 11-40)
► TV: MLB Network on Monday
► Stream: MLB.com
► Top 5: 1. Baltimore; 2. Kansas City; 3. Chicago White Sox; 4. Miami; 5. Detroit
► Local interest: Michigan LHP Tommy Henry (Portage Northern) and CF Jordan Brewer (St. Joseph) could get selected on Monday, as well as an outside shot for Wayne State RHP Hunter Brown (St. Clair Shores Lakeview).
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.