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Tigers load up on polished position players — OSU catcher Dingler, LSU outfielder Cabrera

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — The texts started coming in late Wednesday night. 

Most pundits and mock drafters had Ohio State catcher Dillon Dingler going late in the first round, but 37 names were called and none were his. 

"A bunch of people were texting me last night, not quite apologizing but just saying to hang in there," Dingler said. "I heard different things from different teams that maybe I'd go in the late compensatory round.

Dillon Dingler, right

"But you can't look at it that way, you can't be disappointed. You've got to look forward to the team that picked you and be grateful for that."

He didn't wait long on Thursday. The Tigers took him with the first pick of the second round, 38th overall.

"It's a first-world problem," Dingler chuckled about having to wait a day. "I mean, one pick apart. Five years down the road, nobody is going to remember. Just get to work and prove yourself."

Draft experts considered Dingler the second-best catcher in the draft after NC State's Patrick Bailey (13th overall to the Giants). MLB Pipeline ranked Dingler as the 24th best prospect in the draft and multiple mock drafts had him going in the top 20. 

So, in essence, with Spencer Torkelson and Dingler, the Tigers got two first-round worthy picks.  

Dingler, 21, is an athletic catcher (6-3, 210) with a strong arm. In fact, MLB Network analyst Dan O'Dowd said he thought Dingler had the best arm of any catcher in the draft.

“This might be the most athletic catcher in the draft,” O’Dowd added. “A lot of raw power. This guy has a chance to be one of those cornerstone guys for the Tigers.”

A right-handed hitter, he who was hitting .340 with a .404 on-base percentage and five home runs when the pandemic shutdown the season.

"I just think that was a product of three years working hard on my hitting," Dingler said. "I think things were just starting to click. My sophomore season I got injured (wrist) and missed four and a half weeks. I think that affected my numbers and how I felt at the plate.

"But finishing last year and going into this year, I was completely healthy and it was coming together for me."

As a sophomore for the Buckeyes in 2019, Dingler hit .291 with three homers and 19 RBIs in 49 games and was named to the All-Big Ten second team.

In his senior season at Massilon's Jackson High School, 2016-17, he helped the basketball and baseball teams win Division I Ohio state championships. This fall, he was clocked running 60 yards in 6.6 seconds. 

Daniel Cabrera

The former Buckeye has no issues with coming to "that team up north."

"Whatever team picked me was going to be my new lifetime favorite team," he said. "Go Tigers."

The Tigers followed up the selection of Dingler by taking LSU left fielder Daniel Cabrera with the No. 62 pick of the draft.

The No. 62 pick was a competitive balance pick at the end of the second round.

Cabrera and the Tigers completed 17 games in 2020 and he hit .345 with a .466 on-base percentage and 12 RBI.

Former Tigers outfielder Curtis Granderson offered this scouting report on Cabrera for MLB Network:

"He's shown the ability to hit the ball to all fields and that's going to play very well as he transitions to professional baseball. Opponents aren't easily going to be able to put the shift on him. And when they do, he's shown that when he pulls the baseball, he can put it in the air and that's a great way to beat the shift."

Grannderson was also impressed with Cabrera's ability to barrel up fastballs up in the strike zone.

"Pitchers love spin rate and they love living up there and Daniel has already shown that he can get to it and handle that pitch," he said. "He's a hitter that doesn't swing and miss very much with a low strikeout rate." 

Cabrera's three-year totals at LSU were impressive: .305 average, .392 on-base, 22 homers and 116 RBI over 140 games.

“I think he can grow into a big-time player,” Harold Reynolds said on the MLB Network broadcast.

Trei Cruz

With the first pick of the third round, the Tigers continued the trend of selecting college hitters — nabbing Rice shortstop Trei Cruz with the 73rd overall pick. 

"He's got the best bloodlines in the draft," said MLB Network's Jim Callis.

Indeed, he is looking to be the third generation of Cruz's to play in the big league. His grandfather is former Astros standout Jose Cruz and his father is former Blue Jay Jose Cruz, Jr. — Thus Jose Cruz III is known as Trei. 

Cruz had a productive three-year run at Rice, and was drafted in 2017 and 2019 but didn't sign. He was hitting .328 this season before the shutdown.

"I think what guys liked is that he got better," Callis said. "In the past he sold out for home runs. He had a big leg kick, especially from the left side. But he settled down and was much more under control this year."

Callis, though, doesn't expect Cruz to stay at shortstop. He projects him to play either third or second at the big-league level."

Gage Workman

In the fourth round, the 102nd overall pick, the Tigers selected Torkelson's Arizona State teammate Gage Workman, whose defensive prowess at third base forced Torkelson to move to first base. 

Workman is a switch hitter, who was more productive from the left side. His bat is still a work in progress, though. He has power, but there are some mechanical issues in his swing that kept him from being more consistent. 

The Tigers finished their all-position player draft by taking Colt Keith, a high school third baseman/pitcher from Biloxi, Mississippi. Keith had committed to Arizona State. 

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky