By: Will Burchfield
If there’s one positive to the Tigers’ second-half plunge — they’re 23-46 since the All-Star break, 4-20 since Sept. 1 — it’s that they’ve greatly improved their position in the 2018 draft.
In fact, the Tigers are one more bad week away from picking first overall.
Detroit is 62-94 entering play Tuesday, a half game behind the Giants and the Phillies for the worst record in baseball. Should they lose their final six games — three at Kansas City followed by three at Minnesota — they’ll likely secure the top pick in the draft for the second time in franchise history and the first time since 1997.
They took Matt Anderson that year, and here’s hoping they fare better if they step to the podium first in 2018.
The value of the top pick in the MLB draft isn’t nearly as high as it is in the NBA or NFL. Nor is there much to gain by picking first instead of, say, fourth or fifth. The whole process is fraught with uncertainty, and even the can’t-miss kids — your Stephen Strasburgs and Bryce Harpers — are at least a year away from contributing at the big-league level.
Still, why not pick first? Should the Tigers gain that honor next year, here are five names to keep an eye on.
1. Brice Turang, 17, SS
At the moment, Turang looks like the top prospect in the draft. The LSU commit, who’s drawn comparisons to Christian Yelich, is coming off a high-school season in California in which he hit .465 and struck out just once. Shortstop Jose Iglesias is an unrestricted free agent after next season and the Tigers likely won’t resign him, if they don’t trade him first.
2. Jarred Kelenic, 18, OF
The Tigers need more outfielders in the farm system, even after adding Daz Cameron in the Justin Verlander trade. Kelenic, a Louisville commit, is considered a five-tool prospect with legitimate pop. As one of his summer league coaches told Baseball America, “In scouting, there are guys and there are dudes. Some scouts might like the guys, but everyone likes the dudes. Jarred is a dude.”
3. Joe Gray Jr., 17, OF
Another highly-touted outfielder, Gray is said to have huge power potential, arguably the best in his draft class. At 6’3, 195 pounds, he already possesses a big-league frame. “Very projectable,” scouts like to say. There will be openings in the Tigers’ outfield for years to come. Gray is committed to Ole Miss.
4. Brady Singer, 21, RHP
A hard-throwing righty from the University of Florida — sound familiar? Singer could follow in the footsteps of Alex Faedo, the Tigers’ top pick in 2017. He racked up 129 strikeouts in 126 innings last season and is considered the best pitcher in his draft class. The Tigers have a number of right-handers in their farm system, probably more than they need, but Singer is worth adding to the pile.
5. Seth Beer, 21, 1B
Based on his name alone, Beer is a worthy first overall pick. He also has top-notch power. The Clemson Tiger won the Dick Howser Trophy in 2016 as college baseball’s best player and has 30 homers over two seasons. It’s only a matter of time before Miguel Cabrera becomes a full-time DH, and the Tigers don’t have an obvious candidate within to take over at first base.
Note: If the Tigers draft Beer, they must then trade for White Sox prospect Jake Burger, a slugger in his own right. A Burger and a Beer in the middle of the lineup for years to come — who says no?