Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
The word on the street was that the Tigers were dialed in on two power right-handers; Louisville right-hander Kyle Funkhouser and Southern Nevada right-hander Phil Bickford. But that all might have changed in the last few days, as Funkhouser had an outstanding outing over the weekend that might have cemented he'd be off the board at 22, and Bickford reportedly failed a predraft drug screening for marijuana, calling into question if he's still worth a first round pick. That opens up a litany of other possibilities, subject to what shakes out on the board. When things are unsettled, I like to look for guys that might be falling - after all, that's how the Tigers were able to land Derek Hill last year, and the two guys I'm seeing falling right now are prep catcher Chris Betts and Vandy right-hander Walker Buehler. The Tigers love college pitchers, and especially those from Vanderbilt, and with a few tough outings he's slid down the board, so I'm going to go ahead and say the Tigers will snag Buehler.
Mark Anderson, Director of Scouting
After seeing a nearly ten-year streak of correctly predicting the Tigers first round pick come to an end with the selection of Derek Hill in 2014, I need to redeem myself and get back on track this year! Up until this past weekend, everything I had been hearing had the Tigers down to right-handers Kyle Funkhoser and Phil Bickford; at least until Funkhoser seemingly righted his draft stock with a strong super regional outing, and Bickford failed a drug test for marijuana. Funkhoser is likely going to be popped before the Tigers get a chance to make a selection, and Bickford is sliding to the late first or supplemental round, where the Tigers could reemerge as an interested party with their second pick. The Tigers are also rumored to be interested in several of the high-powered prep arms like Ashe Russell and Mike Nikorak, and would be thrilled with Vanderbilt right-hander Walker Buehler if he slid all the way to #22, but none of those three projects to be on the board when the Tigers turn comes around. Donny Everett is also an arm that intrigues the club, but recent word has him sliding a bit and he could still be available in the supplemental round, much like Bickford. As a result of the higher ceiling players likely coming off the board before the Tigers selection, the club will likely trend toward college performers like Florida State shortstop Richie Martin, Arizona shortstop Kevin Newman, Missouri right-hander Jon Harris, Virginia left-hander Nathan Kirby, and even Arizona second baseman Scott Kingery; though the latter two would be reaches at this point. In the end, the Tigers preference would be for Funkhoser's weekend performance to be "too little, too late" and for the additional heat they had on his late season starts to pay-off with his selection. Short of that scenario playing out, I think the Tigers will pop shortstop Richie Martin, who has experienced success in the Cape Cod League, something the Tigers value, and he offers the ability to stay at shortstop, controls the strike zone, and brings solid power to the table. This would be a somewhat unconventional pick for the Tigers given their recent first-round history, but Martin's combination of skills and track record of success in environments where the Tigers look for success, makes him a strong candidate for selection.
James Chipman, Senior Correspondent
It's no secret that the Tigers' farm system is rather depleted; largely in part to their aggressive activity on the trade market and absence from from the first round of the draft in 2010, 2011 and 2012. This year however, the Tigers find themselves in a nice position to reload, as they have their own first-round selection at 22nd overall, and then a compensatory pick at 34th overall for losing Max Scherzer to the Nationals. The Tigers seem to gravitate towards projectable arms in the early rounds, and I don't foresee the blueprint changing much this year. Prep arms Ashe Russell, Mike Nikorak, Beau Burrows and Justin Hooper would be solid first round selections for Detroit should they still be in play. Although there's a plethora of red flags surrounding Brady Aiken's medicals, I'd love for the Tigers to take a chance on the former number one pick by the Astros. There's so many variables in the draft, and this year is no exception. Although interest on him has apparently cooled a bit, I still believe that the Tigers will heavily target Louisville right-hander Kyle Funkhouser.
Neil Weinberg, Senior Analyst
RT: So I have three totally unhelpful answers, but I'm shooing for right over interesting. First, defer to best player available. That's a cop out, but I'm also not confident about picking for all of the teams ahead of them, so who makes it to their pick is too uncertain for me. Next, I'm going to defer to Mark. Whoever Mark says is a good bet on this question. If Mark is unsure, pick the guy from Vandy.
Chris Brown, Staff Writer
I worked with Mark and Paul a bit on the Scout MLB Publishers Mock Draft, so I think I have a pretty good idea of where they’ll go with their picks. I absolutely believe Funkhouser or Bickford will be the pick at 22 if they are still on the board, and if they aren’t, it seems likely the Tigers will still go after a college starter, either someone like Walker Buehler who may unexpectedly fall to them, or someone like Cody Ponce, who generally seems to be projected in the 20-30 range. If their top targets are gone, I can even see them popping a college OF like D.J. Stewart.
But, in the interest of switching things up a bit, and because I never like to pass up an opportunity to look foolish, I have the Tigers selecting Mike Nikorak, RHP from Stroudsburg High School in Pennsylvania. College pitchers seem to be in high demand this year, and prep right-handers typically drop, so I think there’s a solid chance Nikorak, who may be the best prep arm in the draft, is still available at 22. He has an ideal pitcher’s frame and has run his fastball up to 97 in the past (though it sits in the low-90s), he spins a breaking ball that flashes plus, and he’s shown some feel for a changeup. It’s unusual for the Tigers to go the high-school pitcher route, but if their top college targets are gone and they have a chance to draft a kid who could develop into a #3 starter or better in a few years, I think they’ll pull the trigger.
And now, if everyone will indulge me, I’d like to recklessly throw some names out there as potential picks later in the draft. I have zero inside information, and these are simply based on the Tigers organization’s preferences in recent drafts: Ryan Burr, RHP, Arizona State; Mikey White, IF, Alabama; Mitchell Traver, RHP, TCU; Tanner Rainey, RHP, West Alabama; Jake Lemoine, RHP, Houston; A.J. Minter, LHP, Texas A&M (redraft); Tyler Ferguson, RHP, Vanderbilt; Colton Howell, RHP, Nebraska; Cam Gibson, OF, Michigan State (Kirk’s son); Kyle Martin, 1B, South Carolina; Daniel Salters, C, Dallas Baptist; Garrett Stubbs, C, USC; Daniel Kihle, OF, Wichita State.
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