For the second year in a row the Tigers deviated from their classic power college arm strategy in the first round, and opted for a high-upside high school player. Popping Beau Burrows in the first round still gives the Tigers a power arm to add to their empty minor league system, but his development could take a little longer than the college arms the Tigers typically draft. Burrows has a chance to develop into a quality mid-rotation starter in time, and if the Tigers get aggressive, he could reach Double-A in short order, possibly as soon as the 2017 season.
Moving into the supplemental and second rounds the Tigers returned to fairly typical form with the selection of two college performers in outfielder Christin Stewart and left-handed pitcher Tyler Alexander. Stewart has a chance to be a solid power bat on an outfield corner and Alexander could be a fast-moving back-end starter with a command-first profile. Both players lack the sexy upside of some of the more aggressive drafting clubs, but both could provide quick value and payback, either through filling roles at the big league level or establishing trade value to keep the Major League club competitive.
The Tigers stuck with the college performer route for the next four rounds, selecting an offense-first catcher Kade Scivicque, power-armed reliever Drew Smith, gritty outfielder Cam Gibson (son of former Tiger Kirk Gibson), and Missouri left-hander Matt Hall, owner of a dominating breaking ball that can miss bats at just about any level.
Things got interesting for the Tigers in the seventh round when they made an aggressive move in drafting tooled up high school infielder Nicholas Shumpert. Shumpert will require an over-slot deal to get him to forgo a college commitment, but the Tigers didn’t pop him in the seventh round without a serious belief they could get a deal done. Players like Smith, Hall, eighth rounder Dominic Moreno, and tenth rounder Cole Bauml could all come in under slot, freeing up funds for the Tigers to ink Shumpert.
The Tigers stayed true to their internal model by picking solid college performers with varying degrees of upside in rounds eight through fifteen, though Tennesse shortstop A.J. Simcox (14th round) stands out as a potential second division regular or utility player at the big league level; a result that would be a solid score this late in draft.
As the Tigers moved later into the draft, they pulled a few players with upside that could take some effort to sign, including 17th rounder Grant Wolfram from Hamilton High School in Michigan. Blessed with a massive frame that drips potential, the prep left-hander will need to be convinced to sign instead of heading to college, but after going in the 17th round, fans should expect the Tigers to make a strong push to get a deal done.
20th rounder Logan Longwith and 22nd rounder Toller Boardman both have decent arm strength and the potential to develop in a variety of roles as they progress through the organization, though both would need to make substantial strides forward to have a chance at contributing in the big leagues.
Beginning in the 29th round, the Tigers began picking off high-ceiling prep players with firm college commitments; picks that were made for a variety of reasons. In some cases, the picks were made to establish long-term relationships with players the club may have interest in acquiring in future years. In other cases, the Tigers may be selecting them in case something changes with their college commitment, or in case something happens with one of their other high profile draftees, giving them a backup plan.
Many of these prep picks have already explicitly stated that they will honor their college commitments, including Illinois prep catcher Nick Dalesandro, right-hander Cole McKay who told teams before the draft he was heading to LSU no matter what, and outfielder Dayton Dugas.
There are some rumblings out there that West Virgina prep shortstop Trey Dawson could toy with signing if negotiations go well and the bonus enters a range in his liking. Though a long shot, Dawson would represent a coup for the Tigers in the 32nd round.
The Tigers selected University of Virginia shortstop Daniel Pinero in the 36th round, and the Tigers are expected to make a decent run at signing him, despite the probability he could return to college and improve his draft round by a substantial margin. Pinero is unlikely to play shortstop long term thanks to his large, chiseled frame, but clubs that like him believe he could be a quality third or second baseman with thump in his bat, particularly if his hit tool and plate discipline continue improving.
Thirty-seventh round pick Andrew Naderer is an intriguing JUCO lefty with a low-90s fastball and some feel for secondary pitches. While he may require a decent bonus, the Tigers could land a solid lefty prospect with potential to start or reliever very late in the draft.
Rounding out the draft, the Tigers popped two more high school players, including Arizona high school stud Travis Howard. The State wrestling champ is committed to UC Santa Clara, and with his extremely mature and physical frame, he figures to be an impact two-way player in college, though most pro clubs like him best on the mound where he already sits in the low-90s and projects for at least a plus fastball at his peak. Drafted that late, the Tigers are likely to make only a modest run at Howard, and he is likely to end up on campus, but if the Tigers make a serious push to sign him, things could get interesting.
All told, fans of the Tigers may be disappointed with a lack of perceived upside at the top of the draft, but the club should see quick returns from several players, generating value to the organization in a variety of ways. If the Tigers are able to get aggressive with and sign Nicholas Shumpert and Grant Wolfram, and possibly one other late-round, high-ceiling player, the draft could offer a nice blend of polish and raw talent.