MLB Draft: 10 fast risers the Detroit Tigers should consider
Even in a shortened season of baseball, there were still prospects who flew up draft boards this spring. Here’s a handful the Tigers could consider selecting.
We’re running out of ways to say it: there’s so many wild factors playing into the 2020 MLB draft that it’s impossible to tell what teams are thinking as the day gets closer. Things virtually froze in place when amateur baseball hut down to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus between athletes and spectators, meaning we have a good idea of where players fit into the class.
Despite having an abbreviated season, there were still come players who were able to make a strong impression on evaluators, boosting their draft stock in the process. It’s gotten to the point where almost no one is off the radar entirely, but players are still able to surprise us from time to time. Let’s take a look at ten players who were able to vastly improve their standing among their peers either this spring or over the summer. Any of them could easily become the Tigers’ one of next top prospects post-draft.
C Dillon Dingler
As Ohio State’s captain, Dingler was the first to be appointed to that role as a sophomore in over a decade. Although he’s a catcher, he’s known first and foremost for his offensive potential. That sets him apart from most backstops because, as a whole, it’s an offensively weak group. Many collegiate catchers with potential at the plate are forced off the position as a pro due to boxy motions or poor reaction time, but that isn’t the case with Dingler. People finally took notice of his well-rounded skillset in 2020 and he jumped into first round consideration. There is a camp of evaluators who are concerned about how well his power plays in-game, which may make him available to the Tigers with their second round pick.
RHP Nick Garcia
The Tigers were unafraid to draft the top DIII pitcher in 2018, and they could do so again in 2020 by selecting Garcia. He’s transformed himself from a non-prospect playing the hot corner into a pitcher with third-round talent. He has a fastball that can reach 98 miles per hour, although it is usually in the 93-95 mph range when he’s stretched out. He generates whiffs with a slider and cutter that both flash above average. Doubts will be quick to point out his complete lack of track record and the fact that he’s faced virtually no quality competition. On the other hand, those who like him will rightly state that he have virtually no milage on his arm and has demonstrated significant aptitude already.
RHP Bryce Jarvis
Duke’s ace was possibly the most dominant pitcher in all of college baseball in 2020. He has a track record as effective starter for the Blue Devils, but he was a much better pitcher in his brief showing this year. He was the beneficiary of a rise in fastball velocity and finished the year with an outlandish 0.67 ERA. The crowning jewel of his time with the college came in the second week of the season, when he struck out 15 batters en route to a perfect game against Cornell University. The sample size is small, but we’ll leave you with this quote from one anonymous source.
“Bastard change up. Tons of strikes. Top 40 seems certain. I don’t love CH-driven RHP as a profile in general, but he’s one to consider given the velo spike and the strikes.”
RHP Landon Knack
The top priority among senior sign targets this year will be an interesting case study to follow considering the tangled mess that has been made out of draft strategy. His entire arsenal took a step forward this spring and he throws a stiff fastball and two offspeed pitches that flash average but are inconsistent. He’s going to be nearly 23 years old on draft day, likely an impediment to his position in the draft in a youth-obsessed culture, but it’s impossible to argue with his stupendous results. He struck out 51 batters in his four starts – nearly two per inning. Though he doesn’t have a ton of upside, someone will pop him far earlier than expected when play began.
RHP Justin Lange
Lange showed a non-descript skillset as a junior but came out guns blazing this spring. His fastball, which once sat 89-92 miles per hour, now regularly bumps the high 90s and even reaches triple digits at times. Even better, his delivery doesn’t require a ton of effort. He has an excellent frame and he’s athletic enough that it’s reasonable to believe that he could add the strength required to maintain that velocity deep into ballgames. For a team to buy into Lange, though, they’ll have to be convinced in their ability to refine his offspeed pitches. His slider has good shape at its best but is inconsistent and he doesn’t have a usable changeup at the moment.
LHP Luke Little
Despite what his name may sugest, Little stands at 6’8″ and has the big fastball to match. He’s always been able to blow the ball by hitters and keep them honest with a pair of noteworthy offspeed pitches, but before 2020, it was unclear if he would ever have even a semblance of command. He answered that question in his five appearances before baseball shut down, pounding the strike zone and drawing a huge number of whiffs. There are concerns about his ability to start games long-term in pro ball because he has limited track record of showing starter traits and suffered an injury this spring. He also may require a larger bonus because he could significantly improve his stock next year as a junior, but if a team believes he’s made legitimate changes, it would be worth every penny.
SS Anthony Servideo
Thanks to a swing change that unlocked former untapped in-game power, Servideo is being considered as high as the second round but could be available to Detroit in Competitive Balance Round B. His defense isn’t in question, evaluators have every confidence that he’s going to stay at short as a professional. The bigger concern is how much of an impact he’ll be able to make at the plate. He was hitting at a torrid rate when the season concluded, but no one in their right mind believes .390/.575/.695 is a sustainable performance. He also has a poor track record hitting with wood and is a bit small, but there’s reason to believe that he’s turned a corner and can impact the game on both both sides of the ball.
LHP Jared Shuster
Without a long track record of success, some are wary of Shuster, but I’m all in on this Wake Forest lefty. He came roaring out of the gate in 2020 with a much improved fastball that can reach 97 miles per hour and explodes on left-handed hitters thanks to a delivery which hides the ball for an immense amount of time. Backing up the fastball his a changeup that has long flashed plus and could become a real weapon with improved consistency. The same goes for his slider, which is a distinct third offering that he has less feel for than the cambio. Before the season, he was projected to the middle rounds as a crafty lefty but he’s making a strong push towards the first round. If he falls to the Tigers’ selection at 38th overall, they should take a long took at selecting him.
SS Shay Whitcomb
Whitcomb is the top DII prospect in the 2020 class. He planted his flag on the map with a strong performance in the Cape Cod League over the summer and he has the potential to impact the game as an offensively-minded middle infielder. He has good barrel control and makes consistent quality contact. He’s able to bring his power into the games despite unorthodox cocking of the drive leg during his setup. His strange load may eventually present a timing issue – he has to rotate his hips to square with the ball and get into launch position, making him a candidate for a swing change. He doesn’t have the strongest arm, which may portend a move to second base, but his bat will float the profile. The UC San Diego shortstop has never faced the stiffest competition but he has the skills to make a successful jump to professional baseball.
SS Nick Yorke
The final name on our list is a prep infielder from the state of California who rose by a whopping 177 spots in Baseball America’s most recent Top 400 prospects list. Yorke has a short swing and has impressed evaluators with his ability to handle the barrel well. He also plays smooth defense in the field, raging to collect ground balls and making competitive throws to first base. Believers in his bat think he has a chance to develop into a plus hitter. Even if he has to eventually move to second or third base, his bat could possibly support a regular role. It will put more pressure on his ability to hit for power, likely a fringe-average trait in the long-run, but a team will have to truly believe in his offensive potential to buy him out of his commitment to Arizona.