RUMOR: Detroit Tigers targeting shortstops early in MLB Draft

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

As draft day draws nearer, we’re getting a better picture of how the Tigers’ draft class may shape up, and it’s likely to include a shortstop or two.

The Tigers, in the midst of a rebuild, are shy on position players who project to contribute in a regular role long-term. The team made a string attempt to correct that in the 2019 draft, adding Riley Greene, Nick Quintana, Andre Lipcius, Ryan Kreidler, and Bryant Packard in the first five round. None of these players are likely able to fill an everyday role up the middle, though, and to be frank, there aren’t any solid answers for the middle infield positions in the system yet.

That’s where the 2020 draft comes into play.

The draft date is set, and like them or not, the rules are too. All that’s left now is to make preparations, an extensive process that will no doubt be the focus of most teams until the day of the draft itself. Involved are the steps of scouting players (this year, mostly via video), arranging the team’s draft board, and contacting players to feel out how open they’d be to signing. On Saturday afternoon, we got a peek into the Tigers’ process in the form of a tweet.

Joe Doyle, a friend of the site, covers minor league and amateur baseball for a variety of sites and is one of the rising stars in prospect writing. While declining to comment on the topic – “the tweet says it all, I think” – he did add some information of note. We’re not left to guess on who the team favors, Doyle said that their interest has been piqued by five players in particular: Alika Williams, Jordan Westburg, Nick Loftin, Freddy Zamora, and Shay Whitcomb.

Loftin is the most high-profile target in the group and he’s drawn a significant amount of interest in response to his dynamite spring. Multiple sources have indicated to Motor City Bengals that the Tigers probably won’t have a shot at drafting him, but if they do, they’ll be getting a good player. He doesn’t have any huge tools but you’d be hard-pressed to find fault with him either. He’s going to play up the middle and will be able to hit for moderate average and power.

Westburg, who we profiled recently, is athletic and talented but may need some work on both sides of the ball. The same could be said of Casey Martin, although not mentioned by Doyle, has also been connected to the 38th overall selection. Both have problems with strikeouts but also have a chance to hit for significant power and a good chance to stay at the position as professionals.

Williams plays for Arizona State, meaning that as a teammate of Spencer Torkelson, the Tigers got a good look at him before baseball shut down. He’s one of the premier defensive players in this class and is seen as a no-doubt shortstop as a result. It’s fortunate that his glove plays at a high level because his bat isn’t a huge factor, but he does have a chance at average contact skills and fringe-average power.

Zamora plays for Miami and could have been their highest-drafted player if things hadn’t gone sideways this spring. He missed the first part of the preseason due to a suspension by the team for an undisclosed violation and tore his ACL before meaningful games commenced, leaving some big questions that need to be answered. Before any team will be willing to commit a significant amount of money or a high-value draft pick to him, they’ll need to be completely convinced he’s healthy and not likely to cause problems in the clubhouse.

Finally, Shay Whitcomb is the top prospect in D-II baseball for a reason. He cemented himself as a legitimate prospect with a strong campaign in the Cape Cod league and has a good chance to be drafted in the latter part of this year’s draft. He’s the odd man out of this group and likely won’t be in play for Detroit’s second pick of the year but could be a good value pick in the fourth or fifth round. There are concerns about his defensive profile and the quality of pitching he’s faced so far.

Of note is the fact that, aside from Whitcomb, the team has reportedly discussed potential signing bonus figures with the group mentioned to Motor City Bengals by Doyle. If their intent is to draft one of them with the 38th selection in the draft, the conversation will revolve around the number $1,952,300. That’s the amount slated as slot value for the Tigers’ second pick, but there may be some wiggle room to pad the figure a bit.

Stay tuned – we’ll be rolling out draft profiles for all the players mentioned in this article in addition to the ones already on the site. We’ll also keep you up to date on a variety of other draft eligible players and any other rumors that come our way. If you’d like to see a particular player featured on the site, comment on this article and we’ll see what we can do.

For more draft content, follow Joe Doyle on Twitter at @JoeDoyleMiLB.