The Detroit Tigers will likely pick third in the 2021 MLB Draft and some high-end names will be waiting for them
The MLB Draft remains one of the few events for Detroit Tigers fans to get excited about these days and next June will be no different. The team was attempting to make the playoffs this season but injuries to arguably two of their top three hitters coupled with some brief struggles from their top prospects produced a plunge.
Heading into the 2020 season, there was some murkiness about how the 2021 draft order would be handled. Many felt that a 60-game schedule that was influenced largely by geography was not a legitimate way to prove who the best (and worst) teams were. While Manfred held the keys on how the order would be handled, it does sound as if using the 2020 records is the ultimate plan from the league.
2020 records solely would mean the Detroit Tigers will have yet another top 10 selection; which would be their fifth top 10 pick in the last six seasons–including top-five selections each of the last four years. There are a handful of players in the conversation for the top pick and considering how early it is in the process of determining who the best player in the class is, it is realistic anyone could end up “falling” into the Tigers’ lap.
Even take this year’s Austin Martin for example, who was regarded as the top draft prospect by some who follow the draft over 2020 top selection Spencer Torkelson. Yet on draft night, he would land into the Blue Jays’ lap at fifth overall. With that in mind, here are some of the high-end players to keep an eye on as the 2021 college and prep seasons begin in early 2021:
Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt
He is the front-runner to be the first overall selection currently, but others rising, injuries, and regression could change that in a hurry. We have not gotten to see college baseball much in 2020, meaning the 2021 season will be paramount for evaluators and teams to determine someone like Rocker’s worth. The slider is filthy; I don’t think we need 2021 to tell us that:
For the Detroit Tigers, it may be a good idea to start replenishing a system with pitching as most of their top pitchers are on the cusp of the major leagues. The club has spent 14 of its 16 selections in the first 10 rounds on position players the last two years. Some feel there is reliever risk associated with Rocker’s profile as he is heavily a Fastball/Slider pitcher and it is traditionally tough to start without a third pitch, but the slider is so good that teams may not care. I have joked about a “Kumar We There Yet?” tanking campaign, but it may have a chance of becoming true.
Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt
Son of former big-leaguer Al Leiter, Jack is another Vandy hurler who figures to go somewhere in the top five of this year’s draft class. Leiter would be a draft-eligible sophomore and would be 21 on draft night. At 6’0″ 195 lbs, Leiter would not provide the typical Tigers mold for starting pitchers, but bloodlines have been something the Detroit Tigers have coveted with the likes of Kody Clemens, Cam Gibson, Parker Meadows, and Pedro Martinez Jr.
Unlike Rocker, Leiter features and uses a complete four-pitch mix which would undoubtedly help his rise through the minor leagues. His fastball can reach the mid-90’s but his frame suggests there may not be much to gain beyond what he offers currently.
Jud Fabian, OF, Florida
If the Tigers are content on continuing their position player streak, Jud Fabian might be top on their wishlist. Recently mocked to the Tigers on the Prospects Live mock draft, Fabian has the SEC resume that the Tigers have often looked for with their draft selections in years’ past. Over 17 games, Fabian finished 2020 with a .294 average with 5 home runs while walking an impressive 13 times.
He plays centerfield currently and might be able to stick, but most have him ending up at a corner spot with above-average running ability.
Brady House, SS/3B, Winder-Barrow HS (GA)
House is a man among boys. At 6’3″, 215 lbs, he is the embodiment of the ‘country strong’ cliche and would be a welcomed addition to any team picking in the top 10. House’ Perfect Game metrics are ridiculous; his 96 mph fastball suggests he might be able to stick on the mound if he wanted to, while his exit velocity as a hitter ranks in the 99th percentile of 2021 draft prospects. Baseball America projects him to go to Detroit.
House would be on the cusp of his 18th birthday on draft night, so he would undoubtedly be one of the more raw choices on draft night. The Detroit Tigers have historically blundered the shortstop and third base positions, so House might represent an opportunity to solve those shortcomings long-term.
Jaden Hill, RHP, LSU
Would it even be a legitimate list if I didn’t mention a big, strong SEC power arm for the Detroit Tigers as a possibility? At 6’4″ 233 lbs, Hill is a lot of what the Tigers salivate over when it comes to starting pitchers. A mid-90’s fastball and sweeping breaking pitches make Jaden Hill a first-round talent. Unlike others, Hill will need a strong showing to cement his draft stock; considering elbow issues which shortened his freshman year and surgery his sophomore season which limited his time (before COVID)–just 21.2 innings of collegiate baseball under his belt.
If Hill can show the stuff he teased on the mound during his brief stints with the LSU Tigers for a full season, he might position himself for a team like the Detroit Tigers.
Who do you think the Tigers should draft? Let me know on twitter @MCB_jakeboes!