Three under-the-radar pitching candidates for the Detroit Tigers’ number #3 pick in the 2021 MLB Draft.
The Detroit Tigers finished the 2020 season with a record of 23-35. Despite beginning the month of September within a game of the last American League wildcard spot, the Tigers faltered after a promising start.
In the rough ending to the 2020 campaign, the silver lining is that Detroit fell so far in the standings so quickly that they secured the third overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft. The two teams ahead of them in the Pittsburgh Pirates and Texas Rangers had significantly lower winning percentages, so getting the third pick is a significant consolation prize for a team with various needs.
I think we can agree that Detroit’s best way to maximize value with that pick is to opt for a well-rounded position player. Still, if the Tigers received the first overall pick, Vanderbilt pitcher Kumar Rocker would’ve easily been the favorite. MCB’s Jake Boes outlined a few players clearly in play for the third overall pick in a piece last week. Pitchers he covered included Rocker, Jack Leiter, and Jaden Hill (who I’m sure the Tigers will have a detailed scouting report on, given GM Al Avila’s relationship with LSU Head Coach Paul Mainieri). For this exercise, we will focus our attention on a few other pitchers.
Meanwhile, the Tigers boast a pitching-heavy prospect nucleus with Casey Mize, Matt Manning, and Tarik Skubal at the forefront. Even then, no prospect is a guarantee – especially as it relates to pitching, given how injuries significantly affect their long-term potential more than position players. Since the club has used their last two top selections on Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson, I don’t think considering a pitcher would be egregious.
Here are three pitchers who could easily vault themselves into consideration as Mize did three years ago, assuming we have a 2021 college baseball season.
Honorable Mention: Jonathan Cannon, University of Georgia
He certainly has the name you want in a pitcher. Cannon, a draft-eligible sophomore, was expected to take over as Bulldogs ace after Emerson Hancock was drafted sixth overall by Seattle before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the possibility. The 17-year old currently ranks #19 of the Top 200 draftees by Prospects Live. The Detroit Tigers affinity for physical projection comes into play when talking about a 6-5 righty whose fastball clocks between 93-96 mph with two potential plus secondary pitches. The blurb mentions that Cannon could’ve moved significantly higher if not for the shutdown.
1. Andrew Painter, Calvary Christian Academy HS, Pompano Beach, FL
Painter, currently projected as a top-10 pick by various mock drafters, is considered the best high-school pitcher in the country. It’s easy to picture a team with a high-pick negotiating an under-slot deal with Painter to take another highly-regarded prospect in Round 2. It’s also possible to see him work his way into the Top 3 picks based on merit alone. Standing 6-6 at 210-pounds, Painter shows favorable spin rates for each of his four pitches (fastball, changeup, curveball, slider) with feel. It’s in Painter’s best interest to have command of the strike zone given his last name. Otherwise, the jokes will write themselves.
2. Steve Hajjar, University of Michigan
Every season, a hard-throwing lefty seems to garner significant interest within the Tigers’ front office. This year, it was Texas A&M lefty Asa Lacy who ended up going with the fourth pick to the Kansas City Royals. In 2019, it was TCU southpaw Nick Lodolo who went seventh to Cincinnati. This year, it might be a pitcher playing close to home. Hajjar, whose fastball sits close to 95 mph, holds a slider that Prospects Live said could end up becoming the best pitch in the entire 2020 MLB Draft. Hajjar was 3-1 with a 2.70 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 20 innings with the Wolverines.
3. Gunnar Hoglund, Ole Miss
Currently ranked as the #9 overall prospect by Perfect Game, Hoglund was selected at 36th overall in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 2018 MLB Draft but chose not to sign. After a bumpy freshman season, Hoglund got off to a dynamite start as a sophomore before COVID-19 forced the season’s cancellation. Hoglund pitched in just four games but went 3-0 with a 1.16 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 23.1 innings. Equipped with a mid 90s fastball and slider that may scratch a 60-rating, Hoglund could’ve turned a dominant SEC performance into becoming a top draft pick just like Mize did in 2017.
Call your shot. Which of these players would you like to see climb up the board to the Tigers pick at 3? Is there someone else you’re hoping for? Find Dan on Twitter at @ThatDanHasty!