Patrick Mahomes: Detroit Tigers Legend

FOXBOROUGH, MA - DECEMBER 08: Patrick Mahomes throws the ball during warm ups. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - DECEMBER 08: Patrick Mahomes throws the ball during warm ups. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

Superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes was once drafted by the Detroit Tigers.

Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs are gearing up for their second consecutive Super Bowl appearance right now, but in an alternate universe he might be joining his Detroit Tigers teammates for the annual winter caravan.

Is it a bit disingenuous to claim a player who never intended to play baseball, was never signed by the Tigers, and is actually part owner of the division-rival Kansas City Royals? Maybe. We’ll get our legal department on that and get back to you.

Are we perhaps running out of ideas as this interminable offseason lurches toward spring training? I don’t know, check out these pieces on Dustin Garneau and Erasmo Ramirez and decide for yourself.

We certainly aren’t the first to note the Detroit Tigers’ connection to Patrick Mahomes. Jason Beck at and Evan Woodbery at MLive both wrote articles about him last January when he was heading into his first Super Bowl.

But we were curious what might have happened if football didn’t work out for him. Just what kind of professional baseball player would he have become?

Patrick Mahomes the Pitcher

The Detroit Tigers drafted Patrick Mahomes as a pitcher, so we’ll dig into this possibility first. His father Pat spent parts of 11 seasons pitching in the big leagues, so it stands to reason Patrick might have had a pretty good arm, too. And there are plenty of highlights online to prove it.

Mahomes was well-regarded coming out of high school in 2014, but he wasn’t necessarily considered an elite prospect. Baseball America ranked him the 419th best prospect in the draft, noting he showed a “low-90s fastball on the mound,” though he could reportedly reach 96 mph.

In addition to being a great baseball and football player, Mahomes was also a standout basketball player. Scouts tend to like that sort of athleticism, and the video links above show a lot of promise. He had a quick arm, some feel for secondary offerings, and was listed at 6’2, 195 lbs. at the time, meaning there was plenty of room for growth.

There was some rawness to Mahomes’ game, particularly with regard to command and control, though that’s to be expected from multi-sport athletes. But his mix of stuff, athleticism, and projection probably would’ve landed him 3rd-round money had he intended to stick with baseball.

And we’ve now seen that projection realized, at least on the football field. After three years at Texas Tech, Mahomes weighed in at 6’2 and 225 lbs., and his 60-mph throws at the NFL Combine supposedly rank in the 97th percentile in terms of velocity. Mahomes likely would have trained differently had he pursued baseball, but it’s not hard to imagine him sitting in the mid-90s with his fastball, and possibly even touching triple digits.

His size, athleticism, makeup, and arm strength match up pretty well with Max Scherzer, but there’s far more to pitching than just velocity. Patrick Mahomes faced all of three hitters in his college pitching career at Texas Tech. He issued two walks, hit a batter, and all three runners came around to score, leaving him with the dreaded infinite ERA. He probably would have honed his command eventually, but maybe not…

Patrick Mahomes the Outfielder

This one is a bit more fun to think about, because we can use (or misuse) NFL Combine data to try to cobble together a rudimentary scouting report. We do know Patrick Mahomes played all over the field in high school, and in Beck’s article above, Tigers crosschecker Tim Grieve speculated a bit about his potential:

"“He might have ended up being a center fielder and hitting third in your lineup. I’m not even sure pitching was the best thing he did.”"

There are a couple of tools we’re just going to have to guess on here, but let’s give it a go.

Throw – 70-80

Given all we’ve read about his baseball and football velocity, it doesn’t seem crazy to hand Patrick Mahomes a plus-plus grade for his arm. Pitching velocity doesn’t automatically translate to outfield arm strength, but Mahomes’ long throwing motion already made him look a bit like an outfielder, so 70 may even be a bit light here.

Defense – 50-60

A pure guess. Grieve speculates Mahomes could have ended up in center field, so we think it’s probably safe to assume he had a chance to be at least average in the outfield. Perhaps he could have been above-average in a corner.

Power – 50-70

His Baseball America scouting report out of high school noted Mahomes showed “plus raw power,” and given how much muscle he has added since then, it’s not too crazy to think he could’ve grown into plus-plus raw in time.

Running – 60-70

Ahh, now we get to have some fun. Patrick Mahomes is certainly a mobile quarterback, but he’s not an elite runner like Lamar Jackson. Thanks to the magic of the Internet, we know he ran a 4.80 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, along with a 1.65 10-yard split, and a 2.80 20-yard split.

Baseball Savant measures player speed in feet-per-second, but their calculation is a bit complicated. They find the fastest one-second windows for players on doubles, triples, inside-the-park home runs, and weakly hit infield grounders. Essentially they want to measure runners at their absolute fastest.

If we judged Mahomes by his 40-yard dash time, his sprint speed is a paltry 25.0 ft/sec, which is the same as well-known burners Gary Sanchez and Luke Voit. But Statcast wants the fastest one-second window. Mahomes ran his final 20 yards (or 60 feet) at the Combine in exactly 2.0 seconds, meaning he likely topped 30 ft/sec, which Statcast considers elite.

We could slap an 80 grade on his running and move on, but the 40-yard dash isn’t exactly like an in-game running situation. Baseball players don’t begin in a three-point stance, and they very rarely run in a straight line. If Patrick Mahomes were being timed on the diamond, where he had to swing a bat and then run in an arc around the bases, his top sprint speeds would probably be more like 28-29 ft/sec. Still very good, but not truly elite.

Hit – ??

On this we have no clue, because hitting a baseball is incredibly hard. Patrick Mahomes had some feel for the craft, but players can have all the physical tools in the world and still be unable to recognize spin, or lay off high fastballs, or consistently find the barrel of the bat. Mahomes could have been a 20 hitter who washed out in Low-A, or an 80 hitter who batted his way to Cooperstown.

But for the purposes of our entertainment, let’s assume he ended up somewhere in the middle. Here are some examples of what he may have looked like as a player:

Low Mahomes

This version of Patrick Mahomes probably looks a bit like Cubs-era Jason Heyward, where he hits about .255 with 15 home runs and 15 steals a year and struggles to get to 2.0 WAR.

Medium Mahomes

This Patrick Mahomes looks more like Starling Marte, hitting around .270 with 20+ homers and 20+ steals a year while playing solid defense and earning an All-Star nod or two.

Top Mahomes

Well this version of Patrick Mahomes is basically Ronald Acuna Jr. He’s hitting .290+ with 30+ home runs and 30+ steals while playing plus defense and showcasing a cannon of an arm.

How much fun would that be? But no, he had to go and choose football, and earn a bunch of awards, and win championships, and sign a $503 million contract

Those are okay consolation prize for him, I guess, but he could have been playing baseball for the Detroit Tigers.