Detroit Tigers 2021 MLB Draft Preview: High School Players

DAVID, PANAMA - AUGUST 19: Andrew Painter of United States pitches during the final match of WSBC U-15 World Cup Super Round. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
DAVID, PANAMA - AUGUST 19: Andrew Painter of United States pitches during the final match of WSBC U-15 World Cup Super Round. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images) /

Last week we kicked off our 2021 MLB Draft coverage with a look at some of the most prominent college players available. Today we’ll focus on the high school class.

The Tigers own the 3rd pick overall this year, as well as the 32nd and 39th picks, and they have the 2nd largest bonus pool. The 2021 MLB Draft is another great chance for them to bolster their strong farm system.

The Detroit Tigers and High School Draft Picks

Historically speaking, this Detroit Tigers front office has focused on college players. They aren’t afraid to draft a high schooler with their top pick — see Matt Manning and Riley Greene — but they typically don’t target more prep players until much later in the draft.

However, they did draft the highly touted high-school infielder Colt Keith in the 5th round last year. It remains to be seen if that’s the beginning of a pattern, or simply the team taking advantage of unusual circumstances.

Teams like the Tigers typically put a lot of value on scouting/performances in the wood bat Cape Cod League, where the best college players compete against one another. But the Cape was canceled last year.

Meanwhile, the high school showcase circuit was mostly business as usual last summer, with the best prep players traveling all over the country to compete in tournaments and all-star games. It’s likely scouts for the Tigers have a better feel for the high school class than the college class at this point.

Some think the Detroit Tigers need to focus more on college players this year to better support the timeline of their rebuild. That idea makes sense to fans, but teams simply can’t afford to think that way. They have to take the best player on their board, whether he comes from a university, a junior college, a high school, or a sugar cane field.

Here’s a reminder of the relative strengths of the 2021 MLB Draft class, split into six groups, where catchers are considered infielders:

One week of action was enough to bump college pitching from average to above-average, but we’ll have more on that in our upcoming weekly draft update. For now, let’s dig into the prep class.

High School Pitching in the 2021 MLB Draft

Names to Know

Andrew Painter – Painter doesn’t offer anything elite right now, but he has just about everything a team could want in a prep pitcher. He’s big and athletic with room to grow, his fastball sits in the low-to-mid 90s, he has feel for a slider, curveball, and changeup, and he has a track record of throwing strikes.

Chase Petty – Petty is blessed with absolutely electric arm speed, and his fastball sits in the upper 90s with hellacious run thanks to his low arm slot. He also shows an above-average slider and some feel for a changeup. He’s athletic, but there isn’t much room for projection, and his somewhat violent delivery and occasional command issues give him elevated reliever risk.

Jackson Jobe – A gifted athlete who is also solid prospect as a shortstop, Jobe is the spin champion of this year’s class. He offers a high-spin fastball that has touched the mid-90s, but his slider is on another level, showing spin rates over 3,000 RPM at times.

Chase Burns – Burns offers some of the best velocity in the class, with a fastball that consistently reaches the upper 90s. He also shows two different breaking balls and a changeup. His long arm action, effortful delivery, and high arm slot provide some deception but lead to questions about his future command.

Josh Hartle – Hartle is the top prep southpaw to many observers of this class thanks to his solid command of three quality pitches and a lanky frame that suggests there’s more in the tank. His fastball sits in the low 90s, his breaking ball and changeup both show above-average potential, and his low-3/4 arm slot creates a tough angle for hitters.

Brock Selvidge – Selvidge’s profile is pretty similar to Hartle’s. He shows a low-90s fastball and feel for two solid secondary offerings, but Selvidge uses a more traditional arm slot, is a little older, and has slightly less room for growth.

Gage Jump – Jump is the other spin champ in this class, but in a different way than Jobe. The undersized lefty sits in the 90-92 range with his fastball, but it shows near perfect spin efficiency and hitters can’t seem to touch it. He’s also a good athlete with feel for his secondary offerings.

Thatcher Hurd – A former catcher, Hurd moved to the mound relatively recently and displayed impressive athleticism and feel for pitching. Hurd mostly works with average stuff right now, but he could rise quickly if he shows more velocity this spring.

High School Infielders in the 2021 MLB Draft

Names to Know

Jordan Lawlar – Possibly the best overall player in the class, Lawlar boasts impressive tools and feel for the game. He projects as an above-average hitter who should grow into above-average power, and he’s currently a plus runner. He also shows the range and hands to stick at shortstop.

Marcelo Mayer – Another potential top-5 pick, Mayer may be the best pure hitter in the prep class, and he has the frame to grow into plus power one day. He’s an average runner but he has the instincts, hands, and arm to stick at the six long term.

Brady House – The most famous name in the high school class, House is built like a Greek god and he boasts plus-plus power potential. He’s aggressive at the plate and may struggle to be an average hitter, and he’s an impressive athlete who probably can’t stick at shortstop but could be a plus at third base.

Khalil Watson – Watson was one of the big risers on the showcase circuit because he kept performing while showing plus speed, the ability to stick at shortstop, consistent contact skills, and surprising pop for his size.

Harry Ford – Ford was another big riser last summer thanks to rare tools for a catcher. He’s among the fastest players in the class, but he also shows good feel for catching, as well as plus bat speed and the potential for plus power. He could theoretically play second, third, or even center field in pro ball.

Joe Mack – Mack’s tools don’t quite match up to Ford’s, but he has a more traditional catcher’s frame and he’s a good athlete in his own right. Mack has a chance to be an above-average hitter with above-average power, and he has repeatedly shown plus arm strength and accuracy in games.

Izaac Pacheco – Pacheco has a pretty left-handed swing and the potential for plus-plus power down the road. He’s a solid defender, but he’s only going to get bigger, so his future home is at third base.

High School Outfielders in the 2021 MLB Draft

Names to Know

James Wood – Wood made a lot of noise over the summer, consistently showing up in games and displaying huge raw power in batting practice. He’s a plus athlete with legs up to his neck, and despite his size he has a relatively short, quick swing.

Benny Montgomery – Montgomery is an absolute tools goof, with plus-plus speed and power to go along with a plus throwing arm and a chance to be a plus defender in center field. The big question mark is his swing, which is funky and leads to some Hunter Pence comparisons.

Joshua Baez – Baez has as much raw power as anyone in the class, and he has a very strong arm that is perfect for right field. He strikes out a bit too much, but if he tones down his big swings he could excel in pro ball.

Malakhi Knight – Knight is lean and athletic with plus bat speed and plus raw power. He’s an above-average runner who should be able to stick in center field, but his setup in the box is a bit unusual and his hit tool is still a bit raw.

Braden Montgomery – A legitimate two-way prospect, Braden Montgomery doesn’t wow with any of his tools, but he has an advanced approach and good contact skills from both sides of the plate. He has a plus arm and should grow into enough power to profile in right field.

Lonnie White – A 4-star wide receiver who is committed to play both football and baseball at Penn State, White could offer plus speed, power, and center field defense if he focuses on baseball.

Michigan High Schoolers in the 2021 MLB Draft

Not all Tigers fans are from Michigan, but for those who are, it can be fun to know where the top local talent for the 2021 MLB Draft is located.

Names to Know

Alex Mooney – The top ranked player in the state, Mooney has the talent to be drafted in the first two rounds. He’s a well-rounded player who shows solid defense at shortstop, above-average speed, good feel for hitting, and the chance to grow into average power.

Luke Leto – Leto was one of the top players in the country a few years ago, but he seems to have lost some athleticism with age, and now figures to be a corner infielder or outfielder. He has plus power potential in his left-handed bat, and a strong arm. He could be taken in the first five rounds, but he may be better off heading to LSU now.

Anthony Migliaccio – The switch-hitting Migliaccio is another surprisingly athletic catcher who could be developed in the outfield as well. He’s an above-average runner now with good bat speed and a solid arm. He could go in the top ten rounds but seems likely to make it to school.

Micah Ottenbreit – Considered the top arm in the state, Ottenbreit currently throws his fastball in the 88-92 range and shows feel for a curveball, but he’s got a very projectable frame. A team could take him in the top ten rounds but he has a chance to go much higher after three years in East Lansing.

Saborn Campbell – The best prep outfielder in the state this year, Campbell is also a solid football prospect as a safety. He’s an above-average runner with a good swing and room to grow into more power.