Detroit Tigers Weekly Draft Report: Middle Infielders

LOS ANGELES - Matt McLain of the UCLA Bruins batd against the Oregon State Beavers. (Photo by Andy Bao/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - Matt McLain of the UCLA Bruins batd against the Oregon State Beavers. (Photo by Andy Bao/Getty Images) /

This version of the Detroit Tigers Weekly Draft Report officially kicks off Draft Month at Motor City Bengals.

We’ll be doing profiles of all the players the Detroit Tigers might select with the third overall pick, writing profiles of other interesting players who may be available later, and taking a look back at some draft history.

For this list we’ll be getting into the most important position group in the entire draft. Teams love selecting middle infielders, and specifically shortstops, early in the draft. Shortstops who can hit AND have a chance to stay at the position in pro ball tend to rocket up draft boards, while players who can do one or the other still tend to do well.

The 2021 MLB Draft is interesting because it’s very weak in terms of college middle infielders, but the high-school crop may be one of the best of all time. There’s a truly historic group of high-school shortstop talent at the top, and it would be a shock if the Detroit Tigers don’t come home with one of them.

Before we get into the list, feel free to check in with earlier updates here: College Preview, High School Preview, Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4&5, Week 6, Week 7, Top 5, Catchers, Corner Infielders

Detroit Tigers MLB Draft – Top College Middle Infield Options

As we mentioned above, this year’s college shortstop class is awfully light. There are some interesting hitters who may move to second or third, and some quality gloves, but very few players who project to stick at shortstop and hit.

Matt McLain – An unsigned first rounder in 2018, McLain shook off a rough freshman season at UCLA and was off to an outstanding start in 2020 before the season was canceled. He started slowly again this year but was really picking things up when a broken thumb cost him about three weeks in May. He doesn’t wow with any of his tools, but he has a chance to stick at short and be an average-or-better hitter, and he should go in the first 15 picks.

Ryan Bliss – Bliss gets dinged for his size (5’9, 165), arm strength, and lack of power projection, but he’s been an outstanding performer in college and he has a knack for coming up with big hits. He has the hands and range to be a plus defender at second base, and he’s added some loft to his swing to maximize his pop. He’s likely a 2nd-3rd rounder, but he could sneak into the comp range.

Trey Sweeney – Sweeney has been one of the biggest risers among college infielders this year. He doesn’t play great competition at Eastern Illinois, but he’s been hitting like crazy. Lots of pre-swing movement may ultimately affect his hit tool, and most project him to move to third base, but he’s got plenty of room to fill out (6’4, 200) and add the requisite power to profile at the hot corner.

Peyton Wilson –  Wilson comes from an athletic family and has a fairly unique profile as a second baseman who has also seen time at catcher and center field. He’s an easy plus runner with plus arm strength, and he’s an aggressive switch-hitter who can occasionally put a charge into the ball. He profiles best at second base or as a super utility man, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see him drafted as a shortstop or a catcher.

Jose Torres – Jose Torres probably has the best glove among this year’s crop of college shortstops, and he has some offensive potential as well. He’s an aggressive swinger and a below-average runner, but with his plus hands and arm it wouldn’t be shocking to see a team pop him in the 2nd round and try to coax a bit more production out of his bat.

Detroit Tigers MLB Draft – Secondary Corner Infield Options

The 2021 draft is definitely light on college shortstops, but it does offer an unusually high number of interesting second baseman. Tyler Black doesn’t do much with the glove, but he’s a quality hitter with a good approach and a chance for above-average power production. Cody Morissette had some first-round buzz coming into the season, but he now projects as more of a 2nd or 3rd rounder thanks to a suite of fringe-average to average tools.

Connor Norby has a legitimate chance to win the Golden Spikes Award this year as college baseball’s best player, but his tools are largely fringe-average. Still, his level of production should get him taken in the first five rounds. A native of South Dakota who spent two years in JuCo, Cooper Bowman has been a quality performer for Louisville in 2021, and his solid approach and easy plus speed could make him an interesting table-setter in pro ball. Drew Swift manned second base in the same Arizona State infield as Spencer Torkelson and Gage Workman, but he has a chance to be an above-average defensive shortstop in pro ball. He’s an aggressive swinger without a ton of pop, though, so he may not make the top five rounds.

Detroit Tigers MLB Draft – High School Middle Infielders

Finally, we get to the big names. The first four players below may all go in the top ten picks, and all five will almost certainly go in the first round. It’s a remarkably impressive, and unusually deep collection of prep middle infielders this year, so we’re adding another quintet after this group.

Jordan Lawlar – Considered a top-3 talent for most of this draft cycle, Jordan Lawlar earns some lofty comps because of his five-tool talent. He’s a gifted hitter who repeatedly went the other way with authority on the summer showcase circuit, and he’s a twitchy athlete with plus speed who projects to stay at shortstop. He’s a bit older for his class and he may never develop more than average power, but it would be a shock to see him fall out of the top five picks.

Marcelo Mayer – Mayer spent much of this draft cycle looking up at Lawlar, but now it appears just as many teams view him as the top shortstop in the class. Where Lawlar is twitchy, Mayer is described as smooth, with a pretty left-handed swing that portends plus power in the future. He’s a fringy runner but he should be able to stay at shortstop early in his career, and his arm is strong enough to handle third, should he have to move. Mayer is believed to be the top choice of the Detroit Tigers, but it’s increasingly unlikely he’ll be there at the third pick.

Brady House – Brady House has had a bit of a roller coaster ride as a draft prospect. He was one of the biggest names for the 2021 class very early in the process, but then he struggled on the showcase circuit. An outstanding spring has him back in the top ten, and the Detroit Tigers are reportedly very high on him. House is built like a Greek God, and he has plus-plus raw power and a big-time arm. Many project him to move to third base, but he’s surprisingly agile and athletic at shortstop.

Kahlil Watson – Watson was one of the biggest risers during the summer showcase circuit, and he may have climbed into the top 10 this spring. He shows impressive bat speed along with an advanced approach at the plate, and he should hit for at least average power despite his size (5’9, 180). He’s a plus runner with the hands and arm strength to handle shortstop, as he’s athletic enough to handle any number of other positions.

Peyton Stovall – Peyton Stovall plays shortstop now, but he’s destined to move to second base in pro ball because he doesn’t have great defensive tools. He may eventually have to move to left field, but scouts love his bat, and he’s done nothing but hit and hit for power all spring. He’s a patient hitter with plus feel for the barrel, and though he doesn’t have a ton of raw pop, he projects to hit for at least average power.

Detroit Tigers MLB Draft – Secondary High School Middle Infielders

There are so many quality high-school middle infielders this year that we can’t name them all. We’ve selected the five below because we expect them all to get drafted in the 25-75 range.

Carson Williams is one of the biggest risers this spring as a two-way player with good size and offensive upside. He has a chance to sneak into the first round thanks to his hitting ability, defensive actions, and plus arm strength. Alex Mooney is a well-rounded player who doesn’t have any plus tools, but also doesn’t have any real negatives to his game. He could see time at shortstop, second, and third in pro ball.

Maxwell Muncy is similar to Mooney, though perhaps a tick slower as a runner and with a little more power potential. Edwin Arroyo may be the best pure defender among the high-school shortstop crop, with strong instincts and a plus arm, and he’s a switch hitter who is raw but shows intriguing offensive potential. Noah Miller‘s older brother Owen recently made his big-league debut for Cleveland, and Noah has a chance to get to the bigs too, thanks to a solid swing from both sides of the dish, and plus instincts that help his average defensive tools play up.

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