The Detroit Tigers Weekly Draft Report returns with a look at the final group of position players in the draft: Outfielders.
In a typical year the Detroit Tigers select at least two outfielders in the first ten rounds of the draft. But the shortened 2020 draft saw them take just one outfielder (Daniel Cabrera), and only three outfielders from the 2019 draft (Riley Greene, Bryant Packard, and Kerry Carpenter) are still in the organization.
So the Tigers may want to beef up their outfield depth this year, and the 2021 draft offers them a decent chance to do so. There are no strong candidates to take at the number 3 pick, but the strange 2020 season has resulted in an unusually high number of “pop-up” college hitters in 2021, and some of them may be options with Detroit’s second and third picks.
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, Middle Infielders
Detroit Tigers MLB Draft – Top College Outfielders
Sal Frelick – One of just two college outfielders who seems like a lock to go in the first round, Sal Frelick is a sparkplug who does everything at an average-or-better level despite being undersized. There’s probably not star potential here, but he has a good chance to be a quality, Adam Eaton-style regular.
Colton Cowser – The other lock to go in the first round, Cowser offers some safety thanks to a lengthy track record of performance, but he also has a bit of upside remaining. He began tapping into more power this year — he’s the only D1 hitter to top 15 HR and 15 SB — and there’s a chance he can play center field in pro ball.
Jud Fabian – Fabian is a plus defender in center field and he has easy plus power, but his hitting ability and strikeout numbers are scary. His closest recent comp is 2017 first rounder Jeren Kendall, who is now 25 and struggling to hit .200 in Double-A.
Ethan Wilson – Wilson is another tough profile, because he lacks the defensive chops to play anywhere but left field, and he didn’t post particularly strong offensive stats this year, though his slow start may have been caused by injury.
Christian Franklin – Franklin presents many of the same problems as Fabian, but without the plus tools. He’s well rounded and has a knack for getting big hits and making spectacular catches, but a 28% strikeout rate in 2021 has to frighten teams.
Detroit Tigers MLB Draft – Secondary Outfield Options
There are dozens of interesting college outfielders in this year’s draft, from the top hitter in the SEC Tanner Allen, to Wright State’s Quincy Hamilton, who authored the most impressive statistical performance in Division I this year, but the below group is made up of outfielders who should go in the top 2-3 rounds.
It wouldn’t be a huge shock to see Aaron Zavala sneak into the back of the first round thanks to his strong approach and quality contact skills, though his below-average pop may render him a tweener. Reed Trimble has just 70 games of college performance, but he’s an aggressive, tooled up switch-hitter who put together some loud performances down the stretch. Justice Thompson was one of the first pop-up hitters this year, and though questions about his power and plate discipline arose during the seaspm, he remains intriguing as a plus runner and defender in center field who is on the young side for his class.
Isaiah Thomas is an ultra-aggressive hitter whose hitting ability is questionable, but he otherwise offers good tools, with above-average speed, power, and arm strength, and the chance to play center field. Denzel Clarke hails from just north of Toronto and comes from an athletic family, but he turned down an offer from the Mets in the 36th round of the 2018 draft. He had a terrific 2021 season, and his size (6’5, 220), bloodlines, and tools (plus power and speed) give him a shot to go in the top three rounds.
Detroit Tigers MLB Draft – High School Outfielders
College outfielders tend to rise on draft day, but prep outfielders typically fall down the board, though quite often they still get first-round money. This year’s crop is fairly deep and athletic, and the Detroit Tigers have the second largest bonus pool in the draft, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see one of these players land at pick 32 or 39.
Benny Montgomery – Montgomery has a bit of a funky swing, but he might be the biggest tools goof in the entire draft, with his power, speed, defense, and arm all earning plus grades. He’s a boom-or-bust type whose long levers, plus tools, and swing concerns remind some of Bubba Starling, the 5th overall pick in 2011.
Lonnie White Jr. – Another impressive athlete from the Keystone State, White is a four-star recruit committed to play both baseball and football at Penn State. On the diamond he shows plus speed and power and the instincts to be an above-average center fielder. He could be an ideal target for a team like the Detroit Tigers, who have the picks and bonus pool to tolerate a bit more risk.
Joshua Baez – Baez has prototypical right field tools, with big-time raw power and plus-plus arm strength. He may be able to handle center field, but he’s unlikely to be the best center field defender on his teams in pro ball, and strikeouts are a big concern.
Will Taylor – Another terrific two-sport athlete, Taylor is committed to play slot receiver at Clemson. He’s a plus-plus runner with good feel for contact and the potential to play above-average defense in center field, though he doesn’t project to hit for more than average power.
James Wood – Wood was one of the big risers early in the showcase circuit, but a tough spring with IMG makes him a bit more difficult to evaluate. He’s an enormous kid (6’6, 230) with equally huge raw pop, and he’s a very impressive athlete, but like most players his size there are concerns about his ability to make consistent contact.
Detroit Tigers MLB Draft – Secondary High School Middle Infielders
Generally speaking the Detroit Tigers shy away from high-schoolers after the first few rounds, but there are probably a dozen more prep outfielders with the tools to go in the first 150 picks. Here are five more:
The Florida Gators have a handful of top outfield prospects committed in 2021 (including Lakeland native Ty Evans) but Jay Allen may not make it to campus because he’s a good athlete who has flashed five average-or-better tools. Daylen Lile might be the best pure hitter in the prep class, but he doesn’t offer a ton of power projection, and he’s likely limited to left field in pro ball. Tyler Whitaker has the opposite issue, with tantalizing power, speed, and arm strength, but serious questions about his hitting ability.
Braden Montgomery is a talented two-way player with average-or-better tools as both an outfielder and a pitcher. He might not have a true plus tool on his card, and he’s committed to Stanford, so he may be one of the tougher signs in the class. Malakhi Knight is a good basketball player and he looked like a potential first rounder thanks to a strong showcase circuit, but concerns about his swing may lead him to stick with his UCLA commitment.