Detroit Tigers: Thoughts and Observations from Lake Superior

ST LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 10: Jonathan Schoop #8 of the Detroit Tigers hits an RBI single against the St. Louis Cardinals in the seventh inning during game two of a doubleheader at Busch Stadium on September 10, 2020 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 10: Jonathan Schoop #8 of the Detroit Tigers hits an RBI single against the St. Louis Cardinals in the seventh inning during game two of a doubleheader at Busch Stadium on September 10, 2020 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /
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Thoughts about the Detroit Tigers from the shores of Lake Superior.

No matter how beautiful the surroundings of a beach rental on Lake Superior here just north of Eagle River, MI, summertime thoughts will always drift to the Detroit Tigers for at least parts of each day.

Baseball lends itself incredibly well to the relaxed pace of a week by the shore. Listening to Dan Dickerson’s voice mix in with the rumble of waves is an annual treat while sitting in the sand while sipping a Keweenaw Brewing Company “Borealis Broo” and watching freighters go by in the distance.

So with the morning waves rolling in about 100’ away and Keweenaw Coffee Works “So Suomi” blend in hand:

—The 2021 MLB Draft is now just a week away and draft boards around baseball are surely firming up. The Tigers have the 3rd overall choice and the second-largest signing bonus pool at their disposal. Dreaming on draft day glory is often an easy thing for a fan of a long rebuilding club to dwell on. This year is no different. The 3rd overall selection should yield a talented player who immediately becomes one of the Tigers’ top 4 or 5 prospects.

The question is whether Detroit has the patience to pick a high school player that will require the requisite developmental time…or will they attempt to thread the needle with a college talent to try and sync this player up with its emerging core of young talent already in the organization? The guess here is a prep player. Brady House.

—The other strong Draft Day suspicion is the Tigers will dive in very deep on college pitchers throughout the remainder of their top 10 selections. For as improved and highly ranked as the Tigers farm system is these days, it’s actually pretty thin on pitching from top to bottom. It’s easy to see them look to “flood the zone” with mature college pitching in this draft. Keep an eye on Ky Bush, Mason Miller, and Tanner Kohlhepp in Rounds 2-6.

—If the Tigers need to draft a college senior late in the first 10 rounds who will sign well below slot level because they’ve exhausted their bonus pool on others…don’t be surprised if NC State 1B Austin Murr is tabbed by Detroit. The leadoff hitting  first baseman isn’t common. But the guy gets on base at a .400 clip. Whispers are the Tigers were one of three clubs in touch with Murr prior to the 5-round draft in 2020. Murr didn’t get picked and went back to school.  He could get another call from them next week.

—Jonathan Schoop continued his weeks-long assault on American League pitching with a 440’ blast to cap off a rousing win over the White Sox.

It’s another building block for the fast-growing conviction among at least a few fans to keep Schoop as part of the long-term solution. It’s certainly understandable. Schoop is a reliable pro and the coveted “veteran presence” often associated as important to being part of rebuild efforts. He’s also on an ever-increasing in length heater.

That’s the crux of the matter. Do you believe in him so much during this hot streak of excellence and attempt to lock him in? Or do you look to put the dealing making acumen of Al Avila to the test to unearth the club in need of a power influx from the middle infield?

Personally, I’d put more weight on the totality of his work. He’s been a useful but very average player over his career. Schoop isn’t a foundational player the next contender is built upon. Teams can find players like this every year. Indeed the Tigers have secured his services on short deals in the winter the last two years when the other 29 clubs aren’t bothering him much. He can always be re-signed this winter after he’s dealt.

In short…use this month-plus of production to market him and get something useful if it’s out there.

—The Tigers are fresh off back-to-back winning months and it’s been very fun to watch. Manager AJ Hinch is getting lots of credit and deservedly so. Hinch and pitching coach Chris Fetter is stitching together a solid bullpen by hook or by crook. Hinch is also getting the nod for the proper utilization of budding force Akil Baddoo. Hinch has the Tigers playing a level well above their -69 run differential and currently sitting in 3rd place.

Let’s face it…in the ugly days of April when seemingly nothing was going right, this looked impossible to foresee in ‘21. But things have fallen in place to at least put a presentable competitive club on the field in the now and give one an inclination to be positive about the future. There are lots of factors in play to get them here…but Hinch is a common denominator in many of them. It’s been a very creditable first half-season in Motown for the new skipper.

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