The Detroit Tigers could go back-to-back with prep pitchers in the MLB Draft with RHP Dylan Lesko
The Detroit Tigers made a controversial selection last year when they passed over a player many felt the team had coveted for some time in SS Marcelo Mayer. Instead, the Tigers would draft a high school right-hander by the name of Jackson Jobe, with Mayer going a pick later to the Boston Red Sox. If history repeats itself, the organization will have yet another opportunity for a high-ceiling talent on the mound with RHP Dylan Lesko.
As we had previously discussed with fellow prep pitcher Brock Porter, Lesko was also the Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year; however, Lesko is unique in that he was the first-ever to win the award as a junior, according to MLB Pipeline. Lesko hails from Buford, GA–roughly 40 miles northeast of Atlanta and has already committed to play for Vanderbilt at the collegiate level.
Lesko has been on draft radars since 2018 when he was selected to play at the Perfect Game Select Baseball Festival; which features a collection of the top 44 14u players in the country. Since then, Lesko won the GPOY award and compiled an 11-0 record on the mound with a 0.35 ERA while averaging nearly two strikeouts per inning his junior season.
Unfortunately, his senior year was essentially washed as Lesko underwent Tommy John Surgery on April 26. Still, Lesko remains a good possibility to get drafted in the first half of round one in next month’s upcoming draft.
A 6-foot-3 standout, Lesko features plenty of length for a starting pitcher on the mound and has done some considerable filling out since earlier in his high school career. It’s a simple motion with a fastball, curveball, and changeup pitch mix.
The fastball wows evaluators; running from 94-97 with explosive life out of the hand. He shows the ability to work it in and out of the zone; with particular success in the upper third with riding life.
Lesko’s changeup is advanced for his age as well; generating several swings and misses especially to left-handed hitters. He maintains arm speed and shows the fade beneath the zone.
As mentioned earlier, Lesko’s Tommy John Surgery has hurt his draft grade, but only by 8-9 picks by most estimations. The surgery is viewed more as a cost of doing business than a long-term concern these days, so some organizations may be encouraged that he is getting the procedure out of the way while still having control over much of the rehab timeline.
Additionally, I’m not as sold on Lesko’s curveball as others. MLB Pipeline gives the pitch an above-average grade, but the pitch lacks consistency currently–casting the pitch, which diminishes the movement profile. It is something that can be fixed with pro instruction, but also something to monitor as it could reduce the profile to relief down the road.
Fit with the Detroit Tigers
The Detroit Tigers have been bold in the past with selections like Matt Manning and Jackson Jobe, but neither came with the injury baggage that Lesko currently has. Theoretically, Lesko would begin his pro career as a 19-year-old in 2023 and spend the vast majority of the season with Lakeland.
Frankly, I think fans would be disappointed with this pick in the first round. It isn’t as much to do with Lesko as it is where the organization is and what they have already done in the past.
Most realize that the organization took a boom-or-bust type in Jobe last season and would prefer to avoid a similar situation again. If neither Jobe nor Lesko shows signs of their frontline workhorse upside in a couple of years, it could set back the organization for years to come, beyond what they have already endured with the major league club.
Lesko is rated as the 14th-best draft prospect available by MLB Pipeline and was assigned to the Reds with pick 32 in their most recent mock draft. Prospects Live did not include Lesko among their first 74 picks in their most recent mock draft. By comparison, the site had Lesko going 9th overall in their mock 2.0, which was published just five days before Lesko’s surgery.