Wyatt Langford is the safe option for the Detroit Tigers.
The Detroit Tigers pick third in this year's MLB Draft. They will follow up the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals, leaving them with one of the top picks of the class and a big chance to hit a home run in Scott Harris's first draft while in control of the Tigers' front office.
It will be interesting to see how things shake out, as the easiest thought in the world two months ago was to pencil in Dylan Crews at 1:1 and Paul Skenes at 1:2, leaving the Detroit Tigers with the arguable "first unknown" pick off the draft board.
But, nowadays, it seems otherwise. Crews is still more than deserving, but it might be deja vu for the Pirates, who may scoop up Max Clark 1:1 to cut a deal with him regarding a signing bonus and his slot money. On the flip side, the Nationals may second-guess themselves on Stephen Strasburg 2.0, leaving the top two picks with much more uncertainty than in the past.
This leaves the Tigers with a conundrum. Who's "the guy" for them? Assuming Crews and Skenes are off the board, it's Wyatt Langford. He's the safe pick and the player the Tigers should be targeting, and if Crews and Skenes are there, it's a victory to grab one of those two, but Langford is a solid start to the draft.
Langford has been a part of the Florida Gators baseball program for the last three seasons. He's an outfielder nowadays but was once a catcher. He can also play first base if needed, but Langford has become an outfielder and will be drafted as one this summer.
The 6-foot-1, 225-pounder has some serious strength to him and a real sturdy build. It's a physical look that screams future corner outfielder to me, but that's okay if the team is banking on Riley Greene being the future up the middle in center field.
He's performing at an alarmingly high rate in 2023, being downright electric in the Gators' lineup. Langford has slashed .398/.521/.823 with 22 doubles, three triples, 17 home runs, 43 RBI, and 45 walks to 36 punchouts over 186 at-bats.
Needless to say, it's been a loud performance from the right-handed bat. The Gators are not done yet either, so Langford has a chance to keep improving as the team hosts a regional in Gainesville for a chance to punch their ticket to the College World Series.
Simply put, it's the offensive tools that should excite. Coming into the 2023 season, the hope was that the bat would play at the same level it did in 2022. In fact, I wrote a piece last December about the Tigers drafting Langford with their pick before it was announced they moved up in the draft. Being that he was ranked more in the 10-15 range coming into the season.
But, after coming out and swinging it as he has in 2023, Langford surely won't make it out of the top three draft choices in this summer's draft, barring some major shakeup. There's power; there's a good eye and the ability to bust it down the line.
Frankly, the offensive tools just really pass the tests on paper with his stats and in-game with how it looks. It's a fluid and simple stroke with hands that work, are lightning-fast, and can handle high-velocity pitches. He's got a steeper path but makes adjustments well, finishing higher and looking to do damage in the air.
The offense is eye-popping, but Langford's defense is also worth noting. He's shown he can handle center with the Gators, even with more of a long-term corner projection. The arm also works, with tons of whip to his throws to control the opposing run game.
There's just a lot to fall in love with when it comes to Langford. It's hard to think that the Tigers can pass on a toolshed this full.
It's hard to come up with anything for Langford that really jumps out at you. The things that stand out the most as concerns with Langford is injuries. He's missed some time and has battled some injuries, which would worry me about durability as he adjusts to a pro organization, but he's still been able to play in 51 games in 2023 and 66 back in 2022.
So, it's not an overwhelming concern compared to someone with chronic arm injuries, consistent time away from the field, etc. The tools are there; he just has to prove he can get into a pro organization, remain healthy and adjust to the grind, as do all draftees, but still.
The other thing that comes to mind is the uphill finish and steeper path in the swing. At times he can be on a steeper path through the zone which would concern me in terms of whiffs. But for now, the stats speak for themselves; he's finding ways to get the barrel on it and avoid the punchout.
Lastly, it's hard to call it a weakness since it's more of a preference, but the future corner outfield projection. With plus run times down the line and a great arm, some may want him in center, but the Tigers should shift him to a corner, preferably right field, and allow his arm to play there.
Fit with Detroit Tigers
As hinted above, Langford is your right fielder of the future, with exceptional offensive tools and solid defense to back it up. It would be silly for the Tigers to go out and let Langford sit there to take a high school outfielder or a collegiate arm instead.
I love Skenes as much as the next guy, but Langford is a no-doubt pick for the Tigers if he's on the board. I'd even go as far as to suggest that he's got the edge over Dylan Crews. Langford is very easily the second-best collegiate player on the board, if not the top player; it's just hard to argue with everything Crews has done.
Langford's a premium talent in a top-heavy draft class, and it would suck to see the Tigers' new front office botch a pick to miss on selecting Langford if he is there at third overall in this summer's draft.