Detroit Tigers draft analysis: Drafting prep players could pay dividends in long run

The Detroit Tigers appear to have a new drafting philosophy.
Aug 28, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, US; West infielder Kevin McGonigle (15) during the Perfect Game
Aug 28, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, US; West infielder Kevin McGonigle (15) during the Perfect Game / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Tigers 2023 MLB draft class was very prep-heavy

The 2023 MLB Draft has concluded, and the Detroit Tigers walked away with nine players drafted out of high school, which is the most prep players they've drafted in years. The Al Avila regime focused heavuily on college players, specifically from power 5 conferences, so this is a massive change from previous years.

Many people are not happy with this direction. They want players that can reach the big leagues in short order, and believe drafting college players are the best way to do that. I would counter with the seven drafts ran by Al Avila and ask how that worked out.

If you look as the lower levels of the Tigers minor league system, it is almost completely barren of talent. Low-A Lakeland finished in last place in their division in the first half of the season simply because that team has little to no talent.

2022 fifth-round pick Luke Gold has been the team's best hitter this season with an .826 OPS. Cristian Santana, thought to be one of the Tigers' best prospects entering the season, has had an absolutely miserable year. The Tigers' rookie ball teams are even worse. The bottom of the minors needed a complete overhaul.

That seems like something the organization attempted to address with this draft. Those nine prep players will almost certainly begin their careers in rookie ball when/if they sign. First-rounder Max Clark has already pretty much confirmed that's where he'll start.

This is a completely different strategy than the previous regime, and it has the potential to be very successful. Just look at scouting director Mark Conner's track record when he held the same position with the San Diego Padres.

Eric Lauer, McKenzie Gore, CJ Abrams, Cal Quantrill, Xavier Edwards, Robert Hassell III. These are all names that you've probably heard of. Lauer and Quantrill are the only ones listed above that were drafted out of college. Out of those names, only Hassell hasn't yet made the big leagues. The Padres have traded every single player listed here, but that's how good and valuable those players are.

Conner has an eye for prep talent. The track record speaks for itself. He appears to have brought that same philosophy over to Detroit.

Again, this is a completely different drafting strategy compared to the previous regime. But it is a much, much-needed change. The Tigers are looking to overhaul the lower minors in their farm system, and a huge wave of new talent is about to enter.

If these kids are any good, they'll move quickly through the minors. Clark and Kevin McGonigle in particular could move at a brisk pace if they pan out. Prep players don't take five years like they used to. Riley Greene made it in three years, and Colt Keith is knocking on the day in the same amount of time. This can work.

This may not be a popular draft strategy amongst Tigers fan, but it's one that could pay huge dividends in the long run.

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