What once appeared solid — Casey Mize’s status as a sure-thing, first-overall pick — in big-league baseball’s June 4 draft is suddenly not as certain.
There is no official word from anyone close to the Tigers, not even a hint, that anything has changed.
But neither have there been private reassurances that Mize remains the unquestioned, unchallenged, consensus prize at 1-1.
The next question, if the Tigers have decided for whatever reason that Mize isn’t their man: Who replaces him? And that mystery could hang in baseball’s upper atmosphere until the day, or even the hour, that first pick is unveiled.
A look at the weekly Detroit News Tigers Draft Watch and its ever-shifting top 10 contestants:
1. Casey Mize, RH starter, Auburn, 6-3, 220: Are the Tigers wobbling? Is there more to any reticence than the fact Mize had his first awful game of the season last week against Ole Miss — eight hits, six runs, two home runs in five bruising innings? Has their medical due diligence uncovered anything ominous? No one is saying. But other teams are reading hints that the Tigers might have other players in mind. For now, nothing of any reliability has indicated Detroit has gotten cold feet about the guy it’s had No. 1 all spring. But there isn’t the same surety being picked up on radar readings. The draft might yet deliver a surprise. Last week: 1.
2. Joey Bart, C, Georgia Tech, 6-3, 225: He’s finishing with a flair, which doesn’t hurt when the Giants already seemed committed to taking him with the second overall pick. The Tigers, though, might rearrange some furniture if they back away from Mize. Bart has a sturdy bat, with real power, and is one of those high-IQ guys who is savvy enough to call his own game. There are questions about strikeouts and what big-league pitching might do to him. But that could be over-thinking things. Bart’s a right-handed hitting star prospect with immense defensive gifts. Last week: 2.
3. Alec Bohm, 3B, Wichita State, 6-5, 220: Should in fact Bart move into first-overall territory, expect the Giants to look at Bohm as a possible consolation prize. He is a third baseman built like a giant redwood with right-handed power. The Tigers probably aren’t interested in him at 1-1 in the event they move away from Mize. But it’s unlikely he lasts more than three or four turns on June 4. Last week: 3.
4. Nick Madrigal, 2B, Oregon State, 5-8, 165: He probably is paying too high of a draft price for his size. Teams aren’t sure he’ll bring enough power to a position that these days demands it. But he has sophisticated skills and probably the capacity to add some muscle, all of which big-league teams understand. Still, he doesn’t appear ticketed for a top-three slot. Teams that bypass him might someday regret their slight. The draft is full of those examples. Last week: 4.
5. Travis Swaggerty, OF, University of South Alabama, 5-11, 180: Nothing for a moment says the Tigers would grab Swaggerty. Everything about his game suggests they might be at least tempted. He has a left-hand stick and power. He runs. He plays center field. He probably goes top 10, and that could make his selecting team, in time, very happy. Swaggerty has been in and out of the top-10 grocery list this spring. He’s back. Last week: Unranked.
6. Brady Singer, RH starter, University of Florida, 6-5, 210: Might have replaced Mize as the pitcher-most-likely-to-be-nabbed by the Tigers. He has luster, even if Singer figures to be more of a mid-rotation starter in the big leagues. Gave up a bunch of unearned runs last week against Georgia. Don’t count him out as the Tigers perhaps reshuffle their dance card. Last week: 5.
7. Logan Gilbert, RH starter, Stetson University, 6-6, 210: More of the same in his last start: 6 2/3 innings, four hits, 13 strikeouts, a couple of walks. On the season: 93 innings, 54 hits, 134strikeouts, 20 walks. What must be factored: This isn’t the SEC. His last opponent was Florida Gulf Coast. Still, watch out for Gilbert if the draft has suddenly re-opened. Last week: 7.
8. Nolan Gorman, 3B, Sandra Day O’Connor High, Glendalez, Ariz., 6-1, 210: Power. How big of a commodity is home-run, extra-base weaponry in the big leagues? It’s everything, which is why someone is going to bit early on Gorman, even if he eventually shifts to first base. Last week: 8.
9. Jarred Kelenic, OF, Waukesha (Wis.) West High, 6-1, 195: Another case of teams probably talking themselves out of a guy they’ll regret not grabbing. Or, those are someone’s thoughts today, which not all big-league teams will share when they aren’t into gambling with an early first-round pick. It’s all about region, cold weather, poor pitching, and too little track record. And that’s the only reservation about Kelenic. Last week: 10.
10. Matthew Liberatore, LH starter, Mountain Ridge High, Glendale, Ariz., 6-5, 190: A lot of left-handed talent and physical prowess to think Liberatore will fall far from a top-10 ticket. It would help if he showed another half-gear on his fastball in these waning weeks. It’s slipped a bit, as has his stock. Last week: Unranked.
Fell out of this week’s rankings: Jackson Kowar, RH starter, University of Florida, 6-6, 195: Big arm, but only two big-league pitches, a fastball and change-up. Could be destined for bullpen life on the grand stage.