It’s one thing to have premium draft picks, another to make the most of them.
The Tigers appear to be taking advantage of the circumstance.
Riley Greene was the fifth overall selection in the 2019 MLB Draft. Not only is he a top hitting prospect, which was expected, he has flashed a spectacular glove at Summer Camp. His leaping catch during Monday’s intrasquad game, robbing C.J. Cron of a home run, was an eye opener. He made the play in left field. In a previous game, Greene made a nice running catch in right field. Perhaps it is an indicator, though, his future lies in center field. Greene played very well there for West Michigan in 2019.
If there was a concern about Greene entering his draft year, it was whether his speed and athleticism justified a Top 5 overall selection out of high school. He has more than dispelled that notion. If anything, he appears to be a plus defender – and perhaps at a premium position.
Pitchers Casey Mize (first overall 2018) and Matt Manning (ninth overall 2016) both dominated at times in ‘19 for Double A Erie.
It’s appears as a contrast from the Tigers’ most recent rebuild.
It took a dozen years in large measure because the Tigers missed on early first-round draft picks such as reliever Matt Anderson first overall, catcher Eric Munson (third), pitcher Seth Greisinger (sixth), pitcher Matt Wheatland (eighth), third baseman Scott Moore (eighth), shortstop Matt Brunson (ninth), pitcher Mike Drumright (11th) and pitcher Kenny Baugh (11th).
The lack of collective MLB production by the above-mentioned players with the Tigers was stunning. Arguably the biggest factor in the Tigers’ turnaround was finally hitting the jackpot with future Hall of Fame pitcher Justin Verlander at second overall in 2004. It’s no coincidence, just two seasons later, he was American League Rookie of the Year for a pennant-winning club.
Of course, it’s too early to anoint Mize, Manning, Greene and 2020 first overall pick Spencer Torkelson as outstanding choices. The true test, obviously, will come in the major leagues.
But the promise they have displayed thus far is much better than their successors picked around the same spots during the previous rebuild.
It does seem like the Tigers are rapidly developing a core to build around this time from those early overall selections, which could make the process smoother and much faster.