A system in need of impact infielders should have a few interesting options in the second round.
With the fifth overall pick, the options for the Detroit Tigers in the first round of the 2019 amateur draft are pretty well established. Cal 1B Andrew Vaughn is the rare first baseman who appears a lock to go in the top five. The Tigers are also strongly linked to Florida prep outfielder Riley Greene. Vanderbilt slugger J.J. Bleday provides a more seasoned option in a corner outfielder with power should the Tigers find Greene too high risk. There are a few option possibilities, but overall there is a pretty narrow pool of players the Tigers appear to be on for their first round selection.
The second round is where things start to get complicated. As always, some late rise or fall in stock, or a few surprise picks late in the first round or in the first compensation pick round could change the equation, but it’s already a tangled picture to begin with. While the top of the draft isn’t exactly packed with elite talent, there is actually quite a deep pool of interesting position players the Tigers may have available to them with the 47th overall pick. Other than Josh Smith, the Tigers haven’t been really been tied to any of these players. It’s just interesting to consider the wealth of options available with the start of the 2019 draft mere hours away.
3B Cameron Cannon
Ok, yes that’s a really good baseball name. Possibly a future 70 grade if he shows off enough power to live up to it. He’s also slated to go with the 47th overall pick on FanGraphs’ board . As that pick is held by our own Detroit Tigers, let’s take a look at what the University of Arizona junior offers to an interested major league team.
Cannon can hit. He posted a slash line of 397/.478/.651 this season, with eight home runs and just 29 strikeouts to 35 walks. There’s solid plate discipline and contact ability here, and FanGraphs notes describe him as one of the better bats in the draft class. A weak performance in the Cape Cod League last summer raised a few questions as to how his bat would translate to the pro game, but those have largely been quieted by his strong junior season at Arizona. A short, clean swing with good power to the pull field are his calling cards. The key question is how his power projects through a 5’10, 196 pound frame.
Cannon has solid defensive tools, and while he has just average speed, good reactions, soft hands, and an above average arm make him a solid fit at third base in the long term. He’s also played shortstop and second base and will flash surprising athleticism at times, but isn’t really viewed as a fit at either position, though second base still isn’t out of the question. There’s enough versatility here that Cannon should be able to find an infield home even if the power never fits the ideal third baseman profile. For a system in need of legit hitters who can play on the dirt, Cannon is a relatively low-risk option with the kind of advanced plate discipline and solid power potential the Tigers so often have missed in their approach to drafting position players.
SS Josh Smith
Louisiana State shortstop Josh Smith is another possibility for the Tigers if they decide to try and take advantage of a deep pool of quality college infielders in the second round. He’s a left-handed hitter with solid power and discipline, and the ability to play shortstop long-term. He’ll need to find a home in the middle infield as he doesn’t project to have the power to play on the corners. However, the hit tool projects as average, with better than average raw power, and there may be more upside there than is apparent at first glance. One could certainly argue that the Tigers are not the team to tweak his gap-to-gap approach in order to maximize his power potential, but that approach also makes him the type of hitter the Tigers tend to favor.
The Detroit Tigers already selected Smith once, with their 38th round pick in the 2016 draft. Clearly there is some interest there, but the Louisiana native was always LSU bound. After a solid freshman campaign, Smith looked to make an impression last season but was instead laid low with a stress reaction in his back that cost him most of the season . Now healthy, Smith has put up a fine junior season, and has generated enough buzz that any sleeper status he had earlier this spring is probably spent. He hit nine home runs in 242 at-bats for LSU this season, while slashing .346/.436/.533. Listed at 5’10, 172 pounds, Smith doesn’t really have substantial power projection, but the batspeed is good enough to think he may find his way to average power as he matures.
Smith’s relatively slight frame, long swing, and some modest swing and miss concerns probably mean he’ll be available to the Tigers. He’s not really looked upon as a player who packs substantial upside. Still, that assessment may be a little premature since he missed half a year of development time. He can play in the middle of the infield, and he has some plate discipline and solid bat-to-ball skills. It wouldn’t be too surprising to see Al Avila and company circle back on him this year with the their second round pick.
There isn’t much footage of Smith as a junior, but here’s a look at a pair of home run swings from this season.
In FanGraphs most recent two round mock draft, Cannon was projected to go to the Boston Red Sox with the 43rd pick, while Smith is slated to go to the Miami Marlins one pick before the Tigers have a crack at him. Fortunately, there aren’t too many hard-throwing right-handers generally graded into this section of the draft. I’d love for the Tigers to land prep lefty Blake Ralston, but his stock has risen too much, and the Tigers probably would struggle to find enough money in their pool to be sure of locking him down. So let’s look at two other options.
3B Nick Quintana
Quintana is generally pegged to go later in the second round, but he’s a guy the Tigers should think long and hard about. The 5’10, 180 pound third baseman doesn’t possess the speed or athleticism to profile anywhere but a corner infield spot, but what he does have is substantial power and a quality hit tool. FanGraphs predicts a future 55 hit tool, with 60 raw power. Expectations for him to tap into that are limited by some issues with his approach and a gap-to-gap swing path that isn’t really dialed to maximize his power yet. If the Tigers miss out on Vaughn in the first round, Quintana makes for a quality fallback plan as bat-first player with middle of the order potential.
Quintana performed well in the Cape Cod League last summer but didn’t really jump on anyone’s radar. However, he turned some heads during a lethal year at the plate as a junior this season. He posted a 1.088 OPS for the Wildcats and cranked 15 home runs in 56 games while showing off good plate discipline and solid bat-to-ball skills. Quintana is certainly vulnerable to quality breaking balls, but a team that believes they can tighten up his swing mechanics and guide him to a good pro approach may find themselves with a steal in the middle of the second round.
1B Michael Toglia
The 6’5, 225 pound UCLA first baseman could be a solid fallback option if the Tigers miss out on Andrew Vaughn and are still in the hunt for a slugging first baseman. Our friends over at Crawfish Boxes have a nice scouting report up on him for your perusal. Toglia burst onto the scene with a fantastic sophomore season for the Bruins last year, and has shown good raw power hitting with wood in the Cape Cod League each of the past two seasons.
Toglia currently could handle a corner outfield spot, but below average speed and a well-proportioned but large frame probably doesn’t portend for a long-term role anywhere but first base. He does have the arm to handle right field, however, and there is at least slightly more versatility here than is offered by Vaughn, though the bat is a full grade lower in quality.
Toglia got off to a slow start this season and saw his stock slip a bit, though his power has remained undiminished. FanGraphs projects him to top out with 55 grades on his hit tool and game power, with a little more raw power than that if he can tap into his power stroke more consistently and drive a few more balls in the air. The switch hitter is pretty close to a bat-only prospect, but it’s a pretty good bat and might be an opportunity for the Tigers to find a future middle of the order stick without spending their first round pick on a much more polished option like Vaughn. The likelihood is that he’ll be off the board before the Tigers get a crack at him, but if he’s available, the Tigers could do a lot worse.
2B Chase Strumpf
Chase Strumpf isn’t a terribly sexy option for the Tigers in the second round, but if they’re looking for an infielder who can hit, he might be their best remaining option in the second round. The second baseman lacks the arm to play anywhere else but left field, but does have average speed which gives him the versatility to play out there if second base doesn’t work out. His defensive tools otherwise generally draw future average grades. What Strumpf does have, is solid contact ability, plate discipline, and power potential.
The 6’1, 195 pound UCLA Bruins infielder has some swing and miss in his game, but also draws plenty of walks. FanGraphs projects an above average hit tool down the road, though his power potential is probably average at best unless his approach improves substantially in pro ball. He should hit and get on base, but there isn’t much wow factor here.
This isn’t really the type of player the Tigers seem likely to push in on unless they believe they can sharpen his tools beyond expectations. And this isn’t the type of player fans of the Tigers have faith in them developing to his full potential. Still, he’s a quality hitter who could help fortify their future middle infield. The Miami Marlins, picking at 46, have been linked to Strumpf as well, so he or Josh Smith gives them a pair of infield options to choose from. The Tigers haven’t been tied to Strumpf, but if Smith is gone and then have the opportunity, they may give Strumpf a second look.