DETROIT -- Casey Mize has spent three seasons wearing the burnt orange and navy blue of the Auburn Tigers. On Monday, the gifted young right-hander became the newest hope of the Detroit Tigers, whose colors should suit him quite well.• Draft Tracker: Follow every Tigers Draft pickIf the rest of
DETROIT -- Casey Mize has spent three seasons wearing the burnt orange and navy blue of the Auburn Tigers. On Monday, the gifted young right-hander became the newest hope of the Detroit Tigers, whose colors should suit him quite well.
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If the rest of his transition from college ace to franchise gem goes so easy, the Tigers might have their ace to front a potentially dominant future rotation.
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"I honestly don't think I ever bought into the fact that I could go 1-1," Mize said after becoming the top pick in Monday's MLB Draft. "I was kind of in denial for the longest time. I think about the strategy I had to do to make it work."
Once it happened, he wasn't sure how to react. It's the latest step in the incredible rise of Mize, who joins 2009 top pick Stephen Strasburg as players to go from undrafted out of high school to the top overall pick in college.
"The emotions, I can't really describe," Mize said. "It was pretty amazing, but I kind of went numb a little bit. I don't really know what I was feeling, but I was really happy the way everything turned out."
The Tigers also had the top pick of the second round, which they used to select Grayson (Georgia) High School outfielder Parker Meadows. The younger brother of Pirates rookie outfielder Austin Meadows is described as a raw hitter, whom the Tigers hope they can mold into the impact offensive player they desperately need to fill out their farm system.
Mize, by contrast, adds to an area where the Tigers already have depth. But he has the potential to become the best of the bunch.
Mize tossed a no-hitter against Northeastern in March, propelling him toward a season worthy of his billing. The right-hander has gone 10-5 with a 2.95 ERA in 16 starts, striking out 151 batters over 109 2/3 innings with 77 hits allowed. Just as impressive, he surrendered just 12 walks.
"If you look at his overall numbers in college, particularly this year, they're really off the charts," Tigers general manager Al Avila told Fox Sports Detroit on Monday evening. "And his repertoire of pitches are excellent. They're all either plus or plus-plus pitches. He's got a good repertoire, and he has a good idea of how to pitch, and obviously the strikeout-to-walk ratio, it's off the charts. You put all that together, and you have an advanced pitching prospect."
While Mize's history drew comparisons to former Tigers great Justin Verlander -- who was the second overall pick in the 2004 Draft -- Mize is a different style of pitcher. His fastball hits the mid-90s, but it sets up a devastating split-changeup that some called the best pitch in the Draft, along with a slider and cutter. Avila said last week that Mize's secondary pitches are actually ahead of where Verlander's arsenal stood going into the Draft.
"We see guys with power. We see guys who have a good breaking ball, good slider, whatever. But you rarely see power guys with a plus slider, plus cutter and plus command," Tigers scouting director Scott Pleis said.
The Tigers landed the top selection by way of their 64-98 record last year, the same as the Giants but squeaking ahead on a tiebreaker. Depending on the players available, the top pick has either been a ticket to a can't-miss talent and future superstar, or first dibs at a Draft class without a clear-cut top option.
This year's field trended toward the latter, but Mize's dominance for most of the season and assortment of pitches put him atop the Tigers' list for most, if not all of the spring. Avila watched Mize pitch in person twice this spring, and met with him both times.
"It went very well, and I think the relationships that we made clicked very quickly," Mize said. "I think it just clicked for us, and what they had to say, I could tell they were obviously very knowledgeable and very interested."
Said Pleis: "I think a Tiger was probably at every single start, except possibly one. We scouted him heavily, we knew we liked him, and it became apparent he was going to be one of those guys up at the top."
Avila told Fox Sports Detroit that the Tigers made the final decision on Mize on Sunday after a weekend of meetings between team officials and scouts at the Tigertown complex in Lakeland, Fla.
"We felt that he was the best player in the Draft this year, the one that would come in and give us the best impact, and we're very happy to have him," Avila said. "We feel he's advanced, and he's going to be a really great addition to the organization."
Mize becomes the second consecutive SEC pitcher to go with the Tigers' first-round pick, joining former University of Florida ace Alex Faedo. He's currently in the rotation at Class A Advanced Lakeland.
Faedo is one of four Tigers starting-pitching prospects ranked in the top 70 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list, including fellow recent first-round picks Beau Burrows and Matt Manning. Detroit would have loved for a hitter to emerge as the top talent. While some position players stood out, including sweet-swinging Oregon State infielder Nick Madrigal and slugging Georgia Tech catcher Joey Bart, neither swayed the Tigers away from Mize.
"Everybody liked Casey," Pleis said.
MLB Pipeline agreed with the Tigers, putting Mize atop the Top 200 Draft prospects.
Like Faedo last year, Mize still has some college pitching to do with Auburn, which clinched a spot in the NCAA Super Regionals over the weekend. Faedo pitched the Gators to an NCAA title, racking up enough innings that the Tigers shut him down from pitching until this spring. If Mize and Auburn enjoy the same sort of roll, Detroit could well have him take the summer off as well.
"I think it depends on how far they go here in postseason play," Avila told FS Detroit. "It just depends on how far they go, if they go to the College World Series, and how much he pitches the rest of the summer. Then at that point, we can take a look and see if he will pitch for us a little bit here in the Minor Leagues or if we'll wait until the fall."
Though some evaluators believe Mize could be ready for the big leagues in a hurry, Detroit doesn't have any sense of urgency.
"He's got MLB stuff right now. He's a very talented person," Pleis said. "But we're not going to rush his development. We're going to take our time with Casey. He's thrown a lot of innings this season, and he's not done yet."
Asked if he had a timetable in mind, Mize chose his words carefully.
"I would say I'd like to get there as efficiently as possible, not as quickly as possible," he said. "I think whenever I'm ready, whenever Scott and Al and people decide that I'm ready, I would hope it would be as efficient as possible."
Meadows ranked 42nd on MLB Pipeline's Draft prospect list. Listed at 6-foot-5, 185 pounds, the left-handed hitter has a body frame that should fill out with age, which is seen as key to his offensive development. He is already long on athleticism, with the speed to potentially play center field.
"Just a quality guy, a plus athlete, huge upside, stays in center field, just a lot of things to like about him, and the bloodlines of his brother being a player," Pleis said. "Everything kind of added up for us, and we were happy he got to us with our second pick."
Meadows has committed to play college baseball at Clemson, but the Tigers can take advantage of the additional spending pool that comes with the top pick to try to convince him to turn pro. The Tigers' bonus pool of $12,414,800 is third-highest among all clubs, including a $8,096,300 slot value for the top pick. Teams with the first overall selection in recent years have signed their pick for below slot value and used the savings for later picks.
The Draft continues on today with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage beginning at 1 p.m.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.