Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News arrow-downArrow Down icon Arrow Up icon

Tigers lock up top pick in 2020 MLB Draft

@beckjason
September 25, 2019

DETROIT -- For the second time in three years, the Tigers are on the clock for the first pick in the MLB Draft. This time, they clinched it with five games to spare. On the field, the celebration was reserved for the Twins, who moved a step closer to clinching

DETROIT -- For the second time in three years, the Tigers are on the clock for the first pick in the MLB Draft. This time, they clinched it with five games to spare.

On the field, the celebration was reserved for the Twins, who moved a step closer to clinching their first division title since 2010 with Wednesday’s 5-1 win over the Tigers. But in the front offices at Comerica Park and the player development offices in Lakeland, Fla., there might have been a crack of a smile, if not more.

Box score

As much as the Tigers have tried to rebuild their farm system through their recent Draft picks, trades and international signings, they need another impact player. Drafting first next June was always going to be their easiest path to finding one. It’s more than a consolation prize for what is now a 111-loss season that has featured injuries and inconsistencies, leaving manager Ron Gardenhire with an inexperienced, undermanned roster.

“We knew it was going to be one of those fighting years,” Gardenhire said. “We fought it out pretty good last year. This year, after all the injuries out of Spring Training, you knew it was going to be a battle, and it has been. A lot of kids are in the big leagues right now getting an opportunity; that’s what rebuilds are. We’re seeing a lot of young guys.

An early 2020 mock Draft

“If I had hair, I probably wouldn’t have hair by the end of the season. But I never had hair this year, so it’s OK. I just keep rubbing my head, trying to help.”

The silver lining for Gardenhire was the pipeline of prospects finally opening a bit this summer with the arrivals of catcher Jake Rogers and shortstop Willi Castro to join outfielder Christin Stewart. Gardenhire will begin seeing the crop of pitching prospects on which the rebuild hinges when they join big league camp for Spring Training, though they probably won’t make the roster until next summer at the earliest.

The best college 2020 Draft prospects

The last two games have shown how badly the Tigers need impact hitting more than anything. For the second consecutive night, Detroit took a 1-0 lead into the seventh behind strong pitching, this time from piggy-back starters Daniel Norris and Drew VerHagen. For the second night in a row, Minnesota used a seventh-inning surge to not only pull ahead but pull away against a lineup that had no answer offensively.

The Tigers' lone run was an unearned first-inning tally off Randy Dobnak, who was pitching in the United Shore Professional Baseball League in suburban Detroit two years ago. Miguel Cabrera reached on a two-out error and scored from first base on Jeimer Candelario’s double to the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center.

The best high school 2020 Draft prospects

“We didn’t really make a lot of hard contact,” Gardenhire said. “We hit a few balls hard, but it was pretty soft contact all night.”

Norris, making his final start of the season, tossed three scoreless innings with five strikeouts. VerHagen followed with three more scoreless frames but received no additional support, leaving him vulnerable after a Miguel Sanó walk to lead off the seventh. Three pitches later, Luis Arraez hit a hanging slider for a two-run homer to put the Twins up for good.

The last time the Tigers drafted first overall, there was no hitter who rated as highly as Auburn pitcher Casey Mize, now their top prospect after a standout first full pro season that included a no-hitter in his Double-A debut. Next year’s Draft crop is expected to be different, according to early scouting reports, led by Arizona State slugging first baseman Spencer Torkelson and Vanderbilt third baseman Austin Martin. Both are regarded as advanced hitters who could help a team fairly quickly.

Tigers' Top 30 prospects

They won’t help quite as quickly as next year for Detroit, however, not that Gardenhire is thinking along those lines anyway.

“We’re not trying to put ourselves in a position to do that,” said Gardenhire. “I know there’s a race for the first pick in the Draft. We don’t really try to do that. I know some of our fans are thinking this is great, but we’re just trying to go out and play, and these guys are trying to get through this thing. It’s really tough right now. It’s a tough loss for us, because we had our chances. We got to the second half of the game and we still had our chances, and it just got away from us.”

That’s the dichotomy of the Tigers’ current situation. As much frustration as Gardenhire and his coaches and players have endured this year, it has still advanced the rebuild.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.