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Tigers' Draft pick engineering a bright future

Third-round selection close to completing nuclear engineering degree
@beckjason
June 4, 2019

DETROIT -- Andre Lipcius came to the University of Tennessee as a first baseman. He then to moved to shortstop as a sophomore. He played his junior season this spring at third base. Lipcius played wherever the team needed him in a given season. “They all had different footwork, they

DETROIT -- Andre Lipcius came to the University of Tennessee as a first baseman. He then to moved to shortstop as a sophomore. He played his junior season this spring at third base. Lipcius played wherever the team needed him in a given season.

“They all had different footwork, they all had different challenges,” Lipcius said.

All the while, Lipcius had a different challenge in the classroom, putting in his studies as a nuclear engineering major. His parents, Rochelle and Romauld, are both math professors, and they passed down their academic passion to their twin boys, Andre and Luc, both of whom play for the Volunteers.

“I've always grown up loving math, which happened to work out for being an engineer,” Andre Lipcius said. “The schoolwork was a lot of work, but it's worth it.”

Draft Tracker | Tigers Draft Day 1 recap | Draft Central

Lipcius is two or three semesters shy of his degree, he said, and he plans to complete it. But for now, he has a dream to pursue on the diamond with the Tigers, who selected him in the third round Tuesday of the MLB Draft.

Lipcius ranked 145th on MLB Pipeline’s list of Top 200 Draft Prospects. Working with Tennessee assistant coach and former Tigers prospect Ross Kivett, he blossomed from a versatile contact hitter into an intriguing bat with a breakout junior season. Lupcius' 17 home runs more than doubled his total from his first two years combined, and he posted a .586 slugging percentage. His .308 batting average was just off his career high, and he had nearly as many walks (31) as strikeouts (33).

Lipcius' defensive statistics took a hit as he transitioned from a footwork position to a quick-reaction spot at the hot corner. More experience should allow him to improve at third, though Lipcius said he hasn’t been told where the Tigers would like him to play.

The passion for learning helped Lipcius transition to whatever position he’s needed at, he said. It could eventually help him find a career in the game, whether he’s still playing or not.

“I think I'll try to finish out the degree,” he said, “or go into a field involving baseball.”

A nuclear engineering education could look good on a scouting report for a front office.

The Draft concludes on Wednesday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 on MLB.com beginning at noon ET. Here’s a look at the rest of the Tigers’ picks on Day 2:

Round 4, 112th overall: Ryan Kreidler, SS, 21, UCLA, $517,400 slot value
Kreidler grew up around the game as the son of accomplished sportswriter Mark Kreidler. Though he’s big for a shortstop at 6-foot-4, his defense is considered first-rate, including a very strong arm. His bat emerged this spring with a breakout junior season, when he hit .309 (71-for-230) with 18 doubles, nine home runs and 44 RBIs in 60 games. The bat will determine how Kreidler rises up the system, but his fielding acumen for his size gives him a chance to find a role regardless. He ranked 200th in the class by MLB Pipeline.

Round 5, 142nd overall: Bryant Packard, OF, 21, East Carolina, $386,600 slot value
Packard was the American Athletic Conference’s Player of the Year as a sophomore last year and opened eyes in the Cape Cod League last summer. He fell some as a junior, which allowed the Tigers to grab him here. The corner outfielder is a pure hitting prospect, getting power in his left-handed swing from a 6-foot-3 frame. MLB Pipeline ranked him 106th.

Round 6, 172nd overall: Cooper Johnson, C, 21, Mississippi, $291,400 slot value
Johnson was regarded as one of the best defensive catchers available in the 2016 MLB Draft, the same year current Tigers catching prospect Jake Rogers, No. 12 in their system, was selected. But Johnson opted for college ball in hopes of bringing his offensive game in line with his work behind the plate. The progress was slow until his junior season this spring, when he earned All-SEC honors while throwing out nearly half of would-be basestealers. His offense remains a question going into his pro career, but whether or not he hits enough to be a starter in the big leagues, the Tigers felt the skill set was too good to pass up on MLB Pipeline’s 137th-ranked Draft prospect.

Round 7, 202nd overall: Zack Hess, RHP, 22, LSU, $227,700 slot value
Never have the Tigers waited this deep into a Draft to take a pitcher. Hess ranked 95th on MLB Pipeline’s list in his third turn through the Draft, having bypassed pro ball twice to pitch at LSU. He split his junior season between starting and relieving, but many believe his combination of upper-90s fastball and slider will play better in short work. This is historically the point in the Draft where the Tigers take a pitcher whose arm they believe will work well in relief.

Round 8, 232nd overall: Jack Kenley, SS, 21, Arkansas, $181,200 slot value
After struggling for two seasons as a utility player, Kenley broke out as a junior, slugging 12 home runs to go with 50 RBIs in the regular season before helping lead the Razorbacks to this week’s NCAA Super Regionals. His defense is solid, and like several other Tigers picks on Day 2, he’s versatile and can move around the infield.

Round 9, 262nd overall: Austin Bergner, RHP, 22, North Carolina, $157,200 slot value
The Tigers had some success with Tar Heels pitchers in years past, drafting Andrew Miller and Luke Putkonen out of UNC’s rotation as well as UNC recruit Rick Porcello. Bergner isn’t on that level, having recorded a 5.48 ERA as a junior this spring, but he pitched UNC into the NCAA Super Regionals last Sunday with seven innings of two-run ball against Lipcius’ Tennessee club. He throws a fastball in the low 90s to go with a curveball and changeup.

Round 10, 292nd overall: Jake Holton, 1B, Creighton, $147,000 slot value
Holton earned Big East Player of the Year honors by batting .386 with 14 home runs, 58 RBIs and a .726 slugging percentage, then he nearly led the Bluejays to an upset of Michigan in the NCAA Tournament.

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