Pat Caputo: Second Round A Key To Tigers 2020 MLB Draft

The Tigers’ second rounder in June is 38th overall.

Pat Caputo
May 18, 2020 - 9:30 am

Arizona State’s powerful first baseman Spencer Torkelson or Vanderbilt’s versatile Austin Martin? 

The decision could dramatically impact the Tigers for a decade or more.

But the first overall selection is not the only question about the Tigers entering the abbreviated 2020 MLB Draft June 10-11.

What about Round 2?

The Tigers have notoriously swung and missed in the second round. The one very notable exception was Hall-of-Fame shortstop Alan Trammell, but it was 44 years ago. Catcher-turned-third baseman Brandon Inge is next best. That was 22 years ago. 

Pitcher Drew Smyly and catcher James McCann, back-to-back out of the University of Arkansas in 2010 and 2011, represent the best of the rest. You could throw Spencer Turnbull (2014) in there, too.

(The Tigers' last three second-round selections, Nick Quintana, Parker Meadows and Ray Rivera, hit .194, .221 and .228 with little power at the low levels of the minor leagues in 2019.)

Otherwise, it’s been mostly misses in the second round, like in 2009 when the Tigers took Oklahoma State pitcher Andy Oliver (minus 0.8 WAR during a very brief MLB career) one pick ahead of California high school third baseman Nolan Arenado, who has finished sixth or better in National League MVP voting the past four seasons with the Rockies.

The Tigers’ second-rounder in June is 38th overall. The expectation is it will net a difference maker, but it’s a long shot at best.

The Five Best Late-Round Draft Picks In Tigers History

No player taken 38th overall since the 2013 draft has appeared yet in MLB. The last truly impact player was pitcher Noah Syndergaard in 2010 by Toronto (he was traded to the Mets in 2012). Long-time Mets third baseman David Wright (2004) is by far the best pick ever at 38th overall since the MLB Draft was instituted in 1965. There are no Hall of Famers.

The Tigers need catching, and I see a scenario where they choose a receiver in the second round, either Ohio State’s Dillion Dingler or Drew Romo, the latter a Houston-area high schooler who's a switch hitter with advanced defensive skills for his age.

All professional sports drafts are fickle by nature, but baseball often to an extreme. Trammell was the 26th overall pick in ‘76 because there were just 24 teams and no compensatory selections. It would put him in the first round today.

The Tigers had the second overall selection that year and missed with Indiana high school lefty Pat Underwood. Yet, the Tigers’ 1976 draft is considered one of the best of all-time because they also landed Hall-of-Fame ace Jack Morris in the fifth round and a bonafide No. 2 starter, Dan Petry, during the fourth. They also drafted Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith in the seventh round, but he didn’t sign.

The Tigers took Lou Whitaker in the fifth round in 1975 and Lance Parrish in the first in ‘74.

Those drafts set up the Tigers for 11 straight winning seasons during the late 1970s and 1980s, including their most recent World Series championship in 1984.

It would be unrealistic to expect a similar scenario to develop for the Tigers in this draft.

But it’s not just the first round pick that counts.

Hitting in the second round and beyond would accelerate the process. It’s an opportunity the Tigers have mostly missed on for far too many years.