With the first ten rounds of the 2019 MLB Entry Draft in the books, the Tigers have bucked their trend of pursuing hard throwing SEC pitchers in favor of bats. Given that this class, shallower than most, was deep in good college bats, that was probably a wise decision. Combined with the Tigers’ weak pool of position player prospects, the emphasis on offense and power made total sense. But what about the individual players themselves? How did the Tigers do overall? Let’s take a look at each of the ten picks Detroit made in the draft this year, and look at their overall strengths and weaknesses.
Round 1: Riley Greene, left-handed outfielder, FL HS
Strengths: Boy, this kid can rake. High school prep outfielders are riskier than most prospects, but in Greene, the Tigers have a legitimate offensive prospect with high upside. Comps range from Cody Bellinger to Nick Castellanos with the bat, and Greene demonstrates an advanced approach and a strong hit tool, with plus power projection.
Weaknesses: Greene’s biggest weakness is his arm, and combined with average athleticism, he isn’t going to be playing center long-term. But he should be a capable defender in left. Otherwise, the Tigers are gambling on Greene reaching his power potential.
Round 2: Nick Quintana, right-handed third baseman, University of Arizona
Strengths: Boy, in terms of college bats, Quintana’s a good one. He projects to have plus power in the major leagues, and paired with excellent defense, his upside is as a good defensive run producer in the middle of the order. Also, his hair is double-plus.
Weaknesses: Quintana slipped because of his bat-to-ball skills. He has a propensity to get pull-happy, and so his contact rates aren’t exactly where they should be. The Tigers will focus on reducing those strikeouts, and his success is dependent on how effective they are in doing so.
Round 3: Andre Lipcius, right-handed third baseman, University of Tennessee
Strengths: Detroit went all in on college third basemen, and Lipcius looks like another quality hitter. Known for his contact skills and plate discipline, he also has power potential, and despite his size, can stick at third base long-term. Lipcius is also young for his level, which is a good sign.
Weaknesses: Lipcius could be average across the board with the exception of his speed. That limits him to either third or first base long-term, and if he does have to move, he’ll have to hit more.
Round 4: Ryan Kreidler, right-handed infielder, UCLA
Strengths: Detroit announced Kreidler as a shortstop, and while he isn’t elite there, he can certainly stick. He’s mostly a defensive player, and looks like he can play all over the infield in the future, in large part thanks to a cannon for an arm.
Weaknesses: Kreidler projects to have an average hit tool and below average power at best, which limits his ceiling to that of a utility player. The bat has improved as of late, but it would take significant work to become a regular starter at the MLB level.
Round 5: Bryant Packard, left-handed outfielder, Eastern Carolina University
Strengths: Scouting reports have him labeled as a polished college hitter, and he’ll bring a potentially good bat to the farm in the fifth round. Packard has a good hit tool and projects to hit for some power, with MLB suggesting he can hit twenty home runs in a season if he hits his ceiling.
Weaknesses: Packard will give you virtually nothing on defense, and he’s pretty much destined for left field. That restricts his overall ceiling, and puts more pressure on the bat if he’s to reach his ceiling of an everyday starter.
Round 6: Cooper Johnson, right-handed catcher, Ole Miss
Strengths: Johnson may be the best defensive catcher in the draft. With a 1.8 second pop time (that’s very good) and a cannon for an arm, Johnson projects to be a defense-first catcher with a high ceiling. Johnson’s worked hard on improving his receiving skills, and he can gun down baserunners with the best of them.
Weaknesses: Johnson’s bat isn’t the strongest, and while he started hitting a bit this year, his first two years at Ole Miss were spent as a backup thanks to his bat. There’s some offensive potential there, but it’s a longshot.
Round 7: Zack Hess, right-handed pitcher, Louisiana State University
Strengths: Hess has a 98 mile per hour fastball (though it sits 91-95) with a solid slider. That’s a ton of pitching power, with some significant upside, mostly as a back-of-the-bullpen piece. At 6’6″, he’s tall and has the build that Tigers like out of their pitching prospects.
Weaknesses: Hess has an injury history, with groin problems hampering him this year. On top of that, his change is weak, meaning that he likely isn’t a starter, despite the Tigers announcing him as one. Between the two-pitch mix and funky mechanics, there are some red flags here.
Round 8: Jack Kenley, left-handed shortstop, University of Arkansas
Strengths: Kenley’s got a bit of power, can hit a bit, and can take some walks. He’s also capable of playing up the middle in the pros, though he might work out better at second.
Weaknesses: There are questions as to whether he’ll stick at shortstop, and none of his tools are really standouts. His ceiling is likely that of a utility infielder.
Round 9: Austin Bergner, right-handed pitcher, University of North Carolina
Strengths: Bergner has a mid-90’s fastball as a reliever, and some promise in the changeup. He’s also split time between the rotation (where he was announced), and there his fastball sits in the low-90’s. The fastball has significant life, too.
Weaknesses: Though he converted to the rotation this year, he’s likely a reliever in the long-run. While he has a curveball, it doesn’t look particularly promising, and while he’s got upside, it’s likely in the bullpen.
Round 10: Jake Holton, right handed first baseman, Creighton University
Strengths: Good hitting skills, with power that developed this year. Holton performed very well at Creighton, hitting .386 with 14 home runs in a power-suppresing park.
Weaknesses: Weak arm, poor speed, weak defense. He’s a one-dimensional player, but that dimension is pretty good for the 10th round.
Overall, this looks like a decent class for the Tigers. I would have liked another prep player, or another high-upside selection signed over-slot, but Greene has star upside, and multiple players on this list have the ability to turn into major-league regulars. Combined with some late-round value in the pitchers, and the Tigers did well.