Over the past twenty years, the Detroit Tigers have made pitching a priority during the first-year player draft and the lack of homegrown position player depth in the organization reflects as much. In that twenty-year span, the Tigers have had eighteen first-round selections. Of the eighteen picks, twelve were pitchers, including last year’s first overall pick Casey Mize from Auburn.
As a result, the organization is healthy in the pitching department with the likes of Mize, Matt Manning, Alex Faedo and others ascending to the top of the minor league ladder.
Yet, while the pitching is in fine shape, positionally, the Tigers are lacking. Christin Stewart, Nicholas Castellanos and Grayson Greiner are the only homegrown position players currently on the big league roster. Castellanos was a first round pick in 2010, Stewart the top pick in 2015 and Greiner, a third rounder in 2014.
Other position players that were first round picks in that span either never made it to the big leagues or had minimal impact. Those names include Scott Moore, Derek Hill and Cameron Maybin. Although an argument could be made in Maybin’s defense, as he was part of the deal that landed future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera.
Moore never played above Class-A Lakeland for the Tigers before he was dealt to the Cubs in a deal that brought Kyle Farnsworth to Detroit. He would go on to post brief stints in the major leagues with the Cubs, Orioles and Astros before his career came to an end in 2012.
Hill meanwhile is five years into his minor league career, and because of injuries his prospect status has waned considerably.
So, landing impact bats has become a necessity for the organization
The first step was taken on Monday when the Tigers drafted Florida High School outfielder Riley Greene. A University of Florida commit, Greene comes from a baseball family. His father, Alan, played at Florida Tech and coached Riley as a youth. He possesses a smooth, fluid, left-handed stroke that has been rated among the best among all hitters in the draft.
While it is tantalizing to dream about what Greene’s impact with the big league club could be, he is still only 18 years old. High school players need time to develop. For an organization like the Tigers, still toiling in rebuild mode, the waiting will be the hardest part. High school picks carry more risk as well.
Maybin was selected 10th overall by the Tigers in 2005. He was projected to be a top-five pick, but fell to the Tigers because of fears that he may not sign. Evaluators at the time labeled Maybin a five-tool player. Some compared him to Joe Carter at the same stage. While Maybin has had a respectable thirteen-year big league career, the early projections were perhaps a bit too lofty.
Injuries can also play a major role. Hill is a prime example. A myriad of injuries, including Tommy John surgery on his throwing arm in 2016, has stalled a once promising future.
What does all of this have to do with Greene? Maybe nothing. By all accounts he is ticketed for the big leagues. Several years of seasoning in the minors should have him ready to produce at Comerica Park. Lord knows the Tigers could use an injection of excitement in their lineup. Greene is a good bet to eventually provide it. It’s just going to take some time, and nothing is guaranteed.
On the 20-80 scouting ranking system, Greene’s hit tool is listed as a 60 by MLB.com and his power is listed at 55. Both are above average. The Tigers had to choose between Greene and Georgia high school shortstop C.J. Abrams who possesses elite speed, but less power potential. The organization already features middle infield prospects Isaac Paredes, Willi Castro and Wenceel Perez. They couldn’t pass on a power hitting outfielder.
With plenty of talented pitching knocking on door in the minor leagues, signing Greene and adding his talents to the system will bolster a future outfield that could also include Daz Cameron and Parker Meadows.