The 2020 MLB draft has come and gone and like many other things in life right now, it felt much different than it has in the past. From the reduced number of rounds (side note: telling friends who follow baseball but don’t follow the baseball draft that it went from 40 rounds to 5 rounds makes you feel a bit ridiculous), to the remote nature of the executives making the picks, to the payout of the bonus pools, things just felt different this year.
However, one thing that remains the same is the fun of looking over the picks and evaluating the draft.
Value by the Rankings
Overall, the Tigers did a great job in the 2020 draft (the caveat being that all of their picks sign). In past drafts, Detroit had focused on making a solid first round pick only to take less inspiring, lower ceiling players with their subsequent picks. In 2020, that was not the case at all. With almost every pick they were taking a player who was rated higher (when looking at the consensus rankings) than the draft slot the Tigers were picking.
It is hard to get value, per se, with the first overall pick but kicking things off with Spencer Torkelson is a great way to start. Honestly, we could probably hear him described as the best offensive prospect since Mark Teixeira every day for the rest of his prospect career and enjoy every minute of it (you know, assuming he ends up hitting like Teixeira).
Dillon Dingler was a guy many publications had in the first round mix so having him available at pick 38 represents an outstanding value.
Daniel Cabrera had been connected to Detroit throughout the draft process as an SEC player with a strong hit tool. However, most thought they would have to take him at the top of round two to get him, so having him available in the compensation round at pick 62 was again strong value.
Gage Workman, who was a teammate of Torkelson at Arizona State, was ranked about 20 spots higher on average than where he was picked at top of round four (102nd overall).
Even the Tigers lone high school draftee, fifth rounder Colt Keith (132nd overall), was seen as a guy who could go much earlier given his two-way skill set.
Trei Cruz, the Tigers third rounder (73rd overall), was the lone pick who wasn’t ranked as high as his draft slot. But he was picked just slightly before he was expected to go based on the industry consensus so was by no means a reach.
It’s a very different outcome than past drafts when the Tigers took players in the second round (such as outfielder Rey Rivera, or left-hander Tyler Alexander) that probably would have been available two or three rounds later and certainly didn’t end up proving the Tigers right in their loftier ranking.
Skill and Development Diversity
The Tigers needed to add more bats to the system (full stop). But, adding organizational depth is about more than just hitting versus pitching. Within the hitting side of that equation are so many additional groups. Infield vs. outfield, right-handed or left-handed, power, hitting ability, patience, defense, athleticism………alright you get it. But that is one of the more striking aspects of this group of hitters. They have real diversity among their skills/tools (let’s overlook all the third baseman position listings for a moment).
They were able to add power (Torkelson, Workman, Dingler), hitting ability (Torkelson, Dingler, Cabrera, Cruz), patience (Torkelson, Dingler, Cabrera, Cruz), athleticism (Dingler, Keith), and ceiling (Torkelson, Dingler, Keith). They added all this while mixing two right-handed hitters, two left-handed hitters, and two switch hitters.
Finally, let’s talk about position. At first glance, it does appear the Tigers added a number of third basemen. However, in reality there is a fair amount of versatility among them. Torkelson was announced as a third baseman, however many view first base as his ultimate position. Also, Torkelson is viewed as being on the fast path to the Major Leagues. Workman and Cruz have some positional versatility as well. But they are also on different development paths since one is a college player and the other is a raw high schooler, meaning they won’t be bumping into each other at the same stop in the minors. So, really the positional breakdown is more along the lines of three corner infielders (with different timelines to the big leagues), one middle infielder, one catcher, and one outfielder. Given the lack of depth in many of these areas within the farm system being able to add such a wide variety of tools/skills is a significant benefit to the system.
Rebuildingin baseball today is about trying to get a collection of young, cheap talent to the big leagues around the same time. There is little question the Tigers have procured and developed the arms to give fans hope better baseball is coming in Detroit. The issue with the Tigers rebuild has always been on the offensive side. Outside of Riley Greene (who hasn’t played above A-ball) and maybe Isaac Paredes, where is the offensive production going to come from? This draft starts to answer that question.
The Tigers first five picks were collegiate position players. Torkelson is an exceptionally talented hitter who should move through the minors quickly. However, Cabrera is a pretty polished bat in his own right, who could find himself on an advanced track as well. Cruz and Workman will take a little longer but given both played against high level collegiate competition they are far more seasoned than many other draftees.
Admittedly, Dingler is a bit of a wild card here. He doesn’t have quite the track record of the other college draftees but he made strides during the short 2020 college baseball season. If those strides were legit improvement he could move a bit quicker than your normal catcher.
Certainly, additional help is going to be needed but after the past couple days it has gotten a bit easier to envision an offense that can help return the Tigers to contention.