The Detroit Tigers hold the third pick in the 2023 MLB Draft
Detroit Tigers fans can be forgiven if they aren’t gearing up for the MLB draft right now. For one thing, it’s baseball. The MLB draft doesn’t exactly carry the same level of cachet as its NBA or NFL counterparts. It also isn’t happening for another five months (July 17-19), which might as well be the year 2030.
But the time to start paying attention is now, because college baseball officially kicks off this Friday. This is a talented, college-heavy draft class, and the Tigers hold the third overall pick, as well as two more selections in the top 50. They might be drafting the core of their next title contender this year.
College baseball is a niche sport, and we understand that, so our goal here is pretty simple. We want to keep you updated on the draft prospects most relevant to the Tigers, and point you to interesting games if you feel like watching. So let’s get going.
Week One Watch Guide
The big story this weekend is the Desert Invitational, which should interest fans of the Tigers as well as some local universities. Michigan and Michigan State are joining Arizona, Fresno State, Grand Canyon, Tennessee, and UC San Diego for a four-day tournament in the Phoenix metro area. Fans can stream the games on MLB.com, and three contests will be shown on MLB Network.
The marquee matchup from a draft perspective comes Friday night at 8 p.m. EST, when Arizona takes on Tennessee on MLB Network. Right-hander Chase Dollander gets the start for the Volunteers, and he’s considered the best pitching prospect in several years. He boasts a fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s, a plus slider, and outstanding control. Dollander posted a 2.39 ERA with 108 strikeouts and just 13 walks in 79 innings pitched last year.
The Tigers Can’t Draft Another Pitcher Can They?
Dollander is incredibly promising, but the Tigers have invested an awful lot in pitching over the last decade, with little to show for their effort. How do you feel about shortstops? Because there are three very interesting names to watch in the Desert Invitational.
The first is Dollander’s teammate Maui Ahuna, who transferred to Tennessee after posting an 1.113 OPS with Kansas last year. He’s not the top shortstop in the class, but he might be the best defender in his cohort, and he has some offensive upside.
Michigan State fans might be happy to know their shortstop Mitch Jebb is a legitimate prospect. He’s more of a speedy slap hitter, and he has a bit of a funky swing, but he was outstanding in the Cape Cod League last summer, hitting .356 with 20 walks and 26 steals in 38 games. He may be more of an option for the Tigers with their second or third pick, but if he shows more power this year he could easily fit in the first round.
But the top shortstop in Arizona this weekend is Grand Canyon’s Jacob Wilson. He’s the son of former All-Star Jack Wilson, and he has perhaps the best bat-to-ball skills in college. Wilson hit .358 with 25 walks and just seven strikeouts in 275 plate appearances last year. He has room to get bigger and stronger, and if he shows more power this year he will be a legitimate option to go third overall.
Lone Star Action
The Desert Invitational isn’t the only interesting tournament this weekend, as Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, plays host to the College Baseball Showdown. The field consists of Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas, and Vanderbilt.
There are two potential top-ten picks at the Showdown in TCU third baseman Brayden Taylor and Vanderbilt center fielder Enrique Bradfield. Taylor has one of the best combinations of hitting ability, patience, and power production in college baseball, but there are questions about his power translating to pro ball. Bradfield is an electric table-setter type who has gone 93-for-99 on stolen base attempts in college and projects as a plus defender.
We’re glad you asked. There are a handful of other players with a real chance to land with the Tigers at pick three, but their competition this weekend isn’t quite as compelling. Ole Miss and star shortstop Jacob Gonzalez host Delaware, while Florida and outfielder Wyatt Langford welcome Charleston Southern to Gainesville.
And then there’s poor Western Michigan. The Broncos head to Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge to begin a three-game set with the consensus top team in college baseball. The LSU Tigers are an absolute juggernaut, led by potential 1-1 pick Dylan Crews and RHP/DH Paul Skenes.
There are plenty more college players worth knowing, and we didn’t even touch on this year’s high-school class. But, as we said, there are still five months before the draft, so we’re pacing ourselves. Check back in for regular draft updates all spring.