The Tigers lean towards taking pitchers in the Rule 5 draft. Jermaine Clark, Chris Shelton, Victor Reyes, and Akil Baddoo are the only positional players Detroit has taken in the last 25 years. An arm with upside is much easier to hide in a bullpen, particularly if your team is expected to struggle. However, the Tigers have a deeper bullpen than in recent years and have several arms in the wings, like Brendan White.
White, one of the recent 40-man roster adds, put up some impressive numbers this season at Erie. He struck out 73 in 67 innings pitched. He features a fastball that sits around 93-95 with good boring action and a high-spin slider with late bite.
As far as a likely candidate who could be picked up from the Tigers system, two arms come to mind. Our own staff writer Chris Brown dove into Elvis Alvarado, who has a fastball that can hit 98-99 with good riding actio. He was left unprotected. Another arm is lefty Adam Wolf, who performed well after moving to the bullpen.
Wolf changed his delivery as his arm went from a high 3/4 angle to a mid-angle 3/4. The results spoke for themselves. This could be an arm that a team might stash as a long reliever.
Detroit Tigers Rule 5 players to consider
This list on my end for suggestions is short. This is because they are two positional players who could help Detroit the most this year, while still having the potential to help the Tigers long term.
1B/3B Malcolm Nunez
Nunez has been mentioned in several publications, including MLB.com and BaseballAmerica.com. For being just 21 years old, he has put up some impressive numbers. He is a right-handed bat who spent the vast majority of the year in Double-A Springfield before the Cardinals shipped him to Pittsburgh in the Jose Quintana deal.
He put up a slash line of .262/.367/.466 in 119 games between Double-A and Triple-A with 23 home runs and 75 RBI. As Geoff Pontes writes about Nunez:($)
Beyond just his baseball card statistics, Nunez’s offense profile is strong. He produced an average contact rate (73.3%) and an above-average chase rate (24%) while producing a plus 90th percentile exit velocity average of 104.7 mph in 2022.
His defense from the scouting reports limits him to just first base, but he could be a good complement to Spencer Torkelson at first.
OF Corey Julks
History has a way of repeating itself. Julks was hitting for a decent clip, around .271 in 2021 in Double-A. Then Geoff Pontes of Baseball America points out an event that happened to Corey while hitting in the cages($)
After two weeks of work in Florida to try to unlock his power, he returned to Corpus Christi. It proved to be a very useful trip. Before that work in the cage, Julks had hit 17 home runs in 1,243 pro plate appearances (1 home run every 73 PAs). Since then, he’s hit 43 home runs in 815 plate appearances (1 home run every 19 PAs).
Julks is an outfielder in the Astros system. You know who else was? J.D. Martinez, before the Tigers signed him off the waiver wire. He fixed his swing, and it clicked for him. While it may be a reach that Julks may end up like Martinez, the Tigers could use more right-hand power, as he hit 31 homers for Triple-A Sugar Land.
The Tigers do have a solid bullpen heading into 2023. But with the loss of Andrew Chafin, they could use another lefty reliever. There are a few interesting options:
LHP Antoine Kelly
Kelly was originally drafted out of high school by Mark Conner and the Padres in the 13th round in 2018. But he went to junior college and landed with the Brewers in the 2nd round of the 2019 draft. He was traded to the Rangers in August, and struggled in the Texas system. Kelly owns a mid-90s fastball and a plus slider, and he hides the ball well. But he’s tall and lanky and has trouble throwing strikes (career 5.5 BB/9). If the Tigers think they can help him with his control, Kelly has late-inning stuff.
LHP Erik Miller
Miller has battled injuries and inconsistency in pro ball, with just 97 innings pitched since 2019. Like Kelly, he has battled his control in the minors and projects best out of the bullpen. But he has a starter’s arsenal, including a mid-90s fastball, an above-average changeup, and a cutter in the high 80s.
LHP Jose Lopez
Lopez originally signed with Tampa as a 16-year-old in 2016. He moved slowly through the system and struggled once he reached A-ball in 2021. But he had a huge breakout in 2022, reaching Triple-A and compiling a 2.43 ERA over 59.1 innings over three levels. Lopez has a mid-90s fastball and two quality secondary pitches, and he was among the best strikeout pitchers in minor-league baseball last year.