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Note to Tigers: Don’t Pass on Top Level College Talent

A few week back at the College World Series, some of the best MLB Draft talent was on display.  There were a number of projected first round picks in Omaha that might be a nice addition to the Detroit Tigers organization.  The real question is what the mindset is in the Tigers front office?   Some draft projections have them picking Cam Caminiti, the top high school pitching prospect in the country.  But is top-level high school talent really the way to go?  And does a team with one of the worst offenses in baseball really need to focus on pitching?

The Time is Now

The rebuild was attempted and it didn’t really work.  They shipped out all the players who gave the Tigers a decade long chance to win a World Series.  The Tigers are currently on track for an eighth consecutive season with a losing record.  The AL Central is surprisingly good with the Royals, Twins and Guardians all far ahead.  The Tigers were projected by many (me included) to win the AL Central.  Not only will they not win the division, but the chances of them competing for a Wild Card spot is extremely low.

What does that mean for the Tigers at the trade deadline?  They should get a decent return for Jack Flaherty, who’s put together a solid season in Detroit this year.  He’s on a one-year contract, which would even allow the Tigers an opportunity to resign him in the off-season, if they wanted to pursue him.  The Tigers would very unwise to offer up Tarik Skubal or Reese Olson who look to be the core of the rotation for the foreseeable future. Skubal is among the front-runners for the Cy Young Award.  Offensively, the Tigers have little to offer, but Mark Canha could have some value on the market.

The problem for the Tigers is that they are out of time.  A decade long rebuild is enough.  It’s time to work with the pieces you currently have and put together the rest of the puzzle.  This is why the 11th pick in July 14th’s MLB Draft is so important.

Up for Grabs

The strategy for the Tigers should be very simple; pick a proven college hitter that’s near MLB ready.  There’s no time to mess around and there’s needs all over.  Save Riley Greene and Kerry Carpenter, there’s much to be desired up and down the Tigers lineup.

In 2023, they opt-ed for high school sensation Max Clark over Wyatt Langford (Florida).  Clark is coming along nicely in Lakeland, leading the Florida State League in RBIs (50), third in hits (70) and fourth in stolen bases (24).  However, it’s unclear when he would potentially make his MLB debut.  More on Clark soon. Wyatt Langford came to the Rangers prepared to make their roster in Spring Training.  While his overall stats have been decent, he certainly made his mark recently on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball hitting for the cycle against the Orioles.

As mentioned, the Tigers are being tied to high school pitcher Cam Caminiti in many draft projections.  If we’ve learned anything about drafting pitchers in recent years, it’s no sure bet.  There was Matt Manning (2016), Alex Faedo (2017), Casey Mize (2018) and Jackson Jobe (2021).  Most of them are playing a role with the team, but it’s hardly been the type of 1990s Atlanta Braves kind of rotation some thought it might be.  Instead it’s 9th Round pick Tarik Skubal and 13th Round pick Reese Olson who have blossomed.  There’s still time to see what Jobe can do (and he looks promising). Long story short, say no to pitchers unless there’s another Paul Skenes available (there’s not).

Who Should the Tigers Target?

Instead, pick a proven Division 1 college hitter that’s been in the spotlight and can be ready to go in 2025.  At pick #11, there’s a few guys that most think will be available.  Here’s three they should consider:  Christian Moore (INF) of CWS Champion Tennessee, Vance Honeycutt (OF) from North Carolina or Ryan Waldschmidt (OF) of Kentucky. Christian Moore was the superstar of the College World Series, hitting for the cycle in Game 1 of the CWS against Florida State.

Here’s how I described Christian Moore in my CWS preview:

Leading the most dynamic offense in the country in Hits (101), Runs (75), Home Runs (32) and RBIs (71) is no small accomplishment. Add in a .376 Batting Average and 1.249 OPS, he’s simply one of the most dangerous hitters in the CWS.

Here’s what I wrote about Vance Honeycutt:

Considered to be one of the best defensive outfielders in the country, Honeycutt combines both power (26 HR) and speed (28 SB). He’s the only player in ACC history to have over 50 career Home Runs and over 60 career Stolen Bases.

And, here’s Ryan Waldschmidt:

The Wildcats outfield continues to climb the projected draft rankings, hitting .402 in SEC play this season (.346 overall).  He’s also demonstrated both speed (24 SB) and power (14 HR) with a 1.107 OPS.

All three of these guys led top college programs in the country to Omaha in 2024.  It’s pretty clear at this point that playing big time D1 baseball is at least equivalent to Single-A MiLB, if not Double-A.  I refer back to Wyatt Langford and Paul Skenes.  For those who see Christian Moore as simply a second baseman, you may not have watched him play enough.  A guy with that kind of athletic ability can play other positions (think Mookie Betts).  Colt Keith has had some bright spots of late.  Jace Jung is on the horizon, having a nice season in Toledo.  But, let’s be honest, most of these roster spots are up grabs.

The Detroit Tigers first round strategy should be a no-brainer: draft the best player available that can make an impact in 2025.

Brian is the Co-Owner/Managing Editor at Legends on Deck and Co-Host on Legends On Deck Podcast. He's been writing about baseball at LOD since 2017. He grew up in the Detroit area and is a lifelong Tigers fan. However, he shares some affinity for his son George's favorite team, the Atlanta Braves. Brian also has a particular interest in the amateur side of the game, including high school, college and collegiate summer league baseball. Brian and George also love collecting and selling baseball cards. You can find them selling on eBay (@Kossball) or posting on George's Instagram (@Kossball). Brian lives in Horizon West (Winter Garden), Florida with his wife (Grace), three daughters and son George. You can also reach him at brianmkoss@gmail.com

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