The Tigers went a familiar route to Dallas Baptist University to find a reliever, selecting Drew Smith with their third-round pick. However, they see a new role for Smith, whom they hope to convert into a starter. He's the fourth Dallas Baptist product drafted by Detroit in the last five years.
Smith, ranked No. 180 on MLB.com's Top 200 Draft prospects list, was a hard-throwing arm in the Patriots' bullpen this year, with a rising fastball that consistently hit the mid-90s and topped out at 99 mph. That fastball doesn't necessarily add up to a lot of strikeouts (38 over 45 1/3 innings this season), but both David Chadd, the Tigers' vice president of amateur scouting, and Dallas Baptist head coach Dan Heefner see room for improvement there.
"I think as he keeps developing as a pitcher and learns how to get people out, he'll get more strikeouts," said Heefner, who said that Smith's strikeout rate picked up near the end of the season.
Smith also mixes in a curveball. Add a changeup, and he has the kind of three-pitch repertoire the Tigers believe he can use to start, at least to begin his career.
"He's got three pitches, a plus curveball and a plus changeup. And the way he does it, he's got some deception," scouting director Scott Pleis said. "He's durable. He'll be able to start fine. But his stuff out of the 'pen just really goes up. We saw him up to 97. So he can start, and we'll see how that goes, but it's always maybe in the back of your mind when you see somebody throwing 97 with a plus curveball and getting after it, it's tough to look away."
Smith pitched anywhere from setup to middle relief this season, with four saves and one start mixed in. He gave up 20 earned runs on 46 hits over 45 1/3 innings for a 3.97 ERA.
"It's a good arm, and he's got some more development," Chadd said. "He didn't log a lot of innings at Dallas Baptist, but it's pure stuff. It's a plus-plus fastball and at times a plus-plus breaking ball, and he throws it fairly easy."
Round 4: C Kade Scivicque, LSU
Two days after Scivicque, a senior, delivered a big home run to help LSU advance to the College World Series, he became the second SEC catcher in as many years to become a Tigers Draft pick. It was a fitting highlight to a season that caught the Tigers' eyes.
"I think he was a little bit of an unknown coming into the year," Chadd said. "But we've got strong ties to that LSU program. Their program obviously produces Major League-type players. Once we started going into the season, once we started scouting LSU, his name started rising to the top."
Scivicque follows Grayson Greiner, who was drafted out of South Carolina last year, but he's a different build at 5-foot-10 and 210 pounds. He batted .347 with 20 doubles, six home runs and 45 RBIs. He struck out just 21 times compared with 14 walks. Behind the plate he threw out 18-of-34 attempted basestealers.
"He has the attributes to [catch]," Chadd said. "Average defender with an average arm, and we think the bat's going to be able to play."
Scivicque called the pick a "dream come true," according to The Advocate in Louisiana.
Round 5: OF Cam Gibson, Michigan State
A week after the son of one former Tiger, Daniel Fields, reached the big leagues, Detroit went for the son of former Tigers great Kirk Gibson. Cam is a different type of player than his father, relying more on speed than power, but he became an everyday presence at the leadoff spot as a junior for the Spartans.
Gibson was ranked the second-best prospect in the state of Michigan behind first-rounder Nick Plummer. He hit .294 with 10 doubles, four triples, five home runs and 32 RBIs in 57 games, drawing 30 walks against 35 strikeouts. He stole 17 bases in 21 attempts, and his 52 runs scored ranked fourth in the Big Ten Conference.
Gibson primarily played left field at Michigan State but will be a center fielder in the Tigers' system.