Tigers prepare for unpredictable Draft

Detroit has its highest pick (ninth overall) since 2009

Tigers prepare for unpredictable Draft

DETROIT -- The Tigers' front office has changed since their last Draft. Their emphasis on player development has increased, and they're looking to prospects more to play for them than to potentially trade. Detroit's Draft philosophy, however, is pretty much the same as before: Don't sweat the position, the developmental level or signability. Get the best player on the board.

As amateur scouting director Scott Pleis awaits Thursday night's Draft holding the ninth overall pick, Detroit's highest selection since 2009, he's taking that tack. With uncertainty at the top, however, figuring out the best player available is amounting to a guessing game right now.

"It's not one of those years where [Bryce] Harper or [Stephen] Strasburg's out there, where you say, 'Hey, you know what? That guy's going No. 1,'" Pleis said Wednesday. "The domino effect is you're going to figure out who likes who, and as you go through, it's very uncertain.

"As you always do, you see what you really want to happen, but then you prepare for what the reality is, and what's probably going to get to you, so you always have an idea: If these two guys go before us, we're going here. Or, if these two guys go, we'll go a different direction. As we get closer to the Draft, we'll get more information -- we won't get it all -- but we'll have a better feel of who's going to start going off the board."

The Tigers have done a range of scouting, from high school pitchers to college arms and bats. And mock drafts project a group of high school pitchers to be available around their first pick -- potentially hard-throwing Kansas right-hander Riley Pint if he falls, potentially Sacramento prep righty Matt Manning, maybe even lefty Braxton Garrett. Still, they have the ability to pivot.

The last time the Tigers drafted this high, they took Jacob Turner with the ninth pick in 2009. Detroit has drafted high school players with their last two top picks -- right-hander Beau Burrows last year, outfielder Derek Hill in 2014. Even as the Tigers look for young talent to fortify a veteran roster, they're not afraid on the wait times for teenagers.

"I'm not going to shy away from high school pitching," Pleis said. "If you look at the history of the Draft, there are some players who have better odds to get to the big leagues than others, obviously. But if his ability is that great, to be that type of player -- we think he could reach that potential for a wide-variety of reasons, just not on the field. Look at the kid who threw against us last night. He was a high school kid."

Pleis was talking about the Blue Jays' Aaron Sanchez, a first-round pick out of Barstow High School in California in 2010.

"At the end of the day you have to weigh what's the best value you're going to get," Pleis said. "And you do weigh the risk, but would you walk away from one of the best guys in the Draft to take a different guy you don't like as much? No."

The 2016 Draft will take place today through Saturday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB Network and MLB.com today at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 77 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of Day 2 begins with a live Draft show at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, with exclusive coverage of Day 3 beginning at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.