Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
It's been a few years now since the Tigers had a chance to make a selection in the first round, and of course it's not coming at an ideal time in what is considered a relatively weak draft class. That being said, there's still an opportunity for the Tigers to boost their farm system strength with four picks in the top 94 selections, including a pick in the top 20. The draft board has been a bit all over the place, but the consensus is that if Oral Roberts right-hander Alex Gonzalez is on the board at 20, he'll be the pick. If he's not, it could be JuCo shortstop Tim Anderson, could be Fresno State right fielder Aaron Judge, or could be Florida right-hander Jonathon Crawford. Each presents opportunity, but associated concern. At this point, I feel there's too much consensus that Gonzalez is solid and worthy of a top 20 pick, so barring a crazy set of circumstances (which doesn't happen nearly as often with the new slotting and bonus pools), Gonzalez will be gone. But one of the others will be, and my guess is that it's going to be Judge, and the Tigers will swing for the fences (figuratively, in more ways than one) and snag the big outfielder.
Mark Anderson, Managing Editor
Dating all the way back to 2004, when the Tigers selected Justin Verlander with the second overall pick, I have correctly predicted the Tigers first-round selection. A good portion of that stems from luck, having the draft board fall in a way that allows my prediction even a prayer of being correct. Now, for the first time since the Tigers selected Jacob Turner in 2009, I put my streak back on the line as the Tigers prepare to make the 20th overall selection. The bottom line in this year's draft is if Oral Roberts right-hander Alex Gonzalez is still on the board at 1-20, an occurance almost nobody inside in the industry believes will happen, the Tigers will pounce on him with glee. With Gonzalez extremely unlikely to be available, I expect the Tigers to narrow their focus to three players; Florida right-hander Jonathon Crawford, Fresno State outfielder Aaron Judge, and East Central Community College shortstop Tim Anderson. All three players have their significant pluses and minuses, but only one truly stands out to me as the guy the Tigers will pop when they are on the clock. Since David Chadd took over the draft reigns in 2004, the Tigers have demonstrated an affinity for SEC products. In seven of Chadd's nine drafts the Tigers have picked at least one SEC talent in the first six rounds, including two in 2007 and 2011 and a whopping four in 2008. Over the the last three drafts, the Tigers have popped at least two SEC players in the top ten rounds, including four in 2011. The SEC is a dominant college baseball conference and there is a strong belief that their top players are more battle tested and ready to move quickly through the minor leagues than many other college players. With all that in mind, as well as the Tigers overwhelming need for starting pitching in the minor league system, I expect the Tigers to select Jonathon Crawford with the 20th pick.
Matt Buck, Staff Writer
The Tigers are in a unique position that they weren't in last year, drafting in the first round at number 20. A few names have been thrown around as solid options for Detroit with its pick, including infielder Tim Anderson and outfielder Aaron Judge. Either of these picks could prove to be solid but with the lack of depth at catcher within the farm system the best pick at 20 is 18-year-old backstop Nick Ciuffo out of South Carolina's Lexington High School. Ciuffo was strong in his senior year, especially with his strikeouts-to-walks ratio. His success for USA's U-16 team that won gold over Cuba is definitely worthy of extra recognition. He has a pretty solid arm and mechanics that could make his arm strength even better if adjusted. The Tigers don't have much depth within the farm at catcher, making this pick an even better choice. Most mock drafts have the left-handed hitter going in the early twenties, meaning that he could easily fall to Detroit.
James Chipman, Lakeland Correspondent
Despite being considered a relatively weak draft class, several interesting options should still be available when the Tigers are on the clock with the 20th overall pick tonight. Over the past month or so, we've seen Detroit linked to Fresno State University outfielder Aaron Judge, Notre Dame third-baseman Eric Jagielo and most recently University of Florida right-hander Jonathon Crawford. It'd be a huge win if the Tigers caught a break and were able to snag an arm like Ryne Stanek or Phil Bickford if they were somehow miraculously still available. More realistic options like southpaw prep star Hunter Green and JUCO shortstop Tim Anderson are also attractive selections that I'd love to see. When it's all said and done though, I believe the Tigers will select Jonathon Crawford. A product of the competitive SEC, Crawford features the experience and power arm that the Tigers are typically attracted to.
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