Considering their recent penchant for splurging big on the free agent market, it hasn't been often that the Detroit Tigers have kept their first round pick and been able to select from the bevy of young talents available.
This season, that changes in a major way. Detroit will have the 23rd overall pick in the MLB Draft, and will likely be able to select from a bevy of talented starting pitchers, position players and relievers. Each is a player the Tigers have been linked with prior to Thursday night, meaning each will be one to watch.
Who will be the next prospect sent to Lakeland? Here are five names to consider.
1. Nick Burdi, RP, Louisville. Many have been projecting Burdi to the Tigers given the fact that he's a closer, the team likely needs some stability in the ninth inning. Burdi could be put on the same fast track to the majors that Corey Knebel was, making him an intriguing option. Burdi has the tools the Tigers like, with the ability to touch 101 on the radar gun. Many think he could be ready for a late-season bullpen role in 2014. Could that tip the scales with bullpen needy Detroit if he's available?
2. Nick Howard, SP/RP, Virginia. Considering Howard has both starting and relieving experience, his selection would be interesting for Detroit, and he would be a very versatile option. Howard's 19 saves were an ACC record this season, and he can touch between 95-98 on the radar gun as a power thrower. As a starter, he posted a 3.38 ERA, which would give the Tigers plenty of things to consider. Sounds like a traditional Dave Dombrowski pick.
3. Kyle Schwarber, C, Indiana. With some catching depth in the system, the Tigers might not need a player like Schwarber, but he is a great hitting talent that put up 18 home runs in 2013. The catch? Schwarber might not even be available to Detroit, as he's been shooting up draft boards in recent days, and could end up going within the top 10. If he fell into the 20's, though, the Tigers might be forced to scoop him up. A humble kid from southern Ohio, Schwarber would certainly have the appreciation for Tigers' history given his noted affinity for the Reds and Johnny Bench.
4. Derek Hill, OF, Elk Grove High School. Though they don't take many, the Tigers have had a bit of recent success with high schoolers, nabbing Rick Porcello in a similar situation years back. Hill, a center fielder with solid defensive instincts (some say the best in the draft), could be a nice choice for Detroit. Though Hill would have negotiation leverage with collegiate offers, the Tigers could also put him on a fast track with plenty of outfield age and uncertainty in the years ahead.
5. Casey Gillaspie, 1B, Wichita State. Gillaspie has major league bloodlines, considering his brother Conor Gillaspie plays for the Chicago White Sox. With Miguel Cabrera at first for the foreseeable future, the Tigers might not need Gillaspie at the position, but he is an intuitive switch hitter (perhaps the best in the draft) which makes him intriguing for Detroit. Perhaps the Tigers worry about position later and snap up a solid prospect who understands what it takes to have success at the big league level.
Max DeMara is the editor of @tigers_101. Follow the site there on Twitter, or like it on Facebook to connect with him.
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