Tigers tab Auburn pitcher Casey Mize with top draft pick
SECAUCUS, N.J. (AP) — All that Auburn pitcher Casey Mize needs to do now is change his Tigers stripes.
And then lead Detroit out of the American League doldrums.
The rebuilding Tigers selected Mize with the top pick Monday night in a Major League Baseball draft that included an eye-opening surprise when Oakland chose Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray at No. 9 overall.
Mize went from undrafted out of high school three years ago all the way to No. 1.
"It means a ton," he said in an interview on the MLB Network broadcast. "I can't describe this feeling right now."
After striking it rich, hard to blame him. The signing-bonus slot value for this year's first pick is a cool $8.1 million.
Mize has pitched the Auburn Tigers into the NCAA Tournament super regionals, going 10-5 with a 2.95 ERA and 151 strikeouts against only 12 walks in 109 2/3 innings this season. The polished right-hander features outstanding command of four pitches, including a mid-90s (mph) fastball and a wicked changeup that he throws with a split-finger grip.
The only other time the Tigers had the top pick in the draft was 1997, when they selected Rice pitcher Matt Anderson. He compiled a 5.19 ERA in 257 career relief appearances.
Detroit is hoping Mize impacts the franchise more like longtime ace Justin Verlander, who helped the Tigers win two pennants and four AL Central titles after they grabbed him at No. 2 overall in 2004.
Verlander was traded to World Series champion Houston last season as Detroit sought promising prospects for the future. After fading badly down the stretch, the Tigers finished tied with San Francisco for the worst record in the majors at 64-98.
The silver lining was the opportunity to add Mize.
In a statement, Detroit general manager Al Avila said the club is confident Mize "will become a pillar in our player development system that's going to bring winning baseball to Detroit for seasons to come."
With the second pick, the Giants took slugging Georgia Tech catcher Joey Bart, the Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year. Wichita State third baseman Alec Bohm was the first player in attendance at MLB Network Studios to be drafted, going third overall to Philadelphia.
Oregon State second baseman Nick Madrigal — at 5-foot-7, 160 pounds — went fourth to the Chicago White Sox. Florida third baseman Jonathan India was selected fifth by Cincinnati.
The last of the six players on site to be picked was Florida prep shortstop Xavier Edwards, who went 38th overall to San Diego.
The draft resumes with rounds 3-10 on Tuesday and concludes with rounds 11-40 on Wednesday.
Other things to know about the first day of the MLB draft:
BASEBALL VS. FOOTBALL
Oakland generated buzz at No. 9 and shook up some draft boards by choosing Murray, the favorite to replace Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield this season as Oklahoma's starting quarterback.
Murray's selection so early was a surprise, in a slot with a signing-bonus value of about $4.8 million. But shortly after he was picked, the speedy outfielder told reporters he had spoken to the Athletics about it and still plans to play football for the Sooners this year.
The deadline for Murray to sign with the A's is July 6. He could do that and still play for Oklahoma, putting his baseball career on hold until 2019.
"I will be playing football this season," Murray said on a conference call. "Confirmed."
North Carolina high school outfielder Jordyn Adams might have to make a similar decision. He was taken 17th overall by the Angels, but has committed to playing both baseball and football for the University of North Carolina.
Fitting on a night when Bo Jackson was on hand representing the Royals. No sign of Deion Sanders, though.
Tennessee high school lefty Ryan Weathers, son of former major league pitcher David Weathers, was the No. 7 pick by San Diego. The second round also included some players with famous bloodlines: Georgia prep outfielder Parker Meadows, brother of Pirates rookie Austin Meadows, went 44th to Detroit; Duke outfielder Griffin Conine, son of Jeff Conine, went 52nd to Toronto; and California high school shortstop Osiris Johnson, cousin of Jimmy Rollins and Tony Tarasco, was taken by Miami with the next pick.
KEEP AN EYE ON
The New York Mets tabbed the first high school player, choosing Wisconsin prep outfielder Jarred Kelenic at No. 6. ... Florida right-hander Brady Singer, considered a potential top-3 selection, fell to Kansas City at No. 18. ... Switch-hitting prep catcher Anthony Seigler from Georgia, also an ambidextrous pitcher in high school, went 23rd to the Yankees. New York opted for another catcher in the second round: Josh Breaux out of McLennan Community College in Texas.
The first round featured 17 high school players and 13 from college programs. ... The state of Florida had the most first-round picks with seven. ... Oregon State produced a pair of first-round selections in Madrigal and outfielder Trevor Larnach, who went 20th to Minnesota. So did Florida, with India and Singer. That wasn't all: Gators right-hander Jackson Kowar went 33rd to Kansas City, and Beavers shortstop Cadyn Grenier was chosen 37th by Baltimore.
By the time some of these prospects reach the majors, perhaps baseball could look a little different. Commissioner Rob Manfred, concerned about all the strikeouts and home runs in today's game, was asked if changes could be coming that would limit defensive shifts.
"I think there will be conversations over the next months about the way we're playing games on the field. I think those conversations will be more in depth than just pace-of-game issues, but I'm not prepared to talk about individual changes in the rules," he said. "I would like to see more balls in play."
AP Sports Writer Dennis Waszak Jr. in Secaucus and AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo in New York contributed.