The Detroit Tigers will be busy over the next few weeks as they prepare for the 2022 MLB First-Year Amateur Player Draft. The team has the 12th overall selection in the draft, slated to pick after the New York Mets’ compensatory pick for losing out on Kumar Rocker, who did not sign amid medical issues.
With that 12th overall pick, the Detroit Tigers will have to lock in and figure out what will be the best piece to add to the team’s rebuild. The team has capitalized on bringing in prominent pitching prospects over the years, so it’s easy to think the team may target an arm.
But there’s a lot of work that needs to be done and many players that need to be scouted and evaluated on both sides of the baseball. Four of the last six draft picks have been pitchers selected by the Tigers, with Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson being the odd men out.
As the Tigers begin to weigh out their options for the 20222 draft and figure out who they will bring in, there will be more than enough arms to fit the build. The question is finding which ones stand out the most and which are the ones to be excited about.
Here are three pitchers the Detroit Tigers should target.
The Detroit Tigers may not target a pitcher, but if they do, there’s an abundance of prep arms waiting for them. They have several options, and some high-level collegiate arms will also be near the top of the draft class.
First up is a prep pitcher that the team should consider. A southpaw that might just wind up pairing well with Jackson Jobe.
Brandon Barriera, LHP, American Heritage HS (FL) – Vanderbilt commit
It’s hard not to fall in love with the potential that Brandon Barriera has to offer. The prep arm from Florida will be a big-time future big leaguer; it just depends on where he ends up. Barriera features a four-pitch mix after showcasing a better feel for a curveball and slider in a recent bullpen.
The slider has always been there; it has a serious break to it with great shape. It’s a wipeout pitch that will devastate right-handed hitters’ back foot and lead to horrible swings from right-handed hitters when used as a chase pitch.
The newer developed curveball is a little slower and has a bigger shape to it, but it looks like it could develop into a real offering that gives him four distinct pitches. The fastball works the mid-90s with ease; when I say ease, I mean that it is truly effortless. It’s a pitch that has life, and he also shows a good command of it.
Barriera also has a feel for a changeup with depth to it that he mixes in for success. There’s a lot of room for him to keep getting better too. Here’s a video that Kiley McDaniel of ESPN tweeted out of Barriera that includes some slow-motion clips and a couple of shots from different outings.
I was at prep LHP Brandon Barriera's first private bullpen after shutting down for draft preparations; more on that later this week.
Here's some video from that bullpen and other clips from the summer. He didn't throw a curve much in the summer but now has two distinct breakers. pic.twitter.com/Gz032uJR6x
— Kiley McDaniel (@kileymcd) June 13, 2022
It’s easy to see the attraction with what Barriera has to offer. Those who enjoy diving into the mechanics should see that they look smooth for a prep arm. The projection is frightening, in a good way. He’s 6-foot-2, 180-pounds, and by the looks of it, he’s going to grow more and fill out.
There’s potential for Barriera to be a real power lefty. He projects as someone who could be a very impactful southpaw in a big-league rotation. The pitch mix is very legit, and he continues to get better. Keeping Barriera away from Vanderbilt University, where he is committed, is not the worst thing in the world. While he will only get better for the Commodores, the hope should be for him to sign and work on his development with a big-league club.
If the Tigers had the opportunity to select Barriera, it’s hard not to see it as a benefit to this team. Especially if they can keep Chris Fetter around, avoiding a move to Michigan, the future of Tigers pitching will be in great hands.
Cooper Hjerpe, LHP, Oregon State University
The Detroit Tigers should consider taking a flier on Cooper Hjerpe, who is a truly unique pitching prospect that is a part of this year’s draft class. Upon initial looks into Hjerpe, it takes just a few seconds to think he is a younger version of Chris Sale.
The comparison is excellent, but there’s more to it that makes him an intriguing selection. Hjerpe works the low-to-mid 90s from that funky-low arm slot, and pairing that with a devastating slider, it makes for a very deceptive attack.
That deceptive look helped the southpaw make history with 161 strikeouts over 103.1 innings pitched this season for the Oregon State Beavers. The whiff rate has to be through the roof with the way hitters look silly chasing that slider.
LHP Cooper Hjerpe (‘22 elig.) has generated a lot of uncomfortable swings thus far. FB has sat 90-92 w/ ASR. Deception allows it to play higher than velo. Sweeping SL at 77-80 mph shows sharp bite. Gets hitters to chase often #PGDraft @BeaverBaseball @vcervinoPG @B_Sakowski_PG pic.twitter.com/FkKd1cXiJq
— PG College Baseball (@PGCollegeBall) May 27, 2022
The arm action is funky; he gets a weird arm angle that creates problems for the opposition. Rob Blanc posted this blurb on LinkedIn that goes into detail about Hjerpe’s delivery and provides a lot of really interesting information. For fans who are really invested in pitching mechanics, I urge you to check out Rob’s post.
The attack angle is what stands out to me, you can see it visually, and the metrics back it up. His fastball plays up in the zone and pairing that with a devastating slider, it helps him have success. Speaking of success, the southpaw pitched to a 2.53 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP. Plus, the record-setting 161 strikeouts mentioned earlier helped him piece together a quality season.
If the Tigers want to test their luck with a funky left-handed arm with high strikeout rates, they should be all-in on Hjerpe. A deceptive pitcher with plus stuff should be able to find his way, especially with the Tigers being able to develop him the way they see the best fit.
Lastly, the hometown hero who the Detroit Tigers cannot afford to pass up on if they want to take an arm.
Brock Porter, RHP, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Prep (MI) – Clemson commit.
The Detroit Tigers have been able to scout a home-grown talent who’s been putting a heck of a display together, right in their backyard. Brock Porter has been vaulting himself up the draft board over the last few years while being a standout arm for Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (OLSM) prep in Michigan.
The right-handed pitcher has shown the ability works into the upper-90s, reaching 96-97 mph on a pitch that has life to it and can be a real problem. He’s got the ability to spin the heater up to 2,500 RPM, and the carry-on the pitch is legit.
He mixes in an 11-to-5 breaking curveball that is quality, but it’s not his go-to offspeed. Porter’s changeup is the devastating pitch in his repertoire. It’s a pitch that has impeccable movement showing depth and being a drastic change of speed from his fastball, making it hard for hitters.
It’s a pitch he’ll throw to both lefties and righties with no fear. Porter attacks hitters and is going to try and look for swings and misses. The fastball/changeup mix plays. Here are a few looks at him from last summer’s Perfect Game National Showcase in Tampa, Florida, where he was stellar on the bump.
‘22 RHP Brock Porter (MI) explosive as expected. 95-97 in the first, topped at 97.5, consistent S/M up in zone, CH at 77-78, all kinds of upside. Clemson commit. #PGNational @PG_OhioValley @OLSMBaseball pic.twitter.com/YmTkKlXSaM
— PG Showcases (@PGShowcases) July 16, 2021
Porter is going to be an exceptional pitcher. The question is what the next step is for him. He is committed to play collegiate baseball for the Clemson University Tigers. He’s expected to attend Clemson if the team that selects him does not meet his expectations financially.
Some time at the collegiate level might help Porter. He’s already an absolute stud and a top-tier arm, but if he spends time at Clemson, he may work to build out the pitch mix to try and bring his breaking ball up to the same level as his other offerings.
Do not get me wrong, he could easily do this with a pro organization, but if it’s not the Tigers, the hope should be that he goes back to school and the Tigers can draft him down the road. Bias aside, Porter’s decision to sign or go to Clemson will be an interesting thing to watch.
If the Tigers feel that the money is right and they can land Porter to his hometown team with the 12th overall pick (if he’s there), they need to pull the trigger. Porter’s stuff is lively and going to play well. The Tigers should have him on their list of top arms to select.
As the draft inches closer, the way things are going to go will start to take shape, but after last year no one really knows until draft day. Things could change drastically if Druw Jones slides out of the top-three, Brock Porter goes second, or any crazy picks like that wind up happening.
Draft day will be crazy, but these are three arms that the Detroit Tigers need to keep in mind if they do end up wanting to select a pitcher.