Tigers select Auburn RHP Mize at No. 1

DETROIT — Casey Mize has spent three seasons wearing the burnt orange and navy blue of the Auburn Tigers. On Monday, the gifted young right-hander became the newest hope of the Detroit Tigers, whose colors should suit him quite well.

As expected, Detroit used the top overall pick in Monday’s MLB Draft on Mize, adding another talented pitcher to its arsenal of young arms general manager Al Avila has been stockpiling.

DETROIT — Casey Mize has spent three seasons wearing the burnt orange and navy blue of the Auburn Tigers. On Monday, the gifted young right-hander became the newest hope of the Detroit Tigers, whose colors should suit him quite well.

As expected, Detroit used the top overall pick in Monday’s MLB Draft on Mize, adding another talented pitcher to its arsenal of young arms general manager Al Avila has been stockpiling.

:: 2018 Draft coverage ::

It’s the latest step in the incredible rise of Mize, who joins 2009 top pick Stephen Strasburg as players to go from undrafted out of high school to the top overall pick in college.

“It means a ton,” Mize told MLB Network moments after the announcement. “I’m very thankful that the Tigers thought of me highly enough to take me with their first selection. I can’t describe this feeling right now.”

Mize tossed a no-hitter against Northeastern in March, propelling him toward a season worthy of his billing. The right-hander has gone 10-5 with a 2.95 ERA in 16 starts, striking out 151 batters over 109 2/3 innings with 77 hits allowed. Just as impressive, he surrendered just 12 walks.

While Mize’s history drew comparisons to former Tigers great Justin Verlander — who was the second overall pick in the 2004 Draft — Mize is a different style of pitcher. His fastball reaches the mid-90s, but he sets up a devastating split-changeup that some called the best pitch in the Draft, along with a slider and cutter. Avila said last week that Mize’s secondary pitches are actually ahead of where Verlander’s arsenal stood going into the Draft.

“If you look at his overall numbers in college, particularly this year, they’re really off the charts,” Avila told Fox Sports Detroit on Monday evening. “And his repertoire of pitches are excellent. They’re all either plus or plus-plus pitches. He’s got a good repertoire, and he has a good idea of how to pitch, and obviously the strikeout-to-walk ratio, it’s off the charts. You put all that together, and you have an advanced pitching prospect.”

Video: NYY@DET: Tigers VP Avila on taking Mize 1st overall

The Tigers landed the top selection by their 64-98 record last year, the same as the Giants but squeaking ahead on a tiebreaker. Depending on the players available, the top pick has either been a ticket to a can’t-miss talent and future superstar, or first dibs at a Draft class without a clear-cut top option.

This year’s field trended toward the latter, but Mize’s dominance for most of the season and assortment of pitches put him atop the Tigers’ list for most, if not all of the spring. Avila, who watched Mize pitch in person twice this spring, told FS Detroit that the Tigers made the final decision on Mize on Sunday after a weekend of meetings between team officials and scouts at the Tigertown complex in Lakeland, Fla.

“We felt that he was the best player in the Draft this year, the one that would come in and give us the best impact, and we’re very happy to have him,” Avila said. “We feel he’s advanced, and he’s going to be a really great addition to the organization.”

Mize becomes the second consecutive SEC pitcher to go with the Tigers’ first-round pick, joining former University of Florida ace Alex Faedo. He’s currently in the rotation at Class A Advanced Lakeland.

Video: Draft 2018: Mize on being 1st overall pick

Faedo is one of four Tigers starting-pitching prospects ranked in the top 70 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list, including fellow recent first-round picks Beau Burrows and Matt Manning. Detroit has depth in pitching prospects and would have loved for a hitter to emerge as the top talent. While some position players stood out, including sweet-swinging Oregon State infielder Nick Madrigal and slugging Georgia Tech catcher Joey Bart, neither swayed the Tigers away from Mize.

MLB Pipeline agreed with the Tigers, putting Mize atop the Top 200 Draft prospects.

Like Faedo last year, Mize still has some college pitching to do with Auburn, which clinched a spot in the NCAA Super Regionals over the weekend. Faedo pitched the Gators to an NCAA title, racking up enough innings that the Tigers shut him down from pitching until this spring. If Mize and Auburn enjoy the same sort of roll, Detroit could well have him take the summer off as well.

“I think it depends on how far they go here in postseason play,” Avila told FS Detroit. “It just depends on how far they go, if they go to the College World Series, and how much he pitches the rest of the summer. Then at that point, we can take a look and see if he will pitch for us a little bit here in the Minor Leagues or if we’ll wait until the fall.”

Though some evaluators believe Mize could be ready for the big leagues in a hurry, Detroit doesn’t have any sense of urgency. Avila has emphasized this is a long-term rebuild, and that patience extends to top prospects to keep them healthy.

Mize’s selection doesn’t finish the Tigers’ business Monday night. Detroit also holds the top pick in the second round, the 44th selection overall, which will be completed later in the evening.

The Draft continues on Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage beginning at 1 p.m.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck’s Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

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