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Casey Mize Still Goes No. 1 to Tigers in ESPN's Keith Law's 2018 Mock Draft 2.0

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMay 17, 2018

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 20:  Detroit Tigers President and CEO Christopher Ilitch (L) and Tigers Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations & General Manager Al Avila (R) pose for a photo with new Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire during the press conference to announce the signing of Gardenhire at Comerica Park on October 20, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

In his latest mock draft released Thursday, ESPN's Keith Law had Auburn Tigers starting pitcher Casey Mize going first overall to the Detroit Tigers.

Mize also went first in Law's initial mock, but he discussed an alternative option in version 2.0 if the Tigers want to save some bonus-pool cash:

"Yes, money could always be a factor, but if Mize's medicals hold up, there isn't a better option for the Tigers at 1-1. If Detroit does cut a deal, it could be with prep lefty Matthew Liberatore."

Mize is putting together a terrific 2018 season as Auburn's ace. He's compiled a 2.73 ERA across 13 starts with a .180 batting average against and 124 strikeouts in 89 innings.

The 21-year-old Alabama native has reached remarkable heights since going undrafted out of Springville High School in 2015. His accomplishments over the past three years with the Tigers include throwing a no-hitter against Northeastern in early March.

Mize doesn't use the fact that MLB teams passed on him as motivation, though. He told John Zenor of the Associated Press last week he agreed with their decision based on his ability at the time.

"I definitely was not good enough," he said. "I realized that and I was fine with that. I was just a smaller guy, very raw, didn't know anything about pitching. Just had a good arm. Luckily, I got to Auburn, learned some things, put some weight on, got stronger. I had a chance to be around some really good coaches and really good teammates, and they've helped mold me into the player I am today."

The only question is whether the Tigers want to use a significant portion of their bonus pool on him.

Jim Callis of MLB.com noted Detroit has $12.4 million to spend without incurring a penalty, and the assigned value for the first overall pick is $8.1 million.

The system is why a lot of teams place an emphasis on signability. That could bring a player like Liberatore, who the front office could try to sign for below slot value, into the mix for the Tigers if they're looking to save some money for later picks.

That said, Mize's talent could be too much to pass up. His strikeout rate (12.5 K/9) showcases the high-end stuff necessary to become a top-flight starter in Detroit within a few years.

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