When Casey Mize was in high school, he probably dreamt about playing professional baseball someday. He may have even expected that shot to come back in high school. After all, he wasn’t just some kid with a dream. He was the second-best high school pitcher in Alabama and a top 300 prospect.
But no one wanted him. An injury and sign-ability issues caused every team to pass on him and take 1200 other guys instead.
That was back in 2015.
“I didn’t really use the Draft as a ton of motivation. I understood where I stood with my talent level [and] I knew I needed to go to Auburn to get better. [So], I didn’t take the Draft personally. I wanted to put myself in a better position in three years, which is where I am now,” Mize said.
Fast forward to the present and Mize has developed into a tremendous pitcher after three years at Auburn. He grew from a kid who went 2-5 with a 3.52 ERA as a freshman into one who went 10-5 this season and recorded an ERA of 2.95, 151 strikeouts and just 12 walks (in 109 2/3 innings).
He now has stellar command of four pitches including a respectable fastball, and a split-changeup that MLB batters are not going to love (and a cutter and a slider).
It’s not hard to see why the Detroit Tigers wanted to make him the No. 1 pick in this year’s MLB Draft. In doing so, they ended up making a little history. Mize became just the seventh player in MLB history to go from being undrafted right out of high school to later become the No. 1 pick in the draft.
The last player to do so was Washington Nationals ace, Stephen Strasburg back in 2009.
His selection came as no surprise. The rumor mill had been saying he was going to go No. 1 for weeks. When asked about the possibility following last Saturday’s win over Army he said:
“I think I’m exceeding some expectations I had for myself. I know I wanted to be a high pick coming out of Auburn, but I never assumed it would be top of the first round or potentially No. 1.”
The last time they took a player that high was Justin Verlander; he was the No. 2 pick in the 2004 Draft. He went on to win Rookie of the Year in 2006. Tigers general manager Al Avila thinks Mize is the better pitcher between the two at this stage of his career.
The only question that needs an answer now is how long the Tigers will keep Mize in the minors.