This Detroit Tigers draft pick a HR-bashing stud who studies nuclear engineering

Jeff Seidel
Detroit Free Press

Andre Lipcius, the Detroit Tigers’ third-round draft pick, is just your ordinary, prototypical, nuclear-engineering student, who spent the past year trudging from one math class to the next, while bashing 17 home runs and leading Tennessee into the regional championship of the NCAA tournament.

Yeah, I know, this story is so routine it almost sounds cliché, how this math-loving student, whose favorite class was thermodynamics, found a way to balance SEC baseball with crazy-hard academics, becoming the best player on one of the top teams in the country.

Ho-hum, is that the best you can do, Andre?

Lipcius had no idea that the Tigers were interested in him, not until they called on Tuesday morning, letting him know that they were considering taking him in the third round.

Tennessee infielder Andre Lipcius (13) dives safely to first during a game between Tennessee and ETSU at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee on Friday, March 2, 2018.

Still, he was excited to be taken with the 83rd pick, considering he was ranked as the No. 238 prospect by Baseball America and No. 145 by MLB Pipeline.

“I jumped up with excitement and freaked out,” Lipcius said. “It’s awesome. It’s been a lifelong dream to play baseball at the Major League level and this is a start. It’s awesome to be able to call myself a Detroit Tiger.”

His makeup is off the charts and he has a fascinating collection of tools – a rocket for an arm, the ability to hit for power and average, combined with the versatility to play all over the field.

“The Tigers got a good one,” Ross Kivett, Tennessee’s volunteer assistant coach, said. “I’d be shocked if he’s not listed in the Tigers top 30 prospects by the end of the year. I’d be shocked if he’s not in the big leagues by 2022 or 2023. I know the kid, and I know how he works and how special he is with the bat.”

That might sound like a coach blowing hyperbole until you consider this: Kivett has an unusual perspective, considering he played in the Tigers’ minor league system before coaching Lipcius since 2017. Kivett was taken by Detroit in the sixth round of the 2013 MLB draft, spent four seasons as an outfielder in the minors, climbing to Double-A Erie, while playing with several players still within the organization, including left fielder Christin Stewart.

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“The best player I ever played with, as far as having the cognitive skill of picking up spin and making consistent hard contact, was Christin Stewart and Mike Gerber,” Kivett said. “I played with both of them. No offense to either of them, but Andre has Christin Stewart’s cognitive skills of picking up spin and probably even a little better.

Tennessee infielder Andre Lipcius (13) eyes an incoming hit into left field during a Tennessee baseball home opener game against Appalachian State at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee on Saturday, February 16, 2019.

“I really love the kid. His arm is off the Richter (scale). He has power to all fields and he has the hit tool. And his glove is gonna play at major league average to above average.”

The one major knock against Lipcius is his lack of speed. But Kivett has an interesting take on that as well. Now that Lipcius doesn’t have to worry about school, or engineering classes – he spent the past three years doing nothing but going from class to baseball – he believes he will get a chance to spend more time in the weight room and improve his explosiveness.

“He’s gonna get better with his foot speed and his glove will play up,” Kivett said. “I think he can play third base. I think he can play second base. I think he can play first. I know he will hit enough to play left field, even though it’s a big ballpark in Detroit. He’s a right-handed Ben Zobrist – he can leave the yard, any part of the yard.”

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Lipcius played first base as a freshman at Tennessee. Then, Kivett transformed him into a shortstop as a sophomore and a third baseman as a junior. He hit .313 last summer in the Cape Cod League.

“It was so much fun,” Lipcius said. “It was with a great group of guys and a had a great host family.”

Lipcius’ best attribute might be how he handles adversity. At the start of his junior season, the most important season of his life, considering how it lead into the draft, he started out in a 2-for-22 slump.

Tennessee's Andre Lipcius (13) tounds the bases after hitting a three-run homer against Missouri at Lindsey Nelson Stadium on Sunday, May 5, 2019.

But he didn’t freak out. He snapped out of it and finished the season hitting .308.

“There is not a lot of college hitters who don’t go into the tanks after a start like that,” Kivett said. “He’s just different, man. He’s special. He’s the reason why we won 40 games. He’s our best player. He’s a good leader by example. He doesn’t get down, he can handle failure.”

That is important in the minor leagues, and Kivett expects Lipcius to climb through the Tigers system quickly.

“He’s analytical,” Kivett said. “He’s a willing worker. One of his best attributes is how he can figure things out. And he can read the room, and it’s going to help him in the professional ranks. He’ll be able to adjust to different levels, game to game, pitch to pitch, different pitcher to different pitcher.

“He’s not a lucky guy. Me and him always joke that luck is for the unprepared. He’s always prepared. He loves to pay attention to video, on the guys he’s facing. He loves to learn different techniques and fundamentals. With the advanced technology and scouting and analytics department, he’s going to go through the system quickly.” 

Contact Jeff Seidel: Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to