Detroit Tigers: A Decade Of Hits And Misses In The 1st Round

by Jon Erkkila | Posted on Tuesday, August 27th, 2013
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Justin Verlander

1st Round Picks over the last 10 years: Detroit Tigers

The Detroit Tigers have had some rather solid success under the regime of GM David Dombrowski and his Director of Scouting David Chadd. The Tigers were known for spending “over slot” to get the guy they wanted for several seasons before bonus spending caps went into place. The Tigers also have been able to draft some lesser renowned amateur players and turn them into either contributing Tigers or valuable trade pieces to help build a contender in Detroit. Here is a brief overview of some hits and misses over the last ten Rule 4 Drafts:

2013- 21st Overall Jonathon Crawford RHP University of Florida

The Tigers hadn’t been able to execute a pick in the first round since 2009 due to signing Type A free agents every year and forgoing their pick as compensation. With a pick finally in hand the Tigers looked to restock their system with a power arm in Crawford. Crawford sits in the mid-90s with a 4-pitch mix. There are some who see him as a reliever when its all done but there is no doubt that the Tigers will groom him as a starter. With Max Scherzer a free agent at the end of 2014 and Rick Porcello/Doug Fister both looking a new deals after 2015, the Tigers will be hoping Crawford fills a spot at some point.

Best of the Rest– Round 2, Corey Knebel RHP

The University of Texas Closer is off to a tremendous start dominating the Midwest League at West Michigan. If he remains a reliever for the long haul some think he will progress rapidly through the Detroit system. This power arm possibly has 9th inning velocity/stuff.

2012- First Round pick forfeited for signing Prince Fielder

Best of the Rest–  Round 2, Jake Thompson RHP

Thompson is having a very solid year at Low A West Michigan. The Texas prep phenom has a 3.10 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 82:30 in 78 IP. He is still only 19-years old and probably two years away at the earliest.

2011- First Round pick forfeited for signing Victor Martinez

Best of the Rest– Round 2, James McCann C

The Tigers draft numerous players out of the SEC and McCann hails from the University of Arkansas. Known more initially as a “defensive oriented catcher”, McCann has had some solid hot streaks with the stick at Double A Erie. His current slash sits at a very acceptable .277/.332/.400. Even if there is no job available for McCann in Detroit over the next two years, his progress on offense should make him a trade asset if nothing else given that there is always a market for a decent catcher.

2010- First Round pick forfeited for signing Jose Valverde

Best of the Rest– (Tie) Supplemental Round 1, Nick Castellanos 3B/LF, Round 2, Drew Smyly LHP

Castellanos is sitting comfortably in the upper half of most well known Prospect Rankings and is easily the Tigers #1 prospect. He is at Triple A Toledo knocking on the door and may well be given a look-see in September of this season. The question is will he get a playoff spot on the roster like the Tigers did last year with Avisail Garcia. Castellanos is flashing some power at Toledo with 53 extra-base hits and a very manageable 93 K in over 550 plate appearances. If all goes according to plan, Castellanos will be the Tigers left-fielder in 2014.

Drew Smyly is another SEC product from Arkansas and he moved swiftly to the majors. Smyly split time in 2013 between the Tigers rotation and bullpen. He proved his mettle in the post-season by staring down the Yankees in extra-innings to close out Game 1. This season he awaits a possible return to the rotation in future seasons by spending this year as Detroit’s second most reliable bullpen piece after Joaquin Benoit.

2009 9th Overall, Jacob Turner Missouri prep

(Let’s acknowledge that any pick in Round 1 prior to Mike Trout in 2009 was a huge miss!) Turner progressed in a solid fashion through the Tigers ranks and made some spot starts in 2011 and 2012. There were concerns that he has lost some velocity from his high school days and his K-numbers have never been overwhelming. This did not keep him from being a valuable trade piece however. The Tigers used Turner’s value to swing a deadline deal to acquire Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante to help the Tigers drive to an AL Pennant in 2012. Turner is having a solid season as a part of the rebuilding Marlins rotation in 2013 with a 3.02 ERA in 92 innings thus far.

Best of the Rest: Round 6, Dan Fields OF

Fields isn’t a top grade prospect but he is having his best season in 2013 at Double A Erie and is showing that he may be ticketed as a 4th outfielder in the big leagues at some point. A solid defender with some speed and just enough power. Current slash of: .288/.355/.443 with 42 extra base hits and 23 stolen bases.

2008 21st Overall, Ryan Perry University of Arizona

Perry was the first in Detroit’s rather extraordinary (if not plain “odd”) “Great Bullpen Draft of 2008” which saw the Tigers draft numerous hard throwing college relievers. Simply put, this flopped. None made a serious impact on the Tigers MLB roster or became very valuable trade pieces. Perry had a few moments but never harnessed his big velocity to become the bullpen stalwart he was advertised to be. He is now toiling in the Nationals’ system.

Best of the Rest– (Tie) Round 5 Alex Avila, Round 8 Andy Dirks

While the bullpen angle on this draft didn’t pan out, the Tigers did find two players who have contributed to playoff bound teams at the major league level in Dirks and Avila (another SEC product from Alabama…notice the trend). Any draft that yields two players like that isn’t a lost year overall.

2007 27th Overall, Rick Porcello New Jersey prep

Porcello fell to the Tigers at #27 even though he was commonly viewed as “top 5 talent” in his draft year. Concerns over Porcello’s price tag scared off plenty of teams who viewed his commitment to North Carolina as fairly solid. But the Tigers took the plunge and paid the freight to get Porcello. Porcello spent on full year in the minors but was quickly promoted to the big league club in 2009. He has been in the Tigers rotation ever since. While some are disappointed in what Porcello has accomplished, others see a still young pitcher who has improved his K-rate each season and remained healthy to take the ball 30+ times each season like clockwork.

Best of the Rest– 5th Round, Charlie Furbush LHP

The Tigers dipped into the SEC to get Furbush. He missed some time early on with injury but returned to rise through the ranks and made it to Detroit in 2011. Furbush didn’t do a lot in Detroit but the Tigers were able to leverage his value to be a part of the Doug Fister trade that season. The Fister acquisition helped lead the Tigers to a division title and still see Fister contributing now. This makes the Furbush selection a success.

2006 6th Overall, Andrew Miller LHP University of North Carolina

Miller never became the dominating southpaw Ace that his long frame and wicked velocity promised. He has rekindled his career as a decent reliever in Boston the last couple of years. But Miller was a successful choice for the Tigers. Yes, they passed on Tim Lincecum perhaps…but Miller was packaged with another player about to be mentioned to acquire Miguel Cabrera. Any pick used to acquire Miguel Cabrera was a great pick.

Best of the Rest– Round 3, Brennan Boesch OF, University of California

Boesch used his left-handed power potential to work his way to Detroit. Once there he stuck around for parts of several seasons showing glimpses of potential and helping some winning clubs. But terrible droughts of strike out ridden stretches kept him from becoming a regular and he was waived in Spring Training of 2013.

2005 10th Overall, Cameron Maybin OF, South Carolina prep

Maybin was a ballyhooed selection because of his incredible athleticism and 5-tool skill set. He raced through the Tigers system and surfaced in Detroit in time for the 2007 stretch drive with a memorable first game homer off of Roger Clemens. Maybin was not long for Detroit however. He was packaged with Andrew Miller that off-season to get Cabrera. Once again…his value helped bring an all-time great to Detroit. Even though Maybin’s career has turned into nothing special, his place in Detroit history is remembered in a small way each time Cabrera homers.

Best of the Rest– Round 12, Matt Joyce OF, Florida Southern

Joyce surfaced for one decent season in Detroit as a rookie before being shipped off to Tampa Bay to acquire Edwin Jackson. Joyce has evolved into a semi-regular for good Tampa teams with solid left-handed power. Jackson had one All-Star season in Detroit before being used to help acquire Max Scherzer and Austin Jackson in the blockbuster three team trade prior to the 2010 season.

2004- 2nd Overall, Justin Verlander RHP, Old Dominion

The Tigers can thank their lucky stars that the San Diego Padres were being exceedingly cheap and took ill-fated Matt Bush first overall. This classic blunder opened the door for the Tigers to nab Verlander. The rest is history. Detroit would have their Ace for the foreseeable future. Verlander nabbed Rookie of the Year honors in 2006 and then work his way to his epic 24-5 showing in 2011 on his way to capturing both the Cy Young Award and MVP that season. Verlander is the classic workhorse starter. Consistently at or near the top in innings pitched and strikeouts.

Best of the Rest– Drafting Verlander made this a highly successful draft year. This is a kind way of saying that the remainder of that year’s list is completely devoid of any value. Southpaw Lucas French surfaced in the majors for a while and was used in the deadline deal to acquire Jarrod Washburn…a move that tanked when Washburn immediately suffered knee issues. French is a video coordinator the Twins the last anyone had heard.

BHC Pick Of The Litter: Justin Verlander

BHC Frnachise Flop: Ryan Perry

Analysis of the last 10 drafts:

The Tigers have used their draft pretty well over the last decade to help build winning teams in ’06, ’07, ’09, ’11, ’12, and probably ’13. (they finished right at .500 in 2010) Drafting Verlander is an all-time “hit”. Leveraging the value of many other picks to acquire top talent like Cabrera, Sanchez, Scherzer, Jackson, and Fister in trade among others is also a testament to drafting acumen…they have drafted marketable players. You only have 25 roster spots in MLB…you aren’t drafting dozens of players each year to necessarily fill those spots. These picks are commodities. Commodities get traded for hopefully more valuable commodities. The Tigers seem to understand this and maneuver through this system pretty successfully.

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Jon Erkkila
About the Author

Jon Erkkila is a native of Michigan's Upper Peninsula and a lifelong Detroit Tigers fan. Currently living in MLB Blackout Hell, otherwise known as Iowa. Follow him on twitter @yooper_ia

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