Draft Preview: Pitchers top Tigers' list
Detroit looks to stock arms again for use or trade pieces
DETROIT -- Tigers scouting director David Chadd might have summed up the team's recent Draft approach best with one simple statement.
"You can never have enough pitching," Chadd said last week on his way between scouting stops.
The other philosophy that characterizes Detroit's Draft history is that top-level talent is worth the price. After signing first-round pick Rick Porcello to a Major League contract two years ago, team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said the Tigers view the First-Year Player Draft as one venue in which they can compete on a level playing field with big-market titans like the Yankees, Red Sox and Mets. As they prepare to select ninth this year, they continue to scout for talent over signability, though last year's selection of Ryan Perry shows big contracts aren't automatic.
MLB.com will offer live coverage and analysis of the entire First-Year Player Draft on June 9-11. MLB Network will broadcast the first round at 6 p.m. ET on June 9 from its Studio 42 in Secaucus, N.J., and those 32 selections also will be simulcast live on MLB.com.
Beginning with the 33rd pick, up-to-the-minute on-air coverage from the remaining rounds will shift exclusively to MLB.com/Live, where host Vinny Micucci will be joined by MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo and Major League Scouting Bureau director Frank Marcos.
Once the first night is done, the Draft will continue with rounds 4-30, via conference call from MLB headquarters in New York, at noon on June 10. Rounds 31-50 will be on June 11, starting at 11:30 a.m.
Here's a glance at what the Tigers have in store as the First-Year Player Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
The top half of the first round is heavily centered on pitching, and the Tigers are smack in the middle of it. The Tigers have a shorter list of possibilities than last year, mainly because they have fewer teams picking ahead of them. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of them involve pitching.
"There is an abundance of pitching," Chadd said. "I wouldn't say that's exactly the way we're going to go. There are still a couple wild cards in there. We've got a handful of guys in our small group. We're just doubling back and looking."
Much of the speculation involves the Tigers taking a high school pitcher with upside, a route that paid off greatly two years ago with Porcello. Right-hander Jacob Turner fits the profile, but that also comes with the contract expectations of agent Scott Boras. Shelby Miller is another hard-throwing prep right-hander who has caught attention. But the Tigers could also go for a high school left-hander if Tyler Matzek unexpectedly falls or if Chad James or Matthew Purke become too intriguing to pass up. That said, the Tigers reserve the right to pounce if someone unexpectedly falls out of the top eight picks, which is where the position player wild card seemingly comes into play.
The Tigers are building a wealth of pitching, especially with past high-round picks Luke Putkonen and Casey Crosby returning healthy from injuries, and they're clearly looking for more. Detroit remains thin on the left side of the infield, and they could use some depth at catcher in the lower levels, though Alex Avila's rise has sent him rising up the developmental ladder behind Dusty Ryan. That said, Chadd said the Tigers plan to go after the best athlete available as they go round by round. "Every Draft's different," Chadd said.
The Tigers have selected a pitcher with their top pick in five out of the past six years, with Cameron Maybin as the lone exception. Moreover, their top four selections were pitchers, as were eight of their first 10, as they took advantage of good arms with subpar results who fell from projections. Not only has it fit into Detroit's preference to build a rotation from within, but as the Miguel Cabrera and Gerald Laird trades showed, extra arms can become trade pieces to fill positional needs. Detroit has shown no particular preference towards college or high school pitchers overall, but its mid-round picks have trended towards the college ranks recently.
Recent top picks
2008 and 2007: Each of Detroit's last five top picks have played in the big leagues this year, not all for Detroit. Porcello and Perry, Detroit's first-round selections in 2007 and 2008, made the Tigers roster together out of Spring Training and have more than held their own on the mound.
2006: Andrew Miller, Detroit's 2006 first-round pick, is filling out the Marlins' rotation after joining Florida in the Cabrera trade.
2005: Maybin, the 2005 top pick, was up with the Marlins as their center fielder last month, then back down after struggling.
2004: Justin Verlander, the second overall selection in the 2004 Draft, is anchoring Detroit's rotation.
Right-hander Cody Satterwhite, last year's second-rounder, is already up to Double-A Erie, where Porcello and Perry would've been had they not made the big club. Satterwhite's six saves through Sunday were tied for the team lead on the SeaWolves entering last weekend in a split closer situation to go with 24 strikeouts over 18 innings. His 11 walks show work left to do on his command, but the big fastball that drew the Tigers to him last June has been as good as advertised. Another 2008 Draft pick, fifth-rounder Alex Avila, is catching a lot of Satterwhite as the SeaWolves' regular catcher after spending his first Spring Training in Major League camp.
Big left-hander Jon Kibler, a 30th-round selection two years ago out of Michigan State, was the Tigers' Minor League Pitcher of the Year last season with a Midwest League-best 14 victories and a 1.75 ERA at Class A West Michigan. After making an impression with the Major Leaguers in Spring Training, Kibler bypassed high Class A ball for Erie, where he currently leads the SeaWolves in innings pitched while racking up a pair of complete games to go with a 2-3 record and 3.57 ERA entering last weekend.
In The Show
In addition to all the Tigers' first-round selections to make it to the Majors, Clete Thomas advanced from Triple-A Toledo into a regular role in Detroit's outfield since filling in for Marcus Thames. The Tigers drafted Thomas in the sixth round in 2005. Jeff Larish, taken one round ahead of Thomas that year, has made two stints with the Tigers this year as a corner infielder and designated hitter. Detroit also got a contribution in May from left-hander Lucas French, an eighth-round pick out of high school in 2004 who steadily rose at each level until he was the player development folks' recommendation for a call-up when Nate Robertson went on the disabled list last month.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.