06/07/2004 8:36 PM ET
Pitching is key for Tigers
Six college pitchers are taken with first six picks
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
|Justin Verlander is a college pitcher with a very high ceiling. (courtesy Old Dominion U)
DETROIT -- Two weeks before Monday's First-Year Player Draft, Tigers scouting director Greg Smith said the theme of the draft would be college pitching. He didn't just mean the first round.
"The two things [president/general manager] Dave [Dombrowski] and I talked about at length is: one, the strength of this draft is pitching," scouting director Greg Smith said. "I think that's evident from where the guys were drafted this year. And two, if you look at the landscape of Major League talent that's out there, it's a lot easier to acquire position players than it is to get a good pitcher."
For the first time since 2001, the Tigers selected collegians with each of their first six picks. Four of the first five were right-handed pitchers, with two possessing fastballs that threatened triple digits on radar guns.
First-round pick Justin Verlander's arm strength is well-known. Another highly-rated prospect from the same conference, Justin Orenduff, told MLB.com earlier this year he played long toss with Verlander and watched him throw from foul line to foul line without a bounce.
Verlander's velocity reportedly tops out at 99 mph, and he said he's been clocked as high as 101 mph. That made him the hardest throwing college prospect in the draft, but fifth-round pick Collin Mahoney comes close. While Baseball America ranked Verlander as having the best fastball of draft-eligible college pitchers, it ranked Mahoney second.
Statistically, Mahoney was far from dominant. A converted catcher turned reliever at Clemson, he went 1-3 with a 6.63 ERA and 23 hits allowed in 19 2/3 innings. But his fastball was reportedly clocked at 100 mph by scouts this year, and he consistently clocks in around 95-97 mph. He throws his slider around 86-87 mph. That kind of speed alone earned him early-round attention, including some speculation for the second round. However, he'll need some polish before becoming a professional pitcher.
"I don't know that we ever foresee Collin becoming a polished guy with command," Smith said. "His slider is going to get better. But here's a guy that has a lot of ingredients to work with."
The other early-round pitchers, second-round pick Eric Beattie from the University of Tampa and fifth-rounder Andrew Kown out of Georgia Tech, top out around the lower 90s, but have refined motions. Opponents hit around Beattie this season, but his success last summer in the Cape Cod League was hard to ignore. He scattered 25 hits and seven walks over 54 1/3 innings to go with 63 strikeouts.
Kown, meanwhile, towers over hitters at 6-foot-6 and a lanky 210 pounds. Like Beattie, Kown had a breakout summer, his coming in the Alaska League. He approaches the mid-90s but stands out with his changeup.
"You have to be willing to adjust to the draft, in some cases year by year," Smith said. "It's no secret this year's crop is driven by pitching. We were going to go out and draft the best guy we could get when it was our selection. We think we had a very good day today. Time will determine that."
Old Dominion U
Position: RHP B/T: R/R
H: 6-5 W: 200
Born: 1983-02-20 Class: SR
LEAN, WIRY STRONG. LONG ARMS. THIN WAIST. TAPERS TO LONG, STRONG LEGS. BODY SIMILAR TO ANDY ASHBY. NO WINDUP, 3/4 DELIVERY. LOOSE, LIVE, QUICK ARM. PWR FB W/ OCCAISIONAL RUN INTO RHH, BAT BREAKER. NASTY, HARD SLIDER, 3/4 TILT, LATE BITE IN ZONE, KNEE BUCKLER. FRANCHISE TYPE PITCHER. NUMBER ONE STARTER. OVERPOWERING STUFF. WILL GET THERE QUICK.
Here's a round-by-round list of Monday's selections after Verlander:
Round 2: Eric Beattie, RHP, University of Tampa:
Tigers scouts like his loose, easy arm motion as well as the sinking action on his fastball. His walk-to-innings ratio backs up the notion that he doesn't fool around with hitters. Described by some as a classic sinker-slider pitcher, he uses the breaking ball for ground-ball outs.
Beattie went 10-5 with a 3.38 ERA this year for the Division II school. He allowed 94 hits in 104 innings with just 22 walks and 127 strikeouts.
Round 3: Jeff Frazier, RF, Rutgers University:
"He's a big, physical guy with a power bat," was how Tigers scouting reports described him. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound right-handed hitter finished second in the Big East in batting average and home runs, and earned second-team All-America honors from USA Today Sports Weekly. He's a skilled athlete for his size and has the potential for good arm strength. Smith said he projects more as a right fielder than at center, where he played for the Scarlet Knights.
Round 4: Collin Mahoney, RHP, Clemson University
Finding two guys who throw 100 mph is tough. Finding one of them available in the fourth round is even tougher. Whether Mahoney ever develops into something more than a late-inning flame-thrower is beside the point of taking a chance after the first few rounds. At 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, the Tigers believe he's durable enough to keep firing away.
Round 5: Andrew Kown, RHP, Georgia Tech
Another big pitcher for the Tigers' farm system, Kown takes a nine-game winning streak and a 10-1 record to next weekend's NCAA Super Regionals. He isn't afraid to work inside with his slider and cutter. What stood out to Tigers scouts was his loose, easy delivery for his size.
Round 6: Brent Dlugach, SS, Memphis
A year after Tony Giarratano became one of the jewels of last year's Tigers draft, they plucked another shortstop from Conference USA. At 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, he's huge for a shortstop but has plus speed to go with good hands and a strong arm. Tigers scouts like his line-drive hitting and instincts for the game.
Round 7: Chris Carpenter, RHP, Bryan (Ohio) HS
Major League Scouting Bureau's report compared him to Aaron Sele, but he might throw harder than that. The 6-foot-5 righty has a power arm, according to Tigers scouts, topping out at 95 mph to go with an above-average breaking ball. He works with a high leg kick.
Round 8: Luke French, LHP, Heritage HS, Littleton, CO
Tigers scouts describe his aggressiveness as a "go-get-em attitude," but they also like how his potential projects because of his size at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds. He has a big wind-up and overhead delivery.
Round 9: Brandon Timm, CF, Broken Arrow (OK) HS
Tigers scouts called Timms a "baseball rat." At 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, he's a strong kid who loves to play the game. He ranked as one of the top high school players available in a state heavy with top college players.
Round 10: Cory Middleton, SS, Escambia HS, Pensacola, FL
A more traditionally-sized shortstop, Middleton is an exceptional athlete who has drawn comparisons to Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez. The Tigers like his quick bat with power to the gaps.
Round 11: Josh Kauten, RHP, Illinois State
An athletic 6-foot-4, Kauten throws 90-94 mph with a hard slider. He spent a season and a half in the Redbirds' rotation before a two-week stint as closer helped his cause. He struck out 16 batters in 11 1/3 innings over his final four appearances, scattering a run on eight hits over that span. He was the 2003 Illinois State Male Scholar Athlete of the Year.
Round 12: Cole Miller, C, College of the Siskiyous
Tigers scouts compare Miller to Joe Girardi, a strong kid with some arm strength behind the plate and some pop with the bat, with eight home runs and 43 RBIs. He has signed a letter of intent to play at South Carolina.
Round 13: Brooks Colvin, SS, SW Missouri State
The Tigers see this four-year player as a hard-nosed, competitive type. A bit on the small side at 5-10 and 175 pounds, he hit .323 with 15 doubles and 27 RBIs. He was a second-team Academic All-American.
Round 14: James Skelton, C, West Covina (CA) HS
He's polished for a high-school player, but he needs to add some muscle to his 5-10, 165-pound frame to realize his upside. As it is, he's an athletic catcher and a switch-hitter with a line-drive swing.
Round 15: Matt O'Brien, RHP, Florida Atlantic
At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, he's actually kind of small compared to the rest of the pitchers the Tigers drafted, and he's still a big, strong right-hander. He throws a 90-91 mph fastball to go with a splitter. He led the Owls with an 11-3 record and a 3.14 ERA, while striking out 72 batters in 97 1/3 innings.
Round 16: Steve Young, 2B, Princeton University
He wasn't nearly as heralded as teammates B.J. Szymanski or Ross Ohlendorf, but the Tigers like the Ivy Leaguer's speed, calling him a "plus-plus runner" who can play second and short. He finished second to Szymanski with a .354 average, while swiping 15 bases in 18 attempts. He has line-drive gap power. He can also play shortstop.
Round 17: Dan Konecny, RHP, Northwestern University
The 6-foot-4 senior went 4-8 with a 7.09 ERA, giving up 100 hits in 73 2/3 innings, but the Tigers like his 88-92 mph fastball and plus slider.
Round 18: Chris Martin, RHP, Arlington (TX) HS
Martin is a physical marvel, standing 6-foot-7 and weighing just 175 pounds, but the Tigers believe he has potential. He's expected to stay in state and attend McLennan Community College, making him a draft-and-follow candidate.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.