Tigers catch a power arm in first round
Right-hander rated top high school pitcher in '07 Draft
DETROIT -- Rick Porcello didn't have a long time to celebrate his selection Thursday in the First-Year Player Draft. He had to go to practice Thursday evening in preparation for Seton Hall Prep's berth in the New Jersey non-public state title game, which he'll be starting.
It'll be the one start he has this year without the scouts or the radar guns.
"It's nice that the process is over and I can focus on my last high school game," Porcello said.
In many ways, however, the process is just starting. Considering the situation, he'll likely have to plenty of time to think about the Draft after this weekend.
Drafting in an unfamiliar place late in the first round, the Tigers took a familiar route, taking a chance on a player who fell to their spot in part out of signability concerns. In this case, they picked up the right-hander many regard as the top high school pitcher in a Draft regarded as strong on prep arms.
The same kind of strategy paid off with Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin the last two years. This one could be tougher.
"The last two years with us, they're always unpredictable," Chadd said of the Draft. "You just never know. As far as signability goes, my stance, as well as the organization, is we're going to take the best player."
Porcello's talent is unquestioned. Gatorade honored him as its National High School Player of the Year last week, and Baseball America ranked him as the fourth-best prospect available, high school or college. He went 8-0 with a 0.50 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 56 innings entering last week's state tournament. He threw a perfect game on May 12 in just 77 pitches, one of his five complete games this year.
"Rick has such a high level of poise and maturity on the mound," Seton Hall Prep head coach Mike Sheppard said in a press release when Porcello received his Player of the Year honors. "He doesn't get rattled, no matter who he's facing and no matter what the situation is. He's the consummate hard worker and his greatest attribute, honestly, is his personal makeup. He possesses tremendous integrity and humility."
|1. TB||LHP||David Price||Vanderbilt U|
|2. KC||SS||Michael Moustakas||Chatsworth HS (Calif.)|
|3. CHC||3B||Josh Vitters||Cypress HS (Calif.)|
|4. PIT||LHP||Daniel Moskos||Clemson U|
|5. BAL||C||Matthew Wieters||Georgia Tech|
|6. WSH||LHP||Ross Detwiler||Missouri St U|
|7. MIL||LF||Matthew LaPorta||U Florida|
|8. COL||RHP||Casey Weathers||Vanderbilt U|
|9. ARI||RHP||Jarrod Parker||Norwell HS|
|10. SF||LHP||Madison Bumgarner||South Caldwell HS|
He also possesses the power game that often attracts the Tigers in the Draft. He throws a fastball in the mid-90s in terms of velocity and complements it with a sharp curveball, a hard slider and a changeup. It's an impressive repertoire for a high school arm, and it has earned him comparisons to Josh Beckett and Justin Verlander.
"Very similar as far as ability goes, and success they had at a young age," Chadd said of Porcello and Beckett. "I can tell you there are similarities between the two and similarities between Rick and Justin Verlander as well. He's a talented young player with tons of ability."
The reason for Porcello's drop down the draft board wasn't his talent, but his contract considerations. It was an expected fall in part because he's being advised by agent Scott Boras, whose clients are generally among the most difficult negotiations each year, almost always going until the deadline.
Boras, too, has reportedly compared Porcello to Josh Beckett. Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski was in the same role with the Florida Marlins when they selected Beckett out of high school with the second overall pick in 1999.
Because of signability, the Tigers had no idea whether he'd fall their way or not, even though they'd been scouting him heavily since last summer. They had a list prepared with several guys they could choose depending on how the teams above them selected. Chadd said he didn't have an idea about their chances with Porcello until he got past the 21st pick.
"[We] still didn't really know until after the 26th pick," Chadd said. "This was the most confusing draft that I've ever been involved with, obviously for many different reasons. It was just hard to predict what was going to happen."
It was equally unpredictable for Porcello, who watched the Draft on television at home with his family.
"I had no idea what was going to happen," Porcello said Thursday afternoon on his way to practice. "Going into it, I had no clue. I guess any selection would've been a surprise, but I'm extremely happy and honored that the Tigers selected me."
The Tigers found common ground in difficult contract negotiations the past three years with Miller, Maybin and Justin Verlander. Detroit's last three first-round selections form the base of the young talent that is expected to carry the Tigers for the next several years.
Verlander is already starring in the big leagues as the reigning American League Rookie of the Year. Miller made a spot start for Detroit last month and will rejoin the rotation this weekend in place of injured Nate Robertson. Maybin is regarded as the top prospect in the Tigers' farm system.
New Draft rules, however, could complicate these negotiations. Selections must be signed by Aug. 15 or else go back into next year's Draft. Porcello has a letter of intent to attend the University of North Carolina if he doesn't go pro.
"It's a great situation either way," Porcello said, "but it's something me and my family still have to talk about. It's still a long process."
Asked later about the factors that will be discussed, Porcello said, "It's something where we're going to have to weigh the value of a college education. But I'm really excited about the opportunity to play professional baseball right now. It's something that we're going to have to sit down and talk about, but we're ready to me to play professional baseball. So it's more, I guess, a negotiation type of thing."
On the flip side, any team that doesn't sign its first- or second-round pick will receive a compensation pick in essentially the same spot, another of the new Draft rules. The Tigers, obviously, are hoping it doesn't come to that.
Porcello said he doesn't know a lot about the Tigers, but one of his favorite movies is the baseball film "For Love of the Game." In it, Kevin Costner played fictional Tigers pitcher Billy Chapel, a future Hall of Famer who throws a perfect game in the last start of his career.
The Tigers would obviously love for Porcello to have a Chapel-like career. First, however, they have to get him in the system.
The Tigers went heavily towards pitching on the first day, taking hurlers with five of their six first-day selections. After Porcello, Detroit tended towards pitchers whose potential is seen as greater than their numbers.
"That's just how it fell," Chadd said. "We lined up the board again by ability."
Here's the rest of the Tigers' selections in Day 1:
Round 1 (sandwich pick): Joey Hamilton, RHP, Stanhope Elmore High School, Millbrook, Ala.
As high school pitchers go, Hamilton is a true project, a big right-hander who possesses first-round talent but whose results didn't show it. Ranked 96th on Baseball America's top 200 prospects, Hamilton went 2-7 with a 1.83 ERA in his senior season, battling inconsistency and control woes. Chadd described his fastball as "plus-plus," and it's part of a nasty combination with his curveball when he can spot them, but he struggled with wild pitches. He struck out 86 batters over 50 innings.
Round 2: Danny Worth, SS, Pepperdine
The Tigers have had decent fortunes with college shortstops known more for their glove than their bat, though injuries have slowed the progress of Tony Giarratano and Brent Dlugach at Double-A Erie. Worth fits their mold in terms of his game, a sure-handed middle infielder whose offense improved as a junior. A three-year starter at shortstop, he's a disciplined gap hitter without much power, batting .346 this year with three home runs and 19 doubles.
Round 3: Luke Putkonen, RHP, University of North Carolina
The Tigers drafted a UNC pitcher for the second consecutive year, though Putkonen isn't nearly as highly regarded as Miller was last June. Putkonen worked his way back from Tommy John surgery two years ago to slot into the weekend rotation as a redshirt sophomore for the Tar Heels this spring, going 7-1 despite a 4.46 ERA this season. He commands a fastball that approaches the mid-90s but must polish his slider and curveball to complement it.
"Arm strength, delivery, everything's sound," Chadd said. "We like him."
Round 4: Charlie Furbush, LHP, LSU
The intrigue of a big left-hander with the potential to throw hard drew the Tigers to Furbush, whose success in the Cape Cod League led to his move up from Division III ball to LSU. He struggled to make the step, spotting his fastball in the lower 90s rather than closer to the mid-90s, but he's seen as a three-pitch hurler with the upside to improve.
Round 5: Casey Crosby, LHP, Kaneland (Ill.) High School
Crosby is a late-blooming lefty whose game is starting to catch up with his big frame, having reportedly grown five inches over the last year or two. His fastball has registered in the mid-90s by some reports, but sits more consistently in the lower 90s to go with a curveball and slider. He needs polish, but the physical tools and athleticism -- he was a solid wide receiver in high school -- were the draw. A top-50 prospect according to Baseball America, he was a potential second-round pick before falling.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.