Tigers hunt for best talent in Draft
Club doesn't worry about player's signability when picking
The Tigers built their recent success in the First-Year Player Draft with a simple philosophy: Take the best player available when they pick, and leave the challenge of signing the player out of consideration. It landed them three of baseball's best prospects over the past three years.
The same philosophy still holds this year. Yet, with this year's Draft deeper in talent and thinner in signability concerns, don't necessarily expect a repeat of the past few years, when top-rated talents Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller and Rick Porcello fell to Detroit's spots. The Tigers have the 21st overall pick this year.
MLB.com will carry every pick of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, which takes place June 5-6 at The Milk House at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Fla. Day 1 coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET with a simulcast of ESPN2's broadcast of the first round and compensation picks. The remaining rounds on Day 1 will be shown exclusively at MLB.com, with live analysis on site from MLB.com Draft guru Jonathan Mayo.
Several of the top amateur prospects are expected to be in attendance in Orlando for Day 1 of the Draft, and each of the 30 Major League Clubs will be represented by front office executives and baseball luminaries. Fans are welcome to attend Day 1 of the Draft, and admission to The Milk House is free with seating limited to a first-come, first-served basis.
Day 2 will get under way at 11:30 a.m. and continue through Round 50, if necessary. Every pick on Day 2 can be heard live at MLB.com.
Here's a glance at what the Tigers could have in store as the First-Year Player Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
Though contract concerns could drop some higher-rated players to Detroit's spot, that might not benefit the Tigers as much as in past years. More teams appear flexible toward spending more on picks this year, and while there aren't clear-cut top choices, this group is perceived as relatively deep in first-round talent.
"I think the best way to do it, and the only way to do it, is to line it up by ability. Even on Draft day, you have to adjust for whatever reason -- makeup, medical, signability. You're constantly adjusting that board leading up to the Draft, even during the Draft. ... I'm preparing to go in and do what I've done the last few years: take the best player on the board." -- Tigers scouting director David Chadd on his Draft plan
Detroit's lack of young catching could provide a natural link to one of three likely first-round backstops -- if any of them are still available when the Tigers pick. That said, the Tigers don't usually draft by positional needs. They're just as likely to lean toward pitching again and could face a decision if right-hander Gerrit Cole, a Scott Boras client, falls. One major wild card is Canadian high schooler Brett Lawrie, whose pure hitting skill has sent him rising up Draft charts. He's catching this season, which could increase his appeal to teams like Detroit.
The Tigers gave up a lot of talent in trades last offseason, especially on the pitching side but also in terms of athleticism with Maybin and Gorkys Hernandez. Look for Detroit to try to restock as well as address the annual catching need. The biggest strength in their farm system, at this point, is in the middle infield.
In three years running the Tigers' Draft efforts, Chadd has kept a relative balance between high school and college talents, keeping an open mind toward players who might fall. He leaned heavily toward pitching in the early rounds last year, but has been more even-handed in past Drafts.
Recent top picks
Miller and Maybin went to Florida as the centerpieces of last winter's trade that brought Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to Detroit. Miller has found a home in the Marlins rotation, while Maybin is viewed as a potential star in center field. The one recent first-round pick still in the Tigers system is Porcello, who has had a solid start to his pro career with a 2.25 ERA and .216 batting average against at high Class A Lakeland, despite a 3-4 record.
Daniel Worth's advanced readiness and injuries elsewhere in the Tigers system allowed the second-round pick to start the season at Double-A Erie, where he has been the everyday shortstop. It's not bad work for someone who was starting at Pepperdine University a year ago at this time.
Richard Zumaya, younger brother of Joel, chose pro ball over college last summer after the Tigers selected him in the 43rd round. He went on to allow just 10 hits over 17 2/3 innings with eight walks, 16 strikeouts and a .169 batting average allowed last summer in the Gulf Coast League.
In The Show
The Tigers actually have more of their selections from the last three Drafts playing for the Marlins (Miller, Burke Badenhop) than for the Tigers. The one recent pick playing for Detroit, though, has made a decent impact. Matt Joyce, a 12th-round pick from 2005, has vaulted from overshadowed prospect to a semi-regular player and consistent left-handed power source in the big leagues. Clete Thomas, a sixth-round pick from that 2005 Draft, made the Opening Day roster as a reserve outfielder before joining Triple-A Toledo in late April.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.