06/04/05 2:11 PM ET
Tigers look to improve on draft day
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
He's not going to bristle at his past. But the last thing he wants to be is selective in the June 7-8 First-Year Player Draft.
"My background in scouting started with the Marlins," he said. "Yeah, we were athlete oriented, but we were baseball oriented. We wanted to draft players with tools."
In the same breath, he points out his experience helping run the Red Sox draft the previous few years.
"Let's blend both of those together," he said. "We want guys who play the game. We want guys with tools. We want to try to get the best players out there in the Tigers system. That said, there's always the dynamics of the draft."
Which means if the best pitcher on the board falls to the Tigers spot, don't expect him to pass simply because his predecessor, Greg Smith, drafted college arms the last two years. For all the Marlins' history with high school pitchers while he worked under then-Florida general manager Dave Dombrowski, one of his more underrated finds for the Marlins was a college hurler from Wichita State named Nate Robertson. With Chadd's first draft for the Tigers coming up next week, the name most tied with him has been another pitcher from Wichita State.
Pelfrey also fits the prospect stereotype most associated with Dombrowski -- a big, strong pitcher with a power fastball and a developable secondary pitch or two.
Chadd can't say whether or not he'd be Detroit's pick, partly because he believes this year's first 10 picks are as hard to predict as they've been in years. The Mets reportedly have a lot of interest in Pelfrey, too, and they pick just ahead of Detroit. But Chadd is not going to deny interest in a 6-foot-7 hurler merely to fit or defy a typecast.
"I agree with Dave," Chadd said. "It's hard to go out and acquire power arms or power bats as free agents, so obviously you want to get them in your system. Those guys are very, very hard to acquire."
Since Chadd lives near Wichita, he's had more of a chance than others to look at Pelfrey. But there's more to like than proximity. He's bigger than Justin Verlander and Kyle Sleeth, former college pitchers who were Detroit's last two first-round picks. His fastball hits consistently in the mid-90s and tops out higher, complemented by a good curveball and developing changeup. In a draft being touted for smaller bodies with good arms, Pelfrey is the exception.
He's also represented by Scott Boras, which is the main reason why there's no certainty whether he'll be available when the Tigers' spot comes up at 10th overall. The Tigers have had success practicing creative negotiation with Boras on Major League free agents. Contract talks for draft picks, especially those who want a Major League deal, can go vastly different for teams dealing with baseball's super agent.
Just ask the Angels and Diamondbacks, who have yet to sign their top picks from last year, Boras clients Jered Weaver and Stephen Drew. Both could go into this year's draft if not signed. Even if they are signed, those contracts could set the market for some of this year's selections.
The unpredictability of the top picks, plus the Tigers' lowest draft spot since 2001, means Chadd isn't committing to anybody just yet.
"We haven't zeroed in on any one person," Chadd said. "We're still going to leave it open. We'll see how these conference tournaments shape up. The talent level's pretty close, so you just don't know strategically who may fall, who may go. That group of college players is pretty close."
If Pelfrey isn't available or if the Tigers decide against him, they could go several different directions. They've shown interest in top college third basemen Ryan Zimmerman of Virginia and Ryan Braun of Miami, though Braun could be converted to an outfielder. They could still go for a college pitcher with former Rice standout Wade Townsend, who they watched work out for the Devil Rays earlier this spring, or Cal-State Fullerton lefty Ricky Romero. They could also go the prep route with multi-tooled high school outfielder Andrew McCutchen.
Chadd will spend the eight days leading up to the draft in Detroit talking about the possibilities. They could conceivably use all eight days deciding.
"I think it's going to go right up until draft day," he said. "That's how uncertain I think it is. There's too many dynamics and variables in this year's draft."
TIGERS DRAFT HISTORY
The Tigers farm system has become pitcher-heavy by design, and the last couple drafts have only enhanced that. Detroit has selected pitchers with their first pick four out of the last five years. The last two years they've selected the first pitcher taken.
LAST THREE TOP PICKS
Justin Verlander, RHP, 2004, Pick #2: A protracted negotiation cost him any chance of pitching last year, but Verlander has just about mastered Class A ball in his first season as a pro. Club officials knew about his high-90s fastball, but his ability to mix and polish his other pitches and his maturity to stay composed has been better than advertised. Thanks in part to a Major League contract, he was one of the pleasant surprises of Spring Training.
Kyle Sleeth, RHP, 2003, Pick #3: One of the NCAA's most successful pitchers in terms of victories, Sleeth dominated A ball last year but has struggled since. He was inconsistent down the stretch for Double-A Erie yet ended up a key part of their run to the Eastern League playoffs. He's been on the DL since the start of the season with a strained right forearm.
Scott Moore, 3B, 2002, Pick #8: The Tigers hoped they could develop Moore into a slugger when they selected the high school shortstop, but he never caught up to Minor League pitching. After two difficult seasons in A ball, the Tigers sent him to the Cubs in the Kyle Farnsworth trade.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.