Many of us, myself included, believe that a team’s ability to find pieces in a draft are important to that team having sustained success in baseball. It certainly is a more cost effective way in which to run a team, but teams do have to hit on their top picks with great success, and find a few hidden gems later on in the draft to help out as well. Of course, there is always more than one way to skin a cat, and having some money to spend doesn’t hurt either. The Tigers have used a pretty good combination of the two, plus the trading of players, to become a force in the A.L Central, but how much of a role has their draft played in that?
Given that it is hard to judge drafts until a few years down the road, I decided I would head back to 2003. This obviously would give draftees plenty of time to get to the majors, and it also marks the season in which Tigers President David Dombrowski effectively began running things. Now, 2003 was memorable for all the wrong reasons, losing 119 games is hard to forget, but with a new regime in town that would soon change.
How did the draft go for the Tigers that season?
Well, looking at the list of names drafted. Not any better than the season.
1st round (Kyle Sleeth)
For those that don’t remember Kyle Sleeth, he was a big strong right-hander from Wake Forest University who relied heavily on a fastball/slider combination to get the job done. The reason that many Tigers fans may not know who he was is, Sleeth was constantly injured for the Tigers and hardly pitched until he was forced to retire. It is difficult to blame the Tigers for a failed draft pick because of injury, but the bottom line is, Sleeth ended up giving them nothing. What really hurt was he was the 3rd pick overall. Interestingly enough, the first overall pick that season was Delmon Young. So far, of all the first rounders in the 2003 draft, Nick Markakis, who was selected 7th overall has the most bWAR accumulated with 19.7. Other successful selections include Richie Weeks, John Danks, Paul Maholm, Aaron Hill, and Chad Billingsley.
2nd round (Jay Sborz)-
Sborz was a big right hander drafted out of high school by the Tigers. The Dombrowski era started drafting tenure going with big armed pitchers, and Sborz fit the mold. He did actually get to the big leagues with the Tigers, though that was short lived. It was so shortly lived, it was actually for only one game in which Sborz got blown up. Only a couple picks of significance were made later in that round; Minnesota hurler Scott Baker, and Dodgers outfielder Andre Eithier.
3rd round (Tony Giarratano)-
Giarratano was somewhat of a promising middle infielder at one time for the Tigers. He had a pretty good ability to hit, was pretty athletic, and was considered the Tigers 2nd baseman of the future at one point. Unfortunately for Giarratano and the Tigers, injuries derailed him as well. He did make it to the majors, however, he only got 15 games in and 42 at-bats. There wasn’t much of note selected in the 3rd round elsewhere that year besides Shawn Marcum and Matt Harrison, who had himself a good 2011 for the Rangers.
4th round (Josh Rainwater)-
Rainwater was another sturdily built right-handed pitcher whom the Tigers had hoped would develop into a special power arm. He never really developed much in the way of more velocity but did make it all the way to AAA and was a guy on the verge of coming to the bigs at one point. He never did make it, but at this point in baseball drafts, few and far between actually do. A couple 4th round picks of note? Jonathan Papelbon and Michael Bourn were selected in the middle of the round.
5th round (Daniel Zell)-
Zell was a lefty specialist drafted out of the University of Houston. While Zell never made the big leagues either, like Rainwater, he did at least get somewhat close. That isn’t unusual at all for a 5th rounder. In fact, in 2003, only 3 of the picks ever made the major leagues, and none of them posted a bWAR of more than 0. So, can’t really fault the Tigers here.
As for the rest of the draft, things went much the same for the Tigers in 2003. Virgil Vazquez I guess would have to be the most “successful” pick in that draft, considering that he actually pitched in 19 games in the big leagues. Success is relative though, as he posted a -1.1 bWAR. Still, there were no late round gems, unless you count Jordan Tata, who also posted a negative WAR, but didn’t pitch in as many games as Vazquez.
If I was grading this draft, I don’t think I could go above an F. There was nothing of help in this draft at all, which was fitting for the type of season the Tigers had.