Oct 13, 2011; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers left fielder Delmon Young (21) hits a two-run home run in the sixth inning of game five of the 2011 ALCS against the Texas Rangers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

2003 Draft Review

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.

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Tags: 2003 Draft Delmon Young Detroit Tigers Jay Sborz Jordan Tata Kyle Sleeth Tony Giarratano Virgil Vazquez

  • ChrisHannum

    Good work, John. I really enjoy this sort of retrospective. Obviously, that particular draft was a real bust – but I think that will usually be the case if your high-first-round pick doesn’t even sniff the majors. Makes me wonder if drafting college pitchers highly is as risky or riskier than drafting high school pitchers – high schoolers have rarely been as abused.

  • jgorosh

    Well thats an embarrassing draft, huh?

  • Inge4mvp

    Will you be reviewing other drafts?

  • ZanzibarBuckBuckMcFate

    I wrote a piece reviewing this draft for giggles at some point during last season. Here it is (hopefully the paste will translate):

    Detroit Tigers Draft History – Report Card (2002-2010)


    1st Round - Kyle Sleeth (#3)

    2nd Round - Jay Sborz (#40)

    3rd Round - Tony Giarratano (#70)

    4th Round - Josh Rainwater (#100)

    5th Round – Danny Zell (#130)

    Other Notable Picks

    7th Round – Virgil Vasquez

    11th Round – Brian Rogers

    16th Round – Jordan Tata

    48th Round – Dusty Ryan



    All-Star Caliber


    MLB Regular


    MLB Player/Trade Piece







    1st Round Picks of Note (Taken After Detroit’s Pick)

    Nick Markakis (7th)

    John Danks (9th)

    Aaron Hill (13th)

    Chad Billingsley (24th)

    Carlos Quentin (29th)

    Other Notable Early Round Picks

    Adam Jones (1st-S #37)

    Andre Ethier (2nd #62)

    Shaun Marcum (3rd #80)

    Jonathan Papelbon (4th #114)

    Michael Bourn (4th #115)

    Draft Analysis – 2003 Detroit

    I would assume that this draft laid the foundation for Greg Smith being relieved of his scouting director position following the 2004 season. Part of the failure of this draft can be attributed to rotten luck and an outdated system that was in place at the time in Major League Baseball. In 2002 the Tigers tied the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays for not only the worst record in the American League but also all of baseball. The Tigers lost the tie-braker for the first overall pick which caused them to drop to the third position because of the league rule that had the American League and National League alternating picks in the draft regardless of record. As it turned out there was a consensus top two players in an altogether weak 2003 draft: Delmon Young and Rickie Weeks. Missing out on those two the Tigers selected Wake Forest pitcher Kyle Sleeth with the third pick. Sleeth would enter the 2005 season as Baseball America’s #86 prospect in all of baseball but would miss the entire season due to injury. He returned in 2006 but would never come close to reaching the promise that made the Tigers so high on him on draft day. 2003 was just that kind of year for the Tigers. In the end this draft class would have six players make it to the major leagues, however it would be difficult to find six players that had less of an impact on the big league club than that group. The one thing that the Tigers did manage to salvage out of this class was using Brian Rogers to acquire Sean Casey at the 2006 trade deadline. I know, I know…that’s a reach.

    Grade: D

    Other Teams

    NY Yankees Tyler Clippard (9th)

    Jeff Karstens (19th)


    David Murphy (1st)

    Matt Murton (1st-S)

    Jonathan Papelbon (4th)

    Tampa Bay

    Delmon Young (1st)

    James Houser (2nd)

    John Jaso (12th)

    Chad Orvella (13th)


    Scott Baker (2nd)


    Omar Quintanilla (1st-S)

    Andre Ethier (2nd)


    Jarrod Saltalamacchia (1st-S)

    Jo-Jo Reyes (2nd)

    Matt Harrison (3rd)

    Jonny Venters (30th)


    No 1st or 2nd

    Michael Bourn (4th)

    Kyle Kendrick (7th)

    Brad Ziegler (20th)

    St. Louis

    Daric Barton (1st)

    Stuart Pomeranz (2nd)

    Brendan Ryan (7th)

    Anthony Reyes (15th)

    Jason Motte (19th)

    LA Dodgers

    Chad Billingsley (1st)

    Xavier Paul (4th)

    Matt Kemp (6th)

    Wesley Wright (7th)

    Lucas May (8th)

    AJ Ellis (18th)

    Andy LaRoche (39th)

    2003 Draft Grades

    NY Yankees: D The only two big leaguers were traded away for Xaxier Nady, Damaso Marte, and

    Jonathan Albaladejo. Yuck.

    Boston: B Papelbon was a steal in the 4th; Murphy was used to acquire Eric Gagne.

    Tampa Bay: B- Delmon Young was spun into Matt Garza who was spun into prospects from the Cubs.

    Minnesota: C When all you get out of a draft is an average starting pitcher this is your grade.

    Oakland: D Had three picks in the top 33 and Omar Quintanilla was the best of the bunch.

    Ethier on his own would have demanded a higher grade himself (B-) but they lost

    nearly all those points by trading him for…wait…wait: Milton Bradley.

    Atlanta: A- Salty and Harrison were big pieces that got them Mark Teixeira. Reyes was used to

    acquire Alex Gonzalez. Venters is now a premier set up man.

    Philadelphia: C+ They did pretty well for not having a pick in the first two rounds. They spun Bourn

    into Brad Lidge and Kyle Kendrick has been a passable arm on their staff.

    St. Louis: C Barton was part of their deal (along with Dan Haren…yikes!) for Mark Mulder. The

    others have had moments but haven’t sustained any success.

    LA Dodgers: A In a weak draft year they were able to find a quality #3 starter, a star player

    in Kemp, and a few other spare pieces.