I’ve never been one to shy away from criticism of the Tigers drafts. I don’t particularly subscribe to their philosophy of picking a lot of college players with pretty low ceilings, however, I did believe that the Tigers did a good job in 2012, especially given their low draft bonus pool amount and not having a first round pick. I thought there was a nice balance for a team that usually lacks a bit of high school vs. college and low ceiling/high ceiling balance.
Well, it’s a year later, and while it is way too early still to make definitive determinations on these draft picks, I wanted to take a look at how the guys that were drafted last year are doing, and if I still feel the same way about it as I did a year ago.
Jake Thompson- 2nd round
The 19 year old Thompson was drafted with a mid rotation type ceiling, and he looks like he is on the way to fulfilling that. After spending time in extended spring training regaining reported lost velocity, Thompson has had a strong year with the West Michigan Whitecaps. He has posted an ERA of 3.10 while striking out more than a batter per inning. His stuff has looked solid, featuring a 90-94 mph fastball, a solid to sometimes above average breaking ball and an improving change.
Austin Schotts- 3rd round
Schotts is a 19 year old outfielder who struggled mightily in West Michigan before being sent down to short season Connecticut, where he is still struggling. Overall, Schotts is batting .209 on the season between both levels. Patience will be the key with Schotts, because there are some things to like. His speed is off the charts, as Schotts is one of the fastest runners I’ve ever witnessed in minor league baseball. He also is adapting nicely defensively in the outfield. In the batters box, he is too aggressive, has trouble with breaking balls, and over swings. The jury is still out, but he is a potential game changer if he learns to hit.
Drew Verhagen- 4th round
Verhagen has risen quickly to AA in a year, which is an impressive feat for a young man who was pitching for Vanderbilt in May last year. You can’t argue with the numbers Verhagen has put up. His ERA over two levels this season sits at a very good 2.77 while logging 123 innings as a starter. His fastball sits low to mid 90′s, but we need to temper our excitement a bit. In the starts I’ve seen on milb.tv, there has been little evidence of secondary pitches that will rise to an above average level. However, Verhagen gets good downward plane on his fastball, and generates a ton of ground balls. He is having a very Rick Porcello like season, low strikeouts, lots of ground balls.
Joe Rogers- 5th round
Rogers was dubbed as a fast moving lefty out of the pen, and his quick ascension has been slowed by injuries thus far. He came off the DL in July, only to go back on after just a few appearances. When healthy, Rogers has been successful, featuring a low 90′s fastball and sharp breaking ball.
Jordan John- 6th round
John isn’t exciting by any stretch as a 23 year old in West Michigan, however, his stuff is solid and he knows how to pitch. He may have some value going forward as a spot starter type, who knows how to pitch. John’s fastball barely scrapes 90mph, and that is on occasion, but like Verhagen, he is a ground ball machine.
Hudson Randall- 7th round
Randall over matched low A hitters early in the year prompting an early call up to Lakeland, where he found the going much tougher. It’s not a surprise, as a lot of crafty right handers begin finding advanced levels difficult. I don’t hold out a lot of hope for Randall, and he is now on the DL himself.
Devon Travis- 13th round
There isn’t much to say about Travis other than so far, he looks like an absolute steal in the 13th round. I have no issues projecting him to be a major leaguer, however, it is still in question to the kind of role he will play. At the heart of it, Travis is limited in his ceiling. He isn’t a premium athlete, and his body type suggests he is going to slow down even further. His ability with the bat in my multiple viewings though has been impressive. Travis uses the whole field, squares up both fastballs and breaking balls, and gets by on smarts. He has really good hands defensively, but will have to anticipate to make up for a lack of range going forward. He has done nothing but murder baseballs all summer, and probably should be in AA right now.
Will Clinard- 19th round
Clinard has been a fast riser, reaching AA already this season on the back of a real good cut fastball. It is an impressive pitch, however, I am not as enamored with Clinard as some of my other fellow Tigers prospect writers. Clinard lacks a quality secondary pitch, and while the cutter is nasty, I don’t think it has the same kind of explosiveness as a guy like David Robertson of the Yankees. Clinard also needs to work on command as well as he lives up in the zone a bit too much from what I have seen. Still, there is enough here to like, and he could be a useful reliever on the Tigers in the near future.
Logan Ehlers- 20th round
Ehlers was a guy that many prospect followers were excited to get last season, and while he has been a bit disappointing this season, he is still one to watch. Stuff isn’t an issue with Ehlers, who can routinely get his fastball in low 90′s, while flashing a plus curve and good change. Consistency and quality of location are issues, and he is the type of guy that in two years, we could be wondering where he came from.
Rashad Brown- 26th round
The Tigers nabbed Brown as a toolsy high schooler last year, and while information on him is a bit scarce, he has put up some good numbers so far this year. So far this year, Brown is hitting .319, but it’s the BB/K rates that have me intrigued, as well as the physical tools. Brown can run, and he doesn’t have a frame that suggests he is going to be a slap hitter down the road, despite him lacking power at this point.
I don’t say this often, but I am still encouraged by the Tigers 2012 draft. Travis has been excellent. Schotts and Brown have good ceilings as athletic outfielders. Thompson hasn’t hurt his stock at all, and there are some guys with good arms who will be in a Tigers bullpen. I could see as many as four or five big league guys here and a couple who could have more than just a passing opportunity, and that is a good draft no matter how you slice it.