Coming into 2012, the Tigers once again didn’t have a first round pick. They lost that when they signed free agent Prince Fielder. The way Fielder has hit for the Tigers, I think most of us are okay with that decision. Given that the Tigers didn’t have a first rounder, in the new system, they had one of the lowest draft pools in all of baseball. In fact, it was the 2nd lowest. After the dust had settled, the Tigers managed to sign all of their top 10 picks, plus a few outside of their top 10 with some upside. For the amount of pool money the Tigers had, I thought they did a good job of landing some talent, especially when you contrast it with the 2011 draft, which I believe to be abysmal.
I wanted to take a look at some of the Tigers picks, and how they were doing so far. I won’t touch on all their picks, as frankly, whether or not they are doing well, it doesn’t mean that they are a prospect. Instead, I will focus on those picks that might have some major league potential, or at least are thought to have some potential because of their skill set.
Jake Thompson (2nd round)
Thompson is a big bodied right hander out of high school in Texas, and I am sure the Tigers are happy with what they have seen thus far. In 7 starts with the Gulf Coast League Tigers, Thompson has posted an ERA of just 1.91, striking out 31 batters in 28.1 innings. He is generating a large amount of ground balls, but will have to work on commanding better as he moves up the ladder. So far though, all is good with the Tigers first pick in the draft.
Austin Schotts (3rd round)
Schotts, like Thompson, played high school baseball in Texas, and also like Thompson is off to a tremendous start. After missing some time due to a minor injury, Schotts has done nothing but hit. His batting average is .359, and his OPS is at .888. There is some swing and miss in his game, and he is learning a new position so the Tigers will likely take their time with Schotts.
Drew VerHagen (4th round)
Verhagen received a little bit more money than his slot recommendation to talk him out of returning to Vanderbilt. Built with a strong arm, Verhagen still has some learning to do on the mound, but there is some decent clay to work with. He might end up in the bullpen, and could be a 7th inning type if he does. The Tigers have been aggressive with Verhagen, sending him to Lakeland already, and the results have been pretty good. Verhagen is generating a ton of ground balls from that large 6’6″ frame of his, and batters are only hitting .171 against him. However, his command and control have been spotty, which was the book on him when he was drafted.
Joe Rogers (5th round)
Rogers is a lefty reliever that should move quickly up the ladder. Sticking with the theme from the two previous pitchers, Rogers is generating ground balls as well. In 17 innings in Connecticut, he is sporting an ERA of 3.12, has struck out 20 hitters, but has walked 10. I don’t see him as a high leverage guy down the road, but he has been pretty good so far.
Jake Stewart (9th round)
Stewart is a physically gifted player the Tigers got out of Stanford, however, he has never really been able to translate those skills to the field. So far for Connecticut, he is hitting just .232, and likely isn’t going to hit for much average down the road. His profile would suggest an extra outfielder most likely, but he could get there with a few tweaks and development.
Devon Travis (13th round)
Travis has solid skills across the board, however none of them really stand out as plus or above average. He profiles as an extra infielder, and thus far has been okay to start his career. He does control the zone well however. So far for Connecticut, he has posted a batting average of .280, with an OPS of .793. A good strong start for Travis.
Logan Ehlers (20th round)
Ehlers was an 8th round pick out of high school just a couple of years ago and carries a decent amount of upside with him. He was one of the Tigers last signs, so he hasn’t gotten a lot of action. So far he has pitched 6.1 innings this season, allowing only one run in the GCL, while striking out 7.
I put these guys together because these guys are athletes with some upside that have to learn how to play baseball. They are guys that are going to take a long time, but they are worth watching. Essentially wild cards. Paulino was known as one of the best defensive outfielders in high school.
Preston Jamison (30th)-
Jamison is interesting because of two things, one he is a lefty, and two he has a good amount of size. At 6’6″ he hasn’t learned to pitch downhill yet, but has struck out a batter an inning so far in his young career. He has also walked 11 batters in 14 innings.
There are others that have put up good numbers. Most of them relief pitchers, but none of them stand out as far as arm strength, or having a profile at the back end of a bullpen. Guys like Matt Davenport, Will Clinard, Slade Smith, Josh Turley, Nick Carmichael, and Joshua Carr have gotten off to solid statistical starts, but they should. They are college guys pitching against teenagers for the most part.
All in all, given the constraints, Tigers fans shouldn’t necessarily be ecstatic so far, but should be happy. It looks like the two top selections have some talent, and given the constraints of this draft, that is about all we could hope for.