The Detroit Tigers had only one selection in yesterdays opening rounds of the 2016 MLB draft. After selecting prep pitcher Matt Manning ninth-overall yesterday the Tigers went pitching again in rounds four-10.
Detroit Tigers general manager got exactly what he wanted with the ninth-overall pick. As highlighted in yesterdays piece, Matt Manning is an exciting arm with high upside. The general consensus is the Tigers got it right in the first round. The real test for Avila would be day two of the draft.
The Tigers would not pick again until round four after losing their second and third round picks to Washington and San Diego respectively. Regardless, Detroit went into this draft with a clear plan, one that did not very from what we have seen in past years. It was all arms from rounds four through seven for the Tigers, taking three college right-handers and a college lefty.
Kyle Funkhouser was the Tigers fourth-round selection at 115th overall. Funkhouser, a 22-year-old right-hander graduated with a marketing degree from the University of Louisville. He was drafted 35th overall by Los Angeles Dodgers in last years draft but elected to go back to school. Funkhouser was originally believed to be a potential top-10 pick in last year’s draft before a late season slump caused him to slip down draft boards. After being selected in the fourth round this year as a senior Funkhouser will make likely make less money out of the gate. Chalk that one up as a loss for his agent, Scott Boras.
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Funkhouser was one of the best arms of the 2014 USA Junior National roster. Funkhouser is 9-3 with a 3.86 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 93.1 innings this season and is poised for a deep NCAA tournament run with the University of Louisville Cardinals.
His fastball usually sits in the mid to low 90’s. Funkhouser has three pitches in his arsenal but none of them can be described as plus. His curveball and changeup can be plus pitches at times but a lack of consistency is Funkhouser’s biggest issue.
When he is on, his ability to mix a heavy fastball and a tight curveball can overpower hitters. His curveball and changeup both have the ability to be plus pitches but they will often go through stretches where they look flat and cannot be throw for strikes.
Still in the fourth round Funkhouser is a steal. At 22-years-old he has the ability to progress through the system quickly. If he can find consistency and develop one of his two off speed pitches into a swing-and-miss pitch he could be in a high minor league level such as double or triple-A as early of 2017. Funkhouser’s value will also come with his contract.
The Tigers do not have a lot of money to play with so drafting a college senior gives them leverage in negotiations. The money they save on Funkhouser could be used on first-round pick Matt Manning who could come with a large price tag.
Rounds five through seven were spent on college juniors. The Tigers selected right-handers Mark Ecker, Bryan Garcia and left-hander Austin Sodders in those rounds. Ecker was a reliever at Texas A&M, recording eight saves in his sophomore season. The 6’2″ righty throw predominantly a fastball and a changeup with a decent breaking ball. While he was mainly a reliever in college, his ability to throw three pitches could make him a candidate to jump into the rotation in pro ball. Garcia was a third team All-American in 2015 and is the University of Miami’s all-time saves leader. He has a violent delivery but his 146 strikeouts in 126 innings bodes well from his chances in the minor leagues.
It took the Tigers until the eight round to select a position player. The Tigers went north of the boarder to take their next two players, drafting Canadian National team alumni Jacob Robson and Daniel Pinero. Their final selection of the day was Florida Southern outfielder Sam Machonis.
Robson is a native of Windsor, Ontario, the Canadian city right across the river from Detroit. A graduate of Vincent Massey Secondary School, Robson attended Mississippi State and developed into one of the SEC’s best young outfielders. The 5’10” Robson is one of the fastest players in all of college baseball. His legs are his biggest asset but he is a defensive wiz in center field. His ability to put the ball in play is strong and allows him to make defenses nervous. His hit tool will need developing but one can assume the Tigers will take their time developing this young talent. His abilities are comparable to Tigers minor leaguer Cam Gibson with a slightly better arm. Robson will likely stick in center field but can play all three outfield positions.
Pinero had a .500 slugging percentage but did not hit for a lot of power at the University of Virginia last season. His 6’5″ body does not exactly profile as a shortstop, so a move to third base may be in the works. Pinero’s body is comparable to Nick Castellanos’ lanky frame when he was drafted, though Pinero does not have nearly the same bat speed.
Al Avila needed to find some hidden gems in the late round and it looks like he might have. Even though the philosophy of drafting college arms seems to still be active in the Tigers war room, there is a new emphasis on drafting players with a lot of upside. It should be fun watching these players develop as the years go on.