Detroit Tigers: Best draft picks by Round in team history

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 13: Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers throws a pitch against the Detroit Tigers in the first inning of Game Five of the American League Championship Series at Comerica Park on October 13, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 13: Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers throws a pitch against the Detroit Tigers in the first inning of Game Five of the American League Championship Series at Comerica Park on October 13, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /
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Detroit Tigers
Detroit Tigers pitcher Joel Zumaya throws in relief against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays August 1, 2006 in St. Petersburg. The Tigers won 10 – 4, the team’s 71st win of the season. (Photo by A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images) /

Round 20 – Casey Fien

Three 20th round picks by Detroit have made the big leagues. Casey Fien was the most successful, carving out an eight year big league career. However, he only threw 14 innings in the Motor City. Brian Maxcy threw 55.2 innings for the Tigers from 1995-1996, but had an ugly 7.28 ERA in that time. With 2008 selection Ryan Lollis never suiting up for the Tigers, I guess Fien wins by default.

Round 19 – John Doherty

Catcher Chris Hoiles is far and away the most successful player the Tigers have ever selected in the 19th round. The Tigers traded him before he ever made his big league debut however, in a deal for veteran Fred Lynn.

Next up is right-hander John Doherty, who went 32-31 with a 4.87 ERA for the Tigers from 1992-1995. Nothing special, but not bad for a 19th round pick.

Round 18 – Bob Strampe

The Tigers have had six players they picked in the 18th round make the big leagues. Only one of them, 1968 selection Bob Strampe, played for the Tigers. He threw 4.2 big league innings, giving up six runs and walking seven.

2014 pick Will Maddox is a career .312 hitter in the minors and has hit .293/.325/.347 at Double-A. The second baseman has a chance of squeaking into the major leagues in a year or two, which would probably make him their best Round 18 pick of all-time.

Round 17 – Vern Ruhle

Right-hander Vern Ruhle had a pair of solid seasons with the Tigers in 1975 and 1976, making a combined 63 starts with a 3.97 ERA and a 97 ERA+. He is far and away the best 17th round pick, with only Chad Smith (8.31 ERA, not the drummer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Rich Rowland (-0.4 bWAR) making the big leagues.

Round 16 – Dave Lemanczyk

The Detroit Tigers have had a surprising nine players drafted in the 16th round make the big leagues. The  best of the bunch, Mark Hendrickson, didn’t sign – he remained at Washington State to pursue baseball and basketball.

The next best was right-hander Dave Lemanczyk, who went 8-14 with a 4.58 ERA for the Tigers from 1973-1976.

A handful of forgettable pitchers, including Thad Weber, Scott Aldred and Jordan Tata fill up the rest of the rather uninspiring 16th round crew.

Round 15 – Mike Gerber

The Tigers have seen ten players who they drafted in the 15th round make the major leagues. Their COMBINED bWAR is -1.9.

So yeah, I’m taking the rookie with two career at-bats over the likes of Chris Wakeland, Ike Blessitt, Justin Lehr and Daryle Ward.

If Gerber can develop into an above-average fourth outfielder, which seems to be his ceiling, he will easily eclipse anyone else on this list.

2016 fifteenth round pick John Schreiber has turned a lot of heads in the minor leagues, and could be up with the big club this season after a strong start at Double-A Erie.

Round 14 – Casper Wells

Keith Foulke is far and away the best big leaguer the Tigers drafted in the 14th round, but he didn’t sign. Outfielder Casper Wells was taken in 2005, and made his big league debut with the team in 2010. He floated around to five different teams across four seasons, accruing 25 home runs in 276 games. He was traded by the Tigers to the Mariners in the infamous Doug Fister deal, which worked out quite well for Detroit.

Justin Verlander’s brother, Ben Verlander, was taken in the 14th round in 2013. Otherwise, it has not been a very notable round in Tigers history.

Round 13 – Devon Travis

(Honorable Mention: Charlie Puleo)

The 13th round has only produced two players with a career bWAR over 0.1. Unfortunately, the Tigers haven’t reaped the benefits from either of those players. Devon Travis is the most notable, having posted a 5.3 bWAR to date. He’s struggling tremendously in 2018, but at one point looked like a surefire All-Star caliber 2B for the Blue Jays. The Tigers dealt him to Toronto for Anthony Gose, in a trade that looked real bad at the time but hasn’t really helped either squad that much recently.

Charlie Puleo was taken by the Tigers in 1973, but he didn’t sign. He weirdly didn’t get drafted again, although he made his way to the big leagues in 1981 and pitched for eight seasons.

Round 12 – Bobby Higginson

(Honorable Mention: Matt Joyce)

The Tigers have only had six 12th round picks make the big leagues, although two of them turned out to be very solid outfielders. One of them is Bobby Higginson, who was one of the team’s best players in the 1990’s. Higginson played for the Tigers for 11 years, racking up 187 home runs and a 113 OPS+.

The other was Matt Joyce, who only played one year in Detroit but has had a great career thus far, putting up a career-high 25 home runs just last year with the Oakland A’s.

Lefty Kyle Ryan is the only other 12th rounder to have a positive bWAR. The recent selections haven’t shown much promise, so that may remain the case for a few years.

Round 11 – Joel Zumaya

(Honorable Mention: Bubba Trammell)

Round 11 belongs to the iconic flame-thrower Joel Zumaya, who was destined to become an elite reliever if not for a myriad of injuries. He was a key piece of Detroit’s 2006 team, throwing 83.1 innings of 1.94 ball with 97 strikeouts.

Outfielder Bubba Trammell deserves some love here as well. He hit .261 with 82 home runs in his seven-year big league career, although only 44 games were spent with the Tigers.

Stud Yankees reliever Chad Green was taken by the Tigers in the 11th round of the 2013 draft, and then unfortunately dealt to the Yankees in exchange for Justin Wilson.