Detroit Tigers: Best Division 1 Pipelines in franchise history
By Andy Patton
Detroit Tigers fans are anxiously awaiting the 2018 MLB Draft. Here’s a look at which schools the Tigers have historically drafted out of.
As is true with most franchises, the Detroit Tigers have drafted a healthy mix of high schoolers, junior college and Division 1 baseball players. And again, the mix of players who have fallen below, reached or exceeded expectations is roughly in line with the rest of the league.
The Tigers have spread the love when it comes to drafting Division 1 baseball players. While it’s not surprising that the school’s they have drafted the most from are local, they have also taken a lot of college baseball players from California, Texas, and Arizona. Here’s a look at the school’s that Detroit has selected from the most, with their most recognizable selections highlighted.
University of Michigan – 34
Unsurprisingly, the Detroit Tigers have made the most D1 selections from the University of Michigan, located in nearby Ann Arbor. The team primarily selects UM alumnus in the later rounds, typically taking seniors who can be used as minor league roster fillers for a year or two.
The Tigers have been taking less UM players lately, having only drafted five since 2007. Two of them, left-hander Grant Reuss and infielder Jake Bivens, were taken last year in rounds 27 and 29, respectively.
The last big leaguer the Tigers selected from UM was Rick Leach back in 1979. Leach played three years with the Tigers, sporting a .236 batting average in 235 games.
Michigan State – 23
UM’s rival Michigan State has had 23 players selected by the Tigers, none since they took three Spartans in 2015. Cam Gibson, son of Kirk Gibson, was taken in the fifth round of that draft. They also took left-hander Cam Vieaux (who didn’t sign) and first baseman Blaise Salter in the 31st round.
Detroit has only seen two Spartans make the big leagues: 1980’s and 90’s icon Kirk Gibson and Mel Behney, who had a -0.4 bWAR in five games after going in the fourth round of the 1967 draft.
Central Michigan University – 23
Noticing a theme? Even more so than MSU and UM alumnus, the Tigers draft Central Michigan players near the end of the draft to have as roster fillers. Only one, Gary Taylor, has ever reached the big leagues. That was back in 1969, when he pitched in seven games.
The Tigers have only taken four Chippewas since 2010, with the most recent being 2015 28th rounder Pat Mackenzie.
Eastern Michigan University – 22
Three players drafted by Detroit out of EMU have played in the big leagues. That list includes Chris Hoiles, who was taken in the 19th round back in 1986 and went on to have a solid career as a catcher for the Baltimore Orioles.
Detroit’s last EMU selection was Jimmy Gulliver in 2009 in the 20th round.
UCLA – 16
The Tigers have had far more success drafting from other California schools like USC, Cal-State Northridge, Fresno State and Pepperdine. However, they’ve taken the most from powerhouse UCLA despite limited success from this pipeline. Four UCLA products have reached the big leagues after being taken by the Tigers. Bob Adams (1973) Colin Ward (1982) and Torey Lovullo (1987) were all busts, while Dave Roberts (1994) found big league success, but not with Detroit.
Detroit’s last UCLA selection was 2014 fifth rounder Shane Zeile. The catcher played nine games in rookie ball in 2017 as a 24-year-old, and appears to be out of baseball now. Another UCLA pick that didn’t go so hot.
Vanderbilt – 15
Thirteen of Detroit’s 15 Vanderbilt selections have come in the last 12 years, as the program has vaulted themselves into the pantheon of elites. Seven have come since 2012, including current Tigers reliever Drew VerHagen.
The Tigers took center fielder Ro Coleman in the 34th round last year, their first Vandy selection since taking Adam Ravenelle in the fourth round in 2014.
This is a list of every other school I could find that the Detroit Tigers have selected ten or more players from. Note: I could have missed some. If you see any schools that you think I missed, please don’t hesitate to reach out! I’ll happily look it up for you.
Here’s each school, along with the most notable drafted player:
Miami – 14 (Kurt Knudsen, 1988)
USC – 12 (Steve Kemp, 1976)
Arizona State – 11 (Lerrin LaGrow, 1969)
Fresno St. – 11 (Jeff Weaver, 1998)
LSU – 11 (Charlie Furbush, 2007)
Mississippi – 11 (Brian Maxcy, 1992)
Pepperdine – 11 (Danny Worth, 2007)
UT-Austin – 11 (Corey Knebel, 2013)
Auburn – 10 (Clete Thomas, 2005) (For Now)
Cal-State Fullerton – 10 (Jeremy Giambi, 1995)
Florida State – 10 (Devon Travis, 2012)
Minnesota – 10 (Jack Hannahan, 2001)
UNC – 10 (Andrew Miller, 2006)
Next: Detroit's best picks per reach round in draft history
What does this mean? Well, it means the Tigers will probably grab a couple local college kids in rounds 20-40 to use as roster fillers. Casey Mize still looks like the consensus No. 1 overall pick, so Auburn should get another Tigers selection. Hopefully, Mize is a better Detroit Tigers player than Clete Thomas.