The Detroit Tigers selected high school right-hander Joel Zumaya in the 11th round of the 2002 MLB Draft. The Tigers were able to come to an agreement with Zumaya, who was from a poor neighborhood near the Mexican border in California.
Zumaya was reaching the high-80’s in high school, but the Tigers drafted him hoping they could tap into some more velocity. Indeed they did, as Zumaya reached triple digits just a few short years later when he made his electric big league debut in 2006.
Zumaya started throughout the minor leagues, but was transitioned into a bullpen role in 2006 after narrowly losing the fifth starter competition to another rookie, Justin Verlander. He immediately slotted into the back of Detroit’s bullpen, posting a masterful 1.94 ERA with a 10.5 K/9 and a 233 ERA+.
Unfortunately, injuries completely derailed Zumaya’s promising career as a lights out reliever. From 2007-2010, Zumaya tossed just 126.1 innings, racking up a 3.78 ERA and an 8.1 K/9. He was out of baseball by age 26.