Detroit Tigers History

Detroit Tigers: 5 Best Late Round Picks in Team History

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NEW YORK - JULY 18: Outfielder Bobby Higginson #4 of the Detroit Tigers at bat during the game against the New York Yankees on July 18, 2002 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York. TheYankees won 5-3. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JULY 18: Outfielder Bobby Higginson #4 of the Detroit Tigers at bat during the game against the New York Yankees on July 18, 2002 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York. TheYankees won 5-3. (Photo by Al Bello/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) /

Joel Zumaya

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.

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