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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KANSAS CITY, MO – SEPTEMBER 27: A baseball sits on the field before the game between the Detroit Tigers and the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on September 27, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images) /

Vern Ruhle

With considerably less minor league teams per system, players in the 1970’s were often promoted much sooner than they are nowadays. It is still surprising that right-hander Vern Ruhle made his big league debut in 1974, just two years after being selected in the 17th round of the draft.

Ruhle, like many late round gems, came to the Tigers from a small school. In this case it was tiny Olivet College, where Ruhle is the school’s only big leaguer.

Ruhle was a September darling in 1974, going 2-0 with a 2.73 ERA and a 140 ERA+. He parlayed that into a starting spot in the rotation in 1975, a role he held in Detroit for three seasons. In that time, Ruhle posted a 4.22 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP with 13 complete games and a 93 ERA+.

Ruhle eventually signed with the Houston Astros, where he found quite a bit more success as a swingman. He pitched until he was 35 years old, finishing with 3.73 ERA in over 1,400 career innings. Not bad for a 17th round pick, even if Detroit only got to enjoy Ruhle’s growing pains early on.

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