Detroit Tigers: The most important offseason move

Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila watches spring training.
Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila watches spring training. /
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Detroit Tigers Player Development Option 3: Raid College

Detroit Tigers
Michigan Wolverines head coach Erik Bakich and Vanderbilt Commodores head coach Tim Corbin meet before game three of the championship series of the 2019 College World Series. Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports /

There has always been an interesting dynamic in college baseball when it comes to player development. Obviously it behooves teams to help players maximize their ability, but the drive to win games often comes at the expense of pitch development, swing optimization, and, sadly, player health.

But the last decade has seen 2nd- and 3rd-tier programs embrace player development as a means to compete with more talented schools. Many college teams took to modern development methods quicker than their pro counterparts — Wake Forest’s pitching lab rivals anything at the MLB level. Big-league clubs took notice and began picking off college pitching coaches like Derek Johnson, Wes Johnson, and of course, Chris Fetter.

But why stop at pitching coaches? Why not target the people in charge of the whole program? After all, their entire job is taking a bunch of 17-23 year olds and teaching them how to play winning baseball. It’s probably impossible to lure away the elite coaches like Kevin O’Sullivan of Florida, or Vanderbilt’s Tim Corbin, but what if the Tigers turn to Ann Arbor again?

Michigan Head Coach Erik Bakich has an outstanding track record, from working as a volunteer assistant at Clemson, to running recruiting at Vanderbilt, to successful stints as the head coach at Maryland and Michigan. Eight Michigan players have been drafted in the top five rounds in the past three years. Only Louisville, Mississippi State, UCLA, and Vanderbilt have had more top-five picks, with nine apiece. That’s a remarkable achievement for a Big Ten school, and the Detroit Tigers would be wise to see if Bakich is interested in moving to pro ball.