The Tigers added six players to the 40-man roster, including right-handers Brayan Villarreal, Lester Oliveros, and Jose Ortega, left-handers Duane Below and Charlie Furbush, and shortstop Cale Iorg.
While the Tigers will not be able to select anyone in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 draft
because their roster is full, there may be a player or two that draw the interest of other teams.
The big name left unprotected by the Tigers is right-handed reliever Zach Simons. Simons was on the Tigers 40-man roster at one time, but was removed prior to the 2010 season, and promptly turned in a spectacular year of relief at both Erie and Toledo. Simons, a former second round pick of the Rockies, could be a prime target for a team looking for an extra reliever at minimal cost. I would expect the Tigers to lose Simons during the draft.
Two additional names that have come up among fans of the Tigers are shortstop Gustavo Nunez and
right-hander Ramon Lebron. Though both players were left unprotected, and on the surface they seem like guys that would draw attention from other teams, intricacies in the protection rules did not require the Tigers to protect them this year; similar to what happened with right-handed pitcher Luis Marte in the past.
Speaking of Marte, he is also available in the Rule 5 draft, and though he possesses a big league slider and fringy to average velocity, he is unlikely to be picked. The buzz generated by Marte has faded as his velocity has come back to earth and he has been limited to a relief role. Marte should stick with the Tigers organization later this week.
The final player that Tiger fans may hear about this week during the draft is right-handed starting pitcher Luke Putkonen. A third round pick of the Tigers out of North Carolina, Putkonen doesn’t have the pure stuff he once showed as a collegian, but he is still a durable, quality starter. A selection by another team would be a surprise given he has yet to pitch above High-A and he lacks a true out pitch to rely on in the big leagues, but sometimes teams are desperate for pitching and they will take rash
In reality, the Tigers only left one player unprotected that actually runs a risk of being selected, and that is relief pitcher Zach Simons. Simons could probably help a big league bullpen in 2011, and at a cost of only $50,000, there is likely a team that is willing to give him a shot in spring training.