Results: In what was quite possibly one of the biggest busts in recent memory, the 2003 draft was a real dud. In fact, of the entire draft, not a single player appeared in more than 30 games as a MLB player, and only one (Dusty Ryan) posted a positive WAR (and that was only 0.1). Just three of the top ten round selections even made a big league appearance (Jay Sborz, Tony Giarratano, Virgil Vasquez). The mix of experienced college players and talented high schoolers didn’t yield any results for the club.
Busts: The whole draft was largely a bust, but the one to write home about was first round selection Kyle Sleeth. The right-hander was taken third overall, but languished in the minors, in addition to undergoing Tommy John surgery. Sborz, the club’s second round pick, didn’t fare much better, yielding a 67.50 ERA in his lone major league appearance.
Booms: The closest thing to a success would be Ryan, but a reserve catcher that got most of his playing time as a September call-up can’t be considered a boom. This gets an N/A grade.
Results: Two words: Justin. Verlander. Beyond him, much of the draft was as poor as the 2003 draft, but any draft that headlines with arguably the best pitcher of the decade has to go down as a success. The Tigers focused heavily on the college route early on, with each of their top six selections coming from the college ranks. Lucas French had some success in Seattle as a back of the rotation innings eater.
Busts: Second round pick Eric Beattie never made it to the big leagues, and Jeff Frazier only saw 23 at-bats in the show. Neither Collin Mahoney or Andrew Kown (who rounded out the top five) ever made it up, either.
Booms: That Verlander guy turned out alright. The more interesting factoid is that Verlander almost didn’t sign with the Tigers, and in fact if not for Verlander’s father intervening, the Tigers had chosen to move on after difficulty dealing with Justin’s agent. They ultimately resolved the situation, got Verlander into the organization, made a few tweaks, and by 2006, he was a full time starter in Detroit and Rookie of the Year, following that up with the myriad of accolades many are familiar with, including five All Star game appearances, an MVP and and a Cy Young.
Results: Again with a heavy focus on the college ranks, the 2005 Draft has turned out quite a few productive players, even if didn’t quite produce the stars many hoped it would. The Tigers had a trio of outfielders pan out from the draft that would make for a respectable starting outfield today, with Cameron Maybin, Matt Joyce and Casper Wells all coming from the ’05 Draft. Clete Thomas did as well.
Busts: Third round pick Chris Robinson, a heralded catcher, never made it to the show, despite hanging on in minor league baseball over the years as an experienced backstop. There were very high hopes for Maybin, which he obviously didn’t achieve, but he has still productive enough to be a starting center fielder in San Diego, swipe 40 bases in 2011 and earn a 5-year, $25 million extension.
Booms: Matt Joyce was one of the big coups of the draft, as a 12th round selection out of the Tigers spring home backyard, playing for Florida Southern. Joyce is the everyday right fielder for the Tampa Bay Rays (after being traded for Edwin Jackson). Wells and Thomas also had some success, as did Burke Badenhop, who was a product middle reliever for Florida after being a part of the Miguel Cabrera trade.
Results: Another college heavy draft (but this one even lacked the talented high school prospect at the top) as left-hander Andrew Miller was the crown jewel. Ron Bourquin, Brennan Boesch, Ryan Strieby, and Scott Sizemore rounded out the top five as the Tigers went hard after productive college position players. Again, just three of the top ten picks found their way to the show, and only Boesch has anything to show as success for the Tigers.
Busts: Miller never developed into the dominating starter many thought he would, and is only hanging on in the big leagues as a middle reliever in Boston. He did of course provide value to the Tigers as the other key piece in the trade for Cabrera. Bourquin and Strieby never made it to the big leagues, while Sizemore has been sidetracked by multiple ACL tears.
Booms: A few months of Brennan Boesch produced almost all of the success the Tigers got out of the draft, as his 2.5 career WAR produced something for the club. Duane Below and Casey Fien have both had limited major league success, albeit neither is still in the organization.
Results: The ’07 Draft was possibly the Tigers biggest investment in a single draft class, giving seven figures (or near that) to four players on above slot deals. This was also a bigger swing for the fences year, with more high school talent, and another college talent that was very rusty coming off a Mormon mission in Cale Iorg. With Rick Porcello as the headliner, he’s become a productive starter, but given the money invested, it’s worth questioning what the Tigers got out of it.
Busts: Neither Brandon Hamilton or Cale Iorg ever made it to the show, though Iorg is still trying now with his second organization. The other bonus baby, Casey Crosby, remains a potential option while pitching in Toledo, but his ERA has pushed ten in his three career big league starts and he’s never been able to dominate while constantly battling arm injuries.
Booms: Porcello never fulfilled his ace potential, but has still emerged as a solid starting pitcher and is only 24 years old. Both Luke Putkonen and Charlie Furbush have found limited success as third/fourth round picks working in middle relief.
Results: The famed (or ill-fated) reliever draft of 2008 has slowly come into focus, and the biggest success appears to come from convenience rather than successful scouting. The top four selections were all college right-handed relievers – only Ryan Perry found his way to the big leagues, and even that just for a limited time. The success came from drafting Alex Avila, the son of assistant GM Al Avila, and Andy Dirks, a Wichita State player in the backyard of scouting director David Chadd. It’s hard to argue with a draft that produces a starting left fielder and an All Star catcher, but the way they got there left much to be desired.
Busts: Perry was a bust for never emerging as the shutdown reliever they thought they were getting. The whole strategy can more or less be considered a bust given that none of the top four, in addition to Tyler Stohr, Jade Todd, Anthony Shawler, etc. made it to Detroit.
Booms: Dirks has proven to be a solid left fielder for the Tigers when he’s healthy, and Avila had a great 2011 season for the Tigers, back when he was healthy. It remains to be seen how much either player will contribute long term, largely due to health concerns, but the two have already combined for nearly 12 WAR in nearly 650 games.
Results: Now within the five year window, it’s approaching the “too early to tell” point in time, but we still have an idea. Much of the draft class again appears to be busting out, with only two of the top ten making it to the big leagues, and only one other (bonus baby Daniel Fields) with a realistic shot of getting there still. Jacob Turner, the highlight and the Tigers last first round pick until 2013, is now a Marlin, and Andy Oliver is now a Pirate. The only other player that made it to the big leagues was Adam Wilk, who is now in Japan.
Busts: Oliver certainly, in addition to Wade Gaynor and Edwin Gomez, one of whom had limited success in the minors but couldn’t continue that up the ladder, and the other never did much of anything even in the minors.
Booms: At this point, no one has boomed, but Turner or Fields still have the potential to do so.
Results: Without a first round pick, the Tigers “magically” found Nick Castellanos, one of the top five talents in the draft, falling all the way to them at the 44th selection, and while he has yet to debut in the big leagues, remains one of the top hitting prospects in baseball. Drew Smyly has found success already pitching in Detroit, while Chance Ruffin and Rob Brantly have gotten opportunities elsewhere in baseball to succeed, they haven’t yet.
Busts: Simply put, it’s too early to tell at this point, as even players like Brantly who are struggling at the moment are just now getting their opportunities in the big leagues.
Booms: Smyly, no matter what his future holds. Everyone else remains a to be determined.
Results: The Tigers went all college and almost all position players in this one, and thus far, it doesn’t appear to be working out. Many of their top selections are languishing in the minor leagues, and top selection James McCann (76th overall) hasn’t been able to move up from Erie. Tyler Collins remains a wild card as a good bat that could be a strong corner outfielder.
Busts: It’s still too early to call, but Aaron Westlake, Jason King and Brandon Loy are all headed for bust category, with none of them appearing to have much of a shot at making the big leagues at this point in time.
Booms: No one yet.
Results: The Tigers had to wait until the 91st pick to make a selection in 2012, where they nabbed right-hander Jake Thompson, a big high school arm. They stayed on the high school path in the next round to grab outfielder Austin Schotts, and then turned to the college ranks to populate their pitching staff.
Busts: The top two picks will need many years to develop, and even the college guys are just 12 months in.
Booms: No one yet, but Will Clinard, a 19th round pick, could end up being the first of the group to make his debut, as he’s proven to be a strong late inning reliever, and already has made it to Double-A.
On the pitching side of things, it’s hard to argue with the Tigers’ success. Verlander makes up for just about anything, but even then they’ve gotten very good production out of Porcello in the rotation, and lots of potential for Smyly to do the same. They also have a laundry list of arms who have been serviceable either in the back of the rotation or in middle relief, even if none of those bullpen guys came from the 2008 reliever draft. The likes of Andrew Miller, Casey Fien, Charlie Furbush, and Burke Badenhop have all found some success and if they were all still in Detroit could help provide some semblance of a bullpen.
Position players on the other hand, it’s been slim pickings. The busts have been extensive, and most of the success stories come down to picks of convenience – Avila (5th round pick, son of an assistant GM), Joyce (12th round pick in Lakeland’s back yard) and Dirks (8th round pick in Chadd’s hometown). Outside of those three, the Tigers have backup outfielder types (Boesch, Wells, Thomas), and whatever it is exactly you consider Cameron Maybin to be. There could still be some success in the outfield as well from Collins, Castellanos, and Fields, too.
The most alarming aspect is the Tigers complete inability to identify and develop an infield prospect, despite some significant investment there. Giarratano, Jeff Larish, Bourquin, Strieby, Sizemore, Worth, Iorg, Gaynor, Gomez, Westlake, King, Loy. 12 players over ten years that were among the top five rounds (Iorg was a 6th but with a seven figure signing bonus), and it’s hard to argue the Tigers got anything out of any of them.
Based on the above, if history is any indication, you should expect to see the Tigers go after college pitching when they can, which the Tigers have had some success with, while mostly staying away from the high school ranks, especially as it’s unlikely the Tigers will be able to steal talent like they did years ago before the slots were enforced and the bonus pools put in place.
Buyer beware on infielders though; the Tigers success rate on producing big league infielders is about as good as Justin Verlander’s batting average.