The Tigers opened the day by selecting Kentucky right-handed reliever Matt Little in the 31st round. Little, a redshirt junior, burst onto the scene two years ago by touching 95 with a nasty slider in the Coastal Plain League.
Bowling Green right-hander Brennan Smith was tabbed by the Tigers in the 33rd round. The Mid-American Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2009, Smith’s fastball resides in the 88-92 range. The junior also throws a good splitter.
The Tigers added another reliever to their draft crop by taking Southern right-hander Cody Hall in the 35th round. A junior who can run his fastball up to 95, Hall led Southern in appearances and saves this spring.
The final two pitchers the Tigers selected are both left-handers and hail from the junior college ranks. The first was Jake Dziubczynksi from Central Arizona CC, who was the second Vaqueros player the Tigers took after selecting left-hander Chris Joyce in the 29th round on Tuesday.
Taken in the 38th round, Dziubczynksi tops out in the 88-89 range with his fastball, and he projects. The freshman throws strikes, and he also mixes in a good changeup and curveball.
Easily the tallest player the Tigers drafted (6-8, 190, per MLB.com) Jake Ross is a definite project should he sign. The Tigers’ final pick of the draft in the 50th round, the left-hander has a great frame to work with, and he tops out in the high-80s. Ross also throws a curveball and changeup, but makeup issues have hindered him. Ross is presently attending Wor-Wic CC in Maryland, which doesn’t have an athletics program.
Alabama first baseman Clay Jones was the first position player the Tigers grabbed, as he was selected in the 32nd round. A good defender at first base, the senior leads the Crimson Tide in home runs with 17.
The Tigers added another senior with the selection of George Mason shortstop Ryan Soares in the 36th round. The Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year, Soares is one of 10 semifinalists for Wallace Award, which is given to the nation’s top shortstop. For the year, Soares hit .438 with 17 homers and 71 RBIs.
It’s not often you find a player eligible for the draft as a freshman, but Cal State Fullerton’s Carlos Lopez was. Drafted in the 37th round as a first baseman, Lopez was the second Titan to be taken by the Tigers after Corey Jones was selected in the seventh round. Lopez went undrafted out of high school, and he took a medical redshirt last year after undergoing knee surgery. The freshman is enjoying a good year by hitting .372 with seven homers and 50 RBIs heading into this weekend’s super regional series with UCLA.
In the 41st round, the Tigers selected Holy Cross third baseman Matt Perry. The Patriot League Player of the Year in 2009, Perry follows both his father and grandfather into professional baseball, and he is the first player to be drafted from the school since 2004. For the year, Perry hit .409 with five home runs and 36 RBIs.
The Tigers made Tabor College (Kan.) catcher Tyson Kendrick their final senior pick of the draft. Taken in the 49th round, Kendrick was the KCAC Player of the Year this spring after hitting .429 with four home runs and 54 RBIs.
Although the chances of the Tigers signing any of their high school picks on Wednesday is remote, they do bring plenty of intrigue.
One of the top two-way performers in the Midwest is Kokomo’s (In.) Nolan Sanburn, who was the first prep player taken by the Tigers in the 34th round. Drafted as an outfielder, Sanburn is a versatile player who also catches when he doesn’t pitch.
As a position player, Sanburn shows five-tool potential, and on the mound, he tops out in the low-90s with a slurvy breaking ball and changeup. An Arkansas recruit, Sanburn could get the chance to go both ways in college for the Razorbacks.
The Tigers went with another outfielder with the selection of Millard West’s (Neb.) Kevin Grant in the 42nd round. Grant, (Ed. note: Updated 2PM with new accurate information) who will attempt to walk-on at St. Thomas (MN) while on academic scholarship, gained notoriety for being a member of “Dude More Perfect,” a group that perfects basketball trick shots. Their videos got them national attention from ESPN after being placed on Youtube. Grant is the nephew of one of the members of the Philadelphia Phillies scouting department.
One round later, the Tigers made a curious pick with the selection of Bishop Carroll Catholic’s (Kan.) Blake Bell. Drafted as a right-handed pitcher, Bell is committed to play quarterback at Oklahoma. A multi-sport athlete who didn’t play baseball as an upperclassman, Bell has a big frame to go with plenty of raw arm strength, and it will be interesting to see if the Tigers try to lock up his baseball rights similarly to what the Angels did with Washington quarterback Jake Locker last summer.
The lone player the Tigers drafted from the state of Michigan was Hudsonville catcher Jacob Morton. Selected in the 45th round, Morton is a newcomer to the position having moved from the outfield during the offseason. An Oakland University recruit, the Tigers have recorded pop times of 1.8 seconds on Morton.
In the 47th round, the Tigers went back to the infield by taking Sandy Creek (Ga.) shortstop Chris Triplett. A Georgia Tech recruit, Triplett likely faces a move to second base at the next level. Triplett sprays the ball all over the field, and he has the chance to be an above-average hitter in time. Triplett’s arm and speed are also solid tools.
Timbercreek (Fla.) outfielder Tyler Marincov was the Tigers’ final high school pick of the draft. Selected in the 48th round, Marincov mirrors Bell in that he was a quarterback, but he differs due to casting his lot with baseball. A North Florida recruit, Marincov didn’t get seen much by scouts last summer due to football, but his upside is considerable. In addition to his arm strength, Marincov runs a 6.9/60, and has a good frame that projects. A 4.0 student, Marincov has the chance to be a five-tool player in time, and he could be a significant draft in three years if everything comes together.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
As you might expect, the Tigers drafted a few players with close ties to the organization. After selecting Jim Leyland’s son, Patrick, in the eighth round on Tuesday, the Tigers selected the sons of coaches Lloyd McClendon and Rick Knapp, as well as scout Marty Miller, and the younger brother of pitcher Justin Verlander.
The Tigers took Bo McClendon in the 39th round, and Pete Miller was selected one round later. McClendon, an outfielder who followed in his father’s footsteps by playing at Valparaiso, posted a .424 on-base percentage in his senior year.
Miller, a shortstop from Trinity International University (Ill.), hit .333 with four home runs and 35 RBIs.
In the 44th round, the Tigers took Port Charlotte (Fla.) right-hander Ricky Knapp. A Florida Gulf Coast recruit, Knapp gets good movement on his fastball that reaches 90, and his pitching arsenal includes a slider, curveball and changeup with the latter profiling as his best pitch.
Goochland’s (Va.) Ben Verlander is following the same path as his older brother. They attended the same high school, and the younger Verlander is also headed to his brother’s alma mater at Old Dominion. Selected in the 46th round, the right-hander has a very projectable build and throws in the mid-80s. Verlander should also get the chance to swing the bat in college.
Overall, the Tigers had good balance by taking 26 position players and 25 pitchers to account for their 51 selections.