The MLB First-Year Player Draft (the June draft, or, just, the draft) is often referred to as a crapshoot. Baseball draft picks, even those chosen in the first round, are rarely safe bets, and even a top tier player can bust (Kyle Sleeth, anyone?). Predicting picks isn't that much easier; organizations guard their draft boards very carefully, and often disagree with who the experts think top players are.
Yet organizations often have draft identities, in that they often like to choose a particular type of player. Often this happens because of who is in charge of the scouting department. In the case of the Tigers, that man is David Chadd, Vice President of Amateur Scouting and Special Assistant to the General Manager. While Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski has ultimate control over whom the Tigers pick, Chadd is a trusted advisor who is generally given credit for Tigers drafts.
What I'd like to do in this post is go all the way back to 2005 to look at the patterns laid out in David Chadd's drafts. By doing this, we can pick up on some trends in Chadd's drafting style (including one or two that you probably know by heart at this point). This might help determine who the Tigers will ultimately pull the trigger on tomorrow and Friday. Let's examine the first three rounds of the draft and see what the players looked like at the time they were drafted.
2nd Rd: Jake Thompson, RHP, TX HS
3rd Rd: Austin Schotts, CF, TX HS
With no first-round pick due to the signing of first baseman Prince Fielder, the Tigers had a bit of a strategic disadvantage in 2012. However, they selected two pretty good players in Thompson and Schotts. Thompson is a right-handed power arm that projects as a #3 starter, and Schotts is a speedy center fielder that could start one day if he hits his ceiling.
2nd Rd: James McCann, C, Arkansas
3rd Rd: Aaron Westlake, 1B, Vanderbilt
One of the more boring Tiger drafts in recent memory, both McCann and Westlake were polished college products. McCann was a good all-around catcher in a weak draft for college catchers, and Westlake was a power-hitting first baseman. Neither McCann nor Westlake were high ceiling prospects, but were seen instead as fast-moving college players.
1st Rd (supplemental): Nick Castellanos, 3B, FL HS
1st Rd (supplemental): Chance Ruffin, RHP, Texas
2nd Rd: Drew Smyly, LHP, Arkansas
3rd Rd: Rob Brantly, C, UC-Riverside
Perhaps the most successful draft in recent memory, the 2010 draft saw four key prospects drafted in the first three rounds. Nick Castellanos was a top prep infielder that slipped down into the supplemental round due to signing concerns. Ruffin was a relief pitcher out of Texas with three good pitches. He projected to be a back of the bullpen piece, with some arguing that he didn't quite have the stuff to close. Smyly was a polished starter out of Arkansas, but projected as a #4 starter without the big fastball that normally defined David Chadd drafts. Brantly was another college catcher in the mold of Brian McCann, but with a better bat.
1st Rd: Jacob Turner, RHP, MO HS
2nd Rd: Andy Oliver, LHP, Oklahoma State
3rd Rd: Wade Gaynor, 3B, Western Kentucky University
Turner was a right-handed monster of a prep arm, and a top prospect for years in Detroit until dealt to the Marlins for Anibal Sanchez. Oliver was a college lefthander with a big arm and control issues. Gaynor was a power-hitting third baseman for Western Kentucky that needed a bit of polish.
1st Rd: Ryan Perry, RHP, Arizona
2nd Rd: Cody Satterwhite, RHP, Missisippi
3rd Rd: Scott Green, RHP, Kentucky
The infamous relief draft saw the Tigers pop four relief arms in the first four rounds of the 2008 draft. Perry was a starter-turned reliever with a great arm that many scouts thought could move quickly. Satterwhite was the same; a power arm that could touch 98 that landed up getting hurt badly. Green was a failed starter that reinvented himself in the bullpen at Kentucky, where he got his fastball into the mid 90's and flashed a good slider at times.
1st Rd: Rick Porcello, RHP, NJ HS
1st Rd (supplemental): Brandon Hamilton, RHP, AL HS
2nd Rd: Danny Worth, SS, Pepperdine
3rd Rd: Luke Putkonen, RHP, UNC
Rick Porcello slid to the Tigers all the way at #27 due to signing concerns. A top prep arm, Porcello was projected to be a top of the rotation pitcher. Hamilton was a power prep arm with good stuff and awful control; his fastball touched 95 and he had a good (though horribly inconsistent) curve. Danny Worth was an advanced college player with one of the best gloves in the draft. Putkonen was a college right-hander with okay stuff drafted out of a good college program.
1st Rd: Andrew Miller, LHP, UNC
2nd Rd: Ron Bourquin, 3B, Ohio State
3rd Rd: Brennan Boesch, OF, UC Berkeley
Miller was seen as one of the top left-handed starters in the 2006 draft, with a fastball that touched the upper-90's and good breaking pitches. Bourquin was an advanced college bat that dominated the Big 10 in 2006. Boesch was an advanced college hitter, albeit one with an inconsistent approach and problems with generating power in games.
1st Rd: Cameron Maybin, OF, NC HS
3rd Rd: Chris Robinson, C, Illinois
Maybin was a toolsy center-field prospect that was ranked as Baseball America's #2 High School player in 2005. Robinson was a polished catching product with a decent bat and good defensive chops.
So after examining eight drafts, what can we tell about David Chadd?
1) Expect a power arm. In every draft save for 2005 and 2011, the Tigers have spent an early pick on an arm that's been able to throw gas. Often people assume that this will be a power right-hander from a high school (Thompson, Turner, Porcello, Hamilton) but the Tigers have also drafted power lefties out of the college ranks (Oliver, Miller) and relief arms that can throw gas (Perry, Satterwhite, Green).
2) If the first pick isn't a power arm, it will probably be a toolsy prep player. There isn't a huge amount of evidence for this, but given that the Tigers so often spend their first pick on power pitching, drafting Castellanos, Maybin and Schotts shows a tendency for the organization to look for high school kids that have a very high upside.
3) Chadd likes drafting polished college players. In every one of these drafts save for 2012, the Tigers selected a college player with a low ceiling. Some of these guys were relatively polished with role player futures (McCann, Brantly, Smyly, Worth, Robinson, Boesch) and some had question marks (Westlake, Gaynor, Green, Putkonen), but every draft features highly-picked "boring" college players with limited ceilings.
4) If you're expecting predictions on specific positions, put your money on "catcher" and "relief pitcher." While the catching depth has improved, the Tigers love spending high picks on advanced college catchers. McCann, Brantly and Robinson all have scarily similar profiles, one shared by later draft picks Alex Avila and Bryan Holaday, and so the Tigers have established a type of catcher they like to pursue. They also love power relief arms. Between the entire 2008 draft and both Ruffin and Oliver, expect the Tigers to draft guys that could pitch in relief as soon as this year.
Now, it's entirely possible that the Tigers go off-book entirely on Thursday and Friday, but based on historical trends, expecting power arms and toolsy high schoolers early with a solid dose of college players late is on par with David Chadd's draft history.
Thanks to Baseball America for scouting reports.