The Tigers have drafted eight right-handed pitchers, one left-handed pitcher, and two outfielders so far in the draft. This may seem a very odd way to put together a baseball team. And this may seem very odd for a team that has five right-handed starting pitchers among the league's best. But looking at the minors, it makes sense.
On Saturday mornings I enjoy a cup of coffee while poring over the minor league statistics. In previous years the pattern has been reasonably consistent. Toledo or Erie would have multiple starting pitching prospects, guys with high strikeout totals who may or may not also have high walk totals. Lakeland would have a rotation with low ERAs in a pitcher-friendly league. And the Whitecaps would have a mix of power arms with rough numbers (the real prospects) and high pitchers with high win totals but low strikeout and walk rates (the pitchers being groomed for trading).
The position players were a different story. There were always a few to get excited about, but forget about looking at infielders or catchers. There were enough outfielders that someone would pan out. But this year is different. As I scan through the minors, at Toledo I see Jordan Lennerton, Nick Castellanos, Brandon Douglas, Bryan Holaday, and Ramon Cabrera. At Erie I see Daniel Fields, Tyler Collins, Hernan Perez, Eugenio Suarez, and James McCann. At Lakeland I see Dean Green, Dixon Machado, Harold Castro, and Steven Moya. And at West Michigan I see Devon Travis (wow), Danry Vasquez, and Austin Schotts. A total of 17 players that I can get excited about, figuring two or three will become big leaguers. There are three catchers and six middle infielders. Boy how times have changed.
But looking for starting pitchers is a different story. At Toledo, Jose Alvarez is exciting. He is left-handed and Venezuelan. Alvarez is a reminder that with the Tigers, who they sign internationally outside of the draft is a significant part of their player development plan. Alvarez could help in the Tigers' bullpen right now. Lefty Casey Crosby could help if he stops walking six per nine innings. The bullpen has the usual faces who travel I-75 as needed. Erie has lefty Kyle Lobstein, left available by the Rays in the rule 5 draft. Lakeland has lefty Kyle Ryan. West Michigan has Jake Thompson, a righty drafted in the second round last year out of high school. Thompson is the only right-handed starting pitcher on the list, and at 19 years old is years away from helping the big league club.
With a total of five starters that are worthwhile prospects, maybe one will develop into a quality major leaguer. A couple will get hurt. A couple will never develop enough command. A couple will stop developing. So the Tigers recognized the problem and calmly addressed it. Management clearly is confident in their future, as such a lopsided draft leaves them open to criticism. But eight big right-handed college starting pitchers should turn into at least one quality major league relief pitcher. And hopefully soon. This year would not be too soon! But which one?
And what is it with Vanderbilt? In the seventh round the Tigers finally take a position player, Connor Harrell from Vanderbilt. I have lost track of how many players the Tigers have drafted from there in recent years. Do they have a scout who lives in Nashville? Did Don Kelly go to school there?