I had no intention of writing this post, in this manner, I swear. I really thought I was going to write about how the Detroit Tigers haven't had that bad of a track record in the MLB draft. Just look at these results! (Are you looking?) They drafted Justin Verlander, and he's the last pitcher in the American League to take down the Cy Young and MVP Awards in the same year! CASE FREAKING CLOSED.
Yeah, sure, after 2005 there's a whole string of names like Brennan Boesch, Danny Worth, Alex Avila, Andy Dirks, Drew Smyly, and Nick Castellanos, guys with ratings that range from "he was definitely a baseball player" to "ooooof," but what do you expect? Do people really think the Tigers are going to strike #MustSeeJV gold every single year, especially when they keep winning and getting stuck with late draft picks?
You just read about 140 words in defense of the Tigers and their draft record, and that's pretty much as far as I got, so I decided to take a different approach to the draft data. Instead of looking at who they did draft and deciding, on a player-by-player basis, whether that was a successful draft year, I started at looking at who they didn't draft -- who was available, who was still in stock when the Tigers logged into MyMLBDraft dot com and hit "add to cart"? (That is how the system works, I assume.) This is where the whole thing just falls apart and ends with a lot of brow-furrowing and silent tears.
I think everyone knows about this one already, but it's part of Tigers lore, so I have to repeat it. The Tigers chose Andrew Miller when Clayton Kershaw was right there, all lanky and long-faced and left-handed, just ready to dazzle the world with that devastating curve ball and slider combo. Yeah, I know, the Tigers parlayed Andrew Miller into Miguel Cabrera, but still. That's adding a major asterisk to a post-draft story, and judging strictly by the draft results, this was a pretty big whiff. Miller over Kershaw? Seriously?
This was the year the Tigers got Rick Porcello, which, sure, you could argue that was a decent enough selection -- but before you start pounding stakes on that one, how does that pick look when you realize that Todd Frazier was available? Frazier has put up 15.3 WAR as a slugging third baseman in five seasons since 2011. Don't look at who played third base for the Tigers in 2011, it's not even worth oh god you looked anyway.
Wait, don't leave, this draft actually gets worse. After the Tigers took Porcello, and Todd Frazier was off the table, the Tigers selected Brandon Hamilton, a right-handed pitcher who spent three seasons in the minors, and never made it past Single-A.
While the Tigers were busy spinning brodies on that particular parking lot of a career, a pitcher named Jordan Zimmermann was still available, as was a young center-fielder named Michael Stanton. Maybe you'd recognize him better by the name Giancarlo Stanton.
Here, let me refill that bourbon for you.
The Tigers selected Ryan Perry, who gave them three seasons of accumulated 0.6 WAR in 161 ⅓ innings out of the bullpen (4.07 ERA, 4.28 FIP, 1.438 WHIP). They could have selected Gerrit Cole (7 WAR), Jake Odorizzi (5.1 WAR), or Tyson Ross (6.1 WAR). Also on the menu and available for selection? Brandon Crawford, a 13.9 WAR All-Star shortstop over five seasons, who also just posted a 114 OPS+ and won a Gold Glove.
Eh? What's an "Iggy?"
The real crusher here, though, is that not only was Crawford available while the Tigers picked both Ryan Perry and Cody Satterwhite ahead of him, but Craig Kimbrel was also still just hanging out by the snacks table, waiting for someone to tag him.
Ryan Perry was eventually traded to the Nationals for Collin Balester in December of 2011. By May of 2012, Balester had been DFA'd. Cody Satterwhite is still in the minor leagues, currently with the New York Mets.
Meanwhile, Craig Kimbrel has basically become the Craig Kimbrel of closers.
After a disappointing regular season in 2008, the Tigers got a top ten draft pick in 2009, and they spent it on Jacob Turner. Turner started 13 games between 2010-2011 before being traded (along with Rob Brantly and Brian Flynn) to the Miami Marlins for Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez.
Once again we're faced with a deep and philosophical question: if you take your draft picks and trade them away for Miguel Cabrera, or Anibal Sanchez, are you good at drafting or are you good at trading? What is the ultimate end-game of the draft, if not to end up with one more quality major league player on the roster than was there before? Does a trade not accomplish the same thing? But a draft pick is a draft pick, and a trade is not, so what is the meaning of life, and why does coffee always taste so much better than it smells?
The answer: absolutely none of this matters in the least little bit, because the Tigers chose Jacob Turner when Mike F***ing Trout was still available.
There is not now and there never will be enough alcohol in the world to make that okay.
This is where things get very sketchy, because the Tigers gave up their first-round picks three years in a row in order to sign big-name free agents. They lost their first round pick in 2010 for signing Jose Valverde, and missed the chance to draft Noah Syndergaard. Papa Grande's weird spit-spit-spit ritual and post-save dancing, or Thor's flowing blonde locks, 98 MPH fastball, and 10.0 K/9 rate? That hurts.
They lost their pick in 2011 for signing Victor Martinez, and that hurts a bit less, because V-Mart has been worth all sorts of WAR since then, and what did the team miss out on in the 2011 draft? Kolton Wong? Joe Panik? Jackie Bradley, Jr.? I think I'd take Victor Martinez over those guys.
Same goes for 2012, when the Tigers lost their pick due to signing Prince Fielder, who put up a lower WAR in his two years with Detroit than draft pick Alex Wood has put up in the three seasons he's spent in the majors, but meeehhhhhh. Without Prince Fielder saving the Tigers from a last minute DL disappearing act by Victor Martinez, the team probably wouldn't have made it to the 2012 World Series.
Yeah, I know, hindsight is everything when you're playing Monday Morning Quarterback, but we do have hindsight in this case, so we are 100% right. These are not great drafting results, especially when considered from the angle of which prospects the Tigers weren't interested in. Kershaw, Stanton, and Trout, all on the same team? Ouch, man, ouch.
Here's to better choices starting in 2016!