Spencer Turnbull is starting right now for the Tigers and has been truly excellent so far this season. Although it feels like Turnbull came out of nowhere after several seasons interrupted by injury, he was actually the Tigers' Second Round pick in 2014, and generally pitched well in the minors when healthy.
Given Turnbull's success, I started thinking about the Tigers' second round picks, and how they have not really succeeded. A second round pick should have a good chance of becoming a major league regular. The Tigers have not done so well. This is a brief survey of the carnage.
The draft started in 1965, and the Tigers have made a total of 53 second round picks. Those picks have accumulated 120 WAR, or just over 2 career WAR per pick. That's not very good. But for one gigantic success, the numbers would be even worse.
First, it is easy to identify the Tigers' best ever second-round pick. That is Hall of Famer Alan Trammell. His 70.7 rWAR exceeds all other second-round picks combined. But for Tram, the Tigers would be averaging less than 1 WAR per second round pick, which is pretty bad.
Getting 1 Trammell every 53 years is probably not that bad. But the second-best Tigers' second-round pick is Brandon Inge, with 19.2 career rWAR. The third-best is Drew Smyly with 9.7 rWAR . Getting 1 Inge and 1 Smyly from your second round picks every 53 years is pretty bad.
The 4th best Tiger 2nd rounder is a guy named Scott Kamieniecki, drafted in 1982, but he didn't sign with the Tigers and went to Michigan. He wound up going in the 14th round to the Yankees after his senior year. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Kamieniecki was from Mount Clemens, and was drafted by the Tigers out of High School and didn't sign. How did that happen?
No other Tiger second round pick has earned over 5.4 rWAR in his career (and that was Milt Cuyler. At his current pace, Turnbull could become the 5th best Tiger second rounder ever by the end of this year (and you could place him over Kamieniecki, who never played for the Tigers).
Only 23 of the Tigers 50 2nd rounders whose career has advanced to retirement or the Majors played in the bogs, and 11 of those had 0 or negative career WAR, bottoming out with the -1.5 earned by Shane Loux. Only Turnbull, Tyler Alexander, Rey Rivera and Parker Meadows are still active with the Tigers organization.
It is unfair to call Shane Loux the worst ever Tiger 2nd rounder because at least he made MLB. The highest pick in the draft who did not make the show was a guy named John Murphy, a left-handed pitcher drafted in 1975 (the year before Trammell), but he reached Triple A for the Tigers at age 20 in 1978, and was quite good. It appears he got hurt, because he only pitched 70 innings that year, and he next shows up in 1979 pitching 9 innings for the Cardinals' A ball affiliate (having completely lost his control).
Similarly, 1977's Jeffrey Jackowiak was out of baseball by age 19 when he couldn't handle Double A as a 19 year old.
1966's Scott Fields never played professional ball. He is listed as Bats unknown, throws unknown, from Marion OH. I'm going to go with that as the worst pick.