Conservative 2011 Draft Still Has Some Flash

The Detroit Tigers 2011 draft took many fans by surprise. All the talk leading into the opening of the draft was about the depth of quality players, particularly hard-throwing, high school pitchers. The expectation was the Tigers had an opportunity to be aggressive and re-stock a farm system strapped for impact players. Unfortunately, the cards fell much differently than expected.

The Tigers bucked their own standards by popping position players with their first five picks in the draft, and all of the college variety. Wichita State left-hander Brian Flynn was the first pitcher to come off the board to the Tigers, in the seventh round, and he would be the only picked until the Tigers went back to the mound in the 13th round.

For a system that has only two true impact prospects at the top of the rankings, and little depth behind that, the focus on college players is not necessarily surprising. The Tigers took just 15 high school players while snagging 34 college players that could theoretically move up the ladder quicker and help fill in the gaps In the system.

The breakout of talent in this draft class doesn't match the typical mold of a Tigers draft, though it does still offer some intrigue.

Best Hitter: Tyler Collins (Howard JC) and Jason Krizan can both square balls consistently. Collins uses all fields and has good bat speed to go with his knack for making contact. Krizan is an aggressive hitter that understands the strike zone and shows an ability to hit line drives all over the diamond. Kentucky's Chad Wright also has good hitting ability, but most scouts see him a tick behind Collins and Krizan.

Best Power: Several of the Tigers selections offer plus power potential. Third rounder Aaron Westlake (Vanderbilt) and fourth rounder Jason King (Kansas State) can both drive balls out of the yard. Westlake has the potential to rip 20-25 home runs annually if his hit tool plays enough to allow that power to show through. King has plus potential from both sides of the plate, but has more of a line drive swing than a classic home run swing. Fifteenth round pick Tyler Gibson (Stratford Academy) will be a tough sign for the Tigers but he does offer big time left-handed power.

Best Speed: Puerto Rican outfielder Ismael Salgado (16th round) is an absolute plus-plus burner with blazing straight line speed. He is still learning how to apply his speed, but there is no doubting the raw running ability. Michigan State product Brandon Eckerle (32nd round) is also a plus or better runner with good instincts that allow him to use that speed in game situations.

Best Defender: Fifth rounder Brandon Loy (Texas) is a brilliant defender earning nothing less than 60's from the scouts I spoke with and a few going so far as to suggest he could be a 70-grade defender once everything settles out. His range, footwork, hands, and arm all stand out at shortstop. Top pick James McCann (Arkansas) has a chance to be an above-average defender behind the plate.

Best Arm: Loy's arm is the best of the infielders and outfielders picked by the Tigers. He has a cannon across the infield with a quick release and good accuracy in addition to pure arm strength.

Best Fastball: Often the most intriguing category in any Tigers draft, the big time blazing fastballs aren't as prevalent in the 2011 class. Flynn can get up to 95 at times from the left side, but he works much more in the 91-93 range. Thirteenth round pick Ryan Woolley (Alabama-Birmingham) has also shown mid-90s heat but he tends to lose control and his ball flattens out at that velocity. Both Guido Knudson (UC San Diego) and Cole Brocker (Sacramento CC) have plus velocity and can work at 92-93.

Best Breaking Ball: Tommy Collier (San Jacinto JC) has shown a filthy slider that earned 60-65 future grades from scouts, but it has yet to come all the way back after Tommy John surgery. Brocker will flash a plus breaking ball at times.

Best Command: Mississippi's Matt Crouse (24th round) has outstanding command of his entire arsenal and is a surgeon with his 88-90 mph fastball. Though there are some moving parts in his cross-body delivery, Crouse will show 50-grade present command.

Best Potential: Gibson offers the highest ceiling of any player in this draft class. He could develop into a bat-first everyday outfielder with 25-home run power and solid secondary offensive skills. Some scouts believe Westlake's power could be enough to make him a second division regular, but he will have to prove he can make enough contact.

Best Value: Westlake provides very nice value in the third round of the draft. Several scouts turned him in as a supplemental round pick but the push to draft high ceiling signability concerns forced him down the board. As one of the best shortstop defenders in the draft, Loy being on the board in the fifth round was somewhat surprising. His defense alone could make him a big league regular.

First MLB Debut: McCann is a polished player that could find himself in Double-A in 2012 (his first full year) and he could be in the big leagues as a backup catcher sometime in 2013. Loy's glove is on the verge of being MLB-ready right now, and if he hits at all, he should fly through the system.

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