#13 - Chris Shelton

The Tigers, due to their horrendous 2003 season, had the top selection in the rule-5 draft this offseason. With the pick, the Tigers, likely many other clubs, stole a player from the Pittsburgh farm system, nabbing C/1B Chris Shelton.

Chris Shelton was originally a member of the Pirates farm system out of the University of Utah. Shelton spent his first three seasons with the Pirates, until this offseason when Detroit selected him in the rule-5 draft. The contingency, as always with the rule-5 draft, is that if the Tigers don't keep him in the majors all year long, they will be forced to offer him back to the Pirates for half the cash that they took him for (originally $50,000).

Shelton spent a good portion of 2003 in low-A Lynchburg, where he was on pace to possibly become a triple-crown winner before he was moved up all way to AA Altoona. Shelton led the club with a .359 average with 21 HR's and 69 RBI – all league highs at the time of his departure to AA. He wasn't as impressive at Altoona, but in just over 100 at bats he still proved he could hit the ball with his .279 average.

The issue with Shelton has never been his bat – very few question his ability to hit the ball for average and power. What's more problematic is his lack of a true position. He has played Catcher in the minors, but very few believe he'll be able to cut it in the majors as big-league backstop. A move to First Base or the Outfield will probably be in store, however even there his defense will be suspect. Long term, Shelton is considered more of a DH, probably the reason he was left unprotected by the Pirates.

As stated before, it's either now or never for Shelton with the Tigers. To stick with the organization, he'll have to stick with the big league club. Pittsburgh would love to have Shelton back, even though they're not sure where they can put him in the field – especially without the option of using him as a Designated Hitter. Other position battles could determine whether or not Shelton sticks – namely, whether or not the Tigers can afford to carry a young pinch-hitter on the roster for an entire season.

Shelton is going to have a tough time sticking with the Tigers this spring. He has an excellent bat, and the Tigers would love to be able to hold on to him, but right now the Tigers will need every roster spot that they can get, and it will be very difficult for the Tigers to carry Shelton all season long – unless he can provide a significant contribution to the big league club – which is hard to see as he has only a month of experience in AA and nothing above that. The Tigers might initially try and keep Shelton on the roster (especially because they might go with only 4 starting pitchers through the first 2 weeks of the season), but don't be surprised if he ends up heading back to Pittsburgh.

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