2004 Draft Review

As if it wasn't obvious before the draft, it definitely is now – Tigers President Dave Dombrowski has a consistent draft strategy, and it centers around power pitchers. We have yet to see how this strategy will work for Detroit, as this was just the third draft since Dombrowski has joined the organization – but Dombrowski's track record in Montreal and Florida indicate he knows what he's doing.

The Tigers drafting philosophy centered around power pitchers, and in this particular draft, the reasons were two-fold. One, and this applies every year, Dombrowski believes that it is easier to add position players that will contribute through free agency as opposed to pitchers (see this past season's free agency for evidence). And two, this particular draft was considered extremely thin on position player talent.

The Tigers also showed a tendency to grab college players early, as their top 6 selections all came from the college ranks. Position-wise, the Tigers split their selections right down the middle, nabbing 25 pitchers and 25 position players (although early on they obviously focused on pitching).

With the 2nd overall pick, the Tigers grabbed Justin Verlander. They had interest in Stephen Drew, Jeff Niemann and Homer Bailey as well, but Drew's contract demands scared the Tigers away, and Niemann's decreased velocity as the season wore on worried scouts. In the end, Verlander, with arguably the best fastball in the draft and college experience won out over Bailey. Verlander however is not the classic college pitcher – while many college pitchers drafted high are considered close to the majors, Verlander has a ways to go. His 7-6 record with a 3.49 ERA isn't outstanding, especially when considering the level of competition. He also has some serious work to do with his control before he can be considered major league-ready. No telling yet whether or not Verlander will pitch this season, or be shut down until next year like Kyle Sleeth was after he signed last year.

And if Verlander is a high risk pick, the Tigers selected their second round pick as their safety pick. Righty Eric Beattie, out of the University of Tampa, should move quickly through the system. While Verlander is the high-risk, high-reward type, Beattie is the polished college pitcher that the Tigers know what they are getting. The Division II Pitcher of the Year, Beattie features a low-90's fastball (comparatively slow with some of the other Tiger selections) with great sink on it. He throws easy and has excellent mechanics, meaning he'll more than likely pitch somewhere this season in the organization, probably starting with Oneonta.

The Tigers traded their top high-level position prospect just before the season started in OF Cody Ross. The Tigers tried to replace him with their third round pick, OF Jeff Frazier out of Rutgers. Frazier isn't great defensively, and certainly isn't a big threat on the basepaths, but bottom line, he can swing the bat. He may or may not develop 30-Homer potential, but should hit for a good average no matter where he plays. The Tigers front office is weary of moving players quickly through the system, but the Whitecaps could sure use him in low-A ball.

The Tigers fourth and fifth round picks mirrored their first and second round picks.

Fourth rounder Collin Mahoney is a huge project, who was just converted from Catcher, but also happens to possess a fastball that can reach triple digits. However, he currently has no other reliable pitch (he has a work-in-progress slider), and doesn't have great location with the fastball. But for someone that can reach triple digits, the risk is worth it.

Fifth rounder Andrew Kown is much more polished, already having 2 major league ready pitches, a 90-mph fastball, and a slider that resembles what most would call a cut fastball. His easy delivery and the fact that his velocity increases as the game wears on indicates he should be a very capable starter, but he'll need to develop an off-speed pitch first before he'll be able to be considered a legitimate prospect as a starter.

The Tigers next 5 picks featured 4 high schoolers as opposed to the first 5 selections, which all came from the college ranks.

SS Brent Dlugach from Memphis is excellent in the field with good gap power, giving the Tigers another middle infield prospect to develop. The Tigers also took another Shortstop in the 10th round; Cory Middleton from Escambia High School – Middleton isn't as good in the field and will need a lot more work, but has great bat speed and shows power potential – if he had a stronger arm, he'd be destined for Third Base.

The Tigers grabbed a pair of high school pitchers as well, including their only lefty among the first ten picks; Lucas French. French, a big-bodied lefty, has three average pitches, but the body that he could become a force down the road with some maturity. The other high school pitcher; Chris Carpenter, is yet another big kid with room to grow. He already has a fastball in the low-90's and a slurve that are good pitches right now, with development and growing time, he could be a very solid pitcher down the road.

For the most part in the draft, the Tigers focused on pitching, and players up the middle (Catchers, middle Infielders, Centerfielders). They have a split of production and tools as far as the players they brought in; some appear to be able to move through the system quickly, while others will need development time in the minors.

Overall, the Tigers had a solid draft. The pick of Verlander is a risky one, but could end up paying off huge dividends down the road. He's definitely a gamble, but no more of one than Niemann or Bailey at the same spot, so this is one of those picks where the Tigers will just have to trust their scouts. Beattie and Frazier aren't high ceiling players, but should move quickly and become contributing major leaguers. The player to watch for is Carpenter – a big body with 2 solid pitches already is hard to find in a high school player – if the Tigers can sign him, he could be one to watch down the road.

It is always impossible to grade a draft right after the fact, simply because there is no telling how a number of these players will turn out. Unlike the NBA and NFL drafts, these kids will not come in and make contributions right away, so the Tigers will have to wait a few years before we'll know how this draft actually turned out. But overall, Dave Dombrowski, Greg Smith and Co. receive a solid B for their effort.


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