Tigers Keep Quiet in Rule 5 Draft

In the past two seasons, the Tigers have used the Rule 5 draft as a way of acquiring cheap, young talent, something the organization was sorely lacking. But after 2 years of stealing prospects, the Tigers elected to sit out the Rule 5 draft this time around. However, that didn't stop other organizations from nabbing a pair of pitchers from the Tigers.

Two years ago, the club nabbed Wilfredo Ledezma, Matt Roney and Chris Spurling in the Rule 5 draft.

Ledezma, after a breakout season in 2004, has emerged as one of the organization's top pitching prospects, figuring prominently into the rotation in 2005.

Roney didn't have quite the same success as Ledezma, but still is developing and has a chance at making it back to the big league club in the next year or two.

Spurling probably would have found himself in the Tigers' bullpen again in 2004, if not for Tommy John surgery in spring training that ended his season before it even started. However, Spurling is well on the road to recovery, and hopes to be back in the mix come February.

The Tigers didn't have quite the same success in the most recent Rule 5 draft – although they appear to have stolen another stud in DH/1B/C Chris Shelton. The Tigers other 2 selections, LHP Mike Bumatay and RHP Lino Urdaneta, didn't make an appearance on the big league roster.

Shelton spent most of the year as the 25th man for the Tigers, rarely seeing at bats. However, a AAA stint proved to the Tigers he was worth the spot – and an incredible Arizona Fall League campaign in which Shelton was named the League's MVP has many anxiously anticipating Shelton's return to Comerica Park, after some AAA seasoning.

Urdaneta had arm problems to start the year, and was placed on the disabled list. He pitched plenty in the minors on an extended "rehab assignment", however, didn't show much as far as results. Urdaneta was designated for assignment in September, and has yet to catch on somewhere else.

After watching Bumatay in spring training, the Tigers decided he wasn't yet ready for big league competition, and couldn't negotiate compensation with the Rockies, and so he was returned to Colorado. Bumatay had a rocky 2004 season, and became a minor league free agent at the conclusion of it. Surprise surprise, he has been picked up by the Tigers and will be a non roster invitee to spring training.

So, after two seasons in which the Tigers had nabbed a pair of their top youngsters in the organization, one would think the Tigers would once again enter the fold in an effort to upgrade the squad. Not so, as the team elected to keep the 40-man roster at 40, eliminating the possibility of adding a player (as any player drafted must immediately be placed on the 40-man roster).

The Tigers also didn't make a selection in the AAA or AA phases of the Rule 5 draft, so there won't be any new young talent like there has been in recent years.

But, just because the Tigers didn't make a pick, doesn't mean the organization wasn't affected. A pair of players were snagged in the AAA portion of the draft – RHP Felipe Garcia by the Pirates and LHP Chris Steinborn by the Rockies.

The 22-year old Garcia did very well for the GCL Tigers, but struggled in 7 appearances for the L-Tigers, posting an ERA of 6. That still didn't stop the Pirates from taking a chance on Garcia.

Steinborn, also 22, was a model of consistency for the West Michigan Whitecaps this season, posting an ERA just under 4 for the season. Steinborn wasn't a big strikeout pitcher, but displayed good control and was also a 2004 Midwest League All Star. He'll now attempt to make the jump to AAA in the Rockies organization.

So, as Dave Dombrowski predicted on Sunday, the organization did lose a couple of players from the organization through the Rule 5 draft. Luckily enough, neither were at the big league level – so no one projected to possibly contribute soon for the Tigers was lost.

Essentially, it was a quiet ending to a surprisingly quiet Winter Meetings for the Tigers. They were in on plenty of free agents, and talk was plenty, but little came of it. Luckily, prospects still remain for their pursuit.

As for the Rule 5 draft, nothing from it this year – but the team still has the success of Ledezma and Shelton to look fondly upon.

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