If there is one area all teams are making a high priority with the draft, it is identifying the top senior talent for the later rounds of the draft. Because they have no leverage, they are the easiest players to sign and a team can sign a lot of them and not make a dent in the budget and if the players produce, they can become the ultimate draft steal.
The Tigers took 11 seniors after the 10th round and many of them turned in outstanding performances in their debuts. Michael Hollimon (16) was one of the top prep players in America in 2001, but a poor spring and high bonus demands caused his stock to plummet and he went to Texas, where he had three decent seasons. He transferred to Oral Roberts for his final year and came away as the co-Player of the Year in the Mid-Continent Conference. After signing, Hollimon blew NY-PL pitching to shreds, finishing with 13 homers, 53 RBI's, and recording 36 extra-base hits in 72 games. Hollimon has solid tools across the board and can be an above average defender at shortstop. If his debut is no fluke, he just might be the steal of the draft.
Burke Badenhop (19) became the third Bowling Green player taken by the Tigers in the last four years and the projectable right-hander had a solid debut, posting a 2.92 ERA in 77 innings and not allowing a single home run. Badenhop should be in the mix for a rotation spot at West Michigan in 2006.
Right-hander Matthew Norfleet (21) was a key cog to the O-Tigers success, as he had a 2.29 ERA in 18 games and held the opposition to a .219 average. He should be a part of the bullpen at West Michigan next year. Mark Haske (23) is a native of Saginaw who should be the utility player at West Michigan after hitting .270 in 45 games at Oneonta. Right-hander Jake Baxter (25) has a chance to crack the Whitecaps bullpen after fanning 31 in 30 1/3 innings.
Catcher Schuyler Williamson (26) didn't get much playing time (64 AB's) and hit just .203. Considering the difficulty the Tigers had in negotiating with the Army to allow him to play pro ball, I hope he gets a longer look than this.
Second baseman Will Rhymes (27) hit .413 as a senior, and the hits kept right on coming after he signed, as he tallied a .328 average, an OBP of 391, and struck out just 15 times in 250 AB's. He also swiped 14 bases. . Rhymes should be the everyday second baseman at West Michigan next year.
Unlike Rhymes, Ryan Roberson (30) is a big guy at 6-foot-6 with plenty of raw power in his bat. Roberson had 22 extra base hits in 197 at bats, including seven homers, 47 RBI's, and a .284 average. With Rafael Mendez struggling and Larish expected to start at a higher level, Roberson should be the everyday first baseman at West Michigan in 2006.
One thing that can always be counted on in a Detroit draft is for the Tigers to select at least one player from Oral Roberts. Tim Robertson (31) became the eighth ORU player drafted since 2000 by the Tigers and the second in 2005. The right-hander was steady at Oneonta, posting a 2.65 ERA in 16 games as a reliever and should be candidate for the bullpen at West Michigan.
Like Williamson, Chris Torres (32) didn't see much playing time (63 AB's) and hit .270. Given the high number of catchers in the low minors and the good chance of the GCL Tigers disbanding, Torres may need a good spring to stay with the organization.
Loren Fraser (33) was better as a junior at UC-Santa Barbara, where he had a 1.94 ERA, compared to his senior ERA of 5.16. A right-hander, he finished with a 3.45 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings. He should be in the mix for a middle relief spot at West Michigan next year.
If you are a lover of statistics, here is one on Clemson's Jeff Hahn (35). The right-hander had a near three to one groundball/flyball out ratio in his college career (223 to 79). Hahn quickly established himself at Oneonta, working 22 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run and receiving a promotion to West Michigan. He went into the Whitecaps rotation and went 4-2 with a 3.25 ERA in six starts. Hahn has earned in invite to instructional ball with his performance, so it will be interesting to see if the Tigers keep him as a starter, or move him back to the bullpen.
Up next in tomorrow's edition; "the unsignables".