With any draft, teams look for players in the later rounds that could make an impact down the line and the Tigers have potentially several of them. Most pitchers who go 0-7 with a 6.58 ERA in their senior year have little opportunity to get a shot in the professional ranks, yet Josh Kauten (11) has been solid in his first two years with the Tigers.
The right-hander from Illinois State flashes a fastball that sits in the 89-93 range that has peaked at 95 with a good overhand curveball. Kauten led Oneonta in innings after signing with 64 1/3 and posted a 2-5 record with a respectable 3.92 ERA. Kauten followed up with another solid and steady year between West Michigan and Lakeland, going 8-5 with a 3.16 ERA. He issued only 29 walks in 116 2/3 innings, but also fanned only 67 hitters and 17 of his walks were issued in just 38 innings at Lakeland.
Kauten should return to Lakeland as a starter, where the Tigers hope he can keep making good progress.
Cole Miller (12) turned down a scholarship to South Carolina to sign with the Tigers and got off to a promising start in the GCL, leading the team with five home runs and driving in 16 runs with a .269 average. The catcher made a return trip to the GCL in 2005 where he had a miserable campaign, hitting just .182 with 22 strikeouts in 55 at-bats.
Miller is among the glut of catchers the Tigers have in the low minors and will need to make some noise in spring training to move up to West Michigan.
Brooks Colvin (13) played on Southwest Missouri State's College World Series team in 2003 and signed with the Tigers a year later after his senior year.
Colvin is built in the David Eckstein mold with his arm being his only standout tool. Colvin hit .260 with 10 steals at Oneonta after signing, but struggled at West Michigan with a .230 average, three homers and 33 RBI's.
Colvin does have patience at the plate, drawing 53 walks which was second best on the team. He also makes consistent contact, fanning just 79 times in 417 at-bats. Colvin should move up to Lakeland next year and be the everyday second baseman.
The Tigers were able to land James Skelton in the 14th round out of Covina HS in California, but the young catcher has had to fight for playing time since signing, getting just 77 at-bats in two years in the GCL. Skelton has just three RBI's as a pro, but has shown great patience in his little amount of playing time, drawing 20 walks.
He will need to better contact with 20 strikeouts, but he should be able to improve with a regular amount of playing time. Skelton has a wiry, athletic frame and sprays the ball to all fields with a line drive stroke. Like Miller, Skelton is in the catching logjam in the low minors and figures to stay in short-season ball in 2006.
The Tigers had to wait until 2005 to see Matt O'Brien (15) make his debut, as he had shoulder surgery after signing out of Florida Atlantic. O'Brien had aspirations of being selected in the first five rounds and was one of the seniors in the country before getting hurt.
O'Brien can run his fastball up to 94-95 and also throws a curveball and a splitter. The right-hander went to Oneonta and led the team with 89 innings pitched. He had a solid 6-3 record in 15 starts with a 3.34 ERA. For a pitcher only a year removed from surgery, his command was outstanding, as he walked only 24 batters, while striking out 57.
O'Brien has a nice ceiling, but because of his age, he will need to be pushed quickly which is always a dangerous proposition with someone still recovering from a serious injury. O'Brien should move into the West Michigan rotation, but he could see some time in Lakeland next year as well.
Stephen Young (16) from Princeton was another senior sign for the Tigers. The second baseman hit .281 against much younger competition in the GCL in 2004 and also had more walks than strikeouts (22/17) in 153 at-bats. Young also swiped nine bases, which was good for second on the team.
Young moved up to West Michigan in 2005 and played a reserve role, hitting just .233 in 202 at-bats. With Colvin playing at second base and Nick McIntyre emerging as a solid utility option, Young may need a big spring training to stay with the organization.
Ed Clelland (20) has very quietly put up two terrific seasons out of the bullpen after signing out of Gonzaga. In his two seasons, the lefty is a combined 12-2 with a 2.69 ERA in 62 appearances. In 83 2/3 innings, he has allowed 80 hits, but has issued just 20 walks while fanning 75.
Clelland changes speeds well and keeps the ball down, inducing plenty of ground ball outs. Clelland also keeps the ball in the yard, as he has allowed just three homers in his career. Clelland will move up to Lakeland next year and should get more publicity with another stellar campaign.