Prior to the closed period, the Tigers signed two players from the 2003 draft class. Outfielder Justin Justice (31 in '03) was drafted out of Tavares HS in Florida and signed after a season at Lake Sumter CC. Justice was a multi-sport star in high school, as he played football and soccer, in addition to baseball. In fact, Justice had an offer to play soccer at Central Florida, but decided to pursue baseball after going to school. Justice is a great athlete, but understandably is raw as a player since he has only committed to baseball on a full-time basis.
Justice was set to start his career in the GCL, but when Jordan Foster got hurt, Justice was summoned to Oneonta, where he hit .216 with three homers and 26 RBI's. Promoted to West Michigan, he hit .230 with two homers and 24 RBI's in 287 at-bats.
Justice needs a lot of refinement and is a candidate to start back at West Michigan next year.
After being drafted out of high school by the Phillies, catcher Dusty Ryan headed to Merced JC in California. After the Phillies allowed him to re-enter the draft, the Tigers tabbed him in the 48th round in 2003.
After hitting .398 as a sophomore, the Tigers signed him away from a commitment to Oklahoma State and Ryan had a great debut at Oneonta, hitting 274 with four homers and 26 RBI's.
Heading into 2005, Ryan was the top catching prospect in the system, but struggled mightily at West Michigan, posting just a .183 average with 70 strikeouts in 241 at-bats. Despite the setback, Ryan still has the chance to be a very good offensive catcher, but he needs a rebound year to reclaim the promise he had after the '04 season.
With the unexpected signing of Dallas Trahern and the success of Nate Bumstead, the Tigers have a nice nucleus from the '04 class to work with. The nucleus could get much deeper, should Andrew Kown bounce back, Matt O'Brien stays healthy and produces, and younger players such as Luke French, Brandon Timm, and Cory Middleton improve and tap into their considerable ceilings.