Holding the eighth overall pick, there was some sentiment that perhaps the Tigers would go after a name that was very familiar to Detroit fans. Prince Fielder had grown up around the Tiger Stadium clubhouse while his dad, Cecil, became of the top home run hitters of the 1990's for the Tigers. Heading into the draft, there was no question that Fielder had one of the top power bats available, but scouts were concerned about his weight, and many teams backed off from him, even though his dad hired a personal trainer to help Prince with his conditioning.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, they didn't get a chance to take Fielder because the Brewers took him one pick ahead of them. Smith said after the draft that the Tigers had no interest in the slugger, which proved to be an error on his part, as Fielder has kept his weight in check and with the trade of Lyle Overbay, he is set to be a part of solid youth movement with the Brewers.
Eventually, the Tigers wound up selecting shortstop Scott Moore from Cypress HS in California. Moore was considered a solid all-around player, who could develop nice power in the future, and had the hands and arm to move to third base. Moore quickly signed and made his debut in the GCL, where he hit .293 with four homers and 25 RBIs.
After playing shortstop in the GCL, the Tigers made his move to third base permanent in 2003, keeping Moore in extended spring training to get more practice time there. With Moore struggling to pick up the new position, his offense suffered at West Michigan and he hit just .239 and fanned 110 times in just 372 at-bats.
There was a lot of sentiment to have Moore repeat at West Michigan and platoon with Kody Kirkland at third, but the Tigers pushed him to Lakeland in 2004. Moore continued to struggle with his average, finishing at .223, but his power began to emerge, as he clubbed 14 home runs. He showed more patience with 49 walks, but also struck out 125 times in 391 at-bats.
Moore was traded last winter to the Cubs as the centerpiece of the Kyle Farnsworth trade, and the chance of scenery benefited him, as he hit .281, with career-highs in homers (20) and RBIs (82). Strikeouts were still an issue for Moore, as he fanned 134 times in 466 at-bats, but his performance was strong enough that the Cubs put him on the 40-man roster in December. Moore will head to Double-A West Tennessee and try to build on his breakout season from a year ago.
The Tigers stayed within the prep ranks with their second-round selection in Brent Clevlen of Westwood HS in Texas. Clevlen made a big impression at the Area Code Games in 2001 and performed well enough the following spring to be considered by the Marlins with the 11th overall pick. The Tigers drafted Clevlen despite his commitment to Texas and got him signed in August. The outfielder made a big splash in his month's stay at the GCL, hitting .330 with three homers and 21 RBIs.
Cleven went to West Michigan for the 2003 season and hit .260 with 12 homers and 63 RBIs for the 'Caps. He also showed good patience at the plate with 72 walks. On the downside, he fanned 111 times, but his numbers were good enough that he entered 2004 with high hopes of emerging as one of the elite prospects in all of baseball.
However, he struggled mightily at Lakeland, hitting just .224 with six homers and 50 RBIs. His plate discipline deteriorated, as he walked just 44 times, and struck out 127 times. His defense was equally bad with 15 errors in the outfield. The '05 season would an entirely different story as Cleven hit .302 with 18 homers and 102 RBIs en route to winning MVP honors in the FSL. Even though the strikeouts were high (118), he drew more walks (65), and finished with 50 extra-base hits. His .387 on-base percentage also led the FSL. His defense also was much better as he finished second in the league with 16 assists.
With his prospect status back intact, Clevlen will get his most significant test yet at Erie, where he could become a big factor in the Tigers' plans with a good season. Clevlen profiles a solid right fielder with a strong arm, budding power at the plate, and a discerning eye at the plate.
The Tigers may have found their center fielder of the future when they selected Curtis Granderson in the third round out of Illinois-Chicago. Granderson had a superb junior year, finishing second in the NCAA batting race to Rickie Weeks with a .483 average. After signing, Granderson continued to rake at Oneonta, as he earned MVP honors with a .344 average. He hit three homers, drove in 34 runs, and stole nine bases.
Placed on the fast track, Granderson went to Lakeland in 2003 and hit .286 with 11 homers, 51 RBIs, and 10 steals. Granderson's prospect status really took off with a banner season at Erie in 2004. His power emerged with 21 home runs and 93 RBI's to go with a .303 average. He also set a career-high with 80 walks and made his debut in Detroit going 6-for-25.
Granderson returned to the minors last year and hit .290 with 15 homers and 65 RBIs at Toledo. However, the patience he showed at Erie evaporated with the Mudhens, as he drew just 48 walks and struck out 129 times, easily the highest total of his career. Promoted to Detroit for a second time, he smacked eight homers and drove in 20 runs in 162 at-bats, but K's were still an issue, as he added 43 more to his total.
Coming out of college, most scouts thought Granderson would be a solid fourth outfielder, but he clearly has shed that label by producing at every level and handling the challenge of learning to play center field. The Tigers haven't had a solid center fielder since Chet Lemon patrolled Tiger Stadium during the 80's, but Granderson will be given every opportunity to win the full-time job with the Tigers in 2006, where he could put up solid numbers.
Just four picks after taking Granderson, the Tigers selected Matt Pender from Kennesaw State in Georgia. The choice came as compensation from the Mets for signing Roger Cedeno. Pender had arm problems during his college days and they would prove to be his undoing as a pro.
Pender won his first 11 decisions with the Owls and finished at 11-1 with a 2.85 ERA in his junior year. Pender's pro career got off a to a good start, as he went 2-2 with a 2.31 ERA in nine starts at Oneonta, but it went south very quickly. Arm problems began to set in the following year and he went 2-12 with a 5.19 ERA combined at West Michigan and Oneonta in 2003. Pender worked one inning with the GCL Tigers in '04, and was released prior to last season.
If they are deemed signable, players who also star on the gridiron are sought after because of their athleticism. Such was the case in the fourth round when the Tigers tabbed Robbie Sovie from the Stratford Academy in Georgia. Like most football stars, Sovie was raw on the diamond due to a lack of repetition and he also ran track. Despite tearing his ACL in high school, Sovie never lost any of his terrific speed and was the fastest player available in the draft.
He turned Western Carolina down on a football scholarship to sign, but got a late start to his career, as he didn't sign until August and hit just .188 in 80 at-bats with the GCL Tigers. Sovie returned to the GCL in 2003 and didn't fare much better with a .200 average in 130 at-bats. Sovie was promoted to Oneonta in 2004, but an injury limited him to just 21 at-bats, and he elected to give up baseball and returned to playing football at Western Carolina, where he finished up his freshman campaign in 2005.