2001 Draft Review: The Top Five Picks (Pt. 1)

After the 2001 season, Baseball America rated the Tigers' draft effort as the best. As we near the five-year anniversary of that draft, much of the promise shown back in 2001 has completely disappeared, and now it appears the Tigers will get very little out of this draft.

Holding the 11th overall pick in the draft, the Tigers had high hopes of landing one of the top two-way players in the country in John VanBenschoten from Kent State. The Tigers loved VanBenschoten's bat, but the Pirates snatched him with the 8th overall pick and surprisingly, they kept him on the mound (most teams liked his bat better).

VanBenschoten reached the majors in 2004, but underwent shoulder surgery and the Pirates hope to get him back sometime this year.

With VanBenschoten gone, the Tigers went with right-hander Kenny Baugh of Rice. Baugh was no stranger to being drafted. He was selected by Tampa Bay in the 70th round in 1997 as a high school senior, and he turned down the A's as a fifth rounder in 2000.

Most considered Baugh's selection a signability pick, as he was a senior and he signed right after the draft. As a collegian, Baugh topped out at 95 with his fastball, with a solid curve and changeup. However, Baugh had a ton of work on his young arm while at Rice, working a school-record 459 2/3 innings, including 282 2/3 alone as an upperclassman. In addition to the innings, Baugh had a start where he threw an astonishing 171 pitches against Nebraska in a super-regional game.

What the Tigers did with Baugh after he signed may have been was one of the dumbest things this organization has ever done.

Instead of allowing Baugh some time to recover from his workload, the Tigers sent him first to West Michigan for six starts, and then to Erie for five more. He worked 64 1/3 innings between the two stops, and pitched well, going 3-4 with a solid 2.24 ERA and 69 strikeouts, but he finished with an incredible 205 1/3innings between the pros and Rice, so it came with little surprise that his season ended with a tired arm. Baugh's shoulder problems persisted into 2002 and he eventually underwent labrum surgery that June.

Baugh returned to the mound in 2003 at Lakeland where he went 3-0 with a 3.86 ERA in four starts, which earned him a promotion to Erie.

With the SeaWolves, Baugh went 7-9 with a 4.60 ERA in 19 starts and worked 130 2/3 innings combined in his return to the mound. Baugh made a return trip to Erie in for the ‘04 season and his numbers improved to 8-8 with 3.72 ERA in 24 starts, but was shutdown for the last three weeks of the season with inflammation in his right shoulder. After fanning just 70 batters in ‘03, Baugh struck out 107 batters in 142 2/3 innings and his stuff was returning close to what he had shown at Rice.

Last year, Baugh pitched at Toledo where he went 12-8 with a 3.38 ERA in 28 starts. The 165 1/3 innings he worked was the most he worked as a Tiger, but ironically in what turned out to be last start as a Tiger, he left a postseason start with stiffness in his shoulder.

On December 12th, the Tigers finalized the signing of free agent lefty Kenny Rogers and to create room on the 40-man roster, the Tigers traded Baugh to San Diego for reliever Ricky Steik. Baugh was recently designated for assignment by the Padres, but he cleared waivers and is expected to take a rotation spot for Portland in their minor league system.

The Tigers picked up a supplemental first-round pick with the loss of Juan Gonzalez and with the 32nd overall selection, the Tigers took second baseman Michael Woods from Southern. Woods came to the Tigers with high expectations after winning Player of the Year honors as a junior with a .453 average, 14 home runs, 54 RBIs, and 32 stolen bases.

After signing, Woods got 37 at-bats at Oneonta before receiving a promotion to West Michigan, where he hit .270 with 17 RBIs in 163 at-bats. The ‘02 season got off to a disastrous start for Woods, as he injured his right knee on opening night of the season, which set him back three months. After getting 21 at-bats with the GCL Tigers in his return, Woods couldn't shake the rust off and struggled to a .225 average with two homers and 11 RBIs in 111 at-bats at Lakeland.

Woods played his first full season in 2003 at Lakeland, but he continued to struggle with the bat, hitting just .205 with no home runs and 27 RBIs in 116 games.

Health issues returned in ‘04 for Woods, who landed on the disabled list twice, with a dislocated right thumb ending his year in July. When he was playing, Woods seemed to turn the corner with the bat, hitting .281 with two homers, and 23 RBIs. He also put together a 23-game hitting streak and it appeared he may finally be turning the corner.

In 2005, Woods moved up to Erie and stayed healthy, but his average plummeted to .231 in 130 games. He did set career-highs with eight homers and 47 RBIs, and was second on the team with walks with 50, but also struck out 119 times.

The Tigers decided to give up on Woods and released him this spring.

The Tigers turned their attention back to pitching in the second round with the selection of right-hander Preston Larrison from Evansville. After starring in the Cape Cod League in 2000, Larrison struggled in his junior year, going 8-4 with a 5.25 ERA, but with a fastball that reached 97 and a good changeup, the Tigers were glad to get him.

Larrison appeared in 10 games, making eight starts at Oneonta, where he posted a solid 2.67 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 47 1/3 innings.

The 2002 season proved to be Larrison's coming-out party, as he dominated the Florida State League with a 10-5 record and a 2.39 ERA. In 120 1/3 innings, he allowed just 86 hits, and held FSL batters to a .200 average.

With a banner season at Lakeland, Larrison was clearly on the fast track, but his ‘03 campaign was simply dreadful, as he went 4-12 with a 5.63 ERA at Erie and had more walks (59) than strikeouts (53). Larrison did have one highlight in 2003. He was the winning pitcher at the Futures Game, which was played in his native Chicago.

The former Purple Ace pitched better in 2004, going 5-3 with a 3.05 ERA in 20 starts, but he underwent Tommy John surgery in August, and he made his return last season, making 16 starts with a 5-5 record and a 4.94 ERA in 71 innings. Larrison was set to pitch in the Arizona Fall League, but the Tigers decided to let him rest and he kept his spot on the 40-man roster this winter.

Larrison often gets lost in the shuffle in the pitching depth, but if he can make a full recovery from surgery and showcase the stuff he had previously, the Tigers will have another potential option for their pitching staff.

With their second compensatory pick from Cleveland, the Tigers tabbed left-hander Matt Coenen from Charleston Southern. Coenen had a large frame at 6-foot-6, 230 pounds that offered plenty of projection. He worked in the low 90's and had a solid cutter that chewed up right-handed hitters.

After a heavy workload in his junior year, Coenen went to Oneonta , where he went 2-2 with a 3.04 ERA in 10 games (nine starts). In 47 1/3 innings, he allowed 44 hits, walked 16, and fanned 37.

He went to West Michigan in 2002 and had a solid year for the ‘Caps, as he went 14-8 with a 3.38 ERA in 28 starts. In 165 1/3 innings, he gave up 148 hits, walked 65, and struck out 141 batters.

Coenen was ticketed for Lakeland in 2003, but he was traded to the Braves in March for Chris Spurling. Coenen went 8-10 with a 3.86 ERA at Myrtle Beach in '03 and went to Double-A Greenville in 2004, going 3-5 with a 3.09 ERA primarily as a reliever.

Coenen returned to the rotation last year at Atlanta's new Double-A affiliate at Mississippi and was pounded, going 3-9 with a 5.27 ERA in 19 games. Coenen appears to be becoming an organization player for the Braves and with Spurling having the opportunity to be a decent middle reliever, the Tigers look to have gambled correctly with Spurling, even though he had Tommy John surgery and missed a season.

The Tigers thought they were drafting their third baseman of the future with the selection of Jack Hannahan from Minnesota in the third round. Hannahan left Minnesota with high accolades, garnering the Big 10 Player of the Year award, as well as tournament MVP honors. Considered the best defensive third baseman at Minnesota since Terry Steinbach, some scouts thought he would follow Steinbach behind the plate, but the Tigers kept him at third base.

Hannahan split time between Oneonta and West Michigan after signing and hit .311 with one homer and 35 RBIs in 60 games.

Put on the fast track, Hannahan went to Lakeland in 2002 and hit .272 with six homers and 42 RBIs in just 66 games. Those numbers earned him a promotion to Erie, but Hannahan struggled with the advanced pitching, hitting just .239 with three homers and 20 RBIs in 65 games. Strikeouts were also an issue with Hannahan, as he fanned 94 times, but he also drew 57 walks.

Hannahan returned to Erie in 2003 and improved his average to .257. He finished with nine homers and 57 RBIs. He improved his BB/K rate with 48 walks and 78 strikeouts, but he also committed 34 errors.

Hannahan went back to Erie in 2004 and again, showed marginal improvement at the plate, hitting .273 with eight homers and 35 RBIs. He drew 53 walks and fanned 60 times.

Hannahan finally got playing time at Toledo last year, hitting .269 with four homers and 28 RBIs in an injury-plagued season.

Even though the former Gopher has struggled offensively, his glove remains solid and he has overcome alcohol abuse to be on the cusp of reaching the big leagues. No longer considered the third baseman of the future, Hannahan could still make it as a reserve. He should return to Toledo to play everyday at third base in 2006.

Stay tuned for part two of the 2001 draft review on Wednesday

Jason Avery is an Associate Editor at TigsTown.com, covering all amateur baseball topics for TigsTown. He can be reached at Jason@TigsTown.com.


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