TigsTown MLN: New Draft Candidate in the Fold

This past week, it was made official what many thought would happen; a top pitcher officially became available to be selected at the top of the draft - will it affect the Tigers decision making process?

With under a week to go before the draft begins, the Tigers got a lot of help with the start of the closed period on Tuesday morning. The Tigers officially got another candidate to look at with the sixth overall pick when Luke Hochevar re-entered the draft after the Dodgers failed to sign him.

Hochevar has made a few starts for the Fort Worth Cats, a member of the independent American Association, and has shown a fastball that has reached 97, with a good slider and a curveball. Hochevar hasn't held his stuff beyond the first few innings, but that was expected with a long layoff from pitching.

The big question with the former Tennessee standout is his price tag, which is said to be a major league contract around four million dollars, and he also has Scott Boras as an adviser. The Tigers certainly have dealt with Boras in the past, and if they feel more comfortable with Hochevar over Texas center fielder Drew Stubbs and prep left-hander Clayton Kershaw, the Tigers certainly won't hesitate to draft him--if they get the chance. Seattle is said to be taking a hard look at him with the fifth pick.

The Tigers also got help when Bryan Morris of Motlow State (Tenn.) and Pedro Beato of St. Petersburg (Fla.) failed to sign with Tampa Bay and the New York Mets respectively by Tuesday's deadline.

Morris was a third-round pick last June and agreed to a bonus last summer, but the former front office in Tampa delayed finalizing the contract and Morris went to school. Morris posted an 0.91 ERA this spring and showed a fastball that reached 95 with a good curveball and slider, but he needs to clean up his mechanics. Morris is a candidate to go in the supplemental part of the first round, but could go earlier.

Beato was selected in the 17th round last year and was thought to be a cinch to sign, because the Mets aren't known to be tight-fisted with money and they also don't have a first-round pick. Beato has a sinking fastball that tops out at 96 with a good slider and a changeup, but like Morris, he needs to clean up his delivery. Beato has a good frame and could go in the 15-30 range in the draft.

Even though the Tigers likely won't get either Morris or Beato, their unexpected appearance in the draft helps them, because the Tigers now have a better chance to get a targeted player with their second-round pick that they otherwise may not have had a shot at beforehand.

Kershaw wasn't nearly as good as he was in his return when he took the mound in a playoff game last week, but got the win in Highland Park's 11-4 triumph in the region playoffs. He surrendered a home run in the first inning and struggled with the command of his secondary pitches. He allowed seven hits and three runs over 6 1/3 innings of work, but struck out nine and also hit a homer at the plate and finished 3-for-3 with three RBIs. Kershaw is now 12-0 with a 0.61 ERA this year, and the Tigers should get one final look at the left-hander before the draft this weekend.

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