Draft and Follow Update: Part II

After examining the players that the Tigers took in the first 30 rounds whose rights they still hold, we take a look at the players in the typical DFE slots, and who the Tigers might be keeping tabs on as the college ranks get rolling.

34. Brandon Johnson, RHP, Butler (Kan.) CC.
Johnson has the ideal pitcher's frame at 6-foot-5, 215 pounds, and he is beginning to fill out his large frame. When he signed at Butler, he sat in the low-to-mid 80s, but he has gained velocity, and tops out around 91, with plus tailing and sinking action. Johnson worked a lot of innings during the spring and summer, and was tired when he pitched in the fall.

Johnson has significantly improved the command of his slider, and with his changeup evolving into an average offering, he has the makings of nice repertoire. Johnson continues to add strength, but tends overthrow and muscle the ball when he gets into trouble, so the coaching staff is working with him to stay relaxed and throw free and easy when things go awry. The Tigers have raved about his character and makeup, and once he improves his mental approach, he could be an interesting prospect. Johnson has signed with Western Illinois, but had schools from the Big 12 and SEC in to look at him.

41. Taylor Freeman, C, Seminole State (Ok.) CC.
Of the three catchers the Tigers have under control, Freeman is the least developed, but he offers a very significant upside. Freeman was drafted out of one of the most rural parts of Oklahoma, so he has had to adjust to much better competition. Freeman was a shortstop in high school, but has the athleticism to play several spots on the diamond.

The coaching staff had thoughts about putting him at third base, but Freeman will catch, and also play at first base and DH. Obviously, being new to catching, Freeman is very raw behind the plate, but has made nice strides in learning all of the nuances of the position.

However, Freeman's calling card is his bat. The coaches have worked with him to stay back on pitches and trust his hands. Freeman hit four homers in the fall, including a 400-foot blast that cleared the stadium lights, and he also runs well for a big guy. Freeman has also turned some of his baby fat into muscle, and could be a potential premium player in time.

43. Tyler Mattox, RHP, Connors State (Ok.) CC.
One year ago, Mattox was making nice progress with his stuff, but had to undergo Tommy John surgery, and took a medical redshirt in the spring.

Mattox did not pitch in the summer, and the coaching staff has kept Mattox under wraps by having him throw bullpens and staying on course with his throwing program. Coach Perry Keith says Mattox is coming along and is about 80 percent and is throwing without pain. The coach also mentioned that Mattox has been clocked in the low-80s when he has been throwing in the bullpen and hopes to have him back by January.

Before he got injured, Mattox was showcasing an intriguing arsenal of pitches, and if he is able to show that stuff during the spring, the Tigers will definitely be taking notice.

44. Ryan Kilmer, OF, Connors State (Ok.) CC.
Drafted out of Midway City High School in Oklahoma City, Kilmer shows five-tool potential, and showed signs of growing into those tools in the fall. Kilmer is a big guy, who has the ability to play in center field, thanks to his good speed, but he could also move to a corner spot, provided his bat comes along far enough to warrant a move there.

Kilmer saw time in both center and left in the fall, and is in the mix to get playing time at both spots. Kilmer showed flashes of power in the fall, but his progress with the bat will determine how much playing time he_ll get in the spring.

46. Kent Williamson, RHP, Cowley County (Kan.) CC.
Williamson is no stranger to the draft, having been selected by the Dodgers in 2005 out of high school. Williamson is similar to the other pitchers the Tigers have under control in that he has a solid pitchers frame that offers plenty of projection. The right-hander also has a fluid delivery, and has a deep repertoire that should keep him as a starter in pro ball.

His fastball resides in the 88-92 range, and he has a solid changeup. Where Williamson has made the biggest stride is with the command of his curveball. It's an overhand hook with huge break in it, and his control of it became more consistent in the fall. Williamson has also developed a cutter to give him a fourth pitch. Like most young pitchers, Williamson needs to repeat his delivery consistently and keep honing his craft. Williamson has committed to New Mexico State.

48. Matt McDonald, RHP, Ulster (N.Y.) CC.
McDonald is a Canadian native who may have gone a little higher in the draft had he not been stricken with strep throat during the season, which caused his velocity to dip. McDonald has a lean frame that projects, and he spent much of the fall working on adding muscle to it.

McDonald has a smooth delivery, and can throw strikes with both his curveball and changeup. His fastball resides in the 87-89 range, but the Tigers hope that as McDonald continues to mature physically, he will gain velocity on his heater. If he does, the Tigers could have a very solid prospect on their hands, although making his pro debut might take awhile, as work visas are generally gone by the time the draft rolls around. Despite being a solid student, McDonald hasn't committed to a four-year school, and is leaning towards joining the professional ranks.

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