TigsTown Draft Notebook: DFE Update

The 2007 season is a unique one for major league teams and their relationship with junior college players. After 20 years, the draft-and-follow rule was abolished with the new collective bargaining agreement, and this spring marks the final time that clubs will have a year to evaluate players they drafted the previous June that are in junior college before they decide whether or not to sign them.

Fifth-year seniors at Division 1 schools are also under control to their drafting teams (Jeff Kunkel from last year), but the Tigers do not have any controlled seniors among the 11 players they still control the draft rights to. So far, several players are off to terrific starts, and a few have fallen by the wayside. With seven weeks to go until the closed period starts, here is an updated look at the Tigers' 2007 draft-and-follow class.

15. Franco Valdes, C, Broward (Fla.) CC
Valdes elected to enroll at Broward instead of attending Florida International to keep his pro options open. After a breakout summer in the Clark Griffith League, he has held his own by hitting .276 with two homers and 18 RBIs in 105 at-bats, although he has been inconsistent with the bat having not played during the fall due to injury.

Valdes also has had issues controlling the strike zone with eight walks and 47 strikeouts, although he is solid defensively. Playing on a squad that has 10 players total (five alone to the White Sox) who were selected last year, Valdes has been heavily scouted by the Tigers, but a recent commitment to Virginia will definitely make him the toughest sign of all of the draft-and-follows.

Having just turned 18 in February, he is younger than many prep players who will be eligible this year, and he'll have a one-year head start, but an inconsistent bat coupled with the aforementioned Virginia commitment will give the Tigers pause before electing whether or not to sign him.

17. Ben Petralli, C, Sacramento (Ca.) City College
At long last, Petralli is healthy and is showing why the Tigers have made him a first-day draft in the last two years. Over the last month, Petralli has swung a red-hot bat, posting a .458 average to go with 10 RBIs and 16 walks. Overall, the switch-hitting redshirt sophomore is hitting .364 with no homers and 20 RBIs in 110 at-bats. He has also shown great patience at the plate by drawing 31 walks and is 8-for-9 nine in the stolen base department.

Petralli has also developed into a solid defender and is growing into the complete package behind the plate. Petralli committed to Oral Roberts, but with the numbers he has posted thus far, he is a long shot to make it to Tulsa.

However, it will be interesting to see if Petralli becomes another Pedro Beato-type situation with baseball playing a role in how much of a bonus they'll recommend, and whether the Tigers will heed the Commissioner's office demands, or go over slot to sign him.

26. Daniel Renfroe, OF, Chipola (Fla.) JC
Renfroe wasn't able to get much work in before the season due to knee problems, but so far, the knee has held up well, and he hasn't missed a beat by leading the team with a .342 average to go with five homers and 28 RBIs. The freshman has made good strides in developing his hitting tools, and has shown the aptitude for making adjustments.

Like most young hitters, he has to hit offspeed stuff better, but he has solid bat speed, and fights during every at-bat. Before he got hurt, Renfroe was a 6.6/60 runner, but is only 4-for-7 in the stolen base department, as he tries to get his body firmed up after it got a little heavy while sitting out with the bad knee. Renfroe has played mostly right field for Chipola, although he has also played some first base due to the outfield depth the Indians have. Renfroe has not made a four-year college choice, and the Tigers have kept a watchful eye on him, having been in to see him on several occasions. Given how fast his hitting has come along, it wouldn't surprise me if the Tigers took a run at signing him.

27. Ryan Lindgren, RHP, Seminole State (Ok.) CC.
Lindgren just made his return to the mound from Tommy John surgery and has made two starts. So far, he has worked in the 87-92 range, but has consistently sat at 90-91. Lindgren struck out six batters in a 62-pitch outing in his first start.

More encouraging is that their has been no pain after he has pitched. As a prep player, Lindgren touched 97 with his fastball, and if he continues to make progress, he would make an intriguing option for the Tigers to sign and monitor his progress as he continues to try and make it back from elbow surgery.

30. Phillip Ortez, LF, Scottsdale (Ariz.) CC.
Like Petralli, Ortez has been on fire over the last month, posting a .448 clip since the opening week of March. What's been the key? Ortez has focused on being a gap-to-gap hitter producing line drives instead of swinging for the fences. Overall, Ortez is hitting .369 with three homers and 24 RBIs. He has drawn 14 walks and has struck out 22 times in 130 at-bats. Ortez has been solid defensively and profiles as a left fielder at the next level. He also made a splash with the Tigers scout by hitting a home run in front of West Coast crosschecker Joe Ferrone.

Ortez has signed with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and has more of an advantage over the other players because Scottsdale uses wood bats in their games. There is no question that if Ortez keeps hitting, the Tigers are going to have to make a tough decision on him.

34. Brandon Johnson, RHP, Butler (Kan.) CC.
The projectable right-hander has made big strides this spring by going 4-1 with a 2.78 ERA in seven starts. He has allowed 36 hits in 32 1/3 innings, and has walked 10 to go with 32 strikeouts. A big key for the Western Illinois signee has been his maturity on the mound.

In the past, he would get frustrated if things didn't go his way, but he has been much more consistent with his fastball sitting in the 89-90 range to go with an improved slider. Johnson has also done a good job of keeping his stuff low in the strike zone, and as he continues to pitch well, the Tigers certainly will be keeping tabs on him.

41. Taylor Freeman, C, Seminole State (Ok.) CC.He continues to make progress with making better contact and using the whole field, but is a work-in-progress. Defensively, Freeman is making positive steps, despite not having played much behind the plate during his senior year in high school. Specifically, he has improved at receiving the ball easier and calling a game, both facets in which he was very raw at when he arrived on campus in the fall. Freeman has the tools and a lot of potential, but as of right now, he looks like a name for the future and not the present.

43. Tyler Mattox, RHP, Connors State (Ok.) CC.
Like Lindgren, Mattox is trying to make it back from Tommy John surgery, but hasn't had good results as of yet. In four starts, Mattox has gone 1-1 with a 7.00 ERA. In 19 innings, he has allowed 20 hits to go with 10 walks and 18 strikeouts. Health has not been issue as far as having no setbacks during the rehab process, but he has been inconsistent both in terms of velocity and command. Mattox has topped out at 88-89, but has had starts where he has sat in the low 80's. His secondary stuff has also had its moments, but he hasn't put it all together yet. He is making progress with his arm strength, and he hasn't made a college commitment as of yet, but unless Mattox makes dramatic strides, he will windup back in the draft.

44. Ryan Kilmer, OF, Connors State (Ok.) CC.
After a decent fall that saw Kilmer start to tap into his tools, the freshman got limited playing time in the outfield before he pulled tendons in his wrist a week ago, which prematurely ended his season. Connors State is likely to seek a medical redshirt, and if he can make it back from his injury in good shape, you expect his name to be heard in the future.

46. Kent Williamson, RHP, Cowley County (Kan.) CC.
After being drafted twice, Williamson has struggled mightily this spring, going 2-1 with an ERA of 9.00 ERA in seven appearances (five starts). In 22 innings, the right-hander has allowed 32 hits and 24 runs (22 earned). Control has been issue for Williamson, who has issued 17 walks along with 19 strikeouts. At this stage, Williamson appears to be a good bet to fulfill his commitment to New Mexico State.

48. Matt McDonald, RHP, Ulster (N.Y.) CC.
The Canadian native has simply been dominant this spring. In six starts, McDonald has racked up 55 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings. He has allowed 13 hits and has issued 13 free passes, and overall, he is 3-1 with a microscopic 0.84 ERA. McDonald didn't pitch much last spring due to a battle with strep throat, but has packed on the pounds (220) to go on his 6-foot-3 frame.

His fastball has been in the 88-89 range to go with a curve and a changeup, although his command has wavered at times. He is presently nursing a groin injury, which has cost him one start, but he should make his return to the mound this week. However, he has pitched well in front of several of the Tigers highest scouts, including East Coast crosschecker Murray Cook while the Senators were in Florida to open their season. McDonald has several schools recruiting him with Maine having made a scholarship offer, but given his hot start and the Tigers fondness for him, he appears to be a good bet to sign.

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