TigsTown's Draft Preview

Although the primary focus for the Tigers will be on their first-round selection, they will have an extra pick at No. 60 overall due to the loss of Jamie Walker to Baltimore. Who might the Tigers be looking at?

Well, that's anyone guess, as this draft promises to be one of the most unpredictable in recent memory.

Let's start with the 27th pick. The possibilities here are seemingly endless, but one thing to watch will be where N.C State right-hander Andrew Brackman and Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters wind up going.

Brackman hasn't pitched in nearly a month due a tired arm, while Wieters had a good year, but didn't live up the scouts' huge expectations. Both are represented by Scott Boras and come with big price tags. Because of his arm issues, Brackman's stock has taken a dive, but how far he falls will depend on how much Boras wants. He could either go in the first round, or slide to the point where he could be one of the top seniors for 2008.

As far as Wieters goes, everything depends on how much money he's going to command. He is a polished enough player that signing a major league contract isn't out of the question. One thing is for certain. If Wieters falls out of the first seven picks, he has a good chance of falling. How far? Who knows, but both of these guys bear close watching on Thursday. It doesn't stand to reason that one, or maybe even both could be available when the Tigers pick, although the chances of Wieters being there are still slim, but then again, no one thought Andrew Miller or Cameron Maybin would fall to the Tigers either.

Some other players to watch after the first round that the Tigers could focus on for their supplemental first-rounder focuses mainly on high school arms. Canadian right-hander Kyle Lotskar touches 94, but remains unrefined. Florida right-hander Nevin Griffith throws harder by reaching 96, while Virginia right-hander Neil Ramirez has similar velocity, but has to iron out some kinks in his delivery.

Missouri's Nick Tepesch is a right-hander who has drawn Chris Carpenter comparisons and has a nice projection. Two left-handers to watch are Illinois' Casey Crosby and Georgia's Nathan Vineyard. Crosby works in the low-90s and reportedly has been up to 97. Vineyard often gets compared to fellow Georgian Josh Smoker, who should go in the first round. The lefty has similar raw stuff to Smoker and scrapes 93 with his fastball to go with a power slider and developing changeup.

If you're looking for a couple of intriguing bats to watch for in the early rounds, take a look at Washington prep third baseman Travis Mattair and LSU-Eunice outfielder Kade Keowen. Mattair has a big, athletic frame with big power potential in the mold of Scott Rolen. He played shortstop in high school, but his hands and arm will work nicely at third. Mattair should go in the second or third round. Keowen played sparingly for two years at LSU before transferring, and everything fell into place. Having not played much since going to school, he still needs plenty of refinement, but when you show five-tool potential in a 6-foot-5 frame, you'll get a lot of notice. Keowen should be selected in the 3-5 round range.

Two other prep names to watch in the 4-5 round range are California's Mike Stanton and North Carolina's Tyrell Worthington. Stanton is a huge physical specimen who was a three-sport star in high school, and has loads of power potential. He also runs well for someone his size. Stanton has signed with USC, but if a team is enticed enough by his speed/power combination, he could go early enough to begin his pro career.

Worthington is an outfielder who has signed with East Carolina to play football, but his five-tool potential really developed this spring to the point where he'll have a good chance of starting a career in baseball. Whoever drafts him will need to be patient, as he is raw from not focusing solely on baseball, but the end result could be very special.

INTERNATIONAL FLAVOR
Three players have a chance to make history as draftees out of three countries that one wouldn't associate as being typical international hotbeds of baseball talent. After playing for five years with the French National Team, Joris Bert came to Frank Phillips JC in Texas via a contact one of his coaches in France had with the school. Bert has outstanding bunting skills to take advantage of his good speed and has a chance to go in the first 10 rounds.

Matt Henne was born in Saudi Arabia, but grew up in the United States. At Grand Canyon College in Arizona, he hit .414 to lead the team, but a knee injury eventually took him out of the lineup late in the year, and he might make more of a senior sign next year then going out as a junior.

Romanian native Mihai Burlea made his to Northwestern College in Iowa, and is part of the unusually large crop of tall pitchers available in this year's draft. He is a right-hander who stands at 6-foot-7 and runs his fastball up to 91, but his secondary pitches need work, and he may slide far enough to return for his senior year.

TIGERS TIES
In addition to Colin Kaline and Casey Weathers having been associated with the Tigers either through being related to someone with the team or a previous draft pick, there are several other players who have some distant relationships with Detroit.

In 1980, the Tigers made Homer Moncrief their ninth-round pick, and he played in the Tigers organization for a couple of seasons. Homer's son, Carlos, was one of the quicker risers up draft boards at Hillcrest Christian High School in Mississippi. Carlos began the year as an outfield prospect with solid power potential, but he was pitched around extensively and never had the chance to swing the bat much. However, his stock shot through the roof when he took the mound and reached 95. He'll need a lot of work on the mound, and still could profile as a right fielder for the right team. Moncrief should go in the 5-7 round range and has signed with Chipola (Fla.) JC, who won the JUCO national championship last weekend.

In 2004, the Tigers drafted and signed Thomas Royals as a 22nd-round selection out of Pearl River CC in Mississippi, but he flunked his physical due to a pre-existing arm injury that eventually led to surgery. Royals resurfaced at Belhaven College as a two-way player, and didn't sign as a fifth-year senior before the draft. He will get some interest as a pitcher.

Way back in 2001, the Tigers took a 45th-round flier on Chicago prep pitcher Lonnie Patterson, and six years later, he is ready to begin a pro career after finishing his eligibility at Florida's Lynn University. Patterson didn't sign as a fifth-year senior before the draft, and should get a chance to pitch with a low-90s fastball and a good changeup.

Also in Florida are prep players Craig Gullickson and Glen Johnson, whose fathers Bill and Howard respectively had solid major league careers and spent time with Detroit. Both are solid bets to go to college with Gullickson signed to attend Clemson and Johnson to Jacksonville.

A final player that has ties to the Tigers is also one of the top two-way players in Illinois. Tyler Newsome, whose father Tim was the Tigers' 20th-round selection out of St. Xavier University in 1984, has interest both as a pitcher and first baseman, although there is more present attention given on his hitting ability as a first baseman. He has a smooth, effortless swing from the left side that generates plenty of raw power to all fields. He has good hands and a solid glove. Newsome could become a familiar face to college baseball fans in Michigan over the next three years if he winds up in college at Michigan State, where he could go both ways.


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