Tigers Pull Off a Steal Again

For the fourth straight year in a row, the Tigers have saw a top player fall into their lap when the player likely should have gone much higher. Will Rick Porcello follow in the footsteps of those the Tigers have snagged in each of the past three years? And how did the Tigers do on the rest of the first day?

The Detroit Tigers have been perhaps the most opportunistic team perhaps in all of baseball in the last three years of the draft. In 2004, the Padres passed on Justin Verlander and the Tigers scooped him up with the second overall pick. The rest is history, as Verlander won Rookie of the Year honors en route to helping the Tigers reach the World Series last year.

One year later, the Tigers took advantage of other team's concerns on Cameron Maybin's signability and took the talented outfielder out of T.C. Roberson High School in North Carolina with 10th overall pick. That move has also paid off, as Maybin has developed into one of the top prospects in the game.

Signability issues also pushed Andrew Miller down to the Tigers last year with the sixth overall pick in the 2006 draft. The big left-hander from North Carolina got the playoff-clinching out last year, and could figure prominently in the Tigers' playoff push this year.

One would think it couldn't possibly happen again, yet as draft day began, there were rumors that several of Scott Boras' clients were falling due to escalating price tags. One such player was Rick Porcello of New Jersey's Seton Hall Prep, who reportedly is seeking a contract similar to the one Josh Beckett signed coming out of Texas' Spring High School nearly a decade ago.

As Bud Selig kept announcing the draft choices, it became clear the Tigers were going to have a real shot at drafting him, and with the 27th overall pick, the Tigers took the gamble and selected Porcello.

The right-hander has simply blown past a very talented crop of prep right-handers to be at the head of the class. Porcello draws comparisons to Verlander for his build and stuff at the same age, and he sits comfortably in the mid-90s with his fastball that he holds throughout games. His curveball and slider both grade out as plus potential pitches, and he has a good changeup for someone his age, although he hasn't needed to use it much in high school.

Tough negotiations are nothing new for David Chadd and his lieutenants, and with the new August 15th deadline, it will be interesting to see how fast things progress. If the Tigers are successful in landing Porcello, it will be an absolute coup for the Tigers, who are in need of adding blue-chip prospects. Porcello has signed with North Carolina.

The Tigers gained an extra pick when Jamie Walker signed with Baltimore as a free agent, and with the 60th pick, the Tigers tabbed another power arm in Brandon Hamilton, a right-hander from Stanhope Elmore High School in Alabama. Hamilton had moments of complete dominance this spring, but also had games where he didn't pitch well and on top of that, he also didn't face adversity well. The raw stuff is there however, as he reaches 96 with his fastball with a slider that is a true power pitch when it's on. There is no question that if it all comes together for Hamilton, he has a huge upside, but whether he fulfills it is something we'll have to wait and see on. Hamilton has committed to Troy.

The lone position player the Tigers selected on the first day of the draft was Pepperdine shortstop Danny Worth, who was the Tigers second-round selection. Coming into the spring, Worth wasn't really on many team's draft radar, but he continued to make steady progress, and had a solid season for the Waves. Defense is Worth's calling card. He has all the intangibles scouts look for as far as defensive tools go.

His glove, arm, and range are all solid tools, and he is able to spray the field with line drives, although he doesn't offer much power. If his bat continues to make strides, the Tigers could have a really solid player on their hands.

The Tigers continued to take power arms with the selection of Luke Putkonen out of North Carolina in the third round. The right-hander was eligible as a sophomore after missing the 2005 season with Tommy John surgery.

Putkonen has a big frame at 6-foot-6 and touches 95 with his fastball. He also throws a curveball that has hard, downward bite to it when it's on. He's also flashed a slider in the past. With the pitching depth at UNC and injury, Putkonen hasn't thrown many innings, so he'll certainly need time to refine his stuff as he continues to work his way back into form. Command was an issue for him, and his fastball lacks life, but with Hamilton, the ingredients are there for Putkonen to emerge as a solid prospect.

Detroit selected its first southpaw in LSU's Charlie Furbush in the fourth round. The left-hander made waves last summer with a brilliant season in the Cape Cod League where he reached 94 with his fastball. With his success on the Cape, Furbush transferred from St. Joseph's in Maine to LSU, and he struggled with the competition in the SEC. His stuff was fine, as he sat 88-91 and touched 92 with his fastball, but he struggled to command his hard-breaking slurve at times. Furbush also has a solid changeup and room to fill out his 6-foot-5 frame. Considered a potential sandwich pick heading into the season, Furbush still showed solid stuff and is a really nice value pick with the chance for three solid pitches.

The final pick of the day for the Tigers was a huge one, as Detroit took 6-foot-5 Casey Crosby from Illinois' Kaneland High School. The left-hander was considered a lock to go among the first 50 picks in the draft, but signability issues pushed him down to the fifth round. Crosby emerged as a prospect during his junior year of high school when he grew four inches and gained 10 miles per hour on his fastball.

He continued to make strides in his senior year, as his fastball was clocked up to a reported 97, and sat in the low-90s. Crosby throws both a curveball and a slider with both having the potential to be solid pitches in the future. He also throws two types of changeups that are works in progress. Crosby certainly isn't polished, but he has enormous upside as he learns his craft and makes the transformation from thrower to pitcher. He also gets high marks for his competitive fire and athleticism. He has signed with Illinois.

Obviously, Crosby will be difficult to steer away from Illinois, especially knowing the money it's going to take to sign Porcello, but if the Tigers land both guys, it would be stunning to get a pair of power pitchers with their ceilings, not to mention Hamilton, Putkonen and Furbush as potential solid prospects.

Overall, I thought the Tigers had a solid first day. They addressed building up some pitching depth and added a badly-needed prospect at shortstop. The Tigers will certainly add position players to fill out the rosters at Oneonta and the GCL, but they will also be mindful and add quality pitching when the opportunity presents himself.

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