TigsTown Draft Notebook: Signing Date Looming

With the signing period looming just a month away, certainly the majority of the focus will be on how negotiations with first-round pick Rick Porcello and fifth-round pick Casey Crosby, but the Tigers are also keeping tabs on several players taken in the late stages of the draft.

The Tigers selected Texas right-hander Barret Loux (Stratford HS) in the 24th round, and although they have interest in signing him, the vast amount of rain in the Lone Star State has made seeing him difficult this summer. Compounding this is that Loux missed two months of the high school season due to shoulder problems, so that makes him a bit of wildcard. When he is healthy, Loux can run his fastball up to 94.

Peter Kozma rightfully got lots of attention in becoming a first-round draft choice, but teammate Matt Hoffman turned out be a hero himself, as he threw a three-hit shutout to lead Owasso (Ok.) to a 1-0 win in the 6A state championship game. The left-hander has touched 93 with his fastball to go with a good curveball and changeup. The Tigers have spent some time in talking with Hoffman, so he will bear close watching over the next month.

The Tigers drafted several players with ties to the organization and two of them could very well one day follow their older brothers into the big leagues. Matthew Robertson (Valley Central HS, KS) was taken in the 42nd round, and if everything comes together for him, he'll be a lot more than a late-round selection. He has very good command of three pitches and has a very projectable frame that should allow him to throw harder in time.

Nate Robertson's little brother is mechanically sound, and although his curveball needs to be tightened up, his changeup is outstanding. Under the old draft rules, Robertson would've been a solid draft-and-follow candidate, as he is ticketed for Barton County (KS) CC, and needs a year to get stronger. He is expected to go to school.

One round after taking Robertson, the Tigers selected Richard Zumaya (Bonita Vista HS, CA) the younger brother of Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya. Richard profiles similarly to Matthew Robertson in that he has a frame that has plenty of room for projection (he could potentially pack another 20-25 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame) and he could see his velocity take a big spike upwards.

The younger Zumaya has a curveball that shows 12-6 break and his go-to pitch is a split-finger fastball that serves as his changeup. Zumaya has signed to play college baseball at home with Southwestern College, but of all the draft selections the Tigers made with ties to the team, Zumaya is the one leaning the most towards signing.

Jake Oberlechner (Arkansas City HS, KS) and D. J. LeMahieu (Brother Rice HS, MI) couldn't be more different as players with their style and their level of prospect status. LeMahieu was an Aflac-All American last summer, and was one of the top middle infielders available in the draft with his projectable power bat, but slid due to signability concerns. He is one of the cornerstones of LSU's recruiting class and could be a first-round selection in three years. The Tigers have made very little effort to talk to LeMahieu about signing, and unless something dramatic happens, he will be in Baton Rouge.

Where LeMahieu could potentially have a lethal bat, Oberlechner is a gap hitter with a very smooth glove. He profiles more as a leadoff man who bunts well and draws plenty of walks. Oberlechner isn't a burner on the basepaths, but he is a heady runner who can take the extra base. He has signed with Northern Oklahoma-Tonkawa JC, and is expected to go to school where he can further develop his bat and firm up his frame.

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