Draft Notebook: Down the Stretch They Come

We are officially down to crunch time, as the signing deadline looms just six days away. The Tigers presently have 20 players, including four top 10 picks that remain unsigned. With a week to go, this is how I see the signing period unfolding.

1. Rick Porcello, RHP, Seton Hall Prep (N.J.): The Tigers were given a gift on draft day when the best prep pitcher in the country fell to the 27th pick. Although news on negotiations has been incredibly quiet on both sides, I fully expect this deal to get done. Bud Selig can talk all he wants to teams signing players for slot money, but as the trade deadline showed, the Tigers don't have many blue-chip prospects in their system after Cameron Maybin. They need to remedy that by signing not just Porcello, but several others to provide badly needed depth.

5. Casey Crosby, LHP, Kaneland HS (Ill.): Unlike Porcello, there should be no drama with Crosby. The Tigers had tentatively agreed to his bonus demands on draft day, but no agreement has been announced since it will be a well over slot deal. Crosby could be the headliner in what would be a stellar prep left-handed pitching class if Chris Hernandez, Matt Hoffman and Forrest Moore elect to sign.

6. Cale Iorg, SS, Arizona State recruit: Had Iorg not left Alabama after his freshman year to go on a Mormon mission, he may have been a premium-round pick this year as a junior. The Tigers took him in the sixth round and they have watched him workout three times. Iorg continues to make great progress, and although it will take a significant bonus (reportedly two million according to the Detroit News), I think the Tigers will sign him and add a second top-flight shortstop to the organization after the Tigers made Danny Worth their second-round pick.

10. Dominic De la Osa, SS/OF, Vanderbilt: Some players get draftitis during the spring, but I think De la Osa came down with bonusitis during the summer. After posting a 20/20 season with the Commodores, he slid to the 10th round where the Tigers selected him for the second time. After turning the Tigers original offer down, he went to the Cape Cod League where he was dreadful, hitting just .119 for the season with three extra base hits, although he was a perfect 7-for-7 in stolen bases.

There is no question De la Osa has outstanding tools, but perhaps the pressure of trying to show the Tigers he was worth premium-round money got to him. He could be a player that takes off after he signs as he can focus on playing baseball without the distraction that negotiations can bring. I have said all summer that the Tigers wouldn't sign him, and I still believe that, although I do think the Tigers will make a run at him.

14. Chris Hernandez, LHP, Monsignor Pace HS (Fla.): The Tigers have had great interest in Hernandez. They worked him out prior to the draft and also visited with him to gauge his signability. The Tigers reportedly were looking to draft him as early as the fourth round, but the left-hander slid 10 more rounds after turning down the Tigers draft-day offer. The projectable left-hander has a solid four-pitch mix with an advanced idea on how to pitch. I think it's still 50/50 on whether or not the Tigers will land him, but if he makes to Miami (Fla.), he could have immediate success in college.

18. Kevin Rhoderick, RHP, Horizon HS (Ariz.): Rhoderick slid due to signability concerns, but the small right-hander has a power arm. His fastball rarely dips below 90 and he has a nasty slider. Despite his size, he still throws on a good downward plane. He turned down close to $210,000 from the Brewers as a potential fourth-rounder on draft day, and although the Georgia recruit has said publicly the Tigers want to sign him, the question will be whether or not the Tigers will be willing to meet his demands. I'm going to say no, but he would be a nice catch if the Tigers got him.

21. Kyle Brule, RHP, Marcos de Niza HS (Ariz.): One of the younger draftees of the Tigers, Brule turned 18 the day after he was drafted. He seemed to be a cinch to attend college at Arizona State, as his velocity was down for most of the season, but he topped out at 95 late in the season, which put him back on the draft radar. Although he has a small frame, he has a solid slider to go with his heater. As of now, Brule hasn't ruled out signing a contract, so his situation will be a close one to watch.

24. Barrett Loux, RHP, Stratford HS (Texas): After missing time with a shoulder strain, Loux quickly got on the Tigers' radar by peaking at 95 while pitching for the Houston Heat this summer. The Tigers made him a substantial offer, but after taking a week to decide, Loux chose to attend school at Texas A&M.

25. Colin Kaline, 2B, Birmingham Groves (Mich.): The grandson of Tigers Hall of Famer Al Kaline, Colin was the first of several selections with ties to the team. He has a solid all-around game and the Tigers will get a chance to watch him closely over the next three years at Florida Southern. An honors student, Kaline is a longshot to sign.

26. Matt Hoffman, LHP, Owasso HS (Ok.): After pitching his team to the Oklahoma 6A title by firing a three-hit shutout in a 1-0 win. An athletic lefty who has drawn comparisons to Andy Pettitte for his delivery and arm action, the Tigers have made Hoffman a significant offer which he is presently mulling over. Hoffman will head to Oklahoma if he doesn't sign.

27. Steve Susdorf, 1B/OF, Fresno State: After leading the Bulldogs with 12 home runs in the spring, Susdorf is currently hitting .321 while trying to lead the Santa Barbara Foresters to a second straight NBC Congress World Series title. He is a pure hitter who has worked hard on his outfield defense, but his bat will have to carry him as he doesn't have the speed to play in center. A civil engineering major, he has a reported six-figure price tag to bypass his final year with the Bulldogs, but the Tigers just might be willing to bite if they believe in his bat enough. If he does return to Fresno State, he will be one of the top senior drafts next year.

28. Warren McFadden, OF, Tulane: By redshirting in his first year, McFadden still has two more years of eligibility left with the Green Wave. He was expected to go in the first five rounds after belting eight home runs in the Cape Cod League last summer. However, a sprained ankle hampered him in the second half of the season, and in two full years at Tulane, he has hit only five homers due to playing in spacious Zephyr Field after Hurricane Katrina destroyed Tulane's original home. McFadden has plenty of raw tools, but he took the summer off, and given Tulane's propensity for keeping its players, he is a good bet to return to school.

32. Forrest Moore, LHP, Parkview Baptist HS (La.): Another left-hander with signability concerns, Moore reminds some scouts of Wade LeBlanc, the Padres' second-round pick from last year. His fastball scrapes 90 and his curveball and changeup are solid offerings. Also a first baseman, Moore is expected to go both ways at Mississippi State, where he will be provided the Tigers don't match his reported second-round asking price, although he has performed very well in front of the Tigers' decision makers this summer. As of now, it appears Moore will be a Bulldog instead despite his solid showing.

36. Tanner Rindels, OF, Seward County CC (Kan.): After a solid summer season where he hit .282 with three homers and 17 RBIs for Liberal in the Jayhawk League, Rindels was picked up by the El Dorado Broncos for the NBC Congress World Series, where he has gone 2-for-8 with four walks and four stolen bases in a trio of wins. The Texas Tech signee doesn't have big bonus demands, but it appears the Tigers and Rindels are far enough apart that college is more of a reality than pro ball.

37. Toby Matchulat, RHP, Redford Union HS (Mich.): A very projectable right-hander who has patterned his game after former Tiger Mark Fidrych. He has a long and lanky frame and works in the 89-92 range with his fastball. He also throws a curveball, changeup, and is developing a split-finger. Matchulat has signed with Wabash Valley (Ill.) CC, but he would be a nice project for the Tigers to work with should he sign.

38. Austin Woodard, LHP, Bishop Carroll HS (Kan.): Like Matchulat above, had the old draft-and-follow rules been in place, Woodard would have been a good prospect to track. At 6-foot-5 and 170 pounds, he is very projectable and he currently resides in the mid-80s with his fastball with good feel for his secondary pitches. Woodard has signed with Butler County (Kan.) CC, a school that has produced a pair of 2007 signees in Brandon Johnson and Sean Finefrock. If Woodard doesn't sign, he could resurface next year if he makes good strides at one of the top JUCO schools in the country.

39. Jake Oberlechner, SS, Arkansas City HS (Kan.): His tools won't overwhelm scouts, and he isn't overly athletic, but he has a good glove and profiles as a top of the order hitter thanks to his keen eye and bunting ability. He won't offer much in the way of power and is an average runner. Oberlechner is a good bet to attend school at Northern Oklahoma-Tonkawa JC, as he needs time in the weight room and his bat isn't ready for the professional ranks.

41. D. J. LeMahieu, SS, Brother Rice HS (Mich.): LeMahieu became a household figure last summer on the showcase circuit, which included a trip to the AFLAC All-American game. LeMahieu came into the spring with expectations of going in the first three rounds, but he didn't dominate against lackluster competition and slid in the draft due to his second-round price tag. The Tigers have made little contact with LeMahieu over the summer, and he could be a monster if it all comes together at LSU, where he also could be sophomore eligible in 2009 depending on next year's draft date.

42. Matthew Robertson, RHP, Valley Central HS (Kan.): The little brother of Tigers left-hander Nate Robertson, Matthew is the second youngest of the Tigers draftees behind only Richard Zumaya, who signed last month. Ticketed for Barton County (Kan.) CC, Robertson has very good command of three pitches, with his changeup being the best present offering. School may be Robertson's best option, as he needs to mature physically and sharpen his curveball.

44. Kolby Wood, RHP, Berrien Springs HS (Mich.): Wood is ultra projectable at 6-foot-6 and 185 pounds, but with a commitment to Michigan, the Tigers haven't made much effort in trying to sign him.


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