TigsTown 2008 Tigers' Draft Preview

After months of crisscrossing the country to scout the best players the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico has to offer, it is time for baseball's scouting directors to make their final decisions on the draft class for 2008.

One thing that this draft is long on is players with the raw tools to be impact players one day. However, many of these players are a long ways away from reaching that point, and I think you will see many of these players wind up in college, where they could make for a special college crop of players in 2011.

As far as the Tigers go, I think they will be one of the true wild card teams this year. After busting the slot system to land Rick Porcello, Casey Crosby and Cale Iorg last year, I expect the Tigers to break ranks even more so this year, as trades have depleted the farm system of blue-chip prospects.

The Tigers could break the bank with their first-round pick again this year, and there is the distinct possibility they could be negotiating with Scott Boras, whom the Tigers have had an affinity for both with the draft and in free agency.

American Heritage (Fla.) first baseman Eric Hosmer has as much raw power as anyone in the draft, and he could be a perennial All-Star at first base, but he could also move to the outfield if a team wants to take advantage of his arm strength. He is being advised by Boras, and it could take a Porcello-type contract to get him signed, so signability could knock him down where the Tigers could grab him.

Staying in Florida, Sarasota shortstop/right-handed pitcher Casey Kelly has been one of the biggest movers in the draft this spring. The son of former major leaguer Pat Kelly, Casey offers terrific athleticism and is sound fundamentally. The drawback on Kelly is that he isn't as polished as you might expect due to his prowess on the football field. A star quarterback, Kelly has committed to Tennessee to play both sports, and should he get bigger physically, he could face a move to third base, which would force scouts to project his bat further.

Some teams like Kelly better as a pitcher who can reach the mid-90s with a plus curveball, but Kelly has reportedly indicated he wants to go out as a position player. Kelly could be available for the Tigers, but with high-school oriented draft teams like the Twins and Dodgers picking ahead, not to mention the Reds, for whom his father is employed as their Gulf Coast League manager, he could be a long shot to make it to the 21st slot.

If the Tigers elect to go the pitching route, they could have their choice of two of the top prep pitchers, and the top college closer available in the draft.

Heading into the spring, Wentzville Holt (Mo.) right-hander Tim Melville was expected to be a lock for the top 10, but the poor weather in the Midwest affected him early, and his stock slipped some. A strong finish that saw Melville run his fastball up to 97 has boosted his stock back up, but it has been reported that he wants a bonus commensurate with being taken in the first 15 picks. Should he fall outside of those spots, he could be available for the 21st pick and possibly be a steal in the later rounds if a team wants to make a huge splash.

Orange Lutheran (Ca.) right-hander Gerrit Cole cemented his status as the hardest thrower of anyone in the draft class with several pitches topping triple digits, including one reportedly at 101. He also has a late-breaking curveball, and has a changeup, although he hasn't needed it in high school. Cole has issues with his delivery, and his command can waver at times. His makeup and maturity has also come into question with scouts, who some have pegged as a closer because of a lack of true third pitch and his delivery. When you couple that with being a Boras client, you have one of the biggest wild cards in the draft.

When Georgia's Josh Fields was drafted by the Braves in the second round last year, it was thought he would begin his pro career, but negotiations never got on track, and he returned to school. The move paid off handsomely, as he figures to be among the first players to hear his name called. With a fastball that peaks in the high-90s to go with a solid curveball, Fields has all the makings of being a quick contributor for someone in the bullpen. His delivery has some effort and his command can suffer because of it, but should be the first player from his class to reach the big leagues. Fields is also a Boras client.

If there is one other aspect you can expect the Tigers will focus on, it's pitching. The trades since the end of the 2006 season have stripped away a lot of the pitching depth the organization had, so you can bet they will make every effort to get as many arms as possible, but they also can't overlook some of the potential impact players that could be available in later rounds due to signability concerns. This year's draft is one where a team's aggressiveness in drafting and signing some of the more higher risk/reward players could pay off in the future if that team has patience and develops those tools.


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