First Day Draft Wrap Up

Power arms from the collegiate ranks was the theme of the first day of baseball's First-Year Player Draft for the Tigers on Thursday.

The Tigers started with Arizona right-hander Ryan Perry, who has touched 100-mph this spring and also has a slider that is a plus pitch. He also is developing a changeup. Perry didn't pitch in high school, so his background is limited, and he didn't pitch much in his sophomore year because of a motorcycle accident.

The biggest question with Perry is whether or not the Tigers will make him a starter. He does have a three-pitch mix, but has been much better out of the bullpen. At 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, Perry is projectable, and out of the other relievers taken in the first round (Georgia's Josh Fields and TCU's Andrew Cashner), Perry may have the best chance of staying as a starter, although his limited track record isn't very good.

If the Tigers keep him as a reliever, he could be in the big leagues by September, provided he signs quickly. My guess is that the Tigers will see how he fares as a starter before making a final decision to see if he can be a frontline starter with dominating stuff.

Keep in mind, the Tigers had Joel Zumaya starting for the few years he was in the minors before he made it to the big leagues as a reliever two years ago.

In the second round, the Tigers went with one of college baseball's bigger enigmas with Mississippi right-hander Cody Satterwhite. Ever since his prep days, Satterwhite has been closely watched by scouts because of his projectable frame and the ability to run his fastball into the high-90s. Satterwhite has been clocked as high as 99-mph with his fastball, and while his stuff plays better as a closer, he likes starting, where he resides in the mid-90s, and has a hard-breaking curveball. He made strides with his slider and needs to refine his changeup.

He has a great build and like Perry, and has a quick arm. However, the stuff didn't match the results (3-5, 5.33 ERA), and scouts are perplexed as to whether he'll stay in the bullpen, where his success has been, or if the Tigers will return him to a starting role and see if he can harness his electric stuff.

I also think the Tigers will give Satterwhite every opportunity to try and stay as a starter, and if it all comes together for him, he could be an impact pitcher.

After turning down a reported $800,000 from Boston last year as a 15th-round pick when he was sophomore-eligible, Kentucky right-hander Scott Green took a step backwards this spring (6-4, 4.76 ERA) and lost his spot in the rotation.

A survivor of Tommy John surgery, Green made a great return to the Cape Cod League last summer, where he topped out at 93-mph and flashed a solid slider and promising changeup. At 6-foot-8 and 240 pounds, Green is very athletic for someone his size and he gets good downward tilt on his pitches.

Scouts were looking for Green to make the jump and be among college baseball's best pitchers, but it never happened, as his stuff wavered all season long. He throws from a three-quarters delivery that made him effectively wild in the past, but that wasn't the case this spring, as his pitches found the heart of the strike zone more often than not, and that made him much more hittable.

The Tigers will have some cleaning up to do with Green's delivery, and he isn't a cinch to sign, as he has viewed himself as a first-round talent, and as I mentioned earlier, he turned downed a big bonus last year to return to school. He certainly won't get that kind of money this year, but as a fourth-year junior, he'll be 23 this summer.

There is no question Green has a high ceiling, and if the Tigers can right the ship with him, he has the makings of being a solid starter in time.

Over the last three years, the Tigers have drafted players from Vanderbilt, but have been unsuccessful in signing them, with Casey Weathers in 2006 being the toughest considering he became a first-round pick last year.

Brett Jacobson became the fourth Commodore to be picked by the Tigers in the last four years, when the Tigers tabbed the right-hander in the fourth round.

Jacobson is similar to Satterwhite in that he was a highly thought of prospect in the prep ranks, but had an unwavering commitment to college. He is also similar in that he has been a tough puzzle for scouts to solve. Jacobson started the year in the rotation, but lasted just four starts before he was banished to the bullpen. He reemerged as Vanderbilt's closer, and when he was able to go all-out, he was able to reach the mid-90s, with a slider that showed more depth. He also has a changeup. At 6-foot-6 and 205 pounds, Jacobson projects, and he pitches on a steep downhill angle when he is on. He may stay in the bullpen, as he doesn't have the temperament to pace himself as a starter, but the Tigers may see if he can stick there before moving him. As is the case with Vanderbilt juniors, they are tough signs if they don't go early, but with the struggles Jacobson has had in college, he may be ready to start his pro career.

Another theme for the Tigers on Thursday was their taking of players from the SEC, and their fifth-rounder not only fit that mold, he also is the son of a Tigers executive and a former Tigers draftee, as the Tigers selected Alex Avila from Alabama.

The son of assistant general manager Al Avila, Alex took up catching last fall and has made strides behind the plate. He called his own games this spring and showed good arm strength and accuracy, although he struggled to handle pitchers with above-average stuff. He is certainly a work-in-progress, but experience may be the only thing he needs to be a solid receiver.

While Avila continues to get his feet wet with his defense, it's his bat that will move up the organizational ranks. He has an advanced approach and has plenty of power, particularly to the opposite field.

Avila has been tried at first and third base, but is limited defensively at those spots. If he can't stay behind the plate, he likely becomes a DH, so the Tigers will give him every opportunity to keep him at catcher.

The Tigers selected North Florida right-hander Tyler Stohr with their final pick on Thursday, and unlike the other pitchers selected, he won't be moving back into the rotation any time soon.

After several unsuccessful starts during his sophomore year, Stohr was moved to the bullpen where he quickly flourished. He had five saves on the Cape last year, and turned in a stellar junior year by going 3-2 with a 1.93 ERA and 10 saves.

On the hill, Stohr runs his fastball in the 92-95 range with late life to go with a slider that has good bite. He also has a changeup, but despite having three pitches, Stohr pitches exclusively from the stretch, and his poise, instincts, and aggressiveness are better suited to close.

Most of the time, you can rank boom or bust drafts with those teams that take a lot of high school players, but I think the Tigers' first day qualifies as such. You can't deny the upside the college arms have if they can harness their ability, and can get things turned around. By drafting these guys, the Tigers have put a lot of faith in minor league pitching coordinator Jon Matlack's ability to try and get these guys back on track.

However, if they can't hack it as starters, the Tigers will have sacrificed five of their first six picks for relievers and a possible DH (if Avila can't stay at catcher), and with a farm system that is in dire need of blue-chip prospects, it would be a major setback.

With the signability of many high school players dropping them into the second day, the Tigers still have a chance to pick up several potential impact players from both the prep and junior college ranks, which should make the second day of the draft an eventful one.

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