There is no question that this year's draft crop was loaded with players that were not lacking in tools. However, in many cases those tools have failed to lead to consistent production, and given the high price tags, the Tigers were content to go with a more conservative approach as they did two years ago.
Although this draft has a definite 2008 feel to it, the Tigers actually drafted fewer collegians compared to 2008 (35 were drafted two years ago), and while this draft does lack in overall upside, the Tigers could wind up having several big leaguers out of this group.
It goes without saying that if the Tigers land third baseman Nick Castellanos (Archbishop McCarthy HS, Fla.), they have a potential cornerstone at a position that has lacked one since Travis Fryman manned the hot corner. Even though he was selected 44th overall, Castellanos has the chance to be one of the draft's biggest steals if he signs and becomes the player scouts envision him becoming.
Left-handed pitching was a scarce commodity in the draft, but the Tigers were able to land four in the first 12 rounds, and should they sign all of them, it will provide some much-needed depth in an area that needs it.
Arkansas' Drew Smyly (second round) leads that brigade, and given his stuff, he could become a factor rather quickly.
The Tigers also made catching a priority by selecting six of them, including three in the first 10 rounds. UC Riverside's Rob Brantly ranks as the highest having gone in the third round, and while he could be a fast mover thanks to his solid all-around tools, the biggest name out of the group is manager Jim Leyland's son, Patrick, who was selected in the eighth round.
Leyland has committed to Maryland, and although he may be best served by going to school to further develop his game, the Tigers could entice him to sign and grow his game at the professional level.
Should the Tigers fail to sign Leyland, they do have an option with 22nd-round selection Jake Hernandez (Los Osos HS, Ca.), but he also is a tough sign with a full scholarship offer to USC. The Tigers also took a pair of pitchers that could move quickly in Texas right-handers Chance Ruffin and Cole Green, who were taken in the sandwich and fourth rounds respectively.
After taking seven relievers with their first 10 picks two years ago, the Tigers added another in a draft that lacked in closers with the selection of Ruffin, who has drawn comparisons to fellow Longhorn Huston Street.
Although Green has a somewhat limited ceiling, his polish and moxie should help him move quickly through the system.
The Tigers continued to shy away from the prep ranks until the selections of Hernandez and third baseman Dominic Ficociello (Fullerton Union HS, Ca.) in the 23rd round. Like Hernandez, Ficociello will be difficult to pry away from a commitment to Arkansas, but if the Tigers were to make a big splash, these two would be prime candidates, as would Kokomo (In.) outfielder Nolan Sanburn, given their considerable potential. Drafted in the 34th round, Sanburn could be teammate of Ficociello's at Arkansas if both make it to college.
The Tigers do have several summer follows that will bear watching over the next two months.
Outfielder Les Smith (27th round, Meramec College, Mo.) is an Ole Miss recruit with the tools to be a solid player in time, and left-hander Chris Joyce (29th round, Central Arizona CC) is a former 10th-round pick of the Dodgers. Two high school players with intriguing backgrounds are Blake Bell (43rd round, Bishop Carroll Catholic HS, Kan.) and Tyler Marincov (48th round, Timbercreek HS, Fla.). Despite not having pitched in two years, Bell was drafted thanks to his frame and raw arm strength that has him ticketed to play quarterback at Oklahoma. Marincov was also a quarterback in high school before deciding to stick with baseball. A North Florida recruit, Marincov could be a five-tool player and a significant draft in three years if he doesn't sign.
On the surface, this draft does have a very ordinary look to it, but the 2008 draft has already yielded two big leaguers with the opportunity for more, although injuries of late have wreaked havoc with this class.
The 2010 class has a chance to be better given Castellanos' ceiling, and Ruffin, Smyly and Brantly could all be significant contributors in time, not to mention there is always the possibility of the Tigers landing one of their tough signs in the later rounds to add impact players.
While it can certainly be debated as to whether or not the Tigers played things too safe with this year's draft, there is no question that this group has the chance to be a productive one in time, and it will be interesting to see how things play out between now and the signing deadline in August.