Tigers draft for experience and youth
First day focuses on college players; second on prep stars
DETROIT -- The First-Year Player Draft is bigger than what others perceive of the scouting director running it.
Though Tigers vice president of amateur scouting David Chadd never said he had a set philosophy, his hiring was suspected to mark a turn toward tools players and possibly more high school talent, partly from the drafts of the Florida Marlins under Dave Dombrowski. Considering the Tigers drafted a prep player with their top pick for just the third time in the last 12 years, it held true at the start.
From there, though, Detroit's draft turned to the college ranks. Each of the 16 other players the Tigers selected on the first day of the draft played at either a four-year or junior college. The next four Tigers picks after Cameron Maybin all came from big-time college programs.
"That's just kind of the way the board fell," Chadd said, "no particular reason why."
The common theme in many of the descriptions, however, was makeup. Third-round pick Chris Robinson earned comparisons to former Tigers catcher Brad Ausmus as a game-caller on an Illinois team that won the top seed in the Big Ten tournament. Fifth-rounder Jeff Larish was a bona fide Pac-10 slugger who played four years at Arizona State. Three other picks won conference player or pitcher of the year honors this spring.
Part of it was talent, no question. But if there's a theme to Chadd's drafts, it's the importance of makeup, from Maybin -- who has received advice on life in the spotlight from cousin -- on down.
"My philosophy is we grade makeup out as another tool," Chadd said. "To advance in this game and attain the highest level, you have to have the makeup to do it. It's very important to us and our staff."
Day 2 of the Draft evened out the college/high school balance with more prep stars, many of whom had college commitments. Thirty-fourth-round pick Alex Avila, the son of Tigers vice president and assistant general manager Al Avila, is headed to the University of Alabama. Colorado prep players Anthony Capra and Tony Pechek have both committed to Wichita State.
Local prep stars Zach Putnam (Ann Arbor Pioneer HS) and Jeffery Whitlow (Detroit Country Day) are expected to attend Michigan and Stanford, respectively. The Tigers will try to put some of them into their system, much like they did with second-day pick Dallas Trahern last year.
Here's a pick-to-pick look at the players the Tigers drafted, including general information and observations from the Tigers war room:
Second round: No pick (lost due to Troy Percival signing)
Third round -- Chris Robinson, C, Illinois: A two-time All-Big Ten selection, the Dorchester, Ontario native earned a reputation as one of the better defensive catchers in the country. Tigers scouts pointed at a plus arm as well as a quick release, which allowed the junior to throw out a conference-best 43.1 percent of would-be stealers along with seven pickoffs.
Scouts also liked his makeup, handling a pitching staff that helped lead the Fighting Illini to a Big Ten regular-season title. Robinson batted .353 with eight home runs and 37 RBIs.
Fourth round -- Kevin Whelan, RHP, Texas A&M: A catcher turned closer, Whelan caught attention last summer in the Cape Cod League, where he posted a league-best 11 saves and a 0.42 ERA. Tigers scouts believe he's still learning the art of pitching, but his two plus pitches and aggressive makeup give him a good base off which to build.
Fifth round -- Jeff Larish, 1B, Arizona State: Larish is the rare combination of a four-year college hitter with a lot of upside. He was a first-team All-Pac 10 player and second-team All-American as a sophomore before struggling as a junior. After turning down a reported six-figure contract offer from the Dodgers, who drafted him in the 13th round last June, he regained his power bat with a conference-high 17 home runs. The Tigers expect that power to carry over into the pros. Scouts consider him an advanced college hitter and liked his success in a big-time program.
Sixth round -- Clete Thomas, CF, Auburn: Thomas played right field at Auburn, but the Tigers believe his speed and defense fit into center. He hit .328 (78-for-238) in his junior season to go with an SEC-best six triples, nine home runs, 41 RBIs and 23 steals. He's projected as a top-of-the-order type of hitter. He was a fifth-round pick of the Twins three years ago. Baseball America ranked him as the second-best prospect in Alabama.
Seventh round -- P.J. Finigan, RHP, Southern Illinois: The Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year was a solid shortstop and led the MVC with a .386 average as a senior. However, he projects as a pitcher with what scouts call a plus slider to go with an average fastball that ranges from 87-92 miles per hour according to Baseball America. His competitiveness and toughness carry over from short to the mound, where he went 9-3 with a 3.24 ERA and 107 strikeouts in 105 innings.
Eighth round -- Brendan Wise, RHP, Pratt Community College: The Perth, Australia, native was a bit of a diamond in the rough for Tigers scouts, who followed him early at Pratt and dug into his history in Australia. They discovered that while he threw in the upper 80s in Australia, his velocity increased to as high as 93 miles per hour stateside. "He claims it's the fried food over here," Chadd said.
Ninth round -- Paul Coleman, LHP, Pepperdine: The West Coast Conference Pitcher of the Year dominated as a junior in his only season as a starter. He won his first eight decisions before finishing 9-3 with a 3.35 ERA. His plus changeup impressed the Tigers. He mixes it in with a fastball in the upper 80s.
10th round -- Kevin Ardoin, RHP, Louisiana-Lafayette: A second-team All-Sun Belt Conference selection as a senior for the Ragin' Cajuns, Ardoin went 10-5 with a 3.76 ERA and 115 strikeouts over 103 innings. Though he doesn't have a projected above-average pitch, he translates his stuff into effective numbers.
11th round -- Anthony Claggett, RHP, UC-Riverside: A backup middle infielder for the better part of two seasons, Claggett emerged as a dominant closer this year as a junior. He went 1-1 with a 4.01 ERA and four saves, striking out 27 batters in 24 2/3 innings. Tigers scouts see the potential for a power arm in a low-90s fastball that reportedly tops out around 93.
12th round -- Matthew Joyce, RF, Florida Southern: Joyce caught the Tigers' attention on a Florida Southern team that played the Tigers to a tie in their Spring Training opener in March and went on to win the NCAA Division II championship. The left-handed hitter batted .292 (69-for-236) with three homers, 38 RBIs and 32 walks in 62 games. He led the team as a sophomore with 11 home runs. Tigers scouts like his athleticism and think his swing has a chance to develop power in the pros.
13th round -- Louis Ott, SS, Sacramento City College: Ott earned first-team Bay Valley East All-Conference honors, batting .333 (48-for-144) with a .445 on-base percentage. Though he can play all over the infield, Tigers scouts said they see great arm strength that might play behind the plate as a catcher.
14th round -- Casper Wells, OF, Towson State: The Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year batted .362 (77-for-213) with 18 home runs and 66 RBIs and 35 walks in 58 games. The Tigers see him a power-hitting corner outfielder who makes hard contact with the ball.
15th round -- Ben Petralli, C, Sacramento City College: The son of longtime Major League catcher Geno Petralli, Ben Petralli took up catching this season as a freshman at Sacramento after playing shortstop in high school. Like his father, Ben Petralli is a switch-hitter in whom the Tigers see a lot of upside.
16th round -- Michael Hollimon, SS, Oral Roberts: Hollimon had first-round potential out of high school before enjoying mixed results in three years at the University of Texas. He transferred to Oral Roberts, where he batted .304 (70-for-230) with 15 doubles, 14 homers, 55 RBIs and a .422 on-base percentage and was named Mid-Continent Conference co-Player of the Year. He's considered a good fielder despite a high error total.
17th round -- Warner Jones, 2B, Vanderbilt: A Baseball America first-team All-American a year ago, Jones hit .290 (69-for-238) as a junior this spring with 11 doubles, six home runs, and 35 RBIs in 55 games. He posted a .980 fielding percentage and helped turn 34 double plays. He made an impression on the Tigers during consecutive solid summers in the Cape Cod League.
18th round -- Augustin Guzman, 2B, Baton Rouge CC: The Tigers see offensive potential in Guzman, a native of Puerto Rico who ranked among the national juco leaders in batting average, home runs and stolen bases in his only season for the Bears.
19th round -- Burke Badenhop, RHP, BGSU: The Tigers characterize the Perrysburg, Ohio, native as a big, strong kid with a projectable fastball. Whether it's baseball or another job, he has a promising career ahead of him. The first Falcon since 1970 to be named a first-team Academic All-American, Badenhop graduated in May with an economics degree and a 3.94 grade-point average. He led the team with nine wins to go with a 3.73 ERA.
20th round -- Erik Averill, LHP, Arizona State: Tigers scouts view Averill as an advanced college lefty and a versatile addition to the system. The junior southpaw carries a team-high nine wins and four complete games into this weekend's NCAA Super Regionals. He impressed scouts last summer in the Cape Cod League before earning honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors this spring.
21st round -- David Adams, SS, Grandview Prep HS, Boca Raton, Fla.: Baseball America ranked Adams as the sixth-best prospect in Florida and a potential second- to fifth-round pick. His commitment to the University of Virginia explains the fall. Tigers scouts were impressed with him during high school showcase tournaments and believe he'll hit for power.
22nd round -- Matthew Norfleet, RHP, Tennessee Wesleyan: Norfleet went 8-2 with a 2.70 ERA and 100 strikeouts over 83 1/3 innings as a junior in 2004. He ranked among the NAIA leaders in strikeouts per nine innings. Primarily a starter in college, the Tigers expect to use the hard-nosed hurler as a reliever. He throws strikes with two average pitches.
23rd round -- Mark Haske, SS, Cincinnati: The Saginaw, Mich., native batted .314 (70-for-223) in his senior season for the Bearcats with a .398 on-base percentage, three home runs and 36 RBIs. The Tigers project the versatile, line-drive hitter as a utility player.
24th round -- Brett Bordes, LHP, Arizona State: The third Sun Devil selected by the Tigers in this draft, Bordes throws harder than his 5-foot-10 frame would suggest, topping 90 miles per hour on his fastball. Primarily a reliever, he has posted a 5-5 record and 3.88 ERA in 67 1/3 innings as a junior this season. Tigers scouts describe him as a crafty, deceptive left-hander who has life on his fastball.
25th round -- Jake Baxter, RHP, Texas-Arlington: The 6-foot-5 senior led the Southland Conference with 111 innings pitched, posting a 7-6 record to go with a 2.35 ERA. The Tigers call him a big, strong, athletic kid with good makeup.
26th round -- Schuyler Williamson, C, Army: A senior co-captain for a Black Knights team that made a Cinderella run into last week's NCAA regionals and completed the most successful season in school history, Williamson batted .258 (49-for-190) with five home runs, 36 RBIs and 17 stolen bases. He won Patriot League co-Player of the Year honors as a junior with a .357 average, 12 homers and 48 RBIs. Tigers scouts liked his toughness and his hands.
27th round -- Will Rhymes, 2B, William and Mary: The 5-foot-9, 155-pound senior broke the school's single-season record for hits in a season this spring on his way to the Colonial Athletic Association batting title with a .413 average. He also stole 22 bases in 25 attempts. Tigers scouts see him as a line drive hitter with good speed and instincts.
28th round -- Ryan Paul, LHP, Pierce JC, Los Angeles: Tigers scouts describe "projection and good upside" in this tall, lanky left-hander.
29th round -- Eric Fry, CF, Barbe HS, Lake Charles, La.: Despite his 5-foot-10 height, Fry is seen as an athletic outfielder who has a chance to hit in the pros. He was rated the 26th best draft-eligible prospect in Louisiana by Baseball America. He becomes the 10th player drafted from the school since 2001.
30th round -- Ryan Roberson, 1B, George Washington: A huge first baseman at 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds, Roberson muscled his way to a .426 average and 16 home runs as a senior for the Colonials. Tigers scouts saw big power out of him, yet still the ability to play good defense at first base with an average arm.
31st round -- Tim Robertson, RHP, Oral Roberts: Primarily a reliever as a senior, Robertson led ORU with four saves while posting a 3.94 ERA and allowing 44 hits in 45 2/3 innings. Tigers scouts call him a big, strong, durable right-hander whose slider is his best pitch.
32nd round -- Chris Torres, C, Cumberland University: Torres hit .336 (79-for-235) with 12 home runs and 61 RBIs for Cumberland as a senior this spring. He's seen as a catch-and-throw catcher with a plus arm.
33rd round -- Loren Fraser, RHP, UC-Santa Barbara: A large right-hander at 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds, the Tigers see him as a durable innings eater. He went 3-4 with a 5.16 ERA in 59 1/3 innings for the Gauchos as a senior after posting a 6-1 record and 1.94 ERA a year earlier.
34th round -- Alex Avila, 3B, Archbishop McCarthy High School (Fla.): The power-hitting third baseman is the son of Tigers vice president and assistant GM Al Avila, but he's expected to pass up the pros for now and attend the University of Alabama. The Tigers like his left-handed swing, which generates hard contact as well as opposite-field hits.
35th round -- Jeffrey Hahn, RHP, Clemson: A swing starter and reliever for most of his four years at Clemson, Hahn posted a team-high three saves along with a 3-1 record and 3.24 ERA as a senior. Tigers scouts like his slider.
36th round -- Gibbs Wilson, RHP, Weatherford (Tex.) College: Wilson posted a 6.68 ERA at Weatherford, but struck out 37 batters in 31 innings to go with 21 walks. Tigers scouts saw a projectable body (6-foot-2, 170 pounds) and good arm strength.
37th round -- Jeff Kunkel, C, Michigan: The second Big Ten catcher drafted by the Tigers, Kunkel was a semi-finalist for the Johnny Bench Award, presented annually to the nation's top collegiate catcher. He batted .384 (73-for-190) with three homers, 45 RBIs and a .462 on-base percentage. Tigers scouts call him a good contact hitter who handles pitching staffs well and has an average arm.
38th round -- Zach Putnam, RHP, Pioneer HS, Ann Arbor, Mich.: Putnam has committed to attend Michigan, but the Tigers will try to persuade him to go pro. The athletic right-hander boasts a good arm and plus curveball, according to Tigers scouts, among three potential Major League pitches. He also played shortstop for Pioneer.
39th round -- Kiel Renfro, RHP, Texarkana CC: The nephew of Tigers scout Dick Egan, Renfro is described as a sinker-slider pitcher with good arm strength. He's a stocky right-hander at 5-foot-11 and 230 pounds.
40th round -- Kyle Peter, CF, Cloud County (Mo.) CC: Peter stole 37 bases in 40 attempts this season while batting .285 and drawing 42 walks in 49 games, helping him post a .468 on-base percentage. Tigers scouts describe him as a lean, wiry athlete with superior speed.
41st round -- Tony Pechek, C, Pueblo (Colo.) South HS: Pechek has committed to Wichita State. The switch-hitting catcher batted .538 this season, earning him the rank of Baseball America's eighth-best prospect in the state. Tigers scouts like his muscular build and raw power, remarking, "He plays hard with an old-school feel."
42nd round -- Benjamin Rodewald, East Kentwood (Mich.) HS: Major League scouts liked his fastball, which can move to either side of the plate and also sink without much drop in speed. Tigers scouts like his feel for three pitches, including a curveball and circle change.
43rd round -- Ryan Perry, SS, Rocklin (Calif.) HS: TeamOneBaseball.com placed Perry 32nd on its list of top 50 Northern California prospects. Tigers scouts describe him as having a rangy, wiry body with a plus arm and raw power as well as a strong work ethic.
44th round -- Adrian Casanova, C, Clemson: The second Clemson Tiger drafted by the Detroit Tigers, Casanova batted .248 (40-for-161) with four home runs and 27 RBIs as a redshirt junior. The Tigers liked his catch-and-throw skills, hard play and ability to handle a pitching staff.
45th round -- Tyson Jaquez, 3B, Loyalton (Calif.) HS: A first-team All-Southern Section player in California, Jaquez set career section records for batting average, home runs, RBIs, hits, runs and at-bats. Tigers scouts rated him a plus for raw power and arm, as well as a tireless work ethic.
46th round -- David Mattox, RHP, North Arkansas CC: At 6-foot-4 and 180 pounds, Tigers scouts were enamored with his long, lean, projectible frame and quick, loose arm boasting a plus curveball and changeup.
47th round -- Albert Gonzalez, 2B, American Senior HS, Miami: He's just 5-foot-9 and 155 pounds, but scouts love his defense. The Major League Scouting Bureau compared his frame to a young Roberto Alomar. Tigers scouts called him an instinctive player with good defensive skills.
48th round -- Kevin Hammons, RHP, Sierra JC: Hammons' strong, muscular frame (6-foot-2, 185 pounds) translates into a power approach with his fastball/slider mix.
49th round -- Anthony Capra, LHP, Arvada (Colo.) West HS: Like fellow Colorado prep star Pechek, Capra has signed with Wichita State. Tigers scouts call him a deceptive strike thrower with a plus slider. He led the state in strikeouts in part with a fastball that ranges from 86-90 miles per hour.
50th round -- Jeffery Whitlow, CF, Detroit Country Day School: The 12th-best draft prospect in Michigan according to Baseball America, Whitlow has committed to Stanford. He combines a compact body (5-10, 180) with good speed and arm strength, according to Tigers scouts.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.