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Outstanding Upside

June 7, 2004
By Pat Caputo

DETROIT--When it came right down to it, the Tigers found Justin Verlander's potential too high to bypass.

So they selected the 6-foot-4, 190-pound righthander from Old Dominion in the first round with the second-overall pick. There had been speculation the Tigers were also interested in Texas high school righthander Homer Bailey and Rice righthander Jeff Niemann, but they did not hesitate to call Verlander's name when their pick came up.

"As we narrowed our focus, we kept coming back to Justin and what he brings to the mound and his makeup," scouting director Greg Smith said. "He'll pitch anywhere from 92 mph to 98 mph with good life on his fastball. His breaking ball is a strikeout pitch and he has a good changeup. Some of the criticism he received for a lack of consistency was overblown."

The questions surrounding Verlander entering the draft revolved around his ability to repeat pitches. So while his ceiling is extraordinarily high, it might take him some time to develop despite being picked so early in the draft from the college ranks.

"In the beginning of the season, I was a little inconsistent and walked more hitters than I would have liked," Verlander said. "But later in the season, I settled down."

The Tigers selected four college pitchers with their first five picks Monday. Their second selection was Tampa righthander Eric Beattie. He dominated the Cape Cod League last season and was projected as possible first-round selection. He is more refined than Verlander and could actually reach the major leagues quicker. The Tigers fourth selection was 6-foot-3, 240-pound righthander Colin Mahoney from Clemson. A converted catcher, he has recorded velocities of 100 mph several times. But he is considered a raw prospect because of his relative inexperience as a pitcher. Detroit was pleasantly surprised Georgia Tech righthander Andrew Kown was available when they selected fifth. He is another refined pitcher with a 90 mph-plus fastball.

"You can't have enough quality arms or enough quality pitching," Smith said. "That was the strength of this draft and we played right into it."

TIGER TALES

In the third round, the Tigers picked Rutgers outfielder Jeff Frazier. Although he does not have one tool that stands out, he is a good all-around athlete with some upside as a hitter. His brother, Charles, played six years in the Marlins system, many when general manager Dave Dombrowski worked with the Marlins.

Selecting college players so early in the draft was a contrast from their first two drafts with Dombrowski as team president. The Tigers took two high school players within the first four rounds those years, including the first two selections in 2002--infielder Scott Moore and outfielder Brent Clevlen. In 2001, their last draft under former general manager Randy Smith, the Tigers took college or junior college players with their first 11 picks.

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