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Tigers Feel Safe With Sleeth

June 4, 2003
By Pat Caputo

SAN DIEGO--While there is nothing is a sure thing when it comes to the draft, the Tigers figure they went with the closest thing to it by selecting Wake Forest righthander Kyle Sleeth in the first round.

Taken third overall, there were three factors working strongly in Sleeth’s favor--his size (6-foot-5), his power arm and the fact he was widely considered the best college pitcher available.

But beyond the tangible factors, the Tigers also liked the way Sleeth consistently competed against tough competition in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

"I’ve seen Kyle pitch on his best days and others when he didn’t have as much success," Tigers scouting director Greg Smith said. "But even on his worst days, his stuff to the plate was excellent and he kept his poise. I liked his demeanor."

Sleeth was 31-6, 3.47 with the Demon Deacons. As a junior, Sleeth was 7-3, 2.81, with 102 strikeouts and 29 walks in 96 innings.

During one stretch of his college career, Sleeth had an NCAA-tying 26-game winning streak. He’s consistently in the 94 mph range with his fastball and he has a good slider.

"I’d like to develop a better changeup," Sleeth said. "I made some progress this year, but it has to get better."

Because he’s advanced, Sleeth is expected to move through the Tigers’ minor league system quickly.

"We have to get the business part of it done first and sign him," Smith said. "After that, it will depend on how well Kyle progresses."

The Tigers continued to try to stock up arms in the second round, as they picked righthander Jay Sborz from Langley High School in Great Falls, Va. Sborz was projected as a possible first round selection, as he hits 95 mph consistently and has the body type (6-foot-4, 200 pounds) and arm action scouts project with room to grow.

"His arm was just too good to pass on," Smith said.

Third-round pick Tony Giarratano is a college shortstop from Tulane who has refined tools defensively and above-average speed. He could move swiftly through Detroit’s minor league system. The Tigers picked two more pitchers, righthander Josh Rainwater from DeRiddder (La.) High and lefthander Danny Zell from the University of Houston, with their next two picks.

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