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Tigers Draft Preview
By Allan Simpson
Scouting Director: Greg Smith (first draft: 1997).
2000 Draft (First five rounds, picking eighth)
2001 Draft (First five rounds, picking 11th)
2002 Draft (First five rounds, picking eighth)
Almost nothing has gone right in Detroit over the last two years. Even some of their recent drafts, which looked promising, have produced uncertainty instead. Righthanders Matt Wheatland and Kenny Baugh, the Tigers' top picks in 2000 and 2001, had shoulder surgery and didn't pitch a year ago. Their future remains clouded.
Injuries took a further toll on Detroit's 2001 draft, which gained early acclaim as one of the industry's best. Michael Woods had surgery on both knees, while a dislocated hip limited Ryan Raburn to 48 games in 2002. Raburn had hit .363 in his pro debut.
Detroit can't even win for losing. At 55-106, the Tigers tied Tampa Bay for the worst record in the game last year, but the Devil Rays got the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft because they drafted in an earlier position than the Tigers a year ago. Detroit will pick third.
The last time the Tigers drafted third was 1999, when they selected Southern California catcher Eric Munson. Munson, who was given a major league contract, was supposed to move quickly to Detroit. But he only surfaced this year--as a third baseman, his second position switch since being drafted. Munson, who was drafted because of his bat, contributed to the Tigers early struggles and had barely climbed over the Mendoza line in May.
The Tigers did have the No. 1 pick in 1997 and used it on Rice closer Matt Anderson, who has not justified the selection--especially when Lance Berkman, Troy Glaus and Vernon Wells were available.
Detroit's recent draft frustrations continue a checkered history. From 1992-96, the team's first-round round picks included Rick Greene, Matt Brunson, Cade Gaspar, Mike Drumright and Seth Greisinger. They have combined for one major league appearance by Greene and almost three full seasons on the disabled list by Greisinger, who also showed early promise before injuries hit. Brunson, Gaspar and Drumright never reached the big leagues.
Greg Smith, whose tenure as scouting director has been exceeded by only Lin Garrett of the Yankees and Mike Radcliff of the Twins, will oversee his sixth draft. The Tigers have needs to address in all areas. They've led off with pitchers in seven of their last eight drafts and are expected to go to the mound again in a draft deep in pitching. Look for them to target a college pitcher like Wake Forest's Kyle Sleeth or Richmond's Tim Stauffer.
It's also possible they would take California high school outfielder Delmon Young, however. He may be the best bat in the draft, and he has extra appeal because he's the younger brother of Tigers first baseman/outfielder Dmitri Young.