Over the next two days Major League Baseball will be holding its annual amateur draft consisting of over fifty rounds and the selection of over 1500 players, 99% of whom won't make it to the big league level, and the 1% who do make it will be backing up an undrafted Latino player. This means that nearly every person in the country with any sort of baseball experience has probably been drafted at some point in time. I think I've even been drafted based on my few years experience in Little League, (however due to the fact that I missed the cutoff date to play with kids my own age by two days my numbers were somewhat inflated, it was like the Steroid Age of Clio Youth Baseball.) It goes without saying that a team that drafts well and constantly has an influx of homegrown talent to complement their veteran players and keep free agent signings of has-beens (Reggie Sanders) and never-weres (Pat Meares) to a minimum are pretty successful. For a while the Tigers were one of the best teams in baseball when it came to the draft as exemplified by the 1984 World Series team, where nearly every major player like Gibson, Whitaker, Trammel, and Morris, were drafted and nurtured in the Tigers system. Then the Tigers struck out with their early picks for about twenty years and when it became to replace the aging Trammel, Whitaker, and Gibson the Tigers were stuck and had to resort to signing the Bip Roberts and trading for the Mark Lewis' of the world and a series of 100 loss seasons ensued. Today I'm going to look at recent Tigers 1st round draft picks (flameouts).
1995: Mike Drumright: Was a highly regarded polished college pitcher and drafted ahead of the riskier high schooler named, wait for it.........Roy Halladay (ugh). Drumright famously threw 150 pitches in 3 innings at Double A, which rightfully got his manager fired, and blew his arm all to hell. According to the statistical, souless, robot unit named Rob Neyer Drumright was almost traded for Bernie Williams in '97 before the "Boss" nixed the deal. Instead he went 24-46 in 5 seasons in the Tigers organization before being traded straight up for Brandon Villafuerte. Drumright ended up making his major league debut in 2003 with the Orioles pitching 4 innings before retiring.
1996: Seth Greisinger: Another college pitcher who experienced arm trouble for Detroit. Greisinger made it to the majors in his second full season and showed some promise after making 21 starts. However arm problems resulted in him missing 3 full seasons. 3!!!! To his credit he battled back from the injuries to start a couple of games for Detroit in '02. However he couldnt make the team in '03 (remember they lost 119 games that year) and has kicked around with the Twins and Braves since.
1997: Matt Anderson: He was the number one pick in the draft and my all time favorite Tiger for reasons unbeknownst to even me. He threw 100 MPH, which he couldnt control, and a knuckle curve that got consistently rocked, but he was exciting. At least until he blew his arm out in an octopus throwing contest in an attempt to win Red Wings tickets that were too expensive for his $4,000,000 salary. Currently he's getting lit up in AAA Fresno in the Giants organization.
1998: Jeff Weaver: Finally the Tigers drafted a solid major leaguer. Weaver was the "ace" on the Tigers staff as soon as he reached the big leagues. However the most impressive thing he accomplished in his Tiger career was bating ultrareligious Royal Mike Sweeney into one of the most spectacular donnybrooks in years. He was eventually traded for Jeremy Bonderman in what looks to be a good deal, given Weavers struggles over the past few seasons.
1999: Eric Munson: Munson was highly touted coming out of college and was taken third overall. He showed promise as a power hitter in that disastrous '03 season, enough promise for me to take him as a sleeper pick at third in '04. That didnt work out to well. After refusing to die in Tampa, where all former prospects go for a last shot (currently Russell Branyan, Travis Lee and Casey Fossum) last season, he's reunited with Phil Garner and the Astros.
2000: Matt Wheatland: I know nothing about this guy, other than the fact that I own a ton of his Topps rookie cards, this was in a brief period when I heavily got into collecting cards again, (heavy makes it sound like a drug addiction, and so what if I was a 17 year old eschewing high school parties to buy baseball cards, the fact that I was also single was purely coincidental I tell you. COINCIDENTAL.) Wheatland held out and got an assload of money as a bonus and went 3-5 in two seasons. Good move by him
2001: Kenny Baugh: Another college pitcher, more arm trouble. According to an old Detroit news article Baugh once threw 170+ pitches in a college game his senior year, and then 210 innings in the minors for Detroit. Soon he was throwing BP fastballs and headed for shoulder surgery. He's now with the Padres organization.
2002: Scott Moore: After realizing drafting pitchers wasnt working out to well the Tigers took a shot on another position player this time a shortstop. Moore hit nothing and struck out a lot in his three years with the Tigers. He was traded to the Cubs in the Farnsworth deal and is still in the low level minors.
2003: Kyle Sleeth: Another pitcher even more arm problems. After missing out on Delmon Young and Rickie Weeks, two top flight, can't miss prospects, the Tigers drafted third and took Sleeth out of Wake Forest. After two unspectacular years in the minors Sleeth had Tommy John surgery forcing him to miss all of last season.
2004: Justin Verlander: He took forever to sign, but so far the early returns have been good. Verlander has been one of the best pitchers in the American League this season, and even earned a little photo on the top left corner of this weeks Sports Illustrated. Wait, did I just say our top pitching prospect of the last 25 years just appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated? NOOOOOOOOO. If anything happens to Verlander in the next few weeks I'm kidnapping Rick Reilly and feeding him to Steve Rushin.
2005: Cameron Maybin: To early to tell with him, but his first season has been promising and he is known as a toolsy player who has been compared to (I'm not making this up) Ken Griffey Jr. However I remember hearing the same thing about Ruben Mateo......howd that turn out?
Update: According to mlb.com due to the incompetence of the Royals the Tigers have taken Andrew Miller in the first round. The consensus best pitcher in the draft out of North Carolina, and supposedly the most major league ready.