A decade of Detroit Tigers’ MLB drafts haven’t resulted in many stars at big-league level

Detroit Free Press

The 2022 MLB draft begins Sunday (and runs through Tuesday), and the Detroit Tigers have the No. 12 overall pick in the first round.

The Tigers know what they’d like to do — think college bat (Texas Tech infielder Jace Jung) or Alabama left-hander Connor Prielipp — but their choice depends on what the teams ahead of them do. For the first time since 2017, the Tigers don’t have a top-five pick.

DRAFT TIME: Tigers’ pick at No. 12 in MLB draft forces balance of readiness, overall talent

NAMES TO KNOW: Breaking down several players Tigers could select No. 12 overall in MLB draft

Here’s a look at Detroit’s past 10 drafts, from 2012-21:

(DNS: Did not sign)

2012

Top five picks: RHP Jake Thompson (No. 91 overall), CF Austin Schotts (No. 121), RHP Drew VerHagen (No. 154), LHP Joe Rogers (No. 184), LHP Jordan John (No. 214).

MLB players drafted: Thompson, Verhagen, 2B Devon Travis, LHP A.J. Minter (DNS).

Analysis: This was not the Tigers’ finest work, as Travis — their 13th-round pick — led the three MLBers who ended up in the Tigers organization with 5.8 WAR (according to Baseball Reference) over his four-year career, from 2015-18, all with the Toronto Blue Jays. In 2014, the Tigers traded Travis to the Blue Jays for Anthony Gose, who played 170 games as the Tigers’ center fielder, entered minor-league free agency in November 2017 and is now a pitcher for the Cleveland Guardians. VerHagen had a 5.11 ERA over 127 games (eight starts) in six seasons for the Tigers, from 2014-19; he’s now with the St. Louis Cardinals after a couple seasons in Japan.

2013

Top five picks: RHP Jonathan Crawford (No. 20), RHP Corey Knebel (No. 39), LHP Kevin Ziomek (No. 58), RHP Jeff Thompson (No. 94), RHP Austin Kubitza (No. 126).

MLB players drafted: Knebel, RHP Buck Farmer, RHP Zac Reininger, RHP Chad Green, RHP Matt Wotherspoon, LHP Tyler Alexander (DNS), RHP Joe Mantiply, LHP A.J. Puk (DNS).

Analysis: Remember Thompson from 2012? The Tigers packaged him with Knebel to get Joakim Soria from the Texas Rangers in 2014. Thompson has a 7.94 ERA in the Mexican League this year, but Knebel became an All-Star in 2017 and remains in the big leagues. Also in 2014, the Tigers traded Crawford (and Eugenio Suárez) to the Cincinnati Reds for one season of Alfredo Simón. Crawford never got past High-A and has spent the past three seasons pitching in independent leagues. Mantiply, the 27th-round pick claimed off waivers shortly after making his MLB debut with the Tigers in 2016, became an All-Star in 2022 with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

2014

Top five picks: OF Derek Hill (No. 23), RHP Spencer Turnbull (No. 63), C Grayson Greiner (No. 99), RHP Adam Ravenelle (No. 130), C Shane Zeile (No. 160).

MLB players drafted: Hill, Turnbull, Greiner, RHP Artie Lewicki, OF Mike Gerber, RHP Spenser Watkins, LHP Locke St. John, RHP Alex Faedo (DNS).

Analysis: The Tigers’ first-, second- and third-round picks all reached the big leagues with the organization that drafted them. At this point, Hill appears to be stuck between Triple-A and a fourth outfielder role, but the Tigers hit a home run with Turnbull in the second round. In May 2021, he threw the franchise’s first no-hitter since Justin Verlander‘s in 2011. Although Turnbull is working back from Tommy John surgery, he is an established starting pitcher and will provide a significant boost when he returns. Two picks after Hill, the Oakland Athletics selected three-time Gold Glove-winning third baseman Matt Chapman. Watkins, the 30th-round pick released by the Tigers in 2020, is thriving out of the bullpen this season with the Baltimore Orioles.

2015

Top five picks: RHP Beau Burrows (No. 22), OF Christin Stewart (No. 34), LHP Tyler Alexander (No. 65), RHP Drew Smith (No. 99), C Kade Scivicque (No. 130).

MLB players drafted: Burrows, Stewart, Alexander, Smith, LHP Matt Hall, RHP Kyle Dowdy, LHP Cam Vieaux (DNS), RHP Jackson Kowar (DNS).

Analysis: Burrows and Stewart both advanced to the big leagues with the Tigers, but they weren’t the impact players the organization once hoped for. Burrows transitioned to a reliever role, pitched six games for the Tigers and is now in Triple-A in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. Stewart displayed insane power in Triple-A Toledo but was worth -1.2 WAR over 157 MLB games, as his power never translated to the majors. This year, Stewart is slugging in the minors for the Boston Red Sox. Detroit’s best pick from this draft was Alexander. He has a 4.17 ERA as a swingman reliever in four seasons (2019-22) with the Tigers.

2016

Top five picks: RHP Matt Manning (No. 9), RHP Kyle Funkhouser (No. 115), RHP Mark Ecker (No. 145), BRHP ryan Garcia (No. 175), LHP Austin Sodders (No. 205).

MLB players drafted: Manning, Funkhouser, Garcia, OF Jacob Robson, RHP John Schreiber, RHP Brandyn Sittinger, RHP Keegan Thompson (DNS), SS Josh Smith (DNS).

Analysis: Shoulder injuries have plagued Manning and Funkhouser this season, and Garcia — the team’s closer at the end of 2020 — is in Toledo without a clear path to return to the majors because of his inflated walk rate. Unless Manning develops a third pitch to go with his fastball and curveball, he could flame out before reaching his potential as a starting pitcher. Schreiber, the 15th-round pick, was claimed off waivers by the Red Sox in February 2021. This year, he is arguably Boston’s best reliever, sporting a 1.16 ERA in 31 innings.

2017

Top five picks: RHP Alex Faedo (No. 18), OF Reynaldo Rivera (No. 57), C Joey Morgan (No. 95), RHP Gio Arriera (No. 125), C Sam McMillan (No. 155).

MLB players drafted: Faedo, RHP Will Vest, RHP Drew Carlton.

Analysis: Not good. After Faedo, the Tigers didn’t draft another MLB player until taking Vest in the 12th round. Rivera was released in May, Morgan hasn’t played pro ball since 2019, Arriera is in High-A West Michigan and McMillan retired in January 2022. Faedo underwent Tommy John surgery in January 2021, then made his MLB debut at age 26 in May. There’s still a chance Faedo turns into a fine big-league starter, but it has taken longer than expected due to his arm injury.

2018

Top five picks: RHP Casey Mize (No. 1), OF Parker Meadows (No. 44), 2B Kody Clemens (No. 79), OF Kingston Liniak (No. 105), LHP Adam Wolf (No. 135).

MLB players drafted: Mize, Clemens, LHP Tarik Skubal, RHP Garrett Hill.

Analysis: The best pick from this draft was Skubal, a ninth-rounder from Seattle University who has developed into a frontline starter in 2022. He was an American League Cy Young candidate through his first 11 starts (2.33 ERA) but bombed his next five starts (9.00 ERA). The 24-year-old left-hander is also the only member of this year’s Opening Day starting rotation to stay healthy. Mize underwent Tommy John surgery in June; Meadows has a .707 OPS in 59 games for Double-A Erie. Clemens, the son of seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens, made his MLB debut this year but projects as a utility player at best.

2019

Top five picks: OF Riley Greene (No. 5), 3B Nick Quintana (No. 47), 3B Andre Lipcius (No. 83), SS Ryan Kreidler (No. 112), OF Bryant Packard (No. 142).

MLB players drafted: Greene, RHP Beau Brieske.

Analysis: Greene made his MLB debut June 18 and is already the team’s leadoff hitter and starting center fielder. He looks like a superstar in the making and could be the face of the franchise for years. This draft produced Brieske in the 27th round. He has a 4.19 ERA in 15 starts this season; many within the organization believe he will be in the big leagues for a long time. The Tigers developed Kreidler, the fourth-round pick, into a solid prospect, but it’s unclear whether he ends up as a starting infielder or a utility player. Quintana struggled in his first two years of pro ball, so the Tigers traded him to the Reds in November 2021 for two-time Gold Glove-winning catcher Tucker Barnhart. Lipcius, another infielder, is succeeding in Double-A Erie due to improved plate discipline. One player to keep an eye: Kerry Carpenter, the 19th-round pick hitting .321 with 24 home runs with Erie (63 games) and Toledo (15 games) this year.

2020

Top five picks: 1B/3B Spencer Torkelson (No. 1), C Dillon Dingler (No. 38), OF Daniel Cabrera (No. 62), Trei Cruz (No. 73), Gage Workman (No. 102).

MLB players drafted: Torkelson.

Analysis: The Tigers were thought to have crushed this draft, and Torkelson was the consensus No. 1 overall pick. The top five picks — in a draft shortened to five rounds due to the coronavirus pandemic — were all college bats. Torkelson, who made the 2022 Opening Day roster, is arguably the worst hitter in baseball this season, hitting .199 with four home runs in 82 games. The Tigers hoped Dingler would be in Triple-A by now, but he’s making swing adjustments in Double-A Erie. Cabrera was demoted from Erie to High-A West Michigan earlier this season, Cruz has spent the entire year in West Michigan and Workman is hitting .204 with 125 strikeouts in 72 games for Erie. The Tigers’ best player from this draft could be prep infielder Colt Keith, selected No. 132 overall. But the 20-year-old hasn’t played since June 9 due to a right shoulder injury.

2021

Top five picks: RHP Jackson Jobe (No. 3), RHP Ty Madden (No. 32), SS Izaac Pacheco (No. 39), RHP Dylan Smith (No. 74), RHP Tyler Mattison (No. 104).

MLB players drafted: N/A.

Analysis: It’s too soon to analyze this draft, but the biggest question — possibly for years to come — will surround shortstop Marcelo Mayer, who went No. 4 to the Red Sox after the Tigers passed on him. In 2022, Jobe is pitching for Low-A Lakeland and Mayer is playing shortstop for Low-A Salem. Jobe, under the guidance of a revamped player development department, has a 5.09 ERA with 9.5 strikeouts and four walks per nine innings over 40⅔ innings (in 13 starts). Meanwhile, Mayer is hitting .290 with eight home runs, 32 walks and 62 strikeouts in 50 games.

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldRead more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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