Tigers stock up on pitching during Draft

Tigers stock up on pitching during Draft

DETROIT -- The Tigers favored the college ranks when making their selections in the 2008 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

Of their 50 picks in the Draft, 44 came from college programs, meaning just six came from high school. By comparison, the Tigers went with 18 high school players a year ago.

The Tigers felt college was where they could best fill their needs, which, judging by a positional breakdown of their Draft, focused on pitching and up-the-middle positions. They picked 25 pitchers, of which 20 are right-handed, to go with six players each at catcher, shortstop and center field.

The pitcher-heavy Draft continued a recent trend. Detroit picked 25 pitchers last year and 28 in 2006.

After selecting four right-handers and a catcher on Day 1, the Tigers got nine hurlers with their first 12 picks on Day 2. For the day, they drafted 16 pitchers, the six shortstops, catchers and center fielders, plus four second basemen, two third basemen and a first baseman.

That included three talented relief pitchers early in the day. In Round 6, they picked Tyler Stohr from the University of North Florida, who had 10 saves and a 1.93 ERA this season. The Tigers went with Oklahoma State University reliever Robert Weinhardt in Round 10 and, surprisingly, got University of Southern Mississippi lefty closer Tyler Conn in the 14th round. Conn led the nation and set a record with 18 saves this season.

"At first, nobody wanted me in college," Conn recently told the Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.) newspaper. "Then I got to [junior college] and no Division I schools wanted me at first. Then I get two looks from pro scouts. I'm sure next year someone will say I can't go any further and I will keep proving them wrong. That's been my life story."

Meanwhile, the Tigers picked up Wichita State University center fielder Andy Dirks, who is hitting .399 this season, in the eighth round, and University of Northern Iowa shortstop Brandon Douglas, Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year and Second Team All-America, with their 11th-round selection.

"In my opinion, Brandon is a kid who, given the right situation, has a chance to play professionally for a long time and maybe make it to the big leagues," UNI coach Rick Heller recently told The Cedar Rapids Gazette.

As for starting pitching, the Tigers got Old Dominion University righty Anthony Shawler, a First Team All-American last season who recorded 95 strikeouts in 75 2/3 innings this season, in round nine, and University of Nebraska right-hander Thad Weber, who went 9-5 this season, in the 16th round.

Tigers' top five selections
Pick
POS
Name
School
21.RHPRyan PerryU of Arizona
67.RHPCody SatterwhiteU of Mississippi
99.RHPScott GreenU of Kentucky
133.RHPBrett JacobsonVanderbilt U
163.CAlexander AvilaU Alabama Tuscaloosa
Complete Tigers Draft results >

The Tigers continued to pick pitchers, middle infielders, catchers and center fielders until finally picking a corner position with Oregon State University slugging first baseman Jordan Lennerton in round 33.

"It's going to be a great opportunity to be in the Detroit system," Lennerton told the Oregon State athletics Web site. "I'm excited. Hopefully, I'll be able to play every day for them."

One pick prior to Lennerton, the Tigers went with Michigan State University right-handed starter Mark Sorenson, son of former Major League pitcher Larry, who is a former radio announcer for the Tigers. Mark, a redshirt junior, went down with an injury his freshman year, but responded well on his way to Third Team All-Big Ten honors this season.

"After battling back from injury, I thought I had a good year and that helped me get drafted," he told the Michigan State athletics Web site. "I just wanted to show that I can pitch for a whole season and be effective."

One of Mark Sorenson's catchers at Michigan State, Eric Roof, went to the Tigers in round 46. His father is a baserunning coach in the Tigers system.

Keeping things in the Tigers family, they picked right-hander Matthew Robertson, brother of Tigers starting pitcher Nate, for the second straight year in the 49th round.

They also drafted both sons of Tigers vice president Al Avila. His eldest son, University of Alabama catcher Alex, went in the fifth round, while his other son, high school second baseman Alan, went in the 48th round.

Any player selected in this year's Draft has until Aug. 15 to sign with the team or, if eligible, they will be put in next year's Draft pool.

Scott McNeish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.