Thursday, June 7, 2007

MLB Draft Makes Clear Tigers Are Part of Baseball's Elite

The Detroit Tigers selected the top high school pitching prospect in the Major League Baseball draft on Thursday, and did so despite selecting 27th overall. Yes, welcome to a world without a salary cap, where talent does not dictate where you are drafted, and when you are represented by Scott Boras, scouts can be wowed all they want by your arm or your bat, and you will slide because of concerns over how much it will cost to sign you (if a team can sign the player at all before he either re-enters the draft the following season or chooses to attend college instead). The Tigers selected Rick Porcello, and reading a write-up of him at Baseball America, it's obvious he is cut from the same cloth as previous Tigers draft picks Justin Verlander (last seasons' Rookie of the Year) and Andrew Miller (who will make his second start of the season on Sunday).

The top pitcher in the long awaited, much anticipated high school Class of 2007, Porcello was tabbed as a can't-miss prospect by the time he was a 15-year-old on the showcase circuit. His maternal grandfather, Sam Dente, played shortstop in the majors, appearing in the 1954 World Series with the Indians. Porcello has shown steady improvement during his prep career, and was pitching at his best heading down the stretch, tossing a seven-inning perfect game for the nation's No. 1 high school team in May. He's long, lean, athletic and projectable with a clean delivery. His fastball sits at 93-95, touching 98. He holds his velocity deep into outings. He throws a tight curveball at 74-76 and a harder, sharp-breaking slider at 80-82. He shows feel for his changeup. He can spot his fastball to both sides of the plate, and mixes his pitches effectively. He tends to finish his delivery across his body, and if he improved his extension, his stuff could have better life, which would make him profile as a true top-of-the-rotation pitcher. He still is likely to be the first high school pitcher selected.

My Cutoff Man Blog, Ian at Bless You Boys, and Kurt at Mack Avenue Tigers all have more about Porcello and more on the uniformally positive reaction by the national press of the Tigers selection.

And Mike Ilitch deserves a lot of credit for continuing to allow the Tigers to stock their team with quality and expensive prospects through the draft. Porcello is going to demand at least $5 million (and likely more) and he won't be easy to sign. But the same was said about Justin Verlander before him. And Cameron Maybin. And Andrew Miller. But Ilitch opened up his checkbook and got each signed, and each either have (in Verlander's case), are (Verlander and now Andrew Miller), or will (Maybin) play crucial roles in the nascent Tigers dynasty. Team after team after team passed on Porcello on Thursday, even though he has exceptional talent and projects as a top of the rotation starter. They were unwilling to take the risk that they couldn't sign Porcello because they knew they would never come close to matching his demands. The Tigers, though, aren't afraid of spending money to stock their farm system. The Tigers would have never made it to the World Series without Justin Verlander last season, and with the potential pitching staff the Tigers will have in the future, they'd never have the success they should if they didn't draft Miller or Porcello.

The Detroit Tigers are the envy of most all Major League Baseball teams tonight. Not just because they drafted who many consider to be the top high school talent in the draft, but because they could draft who many consider to be the top high school talent in the draft. And for that, Tigers fans are lucky to have an owner dedicated to winning like Mike Ilitch.

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