Detroit Tigers in the MLB draft: A brief history
We crunch the numbers to determine the best first-round picks in Detroit Tigers history. Video by Ryan Ford/DFP
This is a 2012 photo of Gene Lamont of the Detroit Tigers baseball team. This image reflects the Tigers active roster as of Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012, when this image was taken. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) (Photo: AP)
While the Major League Baseball draft — which dates to 1965 — might not be as glamorous as its June cousins in the NBA and NHL, it has become much more of a spectacle in recent years. MLB Network will telecast the first round Monday night (starting at 7), with the Twins getting the first pick. Free Press sports writer Ryan Ford looks at the draft:
The Tigers’ positions
The Tigers have taken 59 players in the first round (including comp picks). The picks by position:
Right-handed pitcher: 26
Left-handed pitcher: 5
First baseman: 3
Second baseman: 1
Third baseman: 3
2017 MLB draft preview: Which player will Detroit Tigers pick at 18?
In the beginning, there was Gene Lamont
The MLB draft began in 1965 in an effort to cut down on player bonuses and improve competitve balance. (How much each mattered to the owners probably depends on your view of owner-player relations in baseball.) Outfielder Rick Monday went first to the A’s, and the Tigers took catcher Gene Lamont at No. 13. Lamont eventually made it to the majors in 1970, with several short stints over the next five seasons. By 1975, he was done in the majors and moved into management, eventually working with Jim Leyland on the White Sox, Pirates and Tigers staffs. Lamont, now the Tigers’ bench coach under Brad Ausmus, was American League manager of the year in 1993 for leading the White Sox to the AL Central title.
Who’s up first?
The Twins, currently enjoying a surprise run as AL Central leaders, are on the clock. Their 2017 success could prompt them to take Vanderbilt starter Kyle Wright, the most MLB-ready prospect, but if they’re willing to be patient, they could take one of two standout two-way players:
High school baseball pitcher Hunter Greene (Photo: AP)
The Sherman Oaks, Calif., phenom would make history if he’s taken No. 1 — no right-handed high school pitcher ever has been taken first overall. The Sports Illustrated cover boy brings a 102-m.p.h. fastball on the mound, as well as a solid bat as a shortstop. If the Twins take him No. 1, they’d likely lean toward making him a pitcher.
McKay started Saturday for Louisville’s NCAA Super Regional matchup vs. Kentucky. During the season, McKay had a 2.31 ERA and struck out 131 in 971/3 innings while also hitting .363 with 17 homers as the Cardinals’ starting first baseman. He’d like to continue to do both in the pros, but most scouts see more upside in his bat.
Louisville pitcher Brendan McKay (Photo: Timothy D. Easley/Associated Press; Lamont photo by Jeff Robertson/AP; Greene photo by Mark J. Terrill/AP.Statistics and information from baseball-reference.com)
Let’s play 18
The Tigers will have the 18th pick Monday night; it’s a spot that has produced some decent players the past few years. The past five players taken 18th to make it to the majors:
2007: Pete Kozma, Cardinals
The shortstop hit .333 in 2012 in limited playing time, but struggled the next season as a full-timer, hitting .217. He’s already on his third team — and second this season — after being claimed on waivers from the Yankees by the Rangers.
2008: Ike Davis, Mets
The outfielder burst into the bigs in only two years, hitting 19 homers as a rookie and finishing seventh in rookie of the year voting. He peaked with 32 homers in 2012, but lost his ability to make contact. He’s playing in Triple-A in the Dodgers’ organization this year.
2010: Kaleb Cowert, Angels
Cowert was taken as a pitcher, but quickly transitioned to the infield in the minor leagues. His bat, however, still is lagging. He has hit only .176 in 65 games in Los Angeles over two seasons, though he’s hitting .310 in Triple-A Salt Lake City this season.
2011: Sonny Gray, Athletics
Gray took just two years to make the majors and was one of the AL’s best pitchers in 2014-15, making the All-Star team in 2015. But an injury cost him in 2016. After missing the first month of 2017, Gray is showing signs of his previous success.
2012: Corey Seager, Dodgers
Seager came with strong bloodlines — his brother, Kyle, is an All-Star 3B for the M’s — and hasn’t disappointed since. He hit .337 in 27 games in 2015, then won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2016 with a .308 average and 26 home runs.
The Tigers’ past six first-round picks: