Can Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal End Detroit’s Long Draft Drought?

The hapless Tigers began a new era on Monday, calling up their top three prospects in the hopes of finally producing some major-league talent.

Late Tigers owner Mike Ilitch poses with two of Detroit’s best recent draft picks, Justin Verlander and Alex Avila. (photo by the author)

2002

First Round: As already discussed, Moore was a bust.

2003

First Round: After losing 106 games in 2002, the Tigers had the third overall pick. It wasn’t a deep first round, but Nick Markakis could have helped Detroit’s first 21st-century rebuild. Kyle Sleeth got a $3.3 million bonus and never made it to Triple-A.

2004

First Round: After losing an American League record 119 games in 2003, the Tigers only got the second overall pick. The leagues were still alternating years, so San Diego got #1 as the worst NL team. They picked Matt Bush. The Tigers settled for Justin Verlander.

2005

First Round: The Tigers took Cameron Maybin with the 10th pick, traded him for Miguel Cabrera, brought him back in 2016, watched him win a ring with Verlander in 2017, then brought him back again this year. His 13.9 career WAR isn’t spectacular, but no one is complaining about this pick.

2006

First Round: Magglio Ordonez walked off the A’s in the ALCS and the Tigers went to the World Series three years after losing 119 games. Dombrowski could have drafted me in the first round and no one would have held it against him. Instead, picking sixth, he grabbed Andrew Miller and traded him for Miguel Cabrera. Surprisingly, he only has 8.5 career WAR, but the 0.95 ERA in 38 postseason innings adds some value.

2007

First Round: The defending AL champs had two first-round picks — №27 and №60 — and picked a pair of high-school pitchers. Rick Porcello has 19.8 WAR, a Cy Young, and a World Series ring. Brandon Hamilton never reached High-A.

2008

First Round: The Tigers took RHP Ryan Perry with the 21st pick and he was a replacement-level bullpen arm for a few years. Developing pitching prospects is tough.

2009

First Round: №8 Jacob Turner was supposed to be the next Tigers ace. It didn’t work out, but in a recurring theme, Dombrowski traded him to the Marlins. This time he got Anibal Sanchez.

2010

First Round: The Tigers didn’t pick until the supplemental part of the first round, but grabbed born DH Nicholas Castellanos at №44. Thanks to his horrific infield and outfield defense and refusal to play 1B, it took him eight seasons to finally reach 10 WAR, but he got there this season.

2011

First Round: Lost the pick to the Red Sox after signing Victor Martinez.

2012

First Round: Lost the pick to the Brewers after signing Prince Fielder to replace an injured Victor Martinez.

2013

First Round: The defending AL champions took RHP Jonathan Crawford at №20. He never reached Double-A, but that was Cincinnati’s problem, as Crawford was traded to the Reds in 2014 for Alfredo Simon. Crawford for Simon straight up would have been a decent trade for the Tigers, but they also included Eugenio Suarez.

2014

First Round: The Tigers took Derek Hill at №23 and have patiently waited for him to stay healthy. Last year, he played a career-high 120 games for Double-A Erie but hit just .243/.311/.394. He’s got a big-league glove but losing a year of development isn’t going to help fix his bat.

2015

First Round: The Tigers selected high-school RHP Beau Burrows at №22. He was a top-100 prospect going into the 2018 season but posted a 4.10 ERA with 3.8 BB/9, then had a 5.51 ERA with a 4.4 BB/9 in 15 Triple-A starts last year.

2016

First Round: This was Avila’s first draft as general manager and he was left with the №9 pick. He took Manning, who posted a 2.56 ERA and a 0.980 WHIP in 24 Double-A starts last season. He’s only 22, so the Tigers are giving him a little more time at the alternate training site before bringing him up to join Mize and Skrubal.

2017

First Round: The Tigers took Faedo with the 18th pick in their never-ending quest to find pitching prospects who could survive the maturation process. He’s been a good-but-not-dominant starter in 34 Double-A starts, but he doesn’t turn 25 until November.

2018

First Round: Casey Mize is where we started this article. He was the first overall pick and his 2019 season showed why Tigers fans are as excited about his arrival as any pitcher since Verlander. He started the year in High-A before being promoted with a 0.88 ERA in six starts. In his first Double-A start, he threw a no-hitter. Now he’s in the majors.

2019

First Round: By June, it was obvious the Tigers had a historically bad offense — they finished with an 80 OPS+ — and no high-level hitting prospects. Avila went after that hard, taking position players in each of the first six rounds. OF Riley Greene was the first one, going №5. He posted a .749 OPS in 57 games at three levels and no one knows what he might become in the next five years. Again, playing in 2020 would have helped.

2020

First Round: After losing 114 games, the Tigers got the first overall pick for the second time in three years. They used it on Arizona State slugger Spencer Torkelson, who is now working out at the team’s alternate training facility. In three college seasons and two years in the Cape Cod Summer League, he had a 1.198 OPS and 63 homers in 159 games. That’s a decent resume.

Freelance writer and data scientist in Metro Detroit. Covered pro sports for NHL.com and the Associated Press before COVID-19. Mentally ill and not ashamed.

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