The Tigers selected Andy Dirks in the 2008 draft. (Robin Buckson/The Detroit News)
Why does baseballís draft matter?
Itís a fair question. Baseball, unlike other sports, has no immediate solutions to be found in the draft. Even top picks who seem ready to take the next step spend a season or more in the minors.
Add to that fact there are few recognizable names, and youíve got a recipe for ignoring the draft completely.
By comparison, NBA and NFL fans become quite familiar with draftees because of the widespread interest in college football and basketball.
Still, does that mean the baseball draft doesnít matter?
Of course not. Itís hugely important to teams and can have a lasting impact on their chance of success.
Pitching is priority
Take, for instance, some of the current problems for the Tigers, notably in the bullpen. Some teams draft well, stocking up yearly with players who work through the system until they are ready contribute at the big league level.
In the first 10 rounds in 2008, the Tigers selected Ryan Perry, Cody Satterwhite, Scott Green, Brett Jacobson, Alex Avila, Tyler Stohr, Jade Todd, Andy Dirks, Anthony Shawler and Robbie Weinhardt.
The Tigers went heavy on pitchers, and all but Todd had college experience.
That seemed to indicate the front office was looking for quick solutions at the cost of higher ceilings later.
If that was the strategy, it didnít pay off.
Perry spent his first season in Florida, pitching mainly for Single A Lakeland, where he gave up more than his fair share of hits and walks alike. He made it to Detroit in his second season, yet had control problems he never overcame. After 24 hits and 21 walks in 27 innings in 2009, he was sent back to the minors. Eventually he was traded to Washington, which tried to convert him to a starter. He made it back to the bigs as a reliever last year, but never did develop into a serviceable pitcher.
Only two other pitchers from that 2008 draft have touched the majors ó Weinhardt (10th round) made 30 appearances and Thad Weber (16th) made eight.
Two position players made it to the majors, as well. Avila has been a regular in the lineup, though his effectiveness at the plate has never touched 2011 levels. And Dirks has been consistent, though unspectacular.
Trades more their style
You obviously canít pin all the Tigers struggles in the bullpen on the draft alone.
Some teams build strongly from within, and others are better off dealing in the trade or free-agent markets. Some teams, such as the Twins, seemed to struggle in all aspects in recent years.
The Tigers seem to find success in the trade market ó though recently thatís come at the expense of having pitchers such as Chance Ruffin or Charlie Furbush available in the bullpen.
The Tigers did themselves few favors in June 2008 ó or 2009 or 2010.
Kurt Mensching is the editor of Bless You Boys, a Tigers blog (blessyouboys.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org