Detroit — Never in his wildest dreams did David Chadd ever expect to end up with four players from the bountiful 2005 MLB draft, including three Top 10 picks.
“It’s funny, I was just talking to Justin (Upton) about that the other day,” said Chadd, the Tigers’ longtime director of amateur scouting now promoted to assistant general manager. “I guess it’s a little bit of a reunion.”
The one player the Tigers drafted in that powerhouse 2005 first round was center fielder Cameron Maybin. He was taken with the 10th overall pick, traded to the Marlins in the Miguel Cabrera deal and then reacquired this offseason.
The Tigers have signed Upton, the No. 1 pick in 2005, right-handed pitcher Mike Pelfrey, the ninth overall pick, and outfielder John Mayberry Jr. (to a minor league deal), who went 19th.
“It’s kind of fun that we are all together now, 10 years later,” said Pelfrey. “Justin and Cam were high school guys, so I was a little older than they were. That draft was pretty good.”
Understatement. Beside the four new Tigers, the 2005 draft included Alex Gordon (2), Ryan Zimmerman (4), Ryan Braun (5), Troy Tulowitzki (7), Andrew McCutchen (11), Jay Bruce (12), Cliff Pennington (21), Jacoby Ellsbury (23), Matt Garza (25) and Colby Rasmus (28).
“I don’t know if special was the word we would have used back then,” Chadd said. “But I do remember thinking it was going to be a good class, for sure. There was so much talent. But I don’t think anybody could say at the time it would be what it is now looking back.
“It was special, one of the better drafts I’ve even been a part of.”
Chadd, as well as general manager Al Avila, who was assistant to president Dave Dombrowski at the time, put together extensive reports on just about every player that went in the first round that year.
“Yeah, you look at the top 10, top 15 guys on that list, even some at the bottom, we scouted all those guys early on,” Chadd said. “Upton you knew was going to be gone, and Gordon you knew would be gone. But after that, it was a little bit cloudy.
“You look at it now and see these names, you know, ‘Tulo? What do you mean cloudy?’ But at the time it was. Zimmerman, Braun, Tulo, these weren’t sure bets at the time. So we scouted them all.”
Maybin was team’s second choice
As their No. 10 pick drew near, Pelfrey and Maybin were at the top of the Tigers’ board. Chadd had a lot of time invested in Pelfrey. Both were from Wichita and Pelfrey was on Chadd’s radar even before he got to high school.
The Mets crashed the party, though, taking Pelfrey with the ninth pick. That left the Tigers to take Maybin, which might not look great in hindsight with McCutchen still on the board at the time. But Maybin and left-handed pitcher Andrew Miller (drafted in 2006) were among the top prospects in baseball and helped bring Cabrera to Detroit.
“Personally, I thought that was kind of cool to be in a trade for Miguel Cabrera,” Maybin said. “I was like, ‘Man, they traded me for one of the best players in the game.’ I was flattered more than anything else.”
And, 10 years later, the Tigers get back a fully developed Maybin, as well as a healthy and rejuvenated Pelfrey and Upton, one of the game’s most productive players still in the middle of his prime.
The 2005 draft, a gift that keeps on giving.
“I’m excited to be back,” Maybin said during TigerFest. “I really am. This is probably the second-best team I’ve ever played on.”
The best team he ever played on? He said it was the 2007 Tigers. He was a rookie that year and played in just 24 games. Tiger fans, he said, may not recognize him now.
“Older, smarter and a lot more mature,” he said. “I know what kind of player I am now. I am excited to show Tiger fans a better Cam Maybin.”
Maybin is coming off his best season. He hit .267 with a .327 on-base percentage, 10 home runs and 59 RBIs — all career bests.
“Health was a big part of it,” he said. He battled injuries in 2013 and 2014.
Braves hitting coach Kevin Seitzer was also a big part of it.
“He helped me a lot,” Maybin said. “Just having a game plan that I am stubborn with, that I stick to and don’t come out of. Sometimes you go into a game with a plan and things happen and you want to come out of it, but he just stayed adamant on knowing what kind of hitter I needed to be and I’ve stayed with that approach.”
With the signing of Upton as the everyday left fielder, Maybin and Anthony Gose are expected to battle for playing time in center field. Maybin is up for the fight.
“That’s the way it’s always been in my career, having to prove myself every year,” he said. “I continue to play center field at a high level. Every organization I go to, I’ve been put in center field, I think for a reason — because I play an above-average center field.
“I am always up for the competition. I still want to be the center fielder. I think I serve the team best there. But at the end of the day, I want to win and see what it’s like to get into the playoffs for the first time.”
Pelfrey brings new pitch
Pelfrey, after 10 big league seasons, is also hungry to experience the postseason for the first time in his career.
“When I signed here, I thought the opportunity to win was great,” he said. “Then we add a player like Justin Upton, I mean, that just makes us that much better. Expectations are going to be high, as they should be.”
Between 2008 and 2011, Pelfrey averaged 32.5 starts and 195 innings for the Mets. Then came the injuries. First Tommy John surgery in 2012 and a freak nerve injury in 2014. But he comes to the Tigers after making 30 starts for the Twins last season.
“I know the makeup of this guy,” Chadd said. “He’s a quality guy. He’s going to take that ball every fifth day and he’s going to compete. And he’s going to be a good influence on our young guys, too. His makeup is off the charts.”
Pelfrey also has a new weapon in his arsenal. With the Twins last year, bullpen coach and former major league pitcher Eddie Guardado showed him a different way to throw a split-fingered fastball.
“Some called it a forkball, but it’s something I continue to develop,” said Pelfrey, who’s long relied on a sinker-slider combination. “Last year, when I first learned it in spring training, there’d be four or five pitches every game that would just sail off and not come close. The catcher would have to jump and catch it.
“I think I’ve eliminated that. Just continue to get more comfortable with it.”
With a hard sinker at 94 mph, a slider in the mid-80s and his split in the low-80s, Pelfrey not only has the arsenal to keep hitters off-balance, but also to get a lot of ground balls.
“I have always enjoyed pitching in Comerica Park, even though you never like facing their lineup,” Pelfrey said. “But I like the mound and all that stuff, and up the middle with Jose (Iglesias) and Ian (Kinsler), that is a huge benefit for somebody who gets a lot of ground balls.
“I’m just going to keep the ball low and watch those guys work.”
The Tigers have added nine new players this offseason, each 28 years old or older. These are veteran, high-pedigreed, battle-tested players joining a mostly veteran, high-pedigreed and battle-tested core group.
The message is clear.
“It is so nice to be 28 years old and with a team that is building for this year and not necessarily for the future,” Maybin said. “They want to win right now and as a player, that’s always fun to be a part of. It’s exciting to come into a veteran locker room where everybody knows what they need to do.”
2005 MLB draft
1. Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks, OF
2. Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals, 3B
3. Jeff Clement, Seattle Mariners, C
4. Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals, 3B
5. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers, 3B
6. Ricky Romero, Toronto Blue Jays, LHP
7. Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies, SS
8. Wade Townsend, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, RHP
9. Mike Pelfrey, New York Mets, RHP
10. Cameron Maybin, Detroit Tigers, CF
11. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates, CF
12. Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds, CF
13. Brandon Snyder, Baltimore Orioles, C
14. Trevor Crowe, Cleveland Indians, CF
15. Lance Broadway, Chicago White Sox, RHP
16. Chris Volstad, Florida Marlins, RHP
17. C.J. Henry, New York Yankees (compensation 1), SS
18. Cesar Carrillo, San Diego Padres, RHP
19. John Mayberry Jr., Texas Rangers, RF
20. Mark Pawelek, Chicago Cubs, LHP
21. Cliff Pennington, Oakland Athletics, SS
22. Aaron Thompson, Florida Marlins (compensation 2), LHP
23. Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox (compensation 3), CF
24. Brian Bogusevic, Houston Astros, LHP
25. Matt Garza, Minnesota Twins, RHP
26. Craig Hansen, Boston Red Sox (compensation 4), RHP
27. Joey Devine, Atlanta Braves, RHP
28. Colby Rasmus, St. Louis Cardinals (compensation 5), CF
29. Jacob Marceaux, Florida Marlins (compensation 6), RHP
30. Tyler Greene, St. Louis Cardinals, IF