Tigers stick with pitching early on Day 2 of MLB draft

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Louisville pitcher Kyle Funkhouser

Detroit — For not having a second- or third-round draft pick, the Tigers still found what's long been their holy grail, power pitching and more power pitching.

The Tigers used the second day of the Major League Baseball draft to select four college pitchers before turning their attention to position players, again all college, to finish the day.

The big prize Friday was University of Louisville senior right-hander Kyle Funkhouser, who beat Western Michigan in the NCAA Tournament opener — and impressed the heck out of the Broncos in the process.

"He was on. He was really good against us," Western Michigan coach Billy Gernon said. "He was 92-94, but every time we had a base runner, he'd spike a little bit, to 95 or 96.

"He was able to throttle it up in some situations."

In that way, Gernon said, he had a little Justin Verlander vibe to him.

The Tigers followed up the Funkhouser pick by taking two elite college closers, Mark Ecker from Texas A&M and Bryan Garcia from Miami (Fla.), two more hard-throwing right-handers.

Ecker has a ridiculous strikeout-to-walk ratio of 52-to-4, while Garcia is Miami's all-time saves leader.

Funkhouser, Ecker and Garcia still are playing, their teams among those in the NCAA Tournament super regionals.

Louisville's run began with a dominant effort from Funkhouser against Western, as he allowed one run on four hits while striking out six. He walked three over eight innings in a 6-1 victory.

"He's an advanced pitcher," said Western Michigan's Grant Miller, "with good feel for both his curveball and slider.

"Definitely one of the best pitchers I have faced.

"Quite a privilege to face him."

Gernon said Funkhouser, 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, moves the fastball, which has some good sink, extremely well east and west and keeps the breaking stuff and the change-up low in the zone. Gernon said the breaking ball seems to disappear at the bottom of the zone.

Western players were really impressed with his location.

He never seemed to leave a ball anywhere vulnerable to a good, aggressive swing by the hitter.

"He was just commanding the zone well against us," Hunter Prince said. "He stayed down in the zone the whole game and never missed up.

"His stuff was pretty good, but just the way he commanded it was what put him at the top."

Funkhouser, 22, from Oak Forest, Illinois, has made 16 appearances this season, 15 starts, going 9-3 with a 3.86 ERA. He has 95 strikeouts and 47 walks in 93.1 innings.

Gernon said the scouting Western did on him showed Funkhouser really progressed as the season went on.

The recommended slot value for the Funkhouser pick is $516,200, though the Tigers might not have to meet that, given he can't return to college, like he did last year after being drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers with the 35th overall pick. Slot value for that pick last year was nearly $1.8 million.

The Tigers figure to not have a whole lot of leeway with their draft pool, given they might have to go over the $3.505 million to sign their first-round pick, California high-schooler Matt Manning, a Loyola Marymount commitment who was the ninth overall pick.

Scott Pleis, Tigers' director of amateur scouting, suggested Thursday night the team was aware of what it'll take to sign Manning, though he wouldn't get specific. He did say it wouldn't affect how the Tigers picked the remainder of the draft, which concludes Saturday with the final 30 rounds.

Pleis was not made available to the media Friday night.

A look at the Tigers' other picks Friday:

* In the seventh round, they went away from right-handers, but not pitching. They grabbed Cal-Riverside junior lefty Austin Sodders, This season, he was 7-4 with a 2.57 ERA. He had 69 strikeouts and 37 walks in 80.2 innings.

* It took until the eighth round for the Tigers to finally grab a position player, junior center fielder Jacob Robson from Mississippi State. He's also still playing, and is batting .335/.430/.432 with one homer, 24 RBIs and 18 stolen bases in 20 attempts. A Windsor native, he's a a left-handed hitter.

* In the ninth round, the Tigers drafted junior shortstop Daniel Pinero out of the University of Virginia. He batted .340/.441/.500 with four homers and 39 RBIs. He also had 20 doubles. The four homers aren't bad for Virginia, which plays its home games in a very pitcher-friendly ballpark.

* The Tigers ended the day taking Florida Southern senior right fielder Sam Machonis in the 10th round. A switch-hitter, he's a serious power bat, posting a .388/.471/.660 slash line with 13 homers and 52 RBIs this season.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984