Detroit Tigers hope pitching picks pay off


Jonathan Crawford throws a pitch for the University of Florida.
Jonathan Crawford, the Detroit Tigers number-one draft pick, has all the tools to succeed at the major-league level.

When the 20th pick in the first round rolled around on June, there was no doubt the Detroit Tigers would use it to grab an arm. When the clock stopped and the pick was handed in, Jonathan Crawford from Florida was the hailed selection.

Crawford was the first of 15 Flordia Gators chosen in this year’s draft. Surprisingly so, many had thought Crawford wouldn’t slip past the top 15 after coming off a very successful sophomore season, where he went 6-2 with a 3.13 ERA, struck out 73 batters in the 77.2 innings he pitched and tossed a no-hitter. Last Friday, the club signed him to a deal worth $2 million.

Crawford’s fastball can touch 98 mph. He also comes with an exploding breaking ball that helped solidify his first-round status with the Detroit Tigers. At times, Crawford has shown inconsistencies that should improve with big-league coaching, as well as a lack of changing pitch speed. In a year or two, Crawford could develop into a pitcher worthy of his first-round selection.

Detroit followed up by selecting another pitcher, Texas University reliever Corey Knebel, with the 39th pick. He was a reliable closer at the collegiate level and could possibly develop into a solid reliever in the Tigers system. Knebel was no stranger to the headlines this past season either, after having been disciplined twice. Once for providing urine for a teammate who was worried about failing a drug test. A second suspension was handed out after he violated team rules. In all, the junior hurler was suspended four games during his collegiate career. The organization was pelted with questions, following the controversial pick. They believe Knebel is not a “problem child” and will benefit from his time in the minors, which they hope will mature him into the pitcher they know he is capable of being.

The Detroit Tigers used their second-round pick on southpaw pitcher Kevin Ziomek from Vanderbilt University and their third-round pick on Jeffrey Thompson, a right-handed pitcher from the University of Louisville. Ziomek was the first of six players chosen from Vanderbilt in this year’s draft.  He is of leader quality and is a big, athletic kid with special abilities. He has a great feel of his three-pitch mix that contains a fastball, slider and change-up. He simply throws strikes, which impressed the Detroit Tigers.

Thompson is another big pitcher. He stands at 6′-6″ and weighs 248 pounds. He, too, is very athletic, lettering in three sports in high school before choosing baseball as career move. This season, he dominated hitters and had a 28-inning scoreless streak in March.

Of Detroit’s 41 total picks this year, 25 were used on pitchers. All of this is in hope they can rebuild their bullpen and replenish their rotation in the years to come.

20 Jonathon Crawford RHP Florida
39 Corey Knebel RHP Texas
58 Kevin Ziomek LHP Vanderbilt
94 Jeffrey Thompson RHP Louisville
126 Austin Kubitza RHP Rice
156 Buck Farmer RHP Georgia Tech
186 Calvin Drummond RHP Arizona Christian
216 Connor Harrell CF Vanderbilt
246 Zac Reininger RHP Hill JC
276 Will LaMarche RHP LSU
306 Kasey Coffman CF Arizona St.
336 Chad Green RHP Louisville
366 Dominic Ficociello 3B Arkansas
396 Austin Green C San Diego
426 Ben Verlander OF Old Dominion
456 Raphael Rhymes OF LSU
486 Duncan McAlpine C Dallas Baptist
516 Steven Negron SS Miami Dade
546 Jonathan Maciel RHP Long Beach St.
576 Austin Pritcher RHP Citadel
606 Matt Wotherspoon RHP Pittsburgh
636 Curt Powell SS Georgia
666 Daryl Norris RHP Mississippi St.
696 Tyler Alexander LHP FIU
726 Chase Edwards RHP Hill JC
756 Johnnie Kirkland RHP Southeastern
786 Adrian Castano CF Cardozo HS
816 Joe Mantiply LHP Virginia
846 Scott Sitz RHP Florida St.
876 Charles Sullivan RHP Alabama
906 Ryan Beck LHP New Mexico St.
936 Brett Huber RHP Ole Miss
966 Tanner Bailey RHP Ole Miss
996 John Armstrong 2B Carroll Catholic HS
1026 Brad Holland 2B Mesquite HS
1056 A.J. Puk LHP Washington HS (IA)
1086 Torii Hunter Jr. CF Prosper HS
1116 Nicholas Deeg LHP Lake Orion HS
1146 Harrison Wenson C U-D Jesuit
1176 Anfernee Grier CF Auburn
1206 Taylor Johnson 2B St. Edwards

This is the first time since 2009 the Detroit Tigers have had a first-round pick. In that draft, they selected the highly touted Jacob Turner, who now plays for the Miami Marlins. Looking back over the past 10 drafts, while the Detroit Tigers have a tendency of choosing many pitchers, they have only two first-round picks that remain with the club today: Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello. The odds do not seem to be in Crawford’s favor. Some speculate Crawford will be a major piece in a future deal to acquire a potential closer. Others believe the Tigers are feeding him to the system in hopes of reloading their starting rotation when Max Scherzer and Porcello’s contracts are up.

As it stands now, the club needs arms that can produce on a consistent basis, more so in the bullpen, which has been a notable weak point the past few seasons.

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