Let’s take a look back at the Detroit Tiger’s 2016 Draft.
First Pick: Pick 9, Matt Manning, RHP, Sheldon HS, CA
Matt Manning is a big righty with a big-time stuff. He needed to go for top ten money to even be signable. Surprisingly, a team with one of the smaller bonus pools grabbed him, the Tigers at ninth overall. He signed for slot, which was surprising, given the rumors before the draft. But he had perhaps the best debut of any first round arm this summer. Over 29.1 innings, Manning had a 3.99 ERA, 1.90 FIP, 14.1 K/9, and 6.6 K/BB. Tigers fans should be thrilled with this pick, and I wouldn't be surprised if Manning is a top 25 prospect this time next year.
Biggest Steal: Pick 115, Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Louisville
Kyle Funkhouser was an early favorite to go 1-1 in the 2015 Draft. After a weak second half of the spring in 2015, he fell to the Dodgers at 35th overall, but still a first rounder. He bet on himself bouncing back his senior year, and, well, the bounce back didn't work out. He fell to the Tigers in the fourth round this summer. While it didn't work out for him, he was a huge steal for the Tigers – and they needed it, given they lost their second and third round picks to free agent signings. Funkhouser could've easily been taken in the second round, especially after a strong second half of his senior season, so getting him in the fourth is a strong value. He did not disappoint in his first taste of pro ball, throwing 37.1 innings in Low-A ball, with a 2.65 ERA, 2.18 FIP, 8.2 K/9, 4.3 K/BB, and a very nice 1.84 GO/AO. The Tigers have to be excited with the control he showed in pro ball, given that was his glaring weakness in college ball. He could be on the fast track to the big leagues – the Tigers have not been scared to push arms quickly up the ladder. I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the big leagues in the 2018 season. Hell, he might make a September showing next year.
Post-10th Round Sleeper: Round 11, Zac Houston, RHP, Mississippi State
The Tigers signed a lot of college players that profile as system depth after the tenth round. They grabbed two high schoolers from Puerto Rico (catcher Bryan Torres and shortstop Gerardo Gonzalez), but both struggled in their first taste of pro ball. They grabbed Clate Schmidt, who was a favorite of mine as a prepster, but hasn't progressed in college the way I expected. Really, this comes down to two players – big righty Zac Houston in the 11th round, and tiny speedsters Daniel Woodrow in the 12th round. For now, I'm going with Houston. At Mississippi State, Houston killed his junior season, going 6-0 with a 1.63 ERA, over 38.2 innings, eighteen games, and six starts, with 9.8 K/9 and 2.2 K/BB. He followed that up with a 0.30 ERA and 2.33 FIP over 29.2 innings split between Low-A and Single-A ball, with 14.9 K/9 and 3.3 K/BB. The results are astounding, and he's done it mostly relying on a mid-90s fastball. If his secondaries progress enough, he could be put back into a rotation – he's got the size and showed in college he could hold up as a starter. But even if he doesn't, he should stick around for a while as a bullpen arm in pro ball.
The Tigers were hamstrung by the lack of a second and third round pick. Given that, they weren’t going to have a top-ranked draft. The draft hinges on Manning and Funkhouser, and while they are really nice picks, given the volatility of arms, it’s hard to go higher than a C+ on this draft.