Without Day 1 pick, Tigers play a waiting game

Without Day 1 pick, Tigers play a waiting game

DETROIT -- For the second straight year, the Tigers don't have a selection on the first day of the First-Year Player Draft, thanks to the big free-agent bat they added the previous winter. Last year, it was Victor Martinez. This year, it was Prince Fielder.

Once again, however, that did not mean that vice president David Chadd, scouting director Scott Pleis and the rest of the team's Draft crew had the day off. They have some clarity to find in their board.

"This year, there's more uncertainty than any other Draft I've been involved in," Chadd told MLB.com last week.

2012 Draft Central

Part of that is a result of when they're choosing. The Tigers don't come up until the 91st overall selection, after most teams have had at least two. The Twins and Cardinals, by comparison, have a handful.

That's the way the system has worked for years, which makes for some serious challenges for scouting departments. The challenge this year, a limit on bonus spending, is a completely new element that only adds to the intrigue for Detroit, even though Tigers officials will be spectators on Monday night.

Chadd has no regrets. He and his staff will work within the system and figure out the wrinkles along with everyone else, just on a much more limited level with fewer picks. But he gladly gave up what would have been the 27th overall selection to watch Fielder man first base and bat cleanup at Comerica Park, just as he enjoyed watching Martinez last year and Jose Valverde two years ago.

The last time the Tigers used their own first-round selection, three years ago, they spent it on Jacob Turner. They've never had to wait this long to pick.

Once the ceremonies have all died down after Monday's first-round and sandwich picks, Tigers officials will gather and reorder their Draft board. They had a good enough idea of who would be gone that they scaled back their scouting of the top prospects, instead turning to guys who could realistically last into the second round.

"We're realistic on where we're picking," Chadd said, "and we're realistic on who we think will be gone."

Yet the difference between picking 91st and 76th, where they drafted last year, is a half-round. They'll be reordering their board again on Tuesday afternoon once the second round gets underway. Those are the selections that could drastically alter their plans.

"We're not going to really know what we're looking at" until about midway through the second round, Chadd said.

How much does all this matter for a team that's built to win now, you ask? Look beyond the big free-agent signings and at the bulk of the lineup, and it's evident.

All-Star catcher Alex Avila, corner outfielders Brennan Boesch and Andy Dirks, and second baseman Danny Worth were all the equivalent of second-day selections by the Tigers in their respective drafts, from 2006-08. Austin Jackson was an eighth-round pick of the Yankees in 2005. Drew Smyly was the Tigers' second-round pick two years ago and forced his way onto the fast track to the Majors from there. Casey Crosby was a fifth-round pick in 2007.

As much attention as the Tigers have received for their big spending on top picks over the last nine years or so, the second day of the Draft has been their day to shine in recent years. Some, such as Crosby, were top prospects who fell before the Tigers took a chance and signed them. Others, such as Boesch and Dirks, were scouting finds whom the Tigers projected as Major League talent.

That part won't change, whatever the rules. Chadd is ready to give it a try under the new ones.

"It's a completely different challenge," he said, "but I think it's going to be kind of exciting, too."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.