The Tigers didn’t have a first-round pick in this year’s draft, but that didn’t stop them from spending first-round money on three players. David Chadd, the team’s vice president of amateur scouting, says it’s important to be able to spend, but insists that the Tigers' approach isn't about the money.
“I’m just trying to get the best player in the Tigers system,” Chadd said. “I don’t think spending has anything to do with [selecting the best players] at all. It comes down to the players, not the money.”
The Tigers have a reputation for spending big on players who price themsleves off of other teams’ draft boards. For example, Detroit paid up for Rick Porcello and Jacob Turner after other teams shied away from their demands. This year the Tigers spent on prep third baseman Nick Castellanos, who obtained a $3.45MM deal.
Chadd says Castellanos was by far the best player available when the Tigers made their first pick (44th overall) and at the time of the draft, Baseball America agreed. It’s never fair to compare teenagers to big league All-Stars, but Chadd reluctantly admitted that Castellanos reminds him of Evan Longoria.
“I’m very confident in his ability to play third base,” Chadd said of the 18-year-old Florida native. “He can field, he can throw, he can run. So as a scout, when you start talking about tools, he has all five.”
The Tigers also signed Texas reliever Chance Ruffin to a $1.15MM deal and Arkansas left-hander Drew Smyly for $1.1MM. Chadd compares Ruffin to Huston Street, another right-hander who closed for the Longhorns. Smyly doesn’t throw as hard as Ruffin, but Chadd says the lefty's pitching instincts are like Cliff Lee’s.
Castellanos, Ruffin and Smyly would be welcome additions to any farm system, but it took a while for the Tigers to come to terms with the trio, especially Castellanos.
“It came down to the last second,” Chadd said. “It was gut-wrenching and fortunately we got a deal done, but it was tense.”
Teams, players and agents will always have tense moments before the deadline to sign picks, whether or not the deadline falls in mid-August. At this point, it’s too late for players to start their pro careers, so Chadd would be in favor of moving the deadline to sign picks in the next collective bargaining agreement.
“I think that makes the most sense,” he said. “I would be extremely in favor of that … The earlier the deadline, the better from me.”
For example, a mid-July deadline would give teams, players and college coaches certainty earlier on in the summer and would enable players who sign at the last minute to start their pro careers sooner.