Detroit Tigers: Recapping Every 2016 Draftee’s First Professional Season

Detroit Tigers

Aug 8, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers executive vice president and general manager Al Avila before the game against the Boston Red Sox at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila entered the 2016 draft armed with a protected lottery pick. Avila didn’t disappoint with the pick, taking a premium talent in high school starter Matt Manning.

Detroit Tigers fans are witnessing a change in philosophy.

Gone are the days of signing free agents to gaudy contracts. Also gone are the days of the Tigers trading away the team’s top minor league talent for Major League upgrades.

Al Avila has already exhibited a willingness to hang on to young players such as Michael Fulmer, Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd.

That paid dividends last season as the trio of rookie hurlers nearly propelled Detroit back to the playoffs.

With a young core that now includes the aforementioned trio, Nick Castellanos, Bruce Rondon, JaCoby Jones and James McCann, the Tigers’ future is bright.

Detroit’s roster will soon be strengthened by the arrival of a new wave of prospects. Joe Jimenez seems likely to debut at some point next year.

Additionally, promising prospects like Christin Stewart, Beau Burrows, Mike Gerber, Tyler Alexander and Derek Hill could all debut in the Majors in the next handful of years.

While those players represent the best prospects in the system following multiple years of additions, the 2016 draft class could deliver some prominent talent to Detroit’s Major League roster.

Here’s a look at how each 2016 Detroit Tigers draftee fared in their first professional season.

Detroit Tigers

Mar 29, 2015; Clearwater, FL, USA; A general view of a Detroit Tigers hats, gloves and sunglasses in the dugout against the Philadelphia Phillies at Bright House Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Manning

Round Drafted: First
Position: Starting Pitcher

A future ace, Manning undoubtedly has the highest upside of any player in the Detroit Tigers system. Armed with a blazing fastball and an effective power curve, the right-hander will eventually team with Fulmer to give Detroit an outstanding top of the rotation.

Stats aren’t everything in the minor leagues, but it is hard to ignore the pitcher’s excellent strikeout and walk numbers. In 29.1 innings in the Gulf Coast League, Manning struck out 46 while only walking seven batters. Opposing hitters managed just a .237 batting average against him.

Kyle Funkhouser

Round Drafted: Fourth
Position: Starting Pitcher

Due to Detroit signing Jordan Zimmermann and Justin Upton, the team’s next-highest draft pick came in the fourth round.

Despite the lack of early-round picks, the Tigers may have come away with a steal in Kyle Funkhouser. A former first-round pick of the Dodgers in 2015, the Louisville product made 13 starts for the Connecticut Tigers in his debut season.

In 37.1 innings, the righty logged a 2.65 ERA while striking out 34 batters. He only walked eight while posting a 1.13 WHIP.

Mark Ecker

Round Drafted: Fifth
Position: Relief Pitcher

Once again, a lack of picks in the second or third round didn’t stop Avila from taking another pitcher with promising upside.

Mark Ecker dominated coming out of the bullpen for both Connecticut and Western Michigan in 2016. The 21-year-old struck out nearly a third (31) of the batters he faced (103) while allowing just three earned runs in 27.2 innings.

Those stats spit out to 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings and a 0.98 ERA. It didn’t hurt that the Texas A&M product allowed just five walks and one home run.

With a blazing fastball and two off-speed offerings, Ecker could be pitching in Detroit sooner rather than later.

Detroit Tigers

Aug 20, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers hat and glove in the dugout against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Bryan Garcia

Round Drafted: Sixth
Position: Relief Pitcher

The Detroit Tigers were clearly looking to boost the team’s pitching ranks, as Garcia represents yet another intriguing talent added to the system.

Another reliever with the potential to eventually come out of Detroit’s bullpen, the University of Miami pitcher thrived early with Connecticut.

Over 18 innings, the right-hander struck out 21 batters while allowing just three walks, two earned runs and one home run.

Garcia was roughed up in his only appearance for Western Michigan, getting tagged for three runs in just 0.2 innings of work, but that shouldn’t stop him from advancing through Detroit’s system.

Austin Sodders

Round Drafted: Seventh
Position: Starting Pitcher

Detroit finally broke out of its early draft pattern… of selecting right-handed pitchers.

The Tigers nabbed left-handed starter Austin Sodders in the seventh round. Like many of the team’s other early-round draft picks, Sodders thrived.

The Detroit Tigers farmhand notched a 2.29 ERA in 39.1 innings for Connecticut, striking out 33 along the way. What’s more, he allowed just five walks and a 1.017 WHIP.

Jacob Robson

Round Drafted: Eighth
Position: Outfielder

After drafting a southpaw to break the trend of right-handers, the Detroit Tigers went an entirely different direction in the eighth round. The team selected outfielder Jacob Robson.

The London, Ontario native enjoyed a productive season at the plate while seeing time at all three outfield positions.

Over 49 games and 209 plate appearances, Robson hit .294 with a .399 on-base percentage. He also chipped in with 30 runs scored, 15 stolen bases, 11 RBI, nine doubles, three triples and a home run.

What was perhaps most encouraging about the Mississippi State product’s season was his 31 walks compared to just 42 punch outs.

Detroit Tigers

Mar 29, 2015; Clearwater, FL, USA; A general view of a Detroit Tigers hat, glove and sunglasses in the dugout against the Philadelphia Phillies at Bright House Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Daniel Pinero

Round Drafted: Ninth
Position: Shortstop

A former 36th-round pick of the club in 2015, the Detroit Tigers clearly like Daniel Pinero. The 22-year-old shortstop, who is 6’5”, turned in a solid offensive season.

In 43 game predominantly spent with Connecticut, the infielder logged a .271 batting average and a .371 on-base percentage.

The towering shortstop also added 22 RBI, eight doubles, two home runs, two stolen bases and a triple. He only struck out 30 times while posting an encouraging 29 walks.

Sam Machonis

Round Drafted: 10th
Position: Center Fielder

A 10th-round selection from Florida Southern College—located in Detroit’s Spring Training home, Lakeland—Machonis didn’t get off to the best start in the minors.

In 41 games with the Connecticut Tigers, the 22-year-old collected 17 RBI, 14 walks, three doubles, a triple, a home run and a stolen base. His OPS sat at .567.

Struggles aren’t unheard of early for draft picks, and Machonis could very well enjoy a rebound season next year.

Zac Houston

Round Drafted: 11th
Position: Relief Pitcher

Detroit once again returned to drafting relief pitchers, and snagged a promising one in Zac Houston.

Another Mississippi State product, the reliever struck out 49 batters in just 29.2 innings of work for Connecticut and Western Michigan. What’s more, he also allowed just one earned run over the span.

All told, the right-hander posted a 0.30 ERA, 14.9 strikeouts per nine innings and a 2-0 record.

If Houston can cut down on his walks (15) and hit batters (seven) he should progress through Detroit’s system relatively quickly.

Detroit Tigers

October 4, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Detail view of a Detroit Tigers logo with autographs before game one of the American League divisional series playoff baseball game against the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum. The Tigers defeated Athletics 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Daniel Woodrow

Round Drafted: 12th
Position: Outfielder

It is still early, but Woodrow showed some solid on-base skills in his first taste of professional baseball. The 12th-round pick hit .297 while posting a .363 on-base percentage in 54 games split between the Gulf Coast League and the New York-Penn League.

In addition, the outfielder also chipped in with 13 stolen bases while also adding  31 runs scored, 22 RBI, 12 doubles, two sacrifice hits and a triple.

Detroit has a number of promising outfield prospects in Stewart, Gerber, Hill and Jose Azocar, but if Woodrow can continue to reach base at a high rate, he has a chance to contribute in the Majors.

Brady Policelli

Round Drafted: 13th
Position: Catcher

A Towson product, Policelli hit just .195 in his first professional season. His on-base percentage sat at .271 in 26 games.

Despite the low offensive numbers, the backstop did only register 77 at-bats in 26 games. With more game time next season, there’s a chance his numbers will improve. Policelli threw out 22% of would-be base stealers.

Austin Athmann

Round Drafted: 14th
Position: Catcher

Another catcher taken by Detroit in the middle rounds of the draft, Athmann turned in a productive season at the plate.

Across 40 games, the Minnesota native hit .276 with a solid .338 on-base percentage. The catcher also produced 24 runs scored, 17 RBI, nine doubles, two home runs and a triple.

With John Hicks, Grayson Greiner and Arvicent Perez serving as some of Detroit’s most prominent catching depth, there’s room for Athmann and Policelli to advance in the system.

Detroit Tigers

Jun 25, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; General view during the sixth inning of the game between the Detroit Tigers and the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

John Schreiber

Round Drafted: 15th
Position: Relief Pitcher

It is still very early in the process in the grand scheme of things, but Al Avila and company have done a solid job of adding some solid relievers to the Detroit Tigers system.

The likes of Ecker, Garcia and Houston all show promise. While John Schreiber didn’t post prolific strikeout numbers like the aforementioned group, he did display a knack for recording outs.

In 29.1 innings split over 18 appearances, the right-handed reliever posted a 2.76 ERA and a 1.091 WHIP. He struck out 24 while limiting the opposition to just nine walks—or 2.8 per nine frames.

Will Savage

Round Drafted: 16th
Position: Second Baseman

Detroit Tigers front office members opted to bolster the organization’s middle infield depth by selecting Will Savage out of Columbia University.

The second baseman only hit .200 in his first season in the minors. In the 47 games spent with the Connecticut Tigers, the 21-year-old collected 26 runs scored, 21 RBI, 15 stolen bases, two home runs and two triples.

Despite the low batting average, Savage did draw an encouraging number of walks, with 23 free passes.

Brandyn Sittinger

Round Drafted: 17th
Position: Relief Pitcher

Another reliever, another quality stat line for the Detroit Tigers.

In 20.2 innings spread across three minor league affiliates, the right-handed Sittinger pitched to a 1.74 ERA and 24 strikeouts.

The former Ashland pitcher also walked just nine batters while reaching Lakeland in his first professional season.

Detroit Tigers

Jun 3, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Tigers sit onto of the scoreboard at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Niko Buentello

Round Drafted: 18th
Position: First Baseman

Detroit generally hasn’t tended to stock up on first baseman considering Miguel Cabrera has been entrenched at the position for the better part of the last decade.

Outside of the intriguing Will Maddox, Will Allen and Dominic Ficociello are perhaps the Tigers’ best first base prospects. Allen is 24 and just reached West Michigan last season, while Ficociello batted .248 in Erie during the 2016 campaign.

All that being said, Detroit selected Buentello in the 18th round of the draft.

The former Auburn standout batted .236 in the Gulf Coast League, but showed promise with a .338 on-base percentage, 23 runs scored, 23 walks, 17 RBI, 13 doubles, five home runs and four stolen bases in just 52 games.

Dustin Frailey

Round Drafted: 19th
Position: Outfielder

Avila and the Detroit Tigers returned to the outfield well in the 19th round of the draft, taking Dustin Frailey.

The outfielder showed solid table-setting skills in his first season, drawing a high number of walks and stealing 12 bases.

However, the 22-year-old did hit just .195 in the Gulf Coast League. So on one hand, Frailey didn’t have the best time swinging the bat. On the other hand, he did post a superb .403 on-base percentage.

Clate Schmidt

Round Drafted: 20th
Position: Pitcher

Schmidt had been drafted twice before the 2016 draft, but opted not to turn pro on both occasions. Detroit previously selected him in the 36th round in 2012, while the Boston Red Sox made him a 32nd-round pick in 2015.

Now with the Tigers, Schmidt made his professional debut with the Connecticut Tigers in the New York-Penn League.

Over 21.2 innings, the right-hander struck out 17 while allowing 11 earned runs. While the runs (4.57 ERA) weren’t ideal, the pitcher did give up just one home run.

Schmidt started one game and finished six for the minor league club.

Detroit Tigers

Oct 5, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers fans and hold up signs against the Baltimore Orioles during game three of the 2014 ALDS baseball playoff game at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Navilhon

Round Drafted: 21st
Position: Relief Pitcher

If early results are anything to go by, the Detroit Tigers may have just unearthed a diamond in the rough.

Over the span of 26.1 innings for Connecticut, the right-hander posted a sparkling 0.34 ERA while striking out 29.

Navilhon walked just seven batters as his WHIP sat at a solid 1.101.

Burris Warner

Round Drafted: 22nd
Position: Relief Pitcher

While Warner didn’t quite post the gaudy numbers that the likes of Navilhon and Ecker did, the right-hander turned in a solid debut campaign.

Reaching Lakeland after a stop in the Gulf Coast League, Warner pitched to a 3.43 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 21 innings. He walked 11 batters while finishing seven ball games. The Marshall product was much more productive in the Gulf Coast League, where his ERA was 0.69.

Bryan Torres

Round Drafted: 23rd
Position: Catcher

Avila and company added more catching depth in the 23rd-round, picking up backstop Bryan Torres.

A product of the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy, Torres batted 0.55 in 24 games in the Gulf Coast League. Unlike many of Detroit’s draft picks, Torres isn’t coming straight from college. In other words, he’ll have more years to develop.

Detroit Tigers

Sep 28, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; A detail shot of Detroit Tigers baseball cap and glove on the steps of the dugout during a game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Evan Hill

Round Drafted: 24th
Position: Relief Pitcher

Another reliever with solid numbers in his first season, Hill made it to Connecticut after spending time in the Gulf Coast League.

The Mount Pleasant native and The University of Michigan graduate notched a 2.62 ERA and 20 strikeouts over his first 24 professional innings.

Walks were somewhat of an issue as the left-hander handed out 13 free passes, seeing his WHIP rise to 1.458 in the process.

John Hayes

Round Drafted: 25th
Position: Relief Pitcher

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, a Detroit Tigers 2016 draftee who pitches in relief posted solid numbers.

Hayes, like many of his fellow draftees, showed a knack for getting batters out as a reliever. Over the span of 25 innings, the 6’6” right-hander logged a 1.80 ERA.

The reliever didn’t strike out too many batters (5.8 punch outs per nine frames), but his ability to get batters out was encouraging.

Colyn O’Connell

Round Drafted: 26th
Position: Relief Pitcher

A former 19th-round pick of Cleveland during the 2012 draft, O’Connell fell to Detroit in the 26th round.

The 23-year-old turned in a respectable debut season, with a 3.90 ERA in 30 relief innings. Pitching in the Gulf Coast League, the reliever struck out 28 batters while walking 12.

Chad Sedio

Round Drafted: 27th
Position: Shortstop

Initially drafted a shortstop, Chad Sedio also aw time at second base in his debut season.

In 50 games, which included stops in the Gulf Coast and New York-Penn leagues, the right-handed batter displayed promising pop for a middle-infielder.

Sedio collected 31 RBI, 11 doubles, five triples and a pair of home runs in just 177 at-bats.  The 22-year-old also stole nine bases.

Detroit Tigers

Apr 8, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; General view during the national anthem prior to the game between the Detroit Tigers and the New York Yankees at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Hunter Swilling

Round Drafted: 29th
Position: Third Baseman

Predominantly a third baseman, the 21-year-old collected 19 hits in 29 contests for Connecticut. In addition, he also added 13 runs scored, eight RBI, three doubles and a home run.

Swilling also started a game at second base. Having defensive flexibility will certainly help any prospect’s chances moving forward.

Dalton Lundeen

Round Drafted: 30th
Position: Relief Pitcher

One of consecutive players with the first name of “Dalton” selected by the Detroit Tigers, Lundeen saw action in 13 games for the Tigers West team in the Gulf Coast League.

The 23-year-old posted a 6.12 ERA and 6.5 strikeouts per nine innings. He also collected a save.

Dalton Britt

Round Drafted: 31st
Position: Infielder

Britt, like Lundeen, also spent his first professional season playing in the Gulf Coast League.

The 22-year-old showed promise at the plate with a .271 batting average and a .340 on-base percentage. It’s obviously early, but the infielder’s ability to draw walks will serve him well as he looks to climb Detroit’s system.

In 28 games played, the left-handed hitter saw action at shortstop, third base and second base.

Geraldo Gonzalez

Round Drafted: 34th
Position: Infielder

Rounding out the Detroit Tigers list of draft picks to sign is Geraldo Gonzalez. The 17-year-old debuted in the Gulf Coast League, batting .194 with a .299 on-base percentage.

He also added 13 runs scored, five RBI, two stolen bases and a double in 67 at-bats.

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