Tigers hire Metzler as assistant GM to lead amateur scouting

New Detroit exec spent past 7 years as Rays' senior director of amateur scouting

October 25th, 2022

DETROIT -- The first goal Scott Harris mentioned in his introductory press conference as the Tigers’ new president of baseball operations was to acquire young players. Now he has his hire to lead those efforts on the scouting front, tapping into the Rays’ model for building a pipeline of young talent.

Rob Metzler, Tampa Bay’s senior director of amateur scouting for the past seven years, was announced on Tuesday as a Tigers vice president and assistant general manager, the first major addition of Harris’ tenure.

“I am thrilled to add an executive of Rob’s caliber to lead our amateur and international scouting departments,” Harris said in a press release. “Rob’s track record of success with the Rays speaks for itself, and his innovative approach to talent acquisition will help us achieve one of our main goals: to acquire, develop and retain young talent in Detroit.”

Metzler joined the Rays in 2008 as a baseball operations intern after interning for the Red Sox, Baseball Info Solutions and the Cape Cod League’s Brewster Whitecaps. He rose through the front office until becoming the lead of the Rays’ Draft operations in 2016. Under his watch, the Rays drafted the core of young talent that has helped them build a sustainable contender, including four consecutive postseason berths.

The star among the Rays’ Draft picks under Metzler is 2022 All-Star Game starter Shane McClanahan, drafted 31st overall in 2018 out of the University of South Florida. According to Baseball Reference, McClanahan’s 5.6 career Wins Above Replacement is tied for second-highest among players to come out of that Draft so far, a group that includes Tigers starter Casey Mize as well as Brady Singer (also 5.6 bWAR), Alec Bohm, Nolan Gorman, Joey Bart and Nick Madrigal. Only Cubs infielder Nico Hoerner (6.6 bWAR) ranks higher.

The beauty of the Rays’ drafts, however, can be found in the productive players selected beyond the first round. Rangers slugger Nathaniel Lowe was a 13th-round pick in 2016 before being traded in 2020. Taylor Walls, who filled in for an injured Wander Franco at shortstop for the Rays this season, was a third-round pick in 2017.

The same year the Rays drafted McClanahan at the end of the first round, they used a fifth-round pick on Taj Bradley -- currently MLB Pipeline’s No. 20 overall prospect -- and a seventh-round pick on Joe Ryan, who led the Twins’ rotation this year after going to Minnesota last year in the Nelson Cruz trade.

Carson Williams, the Rays’ first-round pick in 2021, currently ranks 81st on MLB Pipeline’s prospect list. Former top 100 prospects drafted under Metzler’s watch include Josh Lowe, Greg Jones and Brendan McKay.

“One thing that stuck out about Rob,” Harris said on a Tuesday afternoon conference call with reporters, “is the systems and the processes he’s developed and refined in Tampa helped that organization acquire young talent that ultimately helped them build one of the best farm systems in the game and win at the Major League level at the same time. That’s really hard to do, but that starts with developing and retaining young talent. …

“I wanted to find someone that not only would use the information, but would find new, innovative ways to find new information and process it differently than the other 29 clubs. In the Draft, it’s exceptionally competitive, so we need to take steps to differentiate ourselves. Rob has done that in Tampa, but I expect him to come here to Detroit and partner with all the talent that we have in this front office to come up with new processes that can differentiate us from the other 28 clubs plus Tampa. We’re not trying to run back what Tampa did here.”

Metzler built a reputation for balancing analytics with traditional scouting, and dedicated a fair amount of resources into the latter. Now, he’ll try to build a new pipeline in Detroit, which parted ways with longtime amateur scouting director Scott Pleis earlier this month. The Tigers intend to hire an amateur scouting director under Metzler.

“This is a tremendous opportunity and I’m excited to work with Scott and the rest of our baseball operations staff,” Metzler said in a press release. “We’re going to hit the ground running to ensure our processes of amateur scouting at both the domestic and international levels are the best they can possibly be, and search for the most comprehensive information possible to help inform our decision making.

“I’d also like to thank the Tampa Bay Rays organization for an incredible 15 seasons, and I couldn’t be prouder of what we accomplished. The reason I’m here in Detroit is to bring that same energy, passion and innovative spirit, culminating with winning baseball on the field at Comerica Park for years to come.”

While Metzler takes over the Tigers’ international scouting efforts, an area he did not handle with the Rays, Harris believes some of the processes that worked on the Draft side should translate well. Harris added that Metzler will work with longtime Tigers international operations director Tom Moore – who had headed the department – along with Latin American operations director Miguel Garcia.

“He has some really interesting ideas about what we can do internationally,” Harris said, “but he’s going to have to leverage the experience of guys like Tom Moore and Miguel Garcia. They’ve been at it a long time, they’ve made significant strides of late in international scouting, and my hope is that they can partner with Rob and share their strengths and cover each other’s blind spots and make sure that we’re getting the absolute best talent on the international front.”