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Tigers focus on right-handed pitching in Draft

After selecting HS outfielder Hill with first pick, club takes 18 righty hurlers

The Tigers wrapped up their 2014 First-Year Player Draft on Saturday by making 30 picks in rounds 11-40, three of them having local ties.

In keeping with a trend that developed in the first two days of the Draft, Detroit displayed an affinity for right-handed pitchers. In sum, over the Draft's three days, the Tigers selected 18 right-handed hurlers.

Texas righty Parker French was on the mound at the time he was drafted in the 19th round. French threw six innings of shutout ball for the Longhorns in their Super Regional win over Houston that allowed them to clinch a berth in the College World Series.

It wasn't until the 20th round Saturday that Detroit drafted a southpaw -- University of Michigan pitcher Trent Szkutnik.

After the Tigers picked Szkutnik, they took three more lefties, including another local prospect. Grant Reuss, a Cranbrook Kingswood School (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) product and Michigan commit, went to Detroit in the 31st round.

Despite the reliance on righties, the Tigers' first-round selection was a position player, outfielder Derek Hill out of Elk Grove (Calif.) High School. It marked the first time in nearly a decade that the organization used its first pick on a high school outfielder.

Detroit also kept with tradition by selecting six catchers in this year's Draft. It was the most catchers the club has picked since taking seven in 2011. In '10, the Tigers took six catchers, including Bryan Holaday, who started behind the plate Saturday night as the Draft wrapped up.

The organization has drafted at least three catchers in each year's Draft since 2005.

One of the six catchers taken was Sammy Stevens, yet another Michigan commit attending high school in the Detroit suburbs. The left-handed-hitting Stevens went to Birmingham Brother Rice High School.

In another annual ritual, the Tigers continued to stock their farm system with Vanderbilt University products. With their fourth-round pick Friday, they selected right-hander Adam Ravenelle.

Detroit vice president of amateur scouting David Chadd said though Ravenelle has found his niche in the Commodores' bullpen, he was drafted as a starter.

"He has a delivery and arm action to allow him to start," Chadd said Friday. "For whatever reason, he's always been in the 'pen at Vanderbilt. We think he can start."

Ravenelle joins prospects Drew VerHagen, Aaron Westlake and Kevin Ziomek as former Vanderbilt players in the Tigers' organization.

A number of Tigers draftees have ties to former big league players.

In the fifth round, they selected Shane Zeile, the nephew of Todd Zeile, who played 16 Major League seasons. The younger Zeile, a catcher out of UCLA, tore the labrum in his non-throwing shoulder last fall and quickly transitioned into catching this season. Current Detroit catcher Alex Avila took a similar path to his spot behind the plate at Alabama.

"We saw him early in the season, in the spring, and stayed on him," Tigers scouting director Scott Pleis said Saturday. "Our area guys did a great job of identifying him as a prospect behind the plate. ... He's still got upside there as a college guy, because he hasn't caught his entire life. There's definitely some upside there."

Zeile had a successful season at the plate as a Bruin, batting .324 with 28 RBIs. He threw out over 40 percent of would-be basestealers (18-for-43), tying for the best mark in the Pac-12 Conference.

"He was up and down a little bit with the bat but ended up pretty strong," Pleis said. "We just did a good job with area guys staying on him and scouting him this spring."

Three other players with former Major League relatives came to Detroit in the later rounds of the Draft on Saturday.

In the 38th round, the club selected Magglio Ordonez's son, a first baseman also named Magglio. He recently graduated American Heritage High School in Plantation, Fla. The elder Ordonez spent his final seven big league seasons with the Tigers. In that span, he made two All-Star teams and, in 2007, finished second in the American League MVP Award balloting.

The younger Ordonez was born in 1995, two years before his father's Major League career began. He was a common fixture in the Tigers' clubhouse during his father's Detroit tenure and will have a chance to climb the ranks of the farm system and get there on his own merits if he signs.

The round before Ordonez's selection, Detroit drafted Patrick Mahomes, son of former pitcher Pat Mahomes.

The younger Mahomes is a quarterback committed to Texas Tech, so the likelihood of him signing with the Tigers seems shaky. In fact, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported this week that no team could offer enough on Day 3 of the Draft to lure him from his commitment to the Red Raiders. Mahomes' father pitched in the Majors from 1992-97 and from 1999-2003.

Two rounds before Mahomes came off the board, in the 35th round, Detroit drafted third baseman Dave Hollins -- the son of the former Major League corner infielder by the same name -- out of Orchard Park (N.Y.) High School. The elder Hollins was an All-Star in 1993 with Philadelphia, where he spent about half of his big league career.

Matt Slovin is an associate reporter for

Detroit Tigers