The Detroit Tigers hold the No. 1 overall pick in the MLB Draft for the first time in two decades.
They hope this time goes better than the last.
It’s not really fair to Matt Anderson, who was the No. 1 overall selection in 1997, to make him the poster-child for bad drafting.
After all, he ended up pitching in 257 games over parts of seven seasons in the big leagues, which is more than most can say.
Nor is it fair to suggest the Tigers front office of 21 years ago blundered badly in their selection.
Anderson was a hard-throwing right-hander with an impressive college pedigree at Rice University. He harnessed his control in his junior season, striking out 105 and walking 29 in 79 innings.
He was so utterly dominant during his brief trip through the minor leagues that he made it to Detroit in June of 1998, just a year after being drafted.
He struggled with control during the early part of his Tigers career, giving up 111 walks in 156 innings. But his velocity abandoned him after a 2002 injury that had nothing to do with an octopus-throwing contest.
Anderson made a comeback attempt almost a decade later after kicking around independent ball, but his career, for practical purposes, was done.
“From draft to draft, you try to say, ‘Who’s that can’t-miss?'” Tigers general manager Al Avila mused earlier this week. “There’s been plenty of can’t-misses that have missed, as you all know, in the history of the Draft.”
Anderson was one of them.
Among the solid big-league contributors drafted after Anderson in the first round in 1997 were: Troy Glaus, Vernon Wells, Michael Cuddyer, Jon Garland and Lance Berkman.
The best pitcher in the 1997 draft wasn’t selected in the first round. Tim Hudson lasted until the sixth round when the Oakland Athletics drafted him out of Auburn University.
The consensus top pick in 2018 is another pitcher out of Auburn University: Casey Mize.
The Tigers will finalize that decision in a series of meetings this weekend before Monday night’s draft.
“There are good players in this draft, and there’s going to be players in this draft who will get to the big leagues, and there will be players in this draft who may end up being All-Stars or maybe even franchise players,” Avila said. “And they come from all (rounds) in the draft. That’s why it’s so exciting, and that’s why everybody can look at it today and analyze it five or six years from now.”