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Tigers look for offense with top pick

Here is a quick look at the players selected in Monday's Rule 5 draft.

Players are eligible for the draft if they are not on a team's 40-man roster and have been in professional baseball for three seasons -- four if they signed before turning 18.

Players selected must remain on the 25-man active roster or the disabled list for all of 2004 or be offered back to their former teams for $25,000.

We'll have some additional comments about the draft in the mailbag this Friday, but here is a briefing to get you started. Note how the Pirates and Indians were hit hard.

Round 1
Detroit: Chris Shelton, 1B-C, from the Pirates: Drafted in the 33rd round in 2001 from the University of Utah. Shelton hit .359 in 95 games at Class A Lynchburg this year with 21 homers. He hit .279 after being promoted to Double-A, but had no homers in 35 games. A solid all-around hitter with excellent strike-zone judgment and good power, he owns a career .332 average with a .430 on-base percentage in 273 games. Shelton's main problem is defense. His skills behind the plate are very marginal. Shelton, 23, has a good chance to stick as a bat off the bench.

San Diego: Rich Thompson, OF, from the Pirates: Thompson is an athletic outfielder with speed originally drafted by the Blue Jays in the sixth round in 2000 out of James Madison. He swiped 48 bases in Double-A and Triple-A this year. A career average of .287 in 444 games. Thompson, 24, runs well and is good defensively, but he doesn't have much power. He could be a good reserve outfielder. Traded to the Royals for their pick, right-hander Jason Szuminski.

Tampa Bay: Alex Zumwalt, RHP, from the Braves: A fourth-round pick in 1999 out of high school in North Carolina. Zumwalt was originally an outfielder but converted to pitching in 2002 after hitting just .217 through his career. Excellent arm with a 93-mph fastball and a power slider. He's still learning the finer points of pitching but posted a 2.22 ERA at Class A Myrtle Beach in '03. Could be a solid short reliever with more experience and has a good chance to stick. Turns 23 in January.

New York Mets: Frank Brooks, LHP, from the Pirates: Originally drafted by the Phillies in 1999, a 13th-round pick out of St. Peter's College in New Jersey. Brooks features a 88-90 mph fastball and a biting breaking ball that is tough on lefties. Brooks, 25, posted 93/24 strikeout-to-walk (K/BB) ratio in 87 innings this year in Double-A and Triple-A. He has a good chance to stick in the bullpen. Traded to Oakland.

Milwaukee: David Bennett, RHP, from the Pirates: Often listed as Jeff Bennett on stat sheets. A 23-year-old right-hander drafted in the 19th round in 1998 out of high school in Tennessee. Bennett posted 2.72 ERA with 62/23 K/BB ratio in 60 innings in Double-A this year. He doesn't have spectacular velocity but changes speeds well and throws strikes. Could be a useful long reliever or spot starter.

Baltimore: Jose Bautista, 3B, from the Pirates: Considered a top prospect heading into 2003, Bautista suffered an injury-plagued and ineffective season at Class A Lynchburg, hitting just .242 with four homers in 51 games. The 23-year-old Bautista hit .301 with 14 homers the previous year at Class A Hickory. A good athlete with offensive potential, he was drafted in the 20th round in 2000 out of Chipola Junior College. Not the kind of player who usually benefits from Rule 5; he needs to play, not rust on the bench.

Cincinnati: David Mattox, RHP, from the Mets: An 11th-round pick in 2001 out of Anderson Junior College in South Carolina. Mattox, 23, went 8-7 with a 3.49 ERA and 86/40 K/BB in 113 innings at Double-A Binghamton. His career ERA is a fine 3.13 in 322 innings. Fastball is average, but he keeps the ball down and changes speeds well with his curve and changeup. A decent spring training could get him a long relief job.

Texas: Chris Mabeus, RHP, from the Athletics: Selected in the 13th round in 2001 out of Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho. Mabeus, a 24-year-old right-hander, has a sinking fastball in the 90-mph range, plus a good slider. He saved 13 games at Double-A Midland this year with a 3.52 ERA and 40/9 K/BB in 38 innings. Should have a chance to stick as a bullpen contributor.

Colorado: Matt White, LHP, from the Indians: A 15th-round pick by the Indians out of Clemson in 1998, White is 26 years old. His career has been plagued with injuries, control problems and inconsistency. He bounced around a lot in '03, being a Rule 5 pick by the Red Sox, then traded to the Mariners, then sent back to the Indians. He has a decent fastball, a very good changeup and could be a good pitcher if he can sharpen his command.

Kansas City: Jason Szuminski, RHP, from the Cubs: A 27th-round pick in 2000 out of MIT. Szuminski, 24, is big (6-foot-5, 220 pounds) and is smart enough to have gone to MIT. Track record is inconsistent. He posted a 6.44 ERA in 2001 and a 5.12 ERA in 2002. But he improved his command in '03, posting a 2.26 ERA and a 45/19 K/BB in 60 innings in Double-A. Can hit 93 mph and could be useful bullpen arm if he continues to enhance his control. Traded to the Padres after the draft.

Montreal: Andy Fox, INF, from the Rangers: A 32-year-old major-league veteran, Fox was signed by the Rangers as a free agent after the end of the year, then assigned to the Triple-A roster. I find it puzzling that the Expos would waste a Rule 5 pick on someone like this. Hit .194 in 70 games for the Marlins.

Toronto: Talley Haines, RHP, from the Devil Rays: A 25th-round pick in 1998 from Freed-Hardeman University in Tennessee. Haines, 27, posted a 2.53 ERA and 64/11 K/BB ratio in 68 innings for Triple-A Durham. He owns a 3.41 career minor-league ERA in 404 innings. He doesn't have awesome stuff but throws strikes and keeps the ball down. He could fit in well as a bullpen utility pitcher.

Chicago White Sox: Jason Grilli, RHP, from the Marlins: A one-time top prospect until his career was derailed by injuries. Originally drafted by the Giants in the first round in 1997 out of Seton Hall, he was traded to Florida in '99 for Livan Hernandez. Grilli, 27, posted a 3.38 ERA in 12 starts for Triple-A Albuquerque this year, though with a poor 38/30 K/BB in 67 innings. He once drew comparisons to Matt Morris but hasn't been able to stay healthy long enough to develop his command. Grilli could be an intriguing reclamation project.

St. Louis: Hector Luna, SS, from the Indians: The Dominican shortstop was signed by the Indians in 1999, then went to the D-Rays in the '02 Rule 5 draft but didn't stick. Luna, 23, hit .297 in Double-A this year, with 17 steals, but power dropped from .404 SLG in '02 to .359 in '03. Flashy glove, though still somewhat error-prone.

Boston: Lenny Dinardo, LHP, from the Mets: A third-round pick in 2001 out of Stetson. Dinardo is a 24-year-old lefty who doesn't throw hard with a very mediocre fastball. But he throws strikes, has good breaking stuff and has pitched well so far, including a 2.01 ERA in 85 innings at Class A St. Lucie in '03. His career ERA is 3.16 with 272 strikeouts in 262 innings. Scouts don't understand how he gets people out, but he does. A classic finesse southpaw.

Houston: Willy Taveras, OF, from the Indians: A speed demon outfielder who turns 22 on Christmas Day. Taveras was signed out of the Dominican in 1999. He hit .282 with 57 steals and 52 walks at Class A Kinston. His speed will be useful on the bench, but he lacks power and is unlikely to develop it.

Round 2
Detroit: Mike Bumatay, LHP, from the Rockies: A 21st-round pick by the Pirates out of high school in California in 1998. Bumatay went to the Rockies in the 2002 Rule 5 draft. Bumatay, 24, posted a 2.60 ERA in 40 games at Double-A Tulsa, with 69 strikeouts in 55 innings. Somewhat short at a listed 6-foot, Bumatay has good velocity for his size and can get lefties out. Decent chance to stick as anti-lefty specialist.

Colorado: Luis Gonzalez, INF, from the Indians: A 24-year-old Venezuelan infielder who was signed in 1996. Gonzalez is a line-drive hitter with proven ability to hit .300 (he hit .318 in 116 games at Double-A Akron this year). Doesn't have much power but makes contact. Can play first base, second base, third or short. He won't have enough power to be a starter but could be a useful reserve player.

Boston: Colter Bean, RHP, from the Yankees: A 26-year-old right-hander signed by the Yankees as an undrafted free agent out of Auburn in 2000. Excellent minor-league track record, including a 2.87 ERA and 70/27 K/BB in 69 innings at Triple-A Columbus in '03. Main problem is lack of velocity; his fastball is just in the low 80s. But he knows how to pitch and comes at hitters with a deceptive delivery. At 6-6, 255 pounds, he's an interesting sabermetrically inspired experiment by Boston.

Round 3
Detroit: Lino Urdaneta, RHP, from the Indians: A 24-year-old Venezuelan who was signed as a free agent by the Dodgers in 1996. Urdaneta was granted free agency as a six-year guy this fall. He signed with the Indians but is now potentially lost to them under Rule 5. He has a live arm but an erratic track record due to inconsistent command and control. Posted a 4.29 ERA in 44 games for Double-A Jacksonville in 2003. Could be a useful middle man if he sharpens his command but is unlikely to make a big impact.

Book update
The 2004 Baseball Prospect Book is almost finished, and we remain on schedule for shipping the first week of February. If you've ordered, you will be receiving a Top 50/50 Prospects List and a Player Grade List via e-mail before Christmas, to help with fantasy draft planning. If you haven't ordered and are interested, check Johnsickels.com for details.

John Sickels is the author of the 2004 Baseball Prospect Book, which can be ordered only at his Web site, johnsickels.com. He is also the author of Bob Feller: Ace of the Greatest Generation, which will be released just before Christmas by Brassey's. You can send John questions or comments at JASickels@aol.com.