In the weeks leading
up to the draft, Perfect Game will be providing a detailed overview
of each state in the U.S., including the District of Columbia, as
well as Canada and Puerto Rico. These overviews will list the
state's strengths, weaknesses and the players with the best tools, as
well as providing mini-scouting reports on all Group 1 and 2 players.
Michigan State-by-State List
State of Economy Impacts Michigan Baseball, Draft Fortunes
It’s possible that no
other state has been so harshly impacted by the economic woes that
have gripped the country over the last two or three years than
Michigan. As the hub of the nation’s once-thriving auto industry,
the state first took a hit when consumers stopped buying
American-made products in favor of foreign models, and then almost
stopped buying cars altogether in the wake of the recent economic
downturn that gripped the country.
From a baseball
standpoint in Michigan, there are parallels to the hardships that the
auto industry has endured through the years.
No state has been so
adversely impacted by baseball’s changing face at the grassroots
level, especially in the way the game at the college and high-school
levels has thrived at an ever-increasing rate in the warmer climates
found in the nation’s Sun Belt states.
It has been 26 years
since a team from Michigan last participated in the College World
Series. And yet there were years when a college team from Michigan
made regular appearances in the national-championship tournament,
which actually has its roots in Kalamazoo, Mich., in 1947, before
settling permanently in Omaha, in 1950.
Michigan won College
World Series titles in 1953 and 1962, and later made five trips to
the CWS in a seven-year period from 1978-84. Western Michigan made
six visits to Omaha from 1952-63, finishing second in 1955. Eastern
Michigan made consecutive appearances in 1975-76, behind twin
first-round draft picks and future big-leaguers Bob Owchinko and Bob
Welch. Michigan State also has a CWS appearance to its credit, in
But that’s all in the
distant past, and no Michigan college team came close to ending the
drought this year as all six Division I schools were on the outside
looking in for the second year in a row when 64 bids were extended to
the NCAA tournament, ultimately leading to the eight-team College
World Series field.
Not only has the state
experienced a significant dry spell in legitimately contending for a
national title, but the draftable talent coming out of Michigan
through the years has also seen a pronounced dip. In 1969, there were
45 players drafted that were products of Michigan high schools.
Twenty years later, that total had dipped to 34; another 20 years
hence (2009), that number was just 20.
Much as the state’s
primary resource, the auto industry, has seen a precipitous decline
through the years, so has Michigan’s manufacture of baseball
talent. Only New York has regressed at a faster clip.
The pickings in the
state this year are modest by Michigan’s declining standards. Three
college players have an outside shot of being drafted in the first 10
rounds, none in the first five. Divine Child High catcher Eric Haase
is the one high-school player who has the ability to be an
early-round draft, but it will most likely be in 2014, after three
college seasons at Ohio State as he received little exposure this
In recent years, the
University of Michigan has singlehandedly propped up the state’s
sagging baseball fortunes. The Wolverines made consecutive NCAA
tournament appearances from 2006-08, and processed a steady diet of
draft picks in that period. But not even that program could be
counted on this year as the Wolverines were ravaged by injuries and
limped home with a 17-37 record overall and 7-16 in the Big Ten. In
coach Rich Maloney’s previous eight years as coach, the school had
never won fewer than 30 games.
Crippling injuries to a
pitching staff that should have been the team’s strength ultimately
did in the Wolveries. Twin 6-foot-5 righthanders Kolby Wood and
Travis Smith, who might have cracked the top 10 rounds had they been
healthy, worked just four innings apiece before they succumbed to arm
injuries. Wood, who underwent Tommy John surgery, was clocked in the
fall at 95, Smith at 93.
righthander, Tyler Mills, did manage to reach the mid-90s this
spring, but was largely unsuccessful with a 2-4, 5.02 record, working
both as a starter in relief. He struggled with command issues.
But if Michigan got
little or no production out of its pitching staff, it got even less
than expected out of sophomore-eligible shortstop Derek Dennis. He
held out considerable promise when he turned down a 10th round offer from the Tampa Bay Rays out of high school, but hit just
.216-0-10 on the year.
With the depressed
state of baseball affairs at Michigan, it was left to Central
Michigan lefthander Trent Howard and Michigan State senior first
baseman Jeff Holm to carry the torch for the state. Howard was
generally effective during the regular season, going 4-4, 2.78 with
22 walks and 96 strikeouts in 87 innings, with command of three
pitches. But he may have undone all his good work with a lackluster
showing before a large number of scouts at the Mid-American
Conference tournament, where his fastball barely cracked the mid-80s.
Holm, meanwhile, went
undrafted a year ago, which seemed to be an oversight when he had a
dominant summer season in the Prospect League (.359-11-60, 38 SB). He
largely duplicated that performance as a Michigan State senior,
hitting .376-9-61 with 20 stolen bases. Holm spent all of the 2011
season at first base for Michigan State (36-21), which actually had a
fine 2011 season and narrowly missed making the regional field. Holm
profiles as a solid senior sign with his chance of landing inside the
first 10 rounds probably dependent on a club that believes he can
play in the outfield at the pro level.
If there was a positive
development by a Michigan college team this year, it had to be the
showing of Grand Valley State, which entered the Division II World
Series with a gaudy 52-3 record and No.1 national ranking. Alas, the
Lakers were abruptly eliminated in two straight games at the national
College made a strong run in the National Junior College Athletic
Association Division II World Series, even though it entered regional
play as a No. 8 seed (out of eight) and the national tournament with
just a 30-25 record.
Haase was undoubtedly
the best draft-eligible talent in the state this year, high school or
college. He has five-tool potential as an offensive-oriented catcher,
but received less exposure this spring than his talent warranted as
scouts avoided Michigan early on because of all the rough,
late-winter weather, and later on as there was little reason
otherwise to travel to the state.
Because defending state
champion Divine Child lost every regular from a year ago but Haase,
his superior athletic ability was put to a test this season. He
played multiple positions for the team, from ace of the pitching
staff to extensive service at third base. It limited Haase’s
opportunity to develop his catching skills, but all his tools were
readily evident no matter where he played. He has excellent power
potential and above-average speed for a catcher.
Led by Haase, four of
the top six high-school players in Michigan this year are catchers.
It’s one of the few things that the state has reason to boast about
Michigan in a
University of Michigan talent.
(1-to-5 scale): 2.
BEST COLLEGE TEAM:
Grand Valley State (NCAA Division II).
BEST HIGH SCHOOL
TEAM: Brother Rice HS, Bloomfield Hills.
PROSPECT ON THE
RISE: Eric Haase, c, Divine Child HS, Dearborn. With his
five-tool potential, Haase rates as one of the best prep catchers in
the country. But his lack of exposure from scouts this spring will
undoubtedly see him slide in the draft much farther than his talent
warrants, and inevitably will propel him on to a college career at
PROSPECT ON THE
DECLINE: Derek Dennis, ss, University of Michigan. Dennis is an
agile, athletic shortstop with a solid glove and strong arm, and
seemed destined to be drafted about the same spot as out of high
school (10th round, 2009). But his weak bat (.216-0-10)
probably killed that chance.
WILD CARD: Kolby
Wood, rhp, University of Michigan. The 6-foot-5 Wood caught the
attention of scouts last fall with a fastball in the mid-90s, but he
succumbed to Tommy John surgery after just four innings this spring.
If a team is willing, it could still draft Wood in a middle round and
sit on him as he continues his rehab.
PROSPECT, Michigan Connection: Jon Berti, ss, Bowling Green State
University (attended high school in Troy).
TOP 2012 PROSPECT:
Torsten Boss, 2b/3b, Michigan State University.
TOP 2013 PROSPECT:
Alex Lakatos, rhp, University of Michigan.
HIGHEST DRAFT PICKS
Mark Mulder, lhp, Michigan State U. (1998, Athletics/1st round, 2nd pick).
2006 Draft: Dan
O’Brien, lhp, Western Michigan U. (Blue Jays/8th round).
2007 Draft: Jeff
Fischer, rhp, Eastern Michigan U. (Rockies/10th round).
2008 Draft: Ethan
Hollingsworth, rhp, Western Michigan U. (Rockies/4th round).
2009 Draft: Daniel
Fields, ss, University of Detroit Jesuit HS (Tigers/6th round).
2010 Draft: Ryan
LaMarre, of, U. of Michigan (Reds/2nd round).
Best Hitter: Jeff
Holm, 1b, Michigan State University.
Best Power: Eric
Haase, c, Divine Child HS, Dearborn.
Best Speed: Eric
Haase, c, Divine Child HS, Dearborn.
Eric Haase, c, Divine Child HS, Dearborn.
Tyler Mills, rhp, University of Michigan.
Best Breaking Stuff:
Trent Howard, lhp, Central Michigan University.
TOP PROSPECTS, GROUP
ONE and TWO
TWO (Projected HIGH-Round Draft /
ERIC HAASE, c, Divine Child HS, Dearborn
player; potential 5-tool C, ++ bat speed/RH power, 6.84 speed,
versatile player, + arm strength.
TRENT HOWARD, lhp, Central Michigan University (Jr.)
LHP, command of 3 pitches (87-89 FB/CU/CH), can fight arm slot; solid
year (87 IP, 22 BB/96 SO).
TYLER MILLS, rhp, University of Michigan (Jr.)
with mid-90s heat, good deception, + life; struggles to command
secondary stuff (52 IP/30 BB/48 SO).
JEFF HOLM, 1b/of, Michigan State (Sr.)
offensive potential (.376-9-61, 20 SB), LH bat skills/speed a better
fit in OF; should be + SR sign.