Jordan: Baseball’s organizational draft kings

From Dave Jordan at The Hardball Times on January 11, 2018, with mention of SABR members Mark Armour and Dan Levitt:

The recent elections of Alan Trammell and Jack Morris to the Baseball Hall of Fame from the Modern Baseball Era ballot bring to light the tremendous 1976 amateur draft of longtime Detroit Tigers general manager Jim Campbell and farm director Bill Lajoie. What often gets overlooked is that Detroit held the No. 2 pick in the draft that year, the result of a depleted roster and legendary players who hung on far too long.

“The Tigers of the early ‘70s were a slowly declining team that benefited from the Orioles’ one-year dip,” says Mark Armour, baseball historian and co-author of In Pursuit of Pennants. “Denny McLain was a big shot in the arm that reversed the tide temporarily in the late ‘60s, but this Tiger team was basically the same for nearly a decade. By 1972 they were old, and their collapse was inevitable without reinforcements. They drafted so poorly in the years prior to this that they had to keep playing Al Kaline and Norm Cash, who were their best hitters in 1972…and also in 1961.”

Detroit’s amateur picks in 1976 often are praised right alongside the Los Angeles Dodgers’ incredible haul from the 1968 draft. The Tigers ultimately came away with Trammell (70.4 in “Future WAR”), Morris (44.1), outfielder Steve Kemp (19.4 in the January phase) and pitcher Dan Petry (17.4), not to mention selecting Ozzie Smith (76.5) in the seventh round, though he did not sign.

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Originally published: January 11, 2018. Last Updated: January 11, 2018.