HILLARY SMITH: Undrafted? No worries, say RailCats

2014-06-08T20:30:00Z 2014-06-08T22:10:14Z HILLARY SMITH: Undrafted? No worries, say RailCatsHillary Smith Times Columnist nwitimes.com
June 08, 2014 8:30 pm  • 

Greg Tagert's specialty as a scout for the Detroit Tigers was to watch for potential in college seniors.

Finding those hidden gems makes him the perfect independent league manager, someone who can utilize the talents of a player that didn't receive a call on MLB Entry Draft weekend.

With the draft concluded this past weekend, Tagert and his RailCats coaching staff are whittling their list of undrafted seniors to invite to their annual June camp during the next homestand.

The tryout camp has yielded talents such as current starting second baseman Zac Mitchell.

"Zac is the greatest example of what gets overlooked in the draft," Tagert said. "You would have a hard time convincing me that with 40 rounds, 30 teams, there's not 1,200 better players in the country than Zac Mitchell, I'll guarantee you."

Tagert says he has local affiliated scouts who know what he's looking for and help keep him in the loop for the seniors that would be perfect for the RailCats, but might not be a draft day signee.

The road not taken, that of independent ball, is the perfect shot for a senior looking to keep his career going, Tagert said. It's why independent baseball was created.

"From a player's standpoint, independent baseball is the best thing that has ever happened for a player," Tagert said. "That includes guys like (pitcher) James Parr who played in the major leagues and guys like Zac Mitchell and Ryan Brockett or Adam Taylor. It's not just for the undrafted player or the guy that was overlooked, though that's what it was for originally, or even the Darryl Strawberry the name guys in the beginning. But the way it's grown, it's more for the Mike Massaros, the James Parrs, the guys who have had great careers and it gives them a chance to continue."

Having sat in scouting meetings and known what to look for, Tagert said that great players are watched not only for their talent, but also for their potential. Can this player improve and by how much? Can his pitching speed increase, and by how much?

The gamble is on potential as much as current performance.

"Major League Baseball views talent in a different way. They view talent a lot like an NFL Combine, in numbers," Tagert said. "We view talent as 'who is the best baseball player?'"

What Tagert tells players he's hoping to convince to attend the undrafted senior tryout is not only the stories of the Mitchells and McNamees and how draft means little to success. He tells them that success cna prove that the player deserves the shot they were missed. 

"These guys are stepping off a college campus onto a team that's two to three steps higher than where they'll play at if they're drafted," Tagert said. "For whatever reason, the Zac Mitchells, the Ryan Brocketts go undrafted, but they can play at a level for us that's considered at the minimum the Double-A level.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach her at hillary.smith@nwi.com.

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