6/7/2014 6:11 P.M. ET
Kentucky catcher Thomas sees parallels to quarterback
By Matt Slovin / MLB.com
Michael Thomas probably resembled a prototypical quarterback more on Saturday -- when the Tigers chose him in the 22nd round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft -- than when he played the position for his Elizabethtown (Ky.) High School team.
When he quarterbacked Elizabethtown to a 10-3 record and a regional finals berth his senior year, Thomas was, he admits, "a little bit pudgy."
The University of Kentucky catcher, who was a three-sport athlete in high school, chose to pursue baseball exclusively during his senior year. Since then, he's shed some weight and has learned considerably more about his chosen athletic endeavor.
For example, he's gleaned that playing catcher isn't all that different from being under center.
"I definitely think they're positions where you get to run your team," Thomas said by phone Saturday. "You're involved in every play as a catcher, just like you are as a quarterback."
Thomas noted that they're also both positions where a leadership role isn't so much expected as it is demanded.
Thomas, who idolizes Miguel Cabrera, estimated that he was "90 percent a defensive catcher" entering the second half of his college career. With his summer-league team in Alaska this past summer, he worked on his swing considerably and now believes he's a lot more balanced in what he brings to the table.
This past season was the best offensive one he's had. He hit .315 with eight home runs for the Wildcats.
It's only fitting that a former quarterback, who considered trying to walk on to Kentucky's football team, would expend most of his energy on improving his offensive skills.
Perspective after tragedy helps Mattlage on Draft day
Garrett Mattlage knows a little something about perspective.
The Tigers' 12th-round selection in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft is a native of West, Texas, the site of last April's fertilizer plant explosion.
Mattlage's best friend's father, a first responder on the scene, was one of the 15 fatalities.
The tennis court where Mattlage used to play with his mother, a stone's throw from where the plant stood, was "blown to bits," as Mattlage put it.
So, naturally, it was a little easier for Mattlage to keep his composure when his name wasn't announced on Day 2 of the Draft.
"[A tragedy like that] changes your attitude to what baseball really means," Mattlage said by phone Saturday. "It's just a game."
The Texas State shortstop had been projected to be selected in the first 10 rounds of the Draft, and his phone finally rang at the end of Day 2.
"You're at the top of the board, so be ready tomorrow," Mattlage said the Tigers told him.
Mattlage's home is just about five miles south of where the explosion occurred. The winds on the day of the blast were coming from the south, so the toxic fumes that were emitted missed his house.
He returned home to attend his friend's father's funeral shortly after the explosion, but it wasn't until the blast zone was re-opened and he ventured to see the destruction that the impact really set in.
The tennis courts he frequented were obliterated, and the school his mother teaches at suffered significant damage.
Not a day goes by that Mattlage doesn't think of his hometown and the loss his friend endured. But the perspective he gained from the tragedy made the Draft day wait far less excruciating.
Rader has to decide between Wichita State, Tigers
Chase Rader, the Tigers' 16th-round selection in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, knows he has two pretty attractive options in front of him.
With a full-ride scholarship offer to Wichita State University on the table, Rader's contract negotiations with Detroit, which are expected to begin next week, will merely determine where, not if, his baseball career will continue.
Rader, a power-hitting third baseman out of Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, said he expected to go on Day 2 of the Draft earlier this season. But with what Rader considers an attractive offer from Wichita State in his back pocket, he thinks concerns about signability might have ultimately bumped him into Day 3.
"I've got a full ride, so [the contract] is going to have to be something to take my mind off that," Rader said in a phone interview following his selection Saturday. "I'm really excited for whatever decision I make. It's a win-win situation."
Rader tied for fourth in Division I of the NJCAA with 14 home runs. He set the Coffeyville single-season record by clubbing his 11th of the year during a conference game against Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College.
He's a converted shortstop who describes himself as "pretty athletic." In addition to the home run record, he also set a program record with 47 stolen bases this past season. He was caught stealing just six times all year.
Rader noted his pedigree as a shortstop has made him a solid infielder in addition to a slugger and base thief.
"It helped develop my footwork and get my hands a lot quicker and smoother," Rader said.
Rader grew up cheering for the Royals, the Tigers' division foe, but that doesn't mean he's any less happy to possibly join the Detroit organization.
"I know they're one of the best teams in baseball," Rader said. "It's an honor."
Tigers draft Magglio's son in 38th round
With the 2014 First-Year Player Draft winding down Saturday, the Tigers saw an opportunity to grab the son of former Detroit star Magglio Ordonez.
In the 38th round, the club selected the first baseman, who recently graduated from American Heritage High School in Plantation, Fla.
The elder Ordonez spent his final seven big league seasons with the Tigers. In that span, he made two All-Star teams and, in 2007, finished second in the American League MVP balloting.
He has since been elected mayor of Juan Antonio Sotillo Municipality in Venezuela.
The younger Ordonez was born in 1995, two years before his father's Major League career began. He was a common fixture in the Tigers' clubhouse during his father's Detroit tenure and will have a chance to climb the ranks of the farm system and get there on his own merits if he signs.
Matt Slovin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.