The Tigers drafted Will Rhymes six years ago in the 27th round. Not many big leaguers emerge from such depths of the draft.
Two years ago, Rhymes made it to major league camp for the first time. He was about to turn 26. He had played only six games at Triple-A Toledo. He was listed at 5-feet-9, 155 pounds.
Yet amid those elements of obscurity, Jim Leyland saw something.Without being asked, the manager told reporters that spring that Rhymes "will play in the big leagues." He called Rhymes "a dirtball (with) a short, quick stroke" who had the advantage of being a left-handed-hitting infielder.
Leyland used words much like this Tuesday morning when he explained why Rhymes had won the job as the starting second baseman.
Rhymes turns 28 next week, which is obviously a little late for a player to first establish himself as an every-day player. But I'm not sure he can't be another David Eckstein, a 19th-round draft choice who won a regular job at 26 and wound up enjoying a long and productive career. Rhymes isn't the fielder that Eckstein was, though. And it's not clear he's the hitter Eckstein was, either. Rhymes did quite well in his 54 games with the Tigers last summer, but his minor-league numbers weren't as good.
All of which seems almost beside the point, at the moment. The Tigers' second baseman this season was supposed to be young(er) Scott Sizemore. Or if not him, old(er) Carlos Guillen. But instead it's the 27th-round pick who weighs 160 pounds. And that should give us all some hope.