This year MLB expanded it's draft coverage out to three days, showcasing the opening round in primetime. The Indians did not surprise many people on opening night, taking well-regarded LHP Drew Pomeranz out of Ole Miss (more on Pomeranz below). But throughout the second day of the draft it gradually became apparent that the Indians were taking a different approach to this year's draft than they have in recent seasons. Indians fans have come to expect the team's drafts to be heavily focused on established college players (although often younger college players or junior college players), with most of the high school picks occurring as flyers in the latter-half of the draft. In the 2009 draft the Indians only selected eight high school players, the earliest being 12th round pick Joseph Colon out of Puerto Rico. In contrast, the Indians selected two high school players, two JuCo players and a draft-eligible sophomore in their first ten picks this season. By the end of day two (round 30), a full half of the Indians' selections were high-schoolers or JuCo players. At the draft's conclusion, the Indians had selected 16 high school players, 11 junior college players and two draft-eligible sophomores among their 50 picks.
Tony Lastoria did a good job of getting John Mirabelli to discuss the change in approach to this year's draft (pointed to in Jay's fanshot):
"I would say upside is a good word to describe our draft," said Mirabelli. "We put our draft board in order of talent and ability and worked off it from there. We didn’t base it on signability. We looked at our values and how we valued the player and the upside and we thought we put our board in its natural order from top to bottom. When it was our time to pick, that’s the guy that we took."
To some degree the Indians shift this season might simply reflect where the talent was thought to be in this year's draft crop (Bosotn, for example, selected 33 high school players. Toronto led the way with 35. San Francisco and Kansas City took the fewest at 9.). In reality, the shift from 2009 to 2010 might be a rather minor one for the Tribe. But Mirabelli alludes to the major issue in this year's draft for Cleveland - signability. The comments by draftniks throughout the three-day event frequently highlighted the Indians getting a potential "steal" of a player who had slipped because of signability concerns. There are few incentives for a college junior not to sign with a team, almost none for a college senior. A high school player selected lower than his perceived talent level has only one major incentive to sign - money.
"I think this will be a substantially smaller group than what we traditionally sign, certainly smaller than what we signed last year," said Mirabelli.
And there you go. Last year the Indians signed all of their picks through round 20 of the draft. They signed four from rounds 21-30 and four from the remaining 20 rounds. That number will likely be considerably lower, particularly in the first 20 rounds, this season.
I have a collection of comments on the Indians picks below, but first it is worth taking a few lines to think about this from a strategic standpoint. The Indians draft includes a lot of potential "high upside" guys and to a certain degree, in the physical and skill tools these players possess, that is true. But the greater truth is probably that the Indians have selected a younger group of players than in years past. Because of the greater developmental time in front of them there is simply more uncertainty, potentially good or bad, associated with this draft crop than a more college-focused draft. The key issue will be how and how much money the Indians put into this group. The more money, and I am thinking it would be a good sign if the Indians invest something in the $8-10M range, the more likely the Indians pull off a few draft coups. It is worth keeping in mind though that a $10M investment would really be a hope that one of those guys signed above slot turns into a quality major league player...the kind of a player who will provide the Indians with 4+ years of production at a Major League bargain basement salary.
Going forward, a lot of these signing will come late in the cycle.
"Yes, historically if you look back at what has happened in the last three or fours years it is a pretty safe bet that a majority of these signings will be near or at the deadline," said Mirabelli.
The Indians can follow a number of these players in Summer Leagues in order to give them a better sense as to which players they want to target come early August. More than in the past several years, the full makeup of this year's signed players will likely not become apparent till the August 16th signing deadline.
Comments on individual players below the jump...
First, a few other comments on the draft as a whole:
From John Sickels:
I like the diversity. Aviles, Lavisky, and Cooper all have signability issues that will have to be addressed, but if they get them under contract, I think this is a strong balance of talent from a variety of sources and backgrounds.
From Baseball America (more for subscribers at the link):
If LHP Drew Pomeranz (1) throws strikes as a pro, he'll be the best college pitcher out of this draft. His fastball and power curve are two of the best pitches in this class, and he has the feel for pitching to be an innings-eating workhorse as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter. The Tribe got another potential first-round talent in OF LeVon Washington (2); he was the Rays' first-rounder last season and has plus tools in his bat and speed. RHPs Kyle Blair (4) and Cole Cook (5) ranked among the best college arms in the West and give the organization pitching depth. Ohio prep C Alex Lavisky (8)—who plays on the same team as the son of Indians assistant GM John Mirabelli—and SS/2Bs Tony Wolters (3) and Nick Bartolone (6) provide up-the-middle talent. Consistent college performers such as RHP Jordan Cooper (9) and OF Tyler Holt (10) may be tough signs but could push this class over the hump.
From BA's twitter feed recapping day 2 of the draft:
Cle #mlbdraft Day 2: Good stuff. Washington's (2) athleticism, Wolters' (3) defense, Blair's (4) upside, Lavisky-Cooper-Holt (8-10). <JC> (BA twitter)
From THT Live (hardballtimes.com)
I liked what Cleveland did with their picks this year. They took Drew Pomeranz fifth overall. Pomeranz was the top southpaw available this year and has three above average offerings. The Indians took a chance by taking Levon Washington in the second round. Washington failed to sign as a first round pick of the Rays last year and struggled early this season in Junior College. Washington has all the tools but his play has been inconsistent. They also took Kyle Blair out of San Diego 120th overall and perhaps a major steal in Tyler Holt with the 300th pick. Holt has been a favorite of the guys over at College Splits and has a very advanced and disciplined approach at the plate.
Tony has a well-formatted table of the Indians draft picks at his place. A similar database is available via Baseball America. Here are some comments on the Indians picks.
On top pick, Drew Pomeranz:
Pomeranz went 9-2, 2.24 with 139 strikeouts in 100.2 innings. The big questions: a strained pectoral muscle that slowed him in the second half of the season, and the command, as he walked 49 overall. (Baseball America draft blog)
Summary: Pomeranz has established himself as the top lefty arm in a Draft class that hasn't got a deep the southpaw pool. Big, strong and durable, he's got the makings of an above-average three-pitch mix. He commands his fastball and breaking ball very well, and, while the changeup is a bit behind, it's improving quickly. There's little not to like about Pomeranz -- most criticisms are on the nit-picky side -- and it seems likely that he'll hear his name called very early on Draft Day. (MLB.com)
Oh, did we mention the Indians selected Drew Pomeranz with their first pick...he of the highest weighted pitching runs above average of any college pitcher available this year? Yeah, they took him too. Sure, it was a no-brainer to take the best player on the board at #5, but plenty of teams failed that test in the first round.
In other words, Cleveland Rocks. (collegesplits.com blog)
The top college pitcher in the draft, Pomeranz has solid fastball velocity for a lefty. The southpaw has a good three-pitch mix – 89-94 mph fastball, curveball, change-up – but his control is still a work in progress. He has a fairly smooth delivery. Pomeranz was previously selected out of high school by the Texas Rangers in the 12th round of the 2007 draft. (Marc Hulet) (Fangraphs.com)
Skills they love: Easy velocity, snap-dragon curveball, workhorse.
They’ll be hoping for production that looks like: One of the Indians’ own — Chuck Finley, with a little better command. No easy comparison with this profile. (Fangraphs.com)
5. Drew Pomeranz - Indians. Draft day buzz suggested that Pomeranz could fall a lot farther than this. I'm relieved that he didn't. He's the best college pitcher in the draft (by far), and will be worth going a bit overslot. (THT Live)
Inside the Pick: Cleveland seemed to be more focused on Sale and Michael Choice, but that might be because they just didn't expect Pomeranz to get to them.
What He is: A big, very strong left-hander with two big-league quality pitches in a 92-95 mph fastball and one of the best curveballs in the draft. Beyond his power stuff, he's a heady, intelligent pitcher who understands his craft.
What He is Not: After getting off to a tremendous start this spring, Pomeranz struggled to throw strikes leading up to the draft. While clearly hampered by a muscle strain in his chest, command had been an issue throughout his college career. His changeup needs considerable improvement, and some think he might fit better in the bullpen down the road.
Path with the Indians: Between dropping a little farther than expected and being represented by the Beverly Hills Sports Council, Pomeranz will not be the easiest of signings. Chances are good he won't make his official debut until 2011. (Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus)
LeVon Washington, 2nd round selection:
Summary: The first-round pick of the Tampa Bay Rays a year ago, Washington didn't sign and opted to attend Chipola Junior College, instead. He got off to a very slow start, though he was turning it on with the bat as the spring wore on. He still has the hitting ability and speed that scouts liked a year ago, but the question about where he might be able to play defensively still remains. He's got the range to play center field, but the arm and instincts might mean a try at second base instead. Add to that a perceived lack of energy from the athletic Washington, and he's been a bit of an enigma this spring. That said, there's bound to be a team that will buy into the tools and hope it can get Washington to apply all of them on a regular basis. (MLB.com)
Many pundits labeled the Rays’ selection of LeVon Washington in the 2009 draft a typical Tampa Bay pick. Athletic, fast, and with raw baseball skills, Washington hailed from a local high school and held a commitment to the University of Florida. Making the pick a bit more interesting for the conspiracy theorists was a slight hint of nepotism stemming from Washington’s shared bloodline to area legend and team employee Fred McGriff. Soon the 30th selection in the draft would be shown on the team’s local broadcast and announce his desire to quickly sign with the Rays and begin his professional baseball career.
Washington never signed with the team, though. Advisor Scott Boras and the Rays played hardball throughout the summer and (eventually) through the signing deadline. Even after Washington was ruled academically ineligible to play for the Gators he chose against signing; instead he would attend a local junior college by the name of Chipola...At Chipola, Washington would bat .327/.429/.578 with eight homers, 24 walks, and 20 strikeouts. Keith Law and Baseball America alike ranked Washington in the 60s heading into the draft and earlier today the Cleveland Indians popped him with pick number 55.
2) LeVon Washington, OF, Chipola Junior College: Still has the great tools (except for a weak arm), but an erratic spring college spring hurt his stock by a round compared to last year. High-risk, high-reward type. (John Sickels, minorleagueball.com)
Washington was the Rays’ first selection in last year’s draft, but didn’t sign after a dispute revolving around money and his medicals and ended up enrolling in Chipola Junior College so he could re-enter the draft this year.
He’s changed his setup at the plate, starting his hands much lower than he had last year, and his hands are now "dead" until he begins his swing. He still shows good bat speed and squares up even above-average fastballs, hitting hard line drives with good backspin. He’s an above-average runner who could probably play centerfield if he can show a 45 arm or so, but Washington hasn’t been able to throw since 2008 labrum surgery.
I know of several teams that believe he’ll need a second operation once he signs to give him a chance to have even a 40 arm, which would at least make him playable in left field. He’s also shown limited baseball instincts and has been slowed this year by minor injuries. There’s still some upside buried in here, but his probability keeps going down. (Keith Law)
After not signing with the Rays last year, Washington hoped to be a first-rounder once again, but a hand injury prevented him from playing at his best this spring. To find these kinds of tools at 55 is fantastic for the Indians, but Washington rarely lived up to expectations as an amateur. (Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus)
Tony Wolters, 3rd round pick:
Summary: At the beginning of the 2010 season, Wolters began separating himself from other high school position players. He knows how to handle the bat and the lefty has no difficulties facing southpaws or guys who throw hard. He runs well and has plenty of defensive skills. He's not the biggest guy in the world, but he's got some pop in his bat. A team that looks past the size and thinks about the success of guys like Dustin Pedroia will likely be very interested in what Wolters can do. (MLB.com)
3) Tony Wolters, SS, California HS: Very polished high school hitter, likely to send up at second base. He had some late first-round buzz at one point, so getting him in the third round could be a real coup. (John Sickels, minorleagueball.com)
IF Tony Wolters, likely 2B, to Indians in 3rd round, middle IF who can hit. (John Manuel, BA twitter)
Cleveland takes Tony Wolters. Angels' scouting director Eddie Bane must be heartbroken (Keith Law twitter)
Wolters' drop was even more shocking, as some saw him as a day one pick. He was one of the most fundamentally sound high school players in the draft, with equally good makeup, but ultimately his size, or lack thereof, worked against him. (Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus)
Kyle Blair, 4th round:
Summary: After the high-ceiling potential top of the rotation arms go off the board, teams invariable go to the "safer" advanced college pitchers. Blair should fit into that category. He's got average stuff, though his curve has the chance to be a plus pitch, with average command. He knows how to pitch and does a good job using location and deception to his benefit. In all likelihood, he's a middle-to-back of the rotation pitcher, but one who shouldn't take too long to get to the big leagues. There are other higher-profile arms who'll go before him, but Blair should come off the board in the first couple of rounds. (MLB.com)
4) Kyle Blair, RHP, University of San Diego: I like his hard 90-94 MPH sinker, and he's improved his curveball, slider, and changeup. I thought he could go in the second round, so this is another pick that could end up working out quite nicely. (John Sickels, minorleagueball.com)
Indians get major value, for me, in RHP Kyle Blair, USD ace in the 4th round with big-time slide piece. Middle reliever at worst; I like it. (John Manuel, BA twitter)
Fourth-round pick Kyle Blair with a fifth-round pick out of high school, and based on how well he pitched this spring, could have gone higher. He has size, stuff and is one of the better makeup guys in the draft. (Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus)
Cole Cook, 5th round:
5) Cole Cook, RHP, Pepperdine: Somewhat raw for a college pitcher, but works in the low 90s and has a changeup and breaking ball with potential. Won't advance as quickly as Blair, but could have more upside. (John Sickels, minorleagueball.com)
Tribe 5th-rounder, RHP Cole Cook, 6-6 eligible soph., sinker-changeup guy, gets on the side of his slider but commands the FB (John Manuel, BA twitter)
Nick Bartolone, 6th round:
6) Nick Bartolone, SS, Chabot Junior College: Smallish player with average tools but excellent work ethic and feel for the game, a "baseball rat" type. Probably a future utility player, but might surprise. (John Sickels, minorleagueball.com)
On 7th round pick Robbie Aviles:
Summary: Northeast players often have a hard time getting seen enough, but teams know plenty about Aviles. The projectable right-hander's dad pitched pro ball for a while, and Aviles clearly has an understanding of how to pitch, with the chance to have three average or above-average offerings. He needs to tweak his delivery and improve his secondary pitches, but most believe all of that is correctable with time and experience. Thanks to the summer showcase circuit, Aviles put himself firmly on the national map. His performance this spring has only solidified it and should cause him to come off the board fairly swiftly. (MLB.com)
The most interesting pick in terms of talent may have been the Indians with the fifth selection of the round with New York prep righthander Robbie Aviles, who was No. 58 on BA's Top 200. A late elbow injury prompted Aviles, who has a partial ligament tear, to slide down draft boards. (Baseball America draft blog)
7) Robbie Aviles, RHP, New York HS: Had a chance to go in the first round until a late-season elbow injury. Could be a real bargain if he 1) signs and 2) rehabs the elbow successfully. Big "ifs", but I think it was a gamble worth taking. (John Sickels, minorleagueball.com)
Seventh-round righty Robbie Aviles absolutely dominated lesser competition in New York, but he's far more about projection than right-now ability and will be a tough sign as he expected to go much higher. (Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus)
8th round pick and local Clevelander, Alex Lavisky:
Stetson Allie's catcher, Alex Lavisky, went off the board at No. 240 overall to the Indians. If you can catch Allie, you can handle velocity, and he's an Ohio product, perhaps helping his signability. (Baseball America draft blog)
8) Alex Lavisky, C, Ohio HS: They didn't draft Stetson Allie, but they did draft his high school catcher, and Lavisky is a good prospect in his own right, showing power, athleticism, and decent defensive ability. They will need to go over slot to sign him away from Georgia Tech. (John Sickels, minorleagueball.com)
9th round pick, Jordan Cooper:
Wichita State righty Jordan Cooper expected to go higher than the ninth round, where Cleveland got him. (Baseball America, draft blog)
9) Jordan Cooper, RHP, Wichita State: Draft-eligible sophomore with average stuff but excellent pitching instincts, dominated for the Shockers this year. Projects as a number four starter if he signs. (John Sickels, minorleagueball.com)
10th round pick, Tyler Holt:
Holt profiles as a very good fourth outfielder or perhaps an average starter on a non-competing team. His best tool is his speed, and its a plus. He has a decent bat, albeit with below average power. He's a pretty good fielder with solid-average range. He's not at the top of a college bat list, but he's the type that will one day help your team out. (MLB.com)
Florida State outfielder Tyler Holt has performed for three seasons, trading a bit of on-base ability this year for power, but he's been tough for scouts to figure out. He wound up falling to the fifth pick of the 10th round to the Indians, about seven rounds lower than he probably thought he could go. Holt's best tool is his bat, but some scouts aren't sure his low-hands setup will work. He's an above-average runner but not a burner. (Baseball America, Draft blog)
Tyler Holt! Cleveland! We love you! We are now Indians fans! (Collegesplits.com twitter feed)
At pick #300, Tyler Holt brings a steadlily above-average bat, well above-average center field defense, and an additional 5 runs above average on the basepaths. Not bad. (collegesplits.com blog)
And yes, Holt's bat is decidedly second- or third-round quality. If we took fielding and baserunning out of our calculations, he'd rank well outside of our top 25, among guys like Cameron Rupp and Jarrett Parker.
But my oh my, how about that fielding and baserunning. The last three years, Holt has been +3, +7, and +4 in center. Those numbers are heavily regressed, and they represent a ~60-game season. If any college player this year has the potential to be an elite major-league defender (besides Trent Mummey), it's Holt. (collegesplits.com blog)
Tenth round: Tyler Holt (CF - Indians). Not just the steal of the 10th round, Holt was the best grab past the second. He simply does everything well. His adjusted wOBA is .491 this year; the only knock on his offense is that he strikes out a bit much, around 16 percent of plate appearances. He walks more than that.
His defense is elite—though sub-Mummey—at +3, +7, and +4 in center field the last three years. He's possibly the best baserunner in this year's draft, worth five runs this year in that department, owing in large part to his 29 steals in 31 tries. Some scouting reports knock his raw speed, but it sure hasn't stopped him so far. (hardballtimes.com)
10) Tyler Holt, OF, Florida State University: Good speed, gets on base, has some pop, very successful in college. Could have gone several rounds higher, and a nice pick in the 10th round. (John Sickels, minorleagueball.com)
Tony Dischler, 23rd round:
Cle 23rd-rder Tony Dischler must have a high price tag. Low-90s RHP, thought of him as a 4th-7th rd talent. (Jim Callis, BA twitter)
24th round pick, Andrew Triggs:
Two more intriguing 24th rounders include a pair of Southland redshirt sophomores. Southern California's Andrew Triggs, who missed the last month with an elbow injury, went to the Indians. (Baseball America draft blog)
27th round pick, Jeff Schaus:
Junior outfielder Jeff Schaus, a middle-of-the-lineup presence for three seasons, lasted until the 27th round...Schaus may be one of the nation's top seniors next year if he doesn't sign with the Indians. (Baseball America draft blog)
Michael Pallazone, 32nd round:
Names in 32nd: LHP Michael Palazzone out of UGA entered with expectations, struggled, goes to CLE (John Manuel, BA twitter)
34th round pick, Kyle Petter:
El Camino JC lefthander Kyle Petter has long been a favorite of BA bird-dog Dave Perkin and he's likely headed to college; he fell to Indians in the 34th round. He's committed to go across the country to Lynn (Fla.). (Baseball America draft blog)
37th round pick, Trey Griffin:
Two Georgia preps went out in the 37th round, much lower than they hoped. Outfielder Trey Griffin, an Oklahoma State signee, was expected to go in the first 10 rounds earlier this season but is raw at the plate. He's the half-brother of Orioles farmhand and 2008 second-round pick Xavier Avery. (Baseball America draft blog)
Brian Heere, 41st round:
In the 41st round, the Indians selected another pet player of ours, Brian Heere. A redshirt junior, he should sign quickly and come cheaply. With an otherwordly +8 runs above average in center field this season, and an additional +7 runs above average on defense in 2009, Heere will be worth whatever the Indians give him. (collegesplits.com)
44th round pick, Brock Stassi:
In the 44th round, the Indians took Nevada's top player, righthander/DH Brock Stassi. (Baseball America draft blog)
There is an awful lot more commentary on all of the Indians picks. Feel free to add in the comments.