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Cleveland Indians 2013 MLB Draft Preview: draft picks and budget

A look at where the Tribe stands going into the 2013 MLB Draft, just three weeks away.

Mike Stobe

The MLB First-Year Player Draft will take place from June 6 to June 8, meaning we are only three weeks away from one of the biggest events of the baseball calendar. During those three weeks we'll be taking a look at some of top prospects, linking to lists from respected talent evaluators, and weighing in as best we can on top players' merits for the Tribe. Before getting into that though, I think it's wise to review a few of the draft's rules (some of which have changed fairly recently) and look at where the Indians stand heading into the draft.

For years, MLB has set slot values for early picks, financial ceilings for each draft choice which they pressured teams to keep from going over. Some teams followed those instructions fairly strictly, while others ignored them. Last year, in an attempt to further suppress young players' salaries and make it harder for teams to ignore the slot figures, MLB implemented a new cap on the bonuses given out to players drafted in the first ten rounds. Each team is now given a set budget (based on its specific draft picks in the first ten rounds) to cover all players drafted in rounds 1-10 (bonuses in excess of $100,000 given out to players after the first ten counts also count against this cap). Technically, a team may go beyond its cap figure, but the penalties for doing so are severe:

- A team that exceeds its budget by less than 5% is subject to a 75% tax on the overage.

- A team that exceeds its budget by 5-10% is subject to a 75% tax on the overage and the loss of their 1st round pick in the following season.

- A team that exceeds its budget by 10-15% is subject to a 100% tax on the overage and the loss of their 1st and 2nd round picks in the following season.

- A team that exceeds its budget by more than 5% is subject to a 100% tax on the overage and the loss of their 1st round pick for the following two seasons.

I'm hard-pressed to believe any team will willingly forfeit their 1st round pick just so that they can spend more money this year, so I doubt we'll see any team exceed its cap figure by more than 5%, and few teams are likely to exceed their figure at all.

The Indians' 2013 draft cap is set at $6,188,800. Their first pick (#5 overall) is slotted at $3,787,000, which is 61% of their total budget. There is no penalty for exceeding the slot figure for an individual pick, so long as the combined payout to all players signed from the first ten rounds doesn't exceed the overall cap. A team could splurge on their 1st pick, then draft a player later on who's agreed to sign for less than slot, or choose not to sign one of their other picks at all. A team could also use their 1st pick to draft someone who's agreed to sign for less than slot, so that the team can overpay for players later on. That would be a poor strategy for the Indians though, because after that first pick, they're going to be waiting a while.

In signing Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, the Indians gave up their 2nd round pick and the "competitive balance" pick the team was awarded last summer (1 of 12 given out), which means that after the #5 overall pick, the Tribe will not pick again until #79 (followed by #111 and then every 30 picks from there on out). At #5 a team should be looking to land a future star, at #79 a team should be very happy if their selection becomes a league average contributor for a few seasons. With a relatively weak farm system and no other pick for so long, there's added pressure on the front office to select someone at #5 that really pays off.

For the most part, I'm a proponent of drafting the best player available, regardless of what position they play. So many of the Indians' better prospects play SS or 2B though, while the minor league pitching talent is very thin. It seems to me that priority should be given to using the top pick on a high ceiling pitcher. I also think the team should select someone they believe can be ready within the next year or two, because players like Swisher and Bourn are likely to decline by the time they reach the last year or two of their deals and talent like Francisco Lindor should arrive in Cleveland in 2015. A college pitcher seems like the best target. Power hitting would be a good secondary goal.

Over the next couple weeks, we'll look at the very best options at each position, weigh in on which guys will likely be gone before the Tribe gets a chance (the Astros, Cubs, Rockies, and Twins have picks #1-4) and try to identify a few targets for the team's next couple picks too.