LHP David Huff claimed off outright waivers by the New York Yankees today,— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) May 25, 2013
Let's get the important but little things out of the way. The Yankees will need to keep Huff on their 25-man roster, and can't send him to the minors without (a) getting him through waivers and (b) Huff's consent, as it would be the second time he'd be outrighted. I really don't know the reason the Yankees claimed Huff (maybe a temporary innings shortage? injuries?) but they thought enough of him to DFA Francisco Rondon, another left-handed AAAA pitcher, to make room for Huff on their 40-man roster. The Indians could claim Rondon without having to remove anyone from their 40-man roster, as they currently have only 39 players on it.
Huff's departure officially ends an era. He was the last first-round (or in this case, sandwich round) selection left from the John Mirabelli era, an era that began in 1999 and ended in 2007. It was an era that saw very little help from the draft, and almost zero help from the first couple rounds of the draft. Of the 17 players drafted in the first round or sandwich round, one player (Jeremy Guthrie) has had a major-league career of any consequence. After Guthrie (18.7 WAR), comes Jeremy Sowers (1.6), and then J.D. Martin (0.7).
This is not to say that Mirabelli's drafts were completely fruitless. Players like Ben Francisco (2002), Ryan Garko (2003), Kevin Kouzmanoff (2003), Aaron Laffey (2003), Tony Sipp (2004), and Vinnie Pestano (2006) have all been decent or better major-league players at one time or another. And players like Michael Aubrey and Adam Miller had star potential, but injuries derailed their careers. But on the whole, the Indians have been one of the worst performers in baseball at drafting and developing major-league talent.
It's difficult to assess organizational strengths and weaknesses because of a draft. Unlike in other sports, players drafted by baseball clubs are most of the time 3-5 years away from being a productive major-league player. Even the most talented players won't make the majors until they've spent at least two seasons in the minors. It's one thing to identify talent, but you also have develop that talent as well. I think some organizations excel in developing players who weren't that highly thought of into major-league players (St. Louis, to give an example), but it's so hard to separate the drafting from the development. In this case, though, I think the selection itself was flawed.
Huff was the top player selected by the Indians in 2006, Mirabelli's penultimate draft as Scouting Director. And it's a bit unfair to classify Huff as such, as he was taken 39th overall in that draft (as the Indians' first round selection had gone to Anaheim when they signed Paul Byrd). But Huff was a rather typical MIrabelli selection, a polished college player who wasn't that far off from the majors. If he was to make it in the majors, he was going to have to do it with command, as his fastball velocity was rather pedestrian (88-90 mph), not leaving much separation from his changeup. He did move quickly, making it to AAA in his second full pro season, but ran into a developmental ceiling at the AAA and MLB levels. He didn't have the stuff that could be developed into a plus pitch at the major-league level, and since 2009 (his MLB debut) he's been bouncing back and forth between AAA and Cleveland because of it.