Of the four major US professional sports, the MLB Draft is by far the least interesting to a casual fan of the sport. Although will be several players that make the majors within a year, those players are the vast minority of those that will eventually become major leaguers, never mind those who were drafted. Francisco Lindor, who may be the best prospect in baseball by this time next year, probably won't appear in a major-league until at least the tail end of the 2014 season, more than 3 years after he was drafted. In addition, the players selected even at the top of the first round are known only to hardcore draft fanatics. You likely had never seen Mark Appel or Jonathan Gray pitch on TV, and forget about watching the high school prospects. College baseball has been getting more air time recently, but it's still very much a niche sport.
But, even with those drawbacks, you as an Indians fan should take at least a passing interest in what happened last weekend. The Indians will likely sign 20-25 of the players listed below, and although only 3 or 4 of those signees will eventually make a major-league roster, it's still worth your attention. The underlying cause of the 2002-2003 rebuild, the 2008-2009 rebuild, and the bad baseball played since then has been the inability of this organization to draft and develop major-league talent. Yes, the Indians have gotten players to the majors with regularity, but it's been a long time since the Indians have drafted and developed a player that has turned into at least a major-league regular with the Indians. International signings (Victor Martinez, Jhonny Peralta, Rafael Perez, Fausto Carmona v. 2007) and astute trades (Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Santana, Chris Perez) have helped cover the draft inadequacies to some effect, but when a medium-sized or small-market club isn't drafting well, they can't maintain success at the major-league level for very long.
So although you may never see many of these players in an Indians uniform, it's still a good idea to know where the players that do develop into Cleveland Indians come from.
The Indians lost their second round and competitive balance round B selection when they signed free agents Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, so their #5 overall selection would be their only selection on the first day of the draft. The consensus top three prospects (Jonathan Gray, Mark Appel, Kris Bryant) went in the top three picks, so nobody really fell to the Indians. So when they picked, the Georgia high school prospects (Clint Frazier, Austin Meadows) and the polished college third baseball (Colin Moran) were on the board.
|Chicago Cubs||2||Kris Bryant||3B/OF||College||San Diego|
|Minnesota||4||Kohl Stewart||RHP||High School||St. Pius X HS, TX|
|Cleveland||5||Clint Frazier||OF||High School||Loganville HS, GA|
The Indians went with Frazier, and here's what I had to say about the selection just after it happened:
Who is Clint Frazier? He's a high school outfielder from Loganville, Georgia, a player with outstanding bat speed and massive power potential, particularly for someone his size (6'1"). In baseball disparate skill/tool combinations make for stars, and Frazier has that potential for stardom because he combines those hitting skills with physical tools (very good arm, good speed). Because he has the bat for a corner position, it's not going to be a big deal if he has to be moved from center.
Now for the cautionary stuff. Frazier is a high school player, so don't expect him in Cleveland any time soon. For reference, Francisco Lindor, one of the best prospects in the majors, was drafted two years ago, and although he's one of the youngest players in his league, he's still a good year-and-a-half from the majors. But you should be excited about this pick, as the Indians are getting a player who has the potential to be a star.
Had the Indians been picking later in the first round, I wouldn't have minded Moran had he been there, but when you have a chance to take a high-upside player, you need to jump on it. The first round is usually where most of the star major-leaguers come from, and more specifically the first half of the first round. The latest CBA should make that even more of a lock, as no longer will have the Rick Porcellos of the world fall to the bottom of the first round because of bonus demands. So when you're bad enough to pick where the Indians were picking at, you need to go for the potential star, not the sure-thing major-league regular (as I believe Moran will be). Frazier may be a bust, and Moran may turn out to be a 12-year player with a couple All-Star appearance, but I still wouldn't fault the Indians for picking Frazier over Moran.
These are less sexy picks, but you can still get major-league regulars from these rounds. The Indians have had at least one of their picks in this range make the majors from each draft from 1998 through 2009, and those have generally been considered poor drafts.
There's also some strategy involved on this day, because of the draft rules put into place last year. There is now a de facto hard bonus cap for the first 10 rounds based on where the clubs are picking. So if you want to draft and sign a high school player committed to a top program in Round 5, you'll have to draft a player that will sign for less elsewhere in the first 10 rounds.
Here's what the Indians did:
|Round||Pick||Player||Pos.||Exp.||School||Slot Value||Actual Bonus|
|1||5||Clint Frazier||OF||High School||Loganville HS, GA||$3,787,000|
|3||79||Dace Kime||RHP||College JR
|4||111||Kyle Crockett||LHP||College JR
|5||141||Sean Brady||LHP||High School||Ida S Baker HS, FL||$347,100|
|6||171||Shane Casey||RHP||High School||Centennial HS, TX||$259,900|
|7||201||Kenny Matthews||LHP||Junior College||Riverside CC||$194,800|
|8||231||Trevor Frank||RHP||College SR||California - Riverside||$158,300|
|9||261||Thomas Pannone||LHP||Junior College||College of So. Nevada||$147,800|
|10||291||Ross Kivett||2B||College JR||Kansas State||$138,100|
(click on the player's name for a brief overview)
The Indians only selected one position player in Rounds 3-10, and that selection (Ross Kivett) came in the 10th round. Although the Indians said that they picked the best player on their board at the time, the organization weakness in pitching at the lower levels had to have something to do with all the pitchers taken in the middle rounds. Kime (3), Brady (5), Shane (6), Matthews (7), and Pannone (9) will likely be in minor-league rotations, and Crockett (4) and Frank (8) will be the bullpen. The two high school selections (Brady and Casey) will likely take a bonus higher than slot to sign, so the Indians will need to make up that difference somewhere else.
Day 3 (Rounds 11-40)
Starting in the 11th round, players selected have a $100,000 bonus cap in place, and any bonus paid over that will have the margin over $100,000 count against the draft bonus pool. So it will be very difficult to sign high school or junior college players committed to top programs. But you can still get some good players from this part of the draft. For instance, the Indians drafted Cody Allen in the 23rd Round in 2011, and some of the players in 2012 in these have some promise (Michael Peoples, Cody Penny, Logan Vick, Louis Head).
|Round||Pick||Player||Pos.||Exp.||School||Bonus Cap||Actual Bonus|
|11||321||Adam Plutko||RHP||College Junior||UCLA||$100,000|
|12||351||Heath Quinn||RF||High School||Oak Mountain HS, AL||$100,000|
|13||381||Sicnarf Loopstok||C||Junior College||Western OK St CC||$100,000|
|14||411||Silento Sayles||CF||High School||Port Gibson HS, MS||$100,000|
|15||441||James Roberts||SS||College Junior||USC||$100,000|
|16||471||Mark Payton||OF||College Junior||Texas||$100,000|
|17||501||Ryan Hendrix||RHP||High School||Cypress Woods HS, TX||$100,000|
|18||531||Paul Hendrix||SS||College Junior||Texas Christian||$100,000|
|19||561||Matt Whitehouse||LHP||College Junior||UC Irvine||$100,000|
|20||591||Shane Rowland||C||College Junior||U of Tampa||$100,000|
|21||621||Paul Young||RHP||Junior College||Central Alabama CC||$100,000|
|22||651||Ben Heller||RHP||College Senior||Olivet Nazarene U||$100,000|
|23||681||Grant Fink||3B||College Senior||Missouri Western St Col||$100,000|
|24||711||Kerry Doane||RHP||College Senior||East Tennessee State||$100,000|
|25||741||Cole Sulser||RHP||College Senior||Dartmouth||$100,000|
|26||771||Daniel Cogan||RHP||High School||Rocklin HS, CA||$100,000|
|27||801||Juan Gonzalez||C||High School||Puerto Rico BB Academy||$100,000|
|28||831||Steven Kane||RHP||Junior College||Cypress College||$100,000|
|29||861||Ridge Smith||3B||High School||Germantown HS, TN||$100,000|
|30||891||Aaron Brown||LHP||College Soph||Pepperdine||$100,000|
|31||921||Wil Crowe||RHP||High School||Pigeon Forge HS, TN||$100,000|
|32||951||Cortland Cox||RHP||Junior College||Riverside CC||$100,000|
|33||981||Joe Wise||LHP||High School||Cactus Shadows HS, AZ||$100,000|
|34||1011||Dustin Cook||RHP||Junior College||San Jacinto Coll. North||$100,000|
|35||1041||Jordan Milbrath||RHP||College Junior||Augustana College||$100,000|
|36||1071||Mike Giuffre||2B||Junior College||Brookdale CC||$100,000|
|37||1101||Garrett Smith||2B||College Senior||California Lutheran||$100,000|
|38||1131||Justin Garcia||RHP||Junior College||Weatherford College||$100,000|
|39||1161||Frank Duncan||RHP||College Junior||Kansas||$100,000|
|40||1191||Dan Pellinen||3B||High School||North Woods School, MN||$100,000|
Some notes on some of the players selected:
11 RHP Adam Plutko
A starter at UCLA, Plutko would seem to be a candidate to stay in the rotation with the Indians. He pitched with both Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer as a freshman.
12 OF Heath Quinn
Likely to end up at a corner. He's committed to Samford, so he might go to college instead of turning pro.
13 C Sicnarf Loopstok
A native of Aruba, Loopstok is extremely raw, and needs to improve pitch recognition. He could end up at second base.
14 OF Silento Sayles
He isn't committed to a four-year college, so the Indians could sign him. Sayles stole an incredible 103 bases in 104 attempts this spring, and may rate an 80 speed on the scouting scale (with 80 being the highest possible rating). But that's about all he brings to the table now.
15 SS James Roberts
He'll probably end up at third base. His best tool is his arm, the rest (hitting, fielding, running) is below average.
16 OF Mark Payton
He intrigues me. An undersized (5'8") outfielder, he would be a logical second base candidate but for the fact that he throws left-handed. He's not a speedy guy, but is an outstanding hitter for someone his size. The Indians already have Jose Ramirez in their system, so maybe that's why they took a chance on Payton.
30 LHP Aaron Brown
Probably going back to school for his junior season given that he lasted until the 30th round. He made a couple Top 100 prospect lists, and probably would have been rated higher had it not been a hamate bone injury.
31 RHP Wil Crowe
A big guy already (6'3", 235 pounds), Crowe is committed to South Carolina, so there's almost no possibility that he signs.
Another nice component of the current CBA is that the signing deadline has been moved up considerably from where it was in the past. Players selected in the draft have until July 12th to sign, so even those who wait until the last minute to sign will get a good 6 weeks of games under their belts. A lot of the college pitchers may not throw too much this year, but I'd expect Clint Frazier to play quite a bit. The Indians started Lindor in Mahoning Valley, and that's probably where Frazier will go as well.
I'll be posting a catch-all signing post in the next day or so.