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Indians Indians Archive Previewing the MLB Draft: Part One
Written by Al Ciammiachella

Al Ciammiachella

draftThe 2011 MLB Rule 4 Draft will kick off on Monday, June 6. The MLB draft is not nearly as celebrated as its NFL and NBA counterparts, and with good reason. One, the draft takes place during the season, so there are real, actual games to keep fans interested rather than monitoring who their team takes in the 42nd round of the draft.

Two, the players selected next week will not see the majors for two to five years from now, if ever. And C, 99.9% of fans will have never seen the player their favorite team selects in the first round, and 97% of them probably won’t have ever heard the player’s name before Monday. Here at TCF though, we have a more intelligent set of fans thirsting for knowledge, so I’m going to do my best to make you at least a little bit familiar with whichever yout we select in the first round. 


We all know that the draft is the cheapest and most effective way to build a competitive major league team, and we all know that this was an area that the Indians were found wanting throughout most of the last decade. In fact, if you go back to 1990, the Indians have had a grand total of six (6) of their 1st round and supplemental sandwich round picks post a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of more than 1.0 in the major leagues.  I’ll spot you Manny Ramirez (1991) and Carsten Charles Sabathia (1998), but can you guess the other four? Answer at the end of the column.

So while the past 20 years have been pretty bad, the Indians last three 1st round picks look pretty good. Lonnie Chisenhall, Alex White and Drew Pomeranz are all among the top prospects in the organization, and White has even had some measure of success in The Show already. Baseball America called the Indians 2010 draft the best in baseball.  So things are trending upward here on the North Coast, and there’s no reason to think that trend will dissipate here in 2011.  Before we get into scouting the Indians potential 1st round picks, a quick draft refresher for the newbies:

  • The Rule 4 Draft lasts 50 rounds
  • Players from the U.S., Canada and U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico are eligible
  • Players are eligible after their senior year in HS, junior year in college, or at any point during their time in junior or community college
  • Compensatory picks during and after the 1st round (“sandwich picks”)are awarded to teams losing marquee free agents. The Indians have no compensatory picks this year.
  • The Commissioner’s Office has a recommended bonus level (termed “slot”) for every pick in the draft. The “slot” is only a guideline and cannot be enforced by the Commissioner’s Office in any way. If a team wants to pay a 50th round pick $10 million to sign, that’s their prerogative. 

Much has been made of whether the Indians will go at or above slot with their 1st pick in the draft. The way I see it, they have two options. One, they can go over slot with their first pick and try to sign one of the really elite talents in the draft, then be forced to go a little more conservative in the rest of the draft. Two, they can go close to slot with their first pick and still get a really good player, and then be free to gamble on high upside talent later in the draft because they will have more money to play with. I can see a very valid argument either way, and we’ll likely know right off the bat which strategy the front office has elected to go with based on who they take with their first pick. The Indians have shown that they are willing to spend big money in the draft, so I won’t be crushed if they take a guy who is projected to sign at slot in the 1st round. All that means is that we’ll get more talent later in the draft. Based on the past couple years, I trust this front office with their approach either way.

I thought about doing a mock of the 1st round of the draft, but then I realized that no one hear really cares who I think the  Colorado Rockies are going to take 20th overall (if you do, feel free to e-mail me and we can discuss). You care who the Indians take with the 8th overall pick. Also keep in mind that there is a lot of uncertainty with this year’s draft, even at the very top. It’s a very deep and talented pool of players, but there’s no Strasburg or Harper that is the clear-cut first overall pick. Projecting the 1st round would be extremely difficult, and I’d probably be wrong with a majority of the picks. So today we will look at some of the collegiate options for the Indians at #8, and then we’ll be back tomorrow to look at the prep players who the Indians are considering. To top it off, I’ll tell you both who I think the Indians will pick, and who I think they SHOULD pick. So without further delay, on to the players:

Not Going to Be There:

  • Anthony Rendon, 3B-Rice University
  • Gerrit Cole, RHP-UCLA
  • Danny Hultzen, LHP-University of Virginia 

These three are pretty much the consensus top three players off the board in most of the mock drafts that are out there. Cole is the top college arm, Rendon is the top college bat, and Hultzen is a polished college arm that will be in the majors as fast as anyone and is seen as the safest pick in the draft (although he doesn’t have the upside of Cole). If any of the three are on the board when the Indians pick at #8, they will be a slam-dunk pick. That being said, it is highly, highly doubtful that any of them will be on the board, so I’m not going to waste a lot of time and space here talking about them.

trevor-bauer The College Arms:

This is the route the Indians have taken the past two years, selecting the best available college arm in Alex White and Drew Pomeranz. That strategy has worked out pretty well. The collegiate arms are usually seen as an easier sign because they don’t have the same leverage of the high school players in that they can’t just turn down an offer and go to college. Sure they can pull an Aaron Crow and sit out a year, but that’s proven to hurt more than help the player in years past. So if the Indians end up selecting a collegiate pitcher with their 1st round pick and he signs close to slot, they could still be getting an elite talent.

  • Trevor Bauer, RHP-UCLA: Bauer is a 6’2”, 180lb pitcher for UCLA. He throws a fastball, curve and changeup. The fastball sits between 92-94 and often touches 97. He throws both a hard cuveball and a slower curve, with the slower version grading as a higher pitch. The change is average with the potential to be better. He’s got some kinks in his delivery that a professional pitching coach will likely try to work out that should have him throwing even harder when it’s all said and done. 

The Indians were linked to Bauer very early in the process, but an outstanding season for UCLA has most experts projecting him to go in the 3-7 range. He’s a polished college arm who could move quickly through the system, and would be a great addition to the 2013 rotation. He’s been worked hard by the UCLA coaching staff, and probably won’t pitch any more this season no matter who takes him. He’s actually had a better season than his more highly-regarded rotation mate Cole, going 12-2 with a 1.27 ERA and 189 K(!) in 127 IP for the Bruins. The Indians have made their affection for Bauer clear, and if he makes it to #8 he’s almost certainly their pick. But he’s probably not going to slide that far and will likely go in the top-5.

Chance he’ll be there when the Indians pick: 10%

Chance the Indians will take him if he’s there: 99%

Matt Barnes, RHP-UCONN: One of the best fastballs in the draft belongs to UCONN’s Matt Barnes. He sits comfortably between 92-95 and touches 98 with his four seamer, and throws a low-90’s two seamer with movement as well. His mechanics are clean, and he hits 95 without looking like he’s even trying. He has a plus curveball with two-plane break that he throws between 75-78 MPH, and it is one of the better curveballs in the draft. He has an average changeup with good action that he uses to keep hitters off balance. He also throws a below-average slider that is flat and has a tendency to get hit hard. He’s a good sized kid at 6’4”, 205lbs.

As good as Barnes’ stuff is, he has had some issues with his command and control. He’s kept the walks down this year, as he went 11-3 with a 1.12 ERA in 112 innings for UCONN, striking out 105 and walking 28. But his command can sometimes desert him, and he’ll get wild in the strike zone and will get hit hard. When he misses with his fastball, it tends to be up in the zone and as I already mentioned, his slider is flat and hittable. He also hit 14 batters this year, which is high for 112 innings.

The last time the Indians selected a pitcher out of UCONN, it was Charlie Nagy. Not that it should have anything to do with taking/not taking Barnes, but that worked out OK. I haven’t seen Barnes’ name attached to the Indians much in the lead-up to the draft, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in him. He’s a safe college arm, and should move quickly to the majors for whatever team ends up drafting him.

Chance he’ll be there when the Indians pick: 70%

Chance the Indians will take him if he’s there: 30%

Sonny Gray, RHP-Vanderbilt: Gray is an undersized righty that has scouts divided. Some think he’s a future #2 starter in a good rotation, while others see him as a potential all-star closer. If he’s a future #2, then he’s a top-10 pick for sure. If he ends up as a reliever, he’s more of a 15-25 guy. Despite being an undersized pitcher from Vandy, he’s no Jeremy Sowers as Gray can actually break a pane of glass with his fastball.

Gray’s fastball sits comfortably between 91-94 MPH, and he can reach back for 97 when he needs it. His best pitch is his curveball, which is a 12-6 hammer that he uses to get most of his swing and misses. Much like Drew Pomeranz, he pitches mainly off the FB/CB and sparingly shows a below-average changeup to keep hitters honest. The lack of a third pitch, the fact that he’s 5’11” and righthanded and concerns that his fastball doesn’t have enough movement have many scouts concerned that he’s a bullpen arm in the end. Still, he’s a very safe pick who’s floor is a star closer, and he’s been linked to every team between 5-10 at some point this spring. He makes a lot of sense at #7 for Arizona with their compensation (and unprotected) pick from their failure to sign their 1st round pick last season. He’ll sign at slot, he’ll move quickly through the system and he’ll get big league hitters out. The million dollar question is whether he’ll be working out of the bullpen or in the rotation. The mere fact that so many scouts are questioning whether or not he will start has me hoping the Indians avoid him if he’s there at #8.

Chance he’ll be there when the Indians pick: 70%

Chance the Indians will take him if he’s there: 40%

Taylor Jungmann, RHP-Texas: Jungmann profiles to a Justin Masterson-type guy in the pros. He has a good, sinking fastball that sits between 91-93 thattaylor_jungmann1 touches 96, a solid curveball that has the potential to be plus to go with a nasty slider and a developing changeup. He pitches off the sinking fastball to get plenty of groundball outs, and uses the curve and slider later in the count to put guys away. He has outstanding command and control and does a great job attacking both sides of the plate with his fastball early in the count.

He’s a tremendous competitor who had a lot of success pitching for an elite program in Texas. He doesn’t have the tremendous upside of some of arms at the top of the draft, but it’s awfully difficult imagining he doesn’t become a #2 in a good rotation someday. One AL scout said of Jungmann, “He’s got that thing you can't teach: When he gets in a game and gets zoned in, the bigger the game is, the better he pitches. He always steps up in a big game, finds something extra, hits his spots. He's just a prototypical top-of-the-rotation starter. Maybe a No. 2 in the big leagues—I don't know about a No. 1 guy. Worst-case scenario, a No. 3. He goes out and gets it done—he's unflappable.” 

 He’s probably more of a sure thing than most of the other college arms, but doesn’t have the upside of a Bauer, Barnes or the next guy on this list.

Chance he’ll be there when the Indians pick: 80%

Chance the Indians will take him if he’s there: 30%

Alex Meyer, RHP-Kentucky: Meyer is seen by some scouts as having the best pure stuff in the draft, but he’s also had some issues harnessing that stuff. His control has been an issue in the past, and he had to shut himself down while pitching in the Cape Cod League last summer due to elbow soreness. His medicals are clean now though, and he has put together a solid season for Kentucky, going 7-5 with a 2.94 ERA. He struck out 110 and walked 46 in 101 IP. 

Meyer’s fastball sits between 93-96 and has touched triple digits. It has outstanding life because he delivers it from a low ¾ arm slot. In addition to the plus fastball, he throws a hard, wipeout slider with outstanding late movement. He’s a big, strong kid (6’9”/220lbs) who holds his stuff deep into games. He’s got legit #1 starter potential, but he’s also far from a sure thing due to his command issues. He’s almost like a high school arm in that he will take longer to develop and has both an extremely high ceiling and a very low floor. I’m torn as to whether I want the Indians to take Meyer or not. Every time I read a scouting report that talks about how good his stuff is, I talk myself into him. But then I read another scouting report that talks about his control issues and remind myself that he walks over 4 batters per 9 innings, I get gun-shy. If they end up taking him, I won’t be thrilled or upset, but I will definitely be excited to see him pitch. 

Chance he’ll be there when the Indians pick: 75%

Chance the Indians will take him if he’s there: 25%

Jed Bradley, LHP-Georgia Tech: Bradley was seen as a top-3 pick going into the college season, but his stock has taken a hit due to some poor performances for the Yellow Jackets. He’s a big lefthanded pitcher, standing 6’4”, 225lbs so he throws on a downhill plane. His fastball sits between 90-94 and has touched 97, and he’s a strong kid who maintains that velo late into starts. His best secondary offering is an above-average changeup that has flashed plus. It is a deceptive pitch that he throws with the same arm speed as his fastball and is one of the best changeups in the draft. In addition to the change, he throws a well below average slider, a pitch that I have seen graded between 30 and 40 on the 20-80 scale. He’s been inconsistent this spring, mixing in a couple of great starts with a bunch of average starts and a few clunkers. He finished the 2011 regular season with a record of 6-3 with a 3.59 ERA and 102 K and 30 BB in 90 1/3 IP. 

Bradley is one of the few players on this list that will upset me if he ends up being the pick. He doesn’t have the upside of the high school arms, and he doesn’t have the track record of success of a guy like Jungmann. He’s clearly at the bottom of this tier of collegiate pitchers in my mind, and has been going in the late-teens to early-twenties of some mock drafts. Naturally, I am still seeing the Indians thrown around by an awful lot of experts as a potential landing spot for him, and every time I do I worry that they will end up taking him. If so, look for a nice meltdown by me on twitter and the messageboards here on TCF. Cross your fingers that the Royals take him at #5 due to their desire for a fast-moving lefthanded arm to arrive on the scene earlier rather than later.

Chance he’ll be there when the Indians pick: 60%

Chance the Indians will take him if he’s there: 35%

Chance I put a hole in my drywall if they do take him: 99%

College Position Players:

Outside of Rendon, there isn’t elite talent available from the collegiate ranks this year when it comes to bats. Any collegiate position player taken by the Indians at #8 would be seen as a reach and strictly a signability pick, because none of them really have the tools to go that high. Still, let’s take a quick look at the some of the names near the top of the board, just in case.

George Springer, OF-UCONN: Springer is a good athlete who can hit for power. He was seen as a top-10 pick going into the spring, but struggled with the bat and fell to more of a mid-1st round grade. Some mechanical adjustments with his swing have him mashing again, and he’s climbing back up the draft boards. He profiles as an ideal rightfielder in the pros who can run a little. He hit 12 HR this year, which with the new bats is a pretty good total. 

Springer is an outstanding athlete with plus raw power, a plus arm and good speed. He has a solid overall approach, but does take a big, hard swing and strikes out a little more than you’d like. But he has cut down on the K rate from 22% last season to 12% in 2011. He’s very similar to last year’s 10th overall pick Michael Choice, and will battle the next guy on this list, LSU CF Mikie Mahtook, be the first collegiate OF off the board. There’s a good change that he goes on to hit more HR in a single season than anyone in this draft. But despite the late power surge, he will probably land just outside of the top-10.

Chance he’ll be there when the Indians pick: 95%

Chance the Indians will take him if he’s there: 3%

Mikie Mahtook, OF-LSU: Mahtook is a centerfielder with some pop that might end up in an OF corner before it’s all said and done. He’s a fast runner with amikiemahtook2 strong arm, but not an elite defender. Going into 2011, he was seen as a mid to late-1st round pick, but pushed himself closer to the top-10 with a power surge when HR’s nationally have been down. While most players have struggled to hit home runs with the new metal bats in college, Mahtook maintained his power numbers, matching his 14 HR total from 2010. The only think keeping him from being a surefire centerfielder with power is his…um…Crowian routes to balls sometimes. If he can improve his reads and take better routes to the baseball, he could really be a special player on offense and defense. He’s a top-15 guy, but probably not top-10 overall. 

Chance he’ll be there when the Indians pick: 95%

Chance the Indians will take him if he’s there: 3%

Levi Michael, SS-UNC: Michael is the best college infielder in the draft after Rendon, but isn’t considered a top-10 pick. He played 2nd and 3rd early in his college career before being moved back to his natural position of SS. Like many in the collegiate ranks, his power took a step backwards this year with the new bat regulations.  He’s a switch hitter that projects to have gap power, and has been compared to Baltimore 2B Brian Roberts. Scouts are split as to whether he will stick at SS or move back to 2B down the road. He has an advanced approach, and while he doesn’t run quite as well as Roberts he should be a solid contributor near the top of a major league order. Still, he doesn’t have the upside of a guy like Francisco Lindor (below) and if the Indians took him 8th overall it would be a big surprise to me.  

Chance he’ll be there when the Indians pick: 99%

Chance the Indians will take him if he’s there: 1%

That’s it for today. Be sure and check back tomorrow when we take a look at the high school players that will be options for the Indians pick. Plus I’ll tell you who I think the Indians will end up choosing, and I’ll put up my own personal draft board that tells you who I think they should pick depending on who’s still available.


*The other four 1st round picks with a positive WAR? Paul Shuey (1992, 6.8 WAR), Jaret Wright (1994, 2.0), Jeremy Guthrie (2002, 15.9), and Jeremy Sowers (2004, 1.7)


---Got draft or prospect questions? Ask Al on twitter, @Gotribe31

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