Tribe goes for big bat, big-league stock
Mills, an infielder, club's only pick of Draft until Round 4
CLEVELAND -- The First-Year Player Draft offers no "sure things." Risk is the order of the day.But when the Indians analyzed their short list of players available for selection with the 13th overall pick in Thursday's Draft, they wanted as much of a sure thing as possible. This, after all, was their only pick in the Draft's first three rounds, and they wanted to make it count. So the Tribe went with the advanced college bat and big-league pedigree package that came in the form of Lewis-Clark (Idaho) State College infielder Beau Mills. Not only did the Indians appreciate Mills' left-handed bat, which ripped 123 RBIs in just 240 at-bats this spring for the Warriors, who won their 15th NAIA national title. They were also enamored with his upbringing, as Mills is the son of former Major Leaguer and current Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills. Simply put, Beau knows big-league baseball. And the Indians know that can be an asset. "We look at that as a huge plus," scouting director John Mirabelli said. "There's a comfort level in knowing what it takes to be a Major League player. A lot of kids don't have the experience or the ability to communicate with someone who has that on a day-to-day basis. They might not understand the grind that it takes." The 20-year-old Mills also has an understanding of how to make a positive out of adversity. A year ago, academic troubles and team code-of-conduct violations led to his suspension at Fresno State and caused him to miss the Western Athletic Conference tournament and the NCAA Regionals. Mills and his father decided it would be best for Beau to seek out a fresh start elsewhere, and it was former Boston reliever Keith Foulke, who retired at the outset of Spring Training after signing a free-agent contract with the Indians this past winter, who pointed Mills to Lewis-Clark, where Foulke had matriculated.
|13||Mills, Beau||Lewis & Clark St Col||1B|
|137||McFarland, Timothy||A A Stagg School||LHP|
|167||Holt, Jonathan||U Tampa||RHP|
"When you get thrown in a situation like that, the only thing you can hope for is to come out a better person and on top," Mills said. "You go through a bad moment, and if that can help you put together a great moment, that's the best."Mills had plenty of great moments in his lone season at Lewis-Clark. He set an NAIA record with 38 homers and batted .458 with 100 runs scored and a school-record 1.033 slugging percentage. He was the NAIA's Player of the Year and the MVP of the league World Series, in which he hit three homers and drove in eight runs in the title game. The Indians feel Mills can be just as much of an offensive threat in the professional ranks. "He has a chance to be a middle-of-the-order run producer," Mirabelli said. "That's a player that's tough to find on any level of player procurement." But in order for Mills to find his way in the Indians' system, he'll likely have to prove himself at a new position. He was a third baseman in college, but a shoulder injury he suffered last year has limited the effectiveness of his throwing, and Mirabelli feels he's best suited to play first base. "I haven't felt any pain this whole year," Mills said. "I feel good. I worked so hard to stay at third. If they move me to first, I'm going to respect what the organization thinks. I'm going to show them I can play wherever they put me." Assuming Mills signs this summer -- and both the player and Mirabelli seemed to think "signability" won't be an issue -- the Indians will put him at short-season Mahoning Valley in the New York-Penn League. Once in uniform, he'll work on learning how to play first, adjusting to the wooden bats and refining his offensive approach, which still needs to be solidified. "He has so much power that he can mishit the ball out of the ballpark," Mirabelli said. "He needs to use the whole field and be more selective. That will allow for him to get to his power more effectively than he does now." With their second pick of the Draft not coming until No. 137, in the fourth round, the Indians are banking on Mills being an effective selection. That he comes from an NAIA school whose previous top pick was fifth-rounder Pookie Bernstein in 1992 makes Mills a rare first-rounder. But Mirabelli said Lewis-Clark is respected in the industry because of its track record. And the fact that Mills excelled for two seasons at Fresno State, where he hit .355 with 58 RBIs, 20 doubles and 14 homers as a sophomore, seems to imply he can handle tougher competition. "Organizations did talk about the level of play [in the NAIA], but the two years before that I proved I could play Division I against the top teams," Mills said. "The NAIA is not what people say it is. It gets underrated, and I think some pro scouts know that." Mills, who at the time of the Draft was in a luxury box at McAfee Coliseum in Oakland, where his father's Red Sox were taking on the A's, knows he has some work to do to make it to the Majors. But he also feels the past year has given him the maturity to handle the steps that will come along the way. His father, he said, was instrumental in that maturation process. "He's kept my head straight, kept me focused on the right things," Mills said. "Going through this year has been huge. Through this whole process, he's had his hand around my shoulder and kept my eyes focused on the right things. I couldn't have asked for a better dad and a better father figure than him." As for the Indians, well, they seemed to think they couldn't have made a better pick at No. 13. "Is there some risk? Sure," Mirabelli said. "There's risk with every player. But we're very fortunate to get him where we did."
Here's a rundown of the Indians' other two picks from the first day of the Draft:
T.J. McFarland, LHP, Amos Alonso Stagg High School, No. 137 (fourth round): The 6-foot-3 McFarland turns 18 on Friday. He is a native of Orland Park, Ill., and was a four-year varsity player with a power arm. He struck out 55 batters in his first 32 innings.
"T.J. McFarland is a big-bodied athlete with a loose arm," Mirabelli said. "He has a potential out-pitch breaking ball, and we really like his upside as a starting pitcher in our organization."
Jonathan Holt, RHP, University of Tampa, No. 167 (fifth round): The 21-year-old Holt is listed at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds. He was a top reliever for Tampa.
"Jonathan is a strike-throwing machine who closed at the University of Tampa," Mirabelli said. "He has above-average command of a sinking fastball and can hit the corners on both sides of the plate. His slider is also an above-average pitch for him."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.