CLEVELAND -- The Indians' scouts were veritable Ole Miss season-ticket holders this year, because of one guy in the Rebels' rotation.
Left-hander Drew Pomeranz was in the Tribe's sights the day the club knew it would have the fifth overall pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. And by watching nearly all of Pomeranz's starts in his junior season this year, the Indians formed a firm understanding of just what type of player they selected Monday night.
"He's a guy we started the process with in high school," scouting director Brad Grant said. "This winter, after his performance with Team USA last summer and after his performance in the [NCAA] Regionals last year, we knew he was a guy to target. He's been on our list the entire year."
That list was an exclusive one.
Because they possessed such a prominent pick and because their Draft history the past 10 years has, to put it politely, left a lot to be desired, the Indians recognized the importance of getting this pick at No. 5 correct. The club hadn't drafted this high since taking North Carolina right-hander Paul Shuey at No. 2 overall in 1992.
So what pointed the Indians to Pomeranz?
This is a Draft pitching pool that is said to be much deeper on the right-handed end, so the Indians used their high pick on one of the few highly touted lefties in the mix. The scouting reports on Pomeranz, who turns 21 later this month, indicate that he could have an effective three-pitch mix at the Major League level someday.
2010 top picks
|1||WAS||Bryce Harper, OF|
|2||PIT||Jameson Taillon, RHP|
|3||BAL||Manny Machado, SS|
|4||KC||Christian Colon, SS|
|5||CLE||Drew Pomeranz, LHP|
|6||ARI||Barret Loux, RHP|
|7||NYM||Matt Harvey, RHP|
|8||HOU||Delino DeShields, 2B|
|9||SD||Karsten Whitson, RHP|
|10||OAK||Michael Choice, OF|
|11||TOR||Deck McGuire, RHP|
|12||CIN||Yasmani Grandal, C|
|13||CWS||Chris Sale, LHP|
|14||MIL||Dylan Covey, RHP|
|15||TEX||Jake Skole, OF|
|16||CHC||Haden Simpson, RHP|
|17||TB||Josh Sale, OF|
|18||LAA||Kaleb Cowart, 3B|
|19||HOU||Mike Foltynewicz, RHP|
|20||BOS||Kolbrin Vitek, 2B|
|21||MIN||Alex Wimmers, RHP|
|22||TEX||Kellin Deglan, C|
|23||FLA||Christian Yelich, OF|
|24||SF||Gary Brown, OF|
|25||STL||Zack Cox, 3B|
|26||COL||Kyle Parker, OF|
|27||PHI||Jesse Biddle, LHP|
|28||LAD||Zach Lee, RHP|
|29||LAA||Cam Bedrosian, RHP|
|30||LAA||Chevy Clarke, OF|
|31||TB||Justin O'Conner, C|
|32||NYY||Cito Culver, SS|
|35||ATL*||Matthew Lipka, SS|
|43||SEA*||Taijuan Walker, RHP|
|44||DET*||Nick Castellanos, 3B|
At 6-foot-5, 231 pounds, Pomeranz, who was recently named the SEC pitcher of the year, has size and durability, to boot.
"We feel we got a big front-end-of-the-rotation left-handed starter," Grant said.
They have until Aug. 16 to ensure they have him. That's the deadline for teams to sign their 2010 Draft picks, so the negotiations between the Indians and Pomeranz's agent, Danny Horwitz, will begin immediately.
Pomeranz, who will be made available to the Cleveland media on Tuesday, was taken by the Rangers in the 12th round out of Collierville (Tenn.) High School in 2007 but opted to go to college. He should be ready to sign this time.
Besides, this is not a scenario in which the two sides should have to go through much of a feeling-out period. Pomeranz and the Indians know each other well. Not just because the club has been watching him so long, but also because area scout Chuck Bartlett played with Pomeranz's father, Mike, at Ole Miss.
The Indians, then, know what kind of player they're getting, both on and off the mound. But it's Pomeranz's mound presence that stands out most.
"Drew, on the mound, is an extreme competitor," Grant said. "When you put him on the mound, he's very mature, focused and nothing wavers him at all. He looks much more mature than anybody else on the field."
Pomeranz throws a fastball up to 94 mph (more often, it's at 91-92), a curveball with two variations to keep the hitter off balance and a changeup said to be improving with age. He threw seven scoreless innings in the Rebels' 10-5 win over St. John's in the first round of the NCAA Tournament's Charlottesville Regional on Friday.
"He's the premier college pitcher in the country," St. John's coach Ed Blankmeyer told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal after that game. "He works both sides of the plate with that power breaking ball. He's going to be in the big leagues very quick. He's on the fast track."
Pomeranz went 9-2 with a 2.24 ERA in 16 starts for Ole Miss this season. He struck out 139 and walked 49 in 100 2/3 innings of work, holding the opposition to a .195 average against. He led the league in ERA, strikeouts and opponent batting average.
A pull in his pectoral muscle hampered Pomeranz's control a bit this season, but Grant said the injury is not considered a major issue.
"He's never had any arm issues in the past at all," Grant said. "This wasn't an arm issue."
This is the ninth consecutive year the Indians have gone with a college player for their first pick. The last time they took a prep player in the first round was 1991, when they selected right-hander Dan Denham.
Pomeranz is the second college pitcher taken by the Tribe in the first round in as many years, joining North Carolina right-hander Alex White, who was the 15th overall pick last year. The past two college lefties the Indians took with their first pick were David Huff (No. 39) in 2006 and Jeremy Sowers (No. 6) in '04.
Grant said the Indians felt comfortable with Pomeranz because he dominated a difficult conference, and they feel his stuff is projectable.
"He gets swing and miss with his fastball," Grant said. "That's what's impressive. Not only is it 90-95 [mph], but it's also explosive through the zone. Hitters just don't hit it. There's a lot of swing and miss with the fastball and the curveball as well. One thing he does have to develop is his changeup. He does have a feel for it and does use it, but he has to develop it."
The fifth pick was the Indians' only selection in Monday's first round of the Draft. On Day 2, the Tribe will have the 55th overall pick (in the second round), the 87th overall pick (in the third round) and then the fifth pick in each round thereafter.
Coverage for rounds 2-50 will air exclusively on MLB.com/Live. Rounds 2-30 will be streamed on Tuesday, beginning at noon ET, and rounds 31-50 will be streamed on Wednesday, starting at noon. Host Pete McCarthy will be joined by Mayo and former general manager Jim Duquette.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.