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06/09/09 11:20 PM ET

Indians select UNC righty White No. 1

Organization projects top pick in back-end bullpen role

CLEVELAND -- It was expected the Indians would take advantage of the First-Year Player Draft's purported pitching depth with their first-round selection on Tuesday night. And at No. 15 overall, that's just what the Tribe did.

With that pick, the Indians took University of North Carolina right-hander Alex White, a power pitcher they plan to mold into a back-end bullpen option.

The 20-year-old White, listed at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, is a native of Greenville, N.C. He's in the midst of a junior season in which he is 8-4 with a 4.13 ERA, 109 strikeouts and 41 walks over 98 innings in 15 starts. White was named to the Atlantic Coast Conference first team for the second straight year.

The Tar Heels have advanced to the College World Series, where they'll face Arizona State on Sunday, so White is still active. In fact, he'll likely oppose Arizona State outfielder Jason Kipnis, who the Tribe selected in the second round on Tuesday.

"Alex has been one of our targets since the beginning of the season," scouting director Brad Grant said. "He was the top talent left up on the board. He was a guy we have known since high school."

The Dodgers drafted White out of D.H. Conley High School, but he opted to go to college. The Indians followed his path and watched him mature at UNC. He now has a fastball that reportedly can hit 95 mph, as well as a plus split-finger fastball and slider and an average to below-average curveball and changeup.

"In high school, he was a power sinker/slider guy," Grant said. "He's added the swing-and-miss split to his repertoire. We're going to project him out as a bullpen guy -- a back-end, power arm."

White went 13-3 with a 2.83 ERA in 20 games, including 15 starts, in his junior season and was named the ACC Pitcher of the Year.

This is what the MLB.com scouting report had to say about White:

"White was a top high school prospect in 2006, but went to UNC instead. He's still one of the better arms now, though his performance in the spring has been a little uneven. He does have plus stuff with a fastball-slider combination along with the makings of two other pitches. He doesn't always command his fastball that well, but that could be corrected with some mechanical tweaks. With his stuff and his track record, he's likely to go pretty early on Draft day."

In the past two weeks, White has dealt with a blister on the index finger of his throwing hand and a strained hamstring. But he pitched a gem against East Carolina University in the NCAA Super Regional on Saturday. In 8 1/3 innings, he gave up just one run on nine hits with three walks and 12 strikeouts to get the win.

"We're talking about one of the best pitchers in the country," East Carolina coach Billy Godwin said after that game. "That's what we were up against. Heck, once he settled in, he may have beaten the Yankees today."

The Tar Heels, with White as their ace, advanced to the College World Series for the fourth straight year. Outfielder Dustin Ackley was taken second overall by the Mariners. White and Ackley became the second pair of UNC teammates to be taken in the first round in the last four years. In 2006, it was left-hander Andrew Miller going to the Tigers and right-hander Daniel Bard going to the Red Sox.

Until White signs with the Tribe, he is not the Indians' property. So there are no restrictions on how much action he can receive in the Tar Heels' remaining games.

Indians -- Top five selections
15RHPAlex WhiteUNC Chapel Hill
63CFJason KipnisArizona St U
94RHPJoseph GardnerUC Santa Barbara
1253BKyle BellowsSan Jose St U
155RHPAustin AdamsFaulkner U
Complete Indians Draft results >

Grant, who described White as a "very intelligent, very athletic" player, said the Indians drafted White with every intention of signing him. The deadline for signing Draft picks this year is Aug. 17.

Because White already is nearing 100 innings this season, the Indians, upon signing him, probably wouldn't use him much in the Minors this year.

"We'll probably slow-play it once we do get him signed," Grant said. "We'll begin the transition to the bullpen probably next year."

White becomes the first pitcher the Indians have taken in the first round since left-hander Jeremy Sowers was plucked with the sixth overall pick in 2004 and the first right-hander since Jeremy Guthrie went 22nd overall in 2002. Left-hander David Huff was a sandwich-round selection in 2006.

Round 2: Jason Kipnis, OF, Arizona State: One College World Series participant was not enough. The Indians added another in Kipnis, who is listed at 6 foot, 180 pounds and bats left-handed. Though he's hit 16 homers in his junior season for the Sun Devils, he's not considered a power guy. But Kipnis' .496 on-base percentage no doubt appeals to a Tribe team that values plate discipline. Some have projected him as capable of transitioning to second base, but the Indians think he could be an everyday center fielder. Kipnis began his college career at Kentucky.

Said Grant: "We feel like we added a very athletic bat. He's a guy who gets on base a lot and doesn't strike out. He has a very disciplined approach. It's more hit than power, but we feel he has a chance to hit for power."

Round 3: Joe Gardner, RHP, UC Santa Barbara: After transferring from junior college, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Gardner just went 7-1 with a 3.40 ERA in 13 starts in his junior season, striking out 69 and walking 31 in 84 2/3 innings. According to the MLB.com scouting report, he has a sinking fastball in the 90-94 mph range, as well as a strong slider and changeup.

Said Grant: "We're going to start him. Ultimately, he does have a three-pitch mix with solid strike-throwing ability. If it doesn't work out in a starting role, we've got a power, back-end, sinker-slider bullpen arm."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.