6/5/2014 3:45 A.M. ET
Indians rich with four first-day Draft picks
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- It will be a lot busier in the Indians' Draft room out of the gate this year.
Last summer, Cleveland's scouts logged countless miles and the front office put in tireless hours in preparation for the fifth overall selection in the First-Year Player Draft. The Indians used their first-round pick on highly touted prep outfielder Clint Frazier.
"And then we didn't pick again until the next day," said Brad Grant, the Indians' director of amateur scouting.
Things will be much different for Cleveland come tonight, when the club has four picks on the first day of this year's First-Year Player Draft. The Indians' first selection falls in at No. 21, but the team will also have pick Nos. 31, 38 and 61 before the end of the first day.
More picks means a higher probability for success over the long haul, which is extremely important for Major League Baseball's June Draft.
"I think the perceived strength is the depth this year," said Grant, who estimated that he has seen roughly 125 potential Draft picks in person. "The more impact players you can bring into your system, the more players that add value to your system, the more success you know you'll have on the Major League side of it either through trades or through players reaching the Majors."
The 2014 Draft will take place tonight through Saturday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network at 6 p.m. ET tonight. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 74 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of the second and third days will begin with a live Draft show at 12:30 p.m. ET on Friday.
MLB.com's coverage includes the Top 200 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and you can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Cleveland plans on taking its usual approach, which consists of selecting the top player left on the board when the team's selections come around.
"Our approach is best player available, whether it's a pitcher or position player," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. "With the development path in baseball, today's need may be very different than in three or four years."
The Indians haven't selected a pitcher since taking lefty Drew Pomeranz fifth overall in 2010. Pomeranz was then included the July 2011 trade package that brought right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez to Cleveland from Colorado. This past winter, after helping the Indians reach the postseason, Jimenez declined a one-year qualifying contract offer from the Indians and signed a long-term deal with the Orioles.
As a result of the Jimenez signing, the Tribe added the 31st overall pick in this summer's Draft as compensation. Cleveland received the 38th overall selection as part of the Competitive Balance Round, which is sandwiched between Comp Round A and the second round. The Indians will then have the 61st pick (second round) and 97th pick (third round), leading into the remainder of the Draft.
The wealth of picks brings a smile to Grant's face.
"That gives our scouts more to look forward to," Grant said. "They put in a whole lot of time and a whole lot of work. So instead of watching 60-some names come off the board, they have the opportunity to partake in it. It makes the excitement in the draft room a lot better and, at the same time, it's a chance to add more talent."
Here's a glance at what the Indians have in store as the Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
One year after having only one pick on Day 1 of the Draft, the Indians boast four selections on the first day this time around. Cleveland (with five of the first 100 picks) plans on taking on its usual best-player-available approach in a Draft deemed deep in talent.
With three selections (Nos. 21, 31 and 38) in the first 50 picks of this year's Draft, the Indians can go a variety of directions. Over the past three years, Cleveland has taken a position player -- Frazier (2013), outfielder Tyler Naquin (2012), shortstop Francisco Lindor (2011) -- with its top pick in the first round. This year, the Indians could aim to add both pitching and positional talent early on.
"There's some quality depth to the Draft," Antonetti said. "Maybe not the same elite level of talent as in the top five or six picks, but for us, with where we pick, that's a good thing. In our view, there may not be much of a talent difference between the guy who may go 10th, 11th or 12th versus the guy that we're picking at 21.
"We want to try to do what we can to take advantage of our picks -- we've got five picks in the top 100 -- so our scouts have done a great job throughout the course of the year at putting us in a position to execute a good Draft."
As might be expected with the Tribe's first pick falling in the lower-third of the first round, the Indians have been linked to a variety of names in recent Draft speculation. Recent mock Drafts on MLB.com have had the Indians taking Waiakea High School (Hawaii) lefty Kodi Medeiros (Jonathan Mayo) or Texas Christian lefty Brandon Finnegan (Jim Callis) at No. 21. ESPN's Keith Law recently projected that Cleveland would go with third baseman Michael Chavis of Sprayberry High School (Ga.). Other reported possibilities for the Indians have included Indiana catcher/outfielder Kyle Schwarber, Nevada-Las Vegas righty Erick Fedde, East Carolina righty Jeff Hoffman, Wichita State first baseman Casey Gillaspie, Virginia outfielder Derek Fisher, Virginia first baseman Mike Papi and Virginia righty Nick Howard, among others.
Indians bonus pool
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any excess money on a bonus greater than $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.
Any team going up to five percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75-percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75-percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100-percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100-percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.
Cleveland's top selection (21st overall) comes with a suggested value of $2,008,100. The Indians' next pick -- in the first compensation round at 31st overall -- has a value of $1.733 million. Overall, the Tribe has 12 picks within the first 10 rounds with a bonus allotment worth $8,234,100 ($686,175 on average), which is the ninth-highest pool in the Majors for this Draft.
In each of the first two years under the new CBA's system, Cleveland has signed its top pick for less than the suggested value. The Indians inked Frazier to a $3.5 million bonus when the fifth slot had a value of $3.787 million. In 2012, the Tribe signed Naquin to $1.75 million when the 15th slot had a value of $2.25 million. Such savings early on helped Cleveland sign other players in subsequent rounds.
The Indians are deep in outfield and middle-infield talent throughout their farm system, but the organization remains thin on power. Cleveland's top power-hitting prospect, first baseman Jesus Aguilar, reached the Majors this season, but will likely spend most of the season at Triple-A. Power is hard to develop, but the Tribe could use more down on the farm beyond Aguilar and last year's top Draft pick, Frazier. As is the case every year for every team, starting pitching talent is also a priority for the Indians in this summer's Draft.
Over the past three years, the Indians have used 35 percent of their selections on high school players. During that same span, though, Cleveland has used 53 percent of its first five picks (8-of-15) on prep players. That rate rose to 60 percent (6-of-10) over the past two Drafts. While the Indians lean toward collegiate picks overall, the organization has shown a willingness to roll the dice on highly-touted high school talent in the early rounds. Also contributing to that trend is the recent changes to the financial side of the Draft. Teams are more willing to take high schoolers early on due to having a better sense of whether they will forgo college in order to sign.
Recent Draft History
When lefty Kyle Crockett toed the rubber for the Indians on May 16, he became the first player taken by any team in the 2013 Draft to reach the Major Leagues. Cleveland selected the 22-year-old Crockett in the fourth round last summer and watched him soar up the farm system. The lefty performed so well that he earned a promotion to the big leagues straight from Double-A Akron.
"It's exciting," Grant said. "It's exciting for our scouts and it's exciting for us as a staff to see that. To be able to take a player last year from college and have him reach the Major Leagues already, it's something that's gratifying and is really a tribute to our scouts."
While none of Cleveland's picks in the 2012 Draft have yet to reach the Major Leagues, the Indians do boast the game's fastest risers from the '11 Draft, too. Righties Travor Bauer (first round) and Cody Allen (23rd round) were the first and second player, respectively, from the 2011 class to reach the bigs. Bauer did so with the D-backs in 2012, but was traded to the Tribe prior to last season.
Cleveland used the 441st pick (14th round) in the 2008 Draft on a right-handed pitcher named Carlos Moncrief. After two subpar seasons on the mound, Moncrief went to the Indians and asked if he could try his hand as a hitter. The 25-year-old Moncrief is now one of Cleveland's top outfield prospects. In 129 games at Double-A last year, Moncrief hit .284 with 50 extra-base hits, 75 RBIs and an .824 OPS. He is currently on the Tribe's 40-man roster and playing with Triple-A Columbus.
In The Show
Second baseman Jason Kipnis, who was signed to a six-year extension worth $52.5 million in April, is the top player on Cleveland's active roster who was drafted and developed by the organization. The second baseman was taken in the second round of the 2009 Draft, excelled in the Minors and made his first American League All-Star team in '13. Other homegrown draftees currently on Cleveland's roster include right-hander Josh Tomlin (19th round in '06), third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall (first round in '08), lefty T.J. House (16th round in '08) and Allen (23rd round in '11).
The Indians' recent top picks
2013: Clint Frazier, OF, Cleveland/Class A Lake County
2012: Tyler Naquin, OF, Cleveland/Double-A Akron
2011: Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland/Double-A Akron
2010: Drew Pomeranz, LHP, Oakland/Majors
2009: Alex White, RHP, Houston/Triple-A Oklahoma City