With the fifth selection in the 2010 MLB, the Cleveland Indians were drafting higher than they had in any other season since 1992. In said year, they drafted second overall and came away with right-handed pitcher Paul Shuey. With many drafts in between and not much first-round talent to show for it, the Indians made the pick of left-hander Drew Pomeranz – a guy that they hope will be a staple in their starting rotation within a few seasons.
“Its a great honor to be picked by the Cleveland Indians,” said Pomeranz during a late Tuesday conference call. “I have a friend in the organization and he has good things to say about them.”
The friend Drew was speaking of is Jordan Henry, current Kinston Indians outfielder and last season’s seventh-round selection. The two have exchanged text messages since Pomeranz was selected and they both have hopes of playing together again in the near future.
But looking at Pomeranz, one could easily mistake him for a professional tight end or shooting guard just as much as they could a starting pitcher. Standing at six-foot-five-inches tall and weighing north of 230 pounds, Pomeranz hails from Collierville, Tennessee where he earned recognition in both baseball and basketball. When asked by WFNY about his choice to take on the twine instead of the hardwood, the freshly selected pitcher stated that it came down to size.
“I started on the varsity [basketball team] my freshman and sophomore year of high school,” said Pomeranz. “But being a center and guarding seven footers wasn’t too much fun. I decided to focus on the sport that I was better at.”
The move worked in Pomeranz’s advantage. Drew would be drafted in the 12th round by the Texas Rangers out of high school, but opted to attend college at Ole Miss. It is a move that he claimed came down to money, but one that he would ultimately be happy with.
“[I was] very close [to signing],” he said. “But the Rangers came just short of what I was asking for. It wasn’t even that much. I think I made the right choice, but I think that number grew a little bit.”
Last season’s first-round draft selection Alex White was not signed until the mid-August deadline, something that is common among first-round selections. There were some deliberations about the guarnateed amount as White’s representation felt that he should have been drafted sooner than he was. But with all of that autonomous of this year’s selection, Pomeranz claims that he has no set negotiation plan in mind just yet.
Thankfully, the big left-hander feels that the Indians appreciate his work and value what he can bring to the organization based on how much they visited Ole Miss games when he was starting.
“They followed me closely all season,” he said. ”A lot of teams did but the Indians stood out more than the others.”
Aside from the upcoming payday, Pomeranz does not regret his decision to attend college instead of going straight to the pros out of high school. Not only did he earn 2010 SEC Pitcher of the Year honors for 2010 while being named one of the finalists of the soon-to-be awarded “Golden Spikes” honors, Pomeranz feels that his time spent with the Runnin’ Rebels helped him grow as a person.
“I think its important for kids in my situation to attend college and mature,” said Pomeranz. Pitching in a conference in the SEC, you realize that you may not have been as ready as you thought. It’s all about refining everything and growing as a person – it’s a big part of maturing.”
And mature he did. With a record of 9-2 and a 2.24 ERA in 16 starts for Ole Miss this season, Pomeranz proceeded to strike out 139 and walk 49 in 100.2 innings. The opposition was held to a .195 average against the lefty as he led the league in all three metrics.
Scouting reports tag Pomeranz with a fastball in the low-to-mid-90s, two different variations of a curve ball and a change-up that has been deemed “improving.”
The Indians are currently among the MLB’s worst in terms of team ERA and WHIP while coming in dead last in strikeouts. With the addition of North Carolina’s White a season ago, the Indians have now used two straight first-round selections on starting pitching with hopes of addressing the glaring weakness.
The down side is that the Indians front office has long attempted to revive the pitching staff with first-round draft selections since the pick of Shuey in 1992. Daron Kirkreit (1993), Jaret Wright (1994), CC Sabathia (1998), Dan Denham (2001), Jeremy Guthrie (2002), and Jeremy Sowers (sixth overall in 2004) have all been selected in the top-25 in the stretch between Shuey and White, likely contributing some to the poor numbers listed above.
But how long Indians fans will have to wait for yesterday’s draft selection to make his way to Cleveland remains to be seen.
“I don’t have any set timetable,” said Pomeranz. ”I’m just going to get in there and see how it is at first and try and work my way up as fast as possible.”
(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)