In a market such as ours, it is of the utmost importance that the Indians not only draft well, but make sure those top picks sign and develop into Major League players. When you look back at what failures the Indians have been at drafting top tier players from between CC Sabathia and Lonnie Chisenhall, it is no wonder they have fallen to the bottom of the rung of Major League teams.
Two years ago, the first step in changing that trend came when the draft was turned over to Brad Grant, the new director of Amateur scouting.
In his first foray, Grant snagged third baseman of the future Lonnie Chisnehall with his first pick. Chisenhall has hit his way up the ladder of the Indians farm system and barring a major setback, will be the guy at the hot corner sometime by mid to late 2011. Last year, he took right-handed starter Alex White from the University of North Carolina. White has looked so good in his first full season in pro ball, that there has been chatter about giving him a start or two in September with the big club. Whether or not that happens, White will undoubtedly be in the mix for a rotation spot this Spring in Goodyear.
Lets not forget last year’s second round pick, 2B Jason Kipnis, who has been tearing the cover off the ball in AA Akron (.339 BA/.983 OPS/56 games). He may be blocked by Grant’s 2008 third round pick Cord Phelps, who has been equally impressive in AAA Columbus (.333 BA/.936 OPS/52 games). These two could be battling for the second base job with Jason Donald next year.
The Indians must look for the kind of impact players that will get to the majors quickly and have the continue to develop because as we all know, the way things are, they must rely on young stars that they have contractual control over for as long as they can before they can bolt for the big cash (see Sabathia, CC; Lee, Cliff; Martinez, Victor).
So this brings us to yesterday, the deadline for signing MLB draft picks. Heading into the morning, the Tribe hadn’t inked any of their top four picks. The first one to come down was fourth round pick Kyle Blair, a right-hander from the University of San Diego. According to reports, he will receive $580,000. Blair, a Junior, went 8-4 with a 2.84 ERA over 15 starts, striking out 126 and walking 28 in 98 1/3 innings. He will report to Mahoning Valley, short season A ball.
However, throughout the day, there was some worry that either second round pick LeVon Washington or third round pick Tony Wolters would not sign. Washington, a first round pick of Tampa Bay last year and a Scott Boras client, was seeking more than the $1.1 million he turned down last year. Wolters, a San Diego area high school star shortstop, had already accepted a scholarship to the University of San Diego and when drafted, was thought to be a potential high risk/high reward guy considering he had always been thought as a lock for college.
The deadline was fast approaching, and Mark Shapiro, Chris Antonetti, and Grant had to make their moves. Just before midnight, they locked in their first round pick, lefty Drew Pomeranz, the fifth pick overall and a key to the future of the rotation. The Ole Miss product, like White last year, is seen to be close to major league ready and could be in the majors within a year or two. As a junior, Pomeranz went 9-2 with Pomeranz went 9-2 with a 2.24 ERA in 16 starts, striking out 139 and walking 49 in 100 2/3 innings. The opposition hit .195 against him. Unlike Blair, Pomeranz will not pitch in the minors this year. He will receive $2.65 million, abover the $2.25 million suggested in his “slot.”
So one was down with five minutes to spare and just before thew clock struck midnight, Washington and Wolters became members of the Indians organization.
Washington, the 19 year old outfielder playing at Chipola Junior college, locked in for $1.2 million. Wolters, the 18 year old shortstop, will get $1.35 million.
Grant was extremely excited, as he should be, about signing his top picks just under the gun. “We are excited to sign Drew Pomeranz, LeVon Washington and Tony Wolters. Each player has unique skills that can enable them to become long-term contributors to the Cleveland Indians. Drew is an accomplished college left-hander, while LeVon and Tony are each young, athletic, middle-of-the-diamond players with tremendous upside.”
Say what you want about the Dolan ownership group being cheap, but when it comes to their draft picks and their farm system, they are more than willing to spend. There is more value in this process when you factor in our market and the current (flawed) system that MLB operates under.
Go ahead, tell me I’m drinking the Tribe Kool-Aid, but I think Grant did an excellent job in taking good chances with this draft. Talk to any draft expert and they will tell you Washington and Wolters are both first-round type of talents. Here’s hoping they live up to their potential and Pomeranz is able to make his way into the major league rotation in the next couple of years.
The Indians also signed their eighth round pick, St. Edward’s catcher Alex Lavisky. The local product will receive $1 million. Congratulations to the native son who will get a chance to play for his hometown team.