The preparation for the 2013 Minor League Ball Community Mock Draft is underway and this will serve as the home for the Cleveland Indians pick. The Tribe is picking the highest they have since 2010 when they took Drew Pomeranz fifth overall. This year they have picks 5, 79, and 111 in rounds 1-4 after having forfeited their 2nd round and Supplemental 2nd round picks for signing Michael Bourn and Nick Swsher in free agency. Thus, despite having the 5th overall pick, Cleveland only has the 19th largest signing bonus pool (total of $6,188,800), which could have significant influence over their decisions.
For anyone unfamiliar with the the way the Community Mock Draft is conducted here is a brief primer. It is not a true mock draft in the sense you must pick who you believe the team will pick in real life but one where the participants take on the role of the teams Scouting Director. Each faux-Scouting Director is free to make their own choices but is encouraged to behave as the team has in the recent past and within the confines of their draft budget. We'll use information that is pulled from all over to help us form a draft board and strategy.
Cleveland has garnered a reputation of focusing mostly on college players with high picks over the last decade, coinciding with the appointment of Mark Shapiro as GM. Since 2002, the Indians have taken a collegiate player with 11 of their 16 1st round picks including supplemental picks. That tide may be changing with Chris Antonetti taking over GM duties in 2010 and Brad Grant as Director of Amateur Scouting in 2008. The last two years Cleveland has taken 9 high school players in the top 10 rounds including top prospect, shortstop Francisco Lindor #8 overall in 2011 and pitchers Dillon Howard (2011) and Mitch Brown (2012) in the second round. They also shown a willingness to work with Scott Boras (Represented Howard) and go over slot if the value is there (signing 2012 4th rd pick D'Vone McClure for $765K vs a slot of $314K). Last year in the first under the new CBA bonus restrictions, Cleveland drafted college OF Tyler Naquin and signed him to a below slot deal and used the money saved on later picks, including Brown and McClure. Overall they spent 81% of their pool in the top 4 rounds.
Positionally the Indians farm system strength lies in the middle of the infield. Lindor rates as one of the top prospects in baseball and is having a season that could boost his stock further. Behind him is another SS Dorssys Paulino and a cadre of others who profile at 2B or SS including Ronny Rodriguez, Tony Wolters, and Jose Ramirez. The problem with this group is only Rodriguez and Ramirez have played above A ball and their first taste of AA has come this year. Given their distance away from the majors and the general philosophy of building from the middle of the diamond I don't see this deterring another selection of a middle infielder if they are the clear best player available.
For a farm system short on close to the majors and high probability talent we'll likely see a lot of attention paid to anyone who may be able to help the team while the current core is still in place. Hard throwing college righties Mark Appel (Stanford) and Jonathan Gray (Oklahoma) would be ideal but are not likely be slip to #5. The top college bat, 3B/OF Kris Bryant out of San Diego would be a debate inducing player should be fall to #5 as he would step in as the best power hitter in the farm system and give the Indians a corner prospect with a high ceiling bat that they don't currently have.
Baseball America published their first Mock Draft this past week (linked here) and has the Indians taking Nevada RHP Braden Shipley. Shipley has been a fast riser this spring after showing increased velocity (up to 97 in some reports). He started out this spring as a late 1st round pick but has since seen his stock climb to a near consensus top-10 pick. His changeup is currently regarded as plus and he's used it as his primary off-speed offering. His best pitch could end up being a breaking ball (some reports say curve others slider) right now that grades above average and has some projection for further growth but has not been used much this year. Quick analysis this would seem to be a very probabilistic selection, addressing a major need and possibly saving some bonus money to be spread among the later rounds.
Other names that will likely be floated around include LHP Sean Manaea out of Indiana State, RHP Ryne Stanek out of Arkansas, and 3B Colin Moran out of UNC.
Please join the discussion in the comments section with thoughts, any Cleveland draft information, or questions. More information will come in later MOD's as we draw closer to the June 1 Community Mock Draft.