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2010 Draft Preview - Cleveland Indians

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The sixth part of my draft preview series focuses on the Cleveland Indians and their scouting director Brad Grant.

Owner: Lawrence Dolan, bought club in 2000
General Manager: Mark Shapiro, first season was 2002
Scouting Director: Brad Grant, first draft was 2008

Looking Back

2008 Draft: $7.0 Million Budget

1. Lonnie Chisenhall, SS, Pitt CC (NC), #29 Overall: Chisenhall wasn’t considered a hands-down first-round talent, but he had risen on draft boards late due to his plus hit tool. Shortstop wasn’t ever going to be his long-term position, but Grant believed in Chisenhall’s bat enough to make Chisenhall his first selection as scouting director. Following players selected: Casey Kelly, Shooter Hunt, Jake Odorizzi. Signing bonus: $1,100,000.
2. Trey Haley, RHP, Central Heights HS (TX), #76 Overall: Haley was considered a possible first-round arm coming into the spring, but he looked tired and unimpressive at the wrong time to be falling off the radar. Grant called Haley’s name with the hope that he’d turn back into his previous form, though most thought he had fallen down to a 4th-7th round talent. Following players selected: Derrik Gibson, Jake Jefferies, Jordy Mercer. Signing bonus: $1,250,000.
3. Cord Phelps, 2B, Stanford, #107 Overall: Phelps wasn’t considered to be a very good pro prospect, though his bat and possible versatility meant he might have had a future as a utility infielder. However, Grant called his name perhaps four to seven rounds earlier than most thought Phelps would be picked. Following players selected: Kyle Weiland, Ty Morrison, Chase d’Arnaud. Signing bonus: $327,000.
4. David Roberts, RHP, Long Beach State, #141 Overall: Roberts was a little-known reliever at Long Beach State before Grant called his name on the first day of the 2008 draft. He had solid stuff that looked like it might max out at the setup reliever level, but there was hope he might improve with experience into more of a weapon. Following players selected: Pete Hissey, Mike Sheridan, Justin Wilson. Signing bonus: $200,000.
5. Zach Putnam, RHP, Michigan, #171 Overall: Putnam was a very desirable name entering the 2008 draft, and you could have made the case that Putnam was the best player Grant picked on the first day back on draft day in June 2008. He had a good assortment of pitchers, and he featured mid-rotation upside when at his best, though he slipped due to concerns about work ethic and true ceiling. Following players selected: Ryan Westmoreland, Shane Dyer, Robbie Grossman. Signing bonus: $600,000.
Other Notable Selections: LHP Eric Berger (8th), Arizona, $125K bonus; LHP T.J. House (16th), Picayune Memorial HS (MS), $750K bonus

2009 Draft: $4.7 Million Budget

1. Alex White, RHP, North Carolina, #15 Overall: White was the top college pitcher behind Stephen Strasburg entering the 2009 draft season, and despite a solid junior campaign, he fell down draft boards due to his price tag as a Boras client and concerns that his mechanics didn’t fit for a starter. He has number two upside, and this was a solid find in the middle of the first round for Grant. Following players selected: Bobby Borchering, A.J. Pollock, Chad James. Signing bonus: $2,250,000.
2. Jason Kipnis, OF, Arizona State, #63 Overall: Kipnis was one of the best college hitters statistically in the 2009 season, but he was considered more of a second to third round talent due to his age (22) and lack of power. His hit tool was legit, and this was a solid pick, as Kipnis profiled as a quick mover through the system. Following players selected: Marc Krauss, Garrett Gould, Bryan Berglund. Signing bonus: $575,000.
3. Joe Gardner, RHP, UC Santa Barbara, #94 Overall: Gardner looked like a third to fifth round prospect after relieving at Santa Barbara. However, he had a few characteristics that profiled as a starting pitcher, and a few teams saw that value. This was a solid pick, and the Indians are expected to develop Gardner as a starter. Following players selected: Keon Broxton, Brett Wallach, Marquise Cooper. Signing bonus: $363,000.
4. Kyle Bellows, 3B, San Jose State, #125 Overall: Bellows came on strong during his junior year, and most teams looked at him as a possible utility player in the future. His bat looked like it would be average in the long run, but his glove looked like a solid asset at any level. He might not have profiled as a starter, but signing a possible plus glove for fourth round slot has its advantages. Following players selected: David Nick, Angelo Songco, Dan Mahoney. Signing bonus: $230,000.
5. Austin Adams, RHP, Faulkner (AL), #155 Overall: Adams profiles as one of those pitchers that will be better as a pro than as an amateur. He has plus-plus stuff in the form of a hard fastball-curve combo, and he also has above-average athleticism, a good predictor for ability to develop a repeatable windup at the pro level. This was a solid pick, as Adams was a senior sign that signed for under slot. Following players selected: Ryan Wheeler, J.T. Wise, Chase Austin. Signing bonus: $70,000.
Other Notable Selections: OF Jordan Henry (7th), Ole Miss, $100K bonus

Brad Grant took over the scouting director position from longtime scouting director John Mirabelli following Mirabelli’s 2007 draft haul that included Beau Mills at the top. Like a number of scouting directors these days, Mirabelli was promoted out of the scouting director job to the title of Assistant General Manager for Scouting Operations. This put Mirabelli in charge of scouting both in North America and internationally, and Grant moved up from his assistant scouting director position to handle the scouting director position directly. Mirabelli’s influence is still immense, so pointing only to Grant’s drafts is a little irresponsible, but as Grant puts more drafts into his portfolio, he gains more independence, and having been Mirabelli’s heir apparent for years prior to his promotion, Grant has a good deal of autonomy to do his job. As a matter of fact, Grant also worked under current Arizona Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes in Byrnes’ only season as scouting director in Cleveland in 1999, and Mirabelli only moved in as Grant’s boss starting in 2000. It’s easy to see that Grant has plenty of experience to handle a draft, having been in the front office for scouting for over ten years now. Looking at Grant’s trends in his first couple of drafts, it’s obvious that Grant and the Indians’ front office highly prefer college players. Haley and T.J. House represent the only significant investments in preps at this stage, and there has not been any significant investment in prep bats. That looks likely to continue at this point. I wouldn’t rule out any prep arms for them, as their investments in 2008 were significant indeed. However, they favor collegiate players almost exclusively, so I’ll focus on that trend. In addition, they look to the West more often than any other region. Phelps, Roberts, Berger, Kipnis, Gardner, and Bellows all represent players in the western half of the country. Expect more of that in 2010. Finally, expect a balanced mix of arms and bats if history repeats itself, and I like Grant’s willingness to spread the investment around the diamond. He does a solid job of finding talent from both sides of the equation.

In terms of draft budgeting, the Indians have spent about an average amount in total in Grant’s two drafts. 2009 was a little weak in terms of draft budgeting, and White represented the lone overslot signee. I’m not ready to say 2009 represents any meaningful trend towards lesser draft investment, as Grant and company might have simply seen the weak 2009 class as less worthy of high investment compared to future years. We might see a healthy improvement this year, especially since the Indians own such a high first-round pick in 2010. They own picks 5, 55, 87, 120, and every 30 picks after that, provided that Rod Barajas signs a Major League contract with another club before the draft. I would expect another year with investment near the $7 million level that we saw in 2008, perhaps closer to $6 million. For example, Matt Hobgood, last year’s fifth overall pick, received just over $2.4 million, and slots should be expected to be slightly raised this year, so slot $2.5 million in there. Going slot through all those picks should yield about the same investment as last year’s draft. However, considering there is slightly more depth in this year’s draft, I’d expect more investment. I have no objective reason to believe this, just intuition that the Indians won’t budget low amounts on back-to-back years. There’s also the possibility that they’re saving for the 2011 draft, but there’s no guarantee they’ll be picking as high in 2011 as the fifth overall pick they have now.

Connecting the Indians to specific players, I think we’ll see a few possibilities as we sit here in February. The first possibility is that the Indians are intent on paying slot to their fifth overall pick. In that situation, I believe we’ll see the Indians seriously consider Zack Cox, Christian Colon, Deck McGuire, Chris Sale, and Drew Pomeranz. All these college players would almost certainly take slot money, which should be around $2.5 million, given that they have expected years in the 2010. I have Cox going to the Indians in my latest mock, and they didn’t have the possibility of taking Colon. However, I’m thinking more and more that the trio of McGuire, Sale, and Pomeranz make more sense for them. McGuire in particular looks quite appetizing there, and that’s who I had going to them in my fall mock draft. Keep that group of names in mind, though I can add names in there as we go. Looking to the second round, I’m looking at Micah Gibbs, Todd Cunningham, Sam Dyson, Derek Dietrich, and Addison Reed of San Diego State. Beyond that, I see Rob Segedin, Kevin Rhoderick, Dixon Anderson, Josh Spence, and maybe Victor Sanchez if he has a good year coming back off shoulder issues in 2009. Just remember these names for now, and when I update the draft previews in May, I’ll come back to these names as a reference.

*Bonus information came from BA.

What do you guys think? What will the Indians do?