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Looking Back at the Draft: 1996

June 20, 2010
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The year is 1996.

Dallas defeats Pittsburgh for their 5th Super Bowl Title. First Lady Hillary Clinton is called to testify before a federal grand jury as part of the Whitewater scandal. HAMAS detonates several suicide bombs in Israel, killing hundreds. The Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, is appended at his shack in Montana. Hizballah crashes a truck bomb into the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 American servicemen. Iraqi officials continue to prohibit UNSCOM inspectors from completing their inspections of Republican Guard bases, biological, chemical and nuclear weapons sites, but President Clinton is unable to build a coalition in the UN to actually do anything about it. Boris Yeltsin is re-elected President of Russia. The 1996 Summer Olympics take place in Atlanta. Usama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaida, writes "The Declaration of Jihad on the Americans Occupying the Country of the Two Sacred Places," demanding American withdrawal from Saudi Arabia. UNSCOM inspectors discover buried prohibited missile parts, but are prohibited by the Iraqi's from removing the parts for full analysis. Bill Clinton is re-elected as President of the United States.

The Indians win 99 games and the Central Division, but fall to the Orioles in the playoffs. Albert Belle hits 48 HR's, but will leave the team after 1996 as a free agent. Kenny Lofton hits .317 and steals 75 bases, but will be traded to Atlanta in the offseason.

Indians 1st round pick: Picking unusually late in the draft, the Indians selected 1B Danny Peoples 28th overall in the first round. Peoples had a lot of pop in his bat, but he had a couple of holes in his swing as well. He hit 34 HRs in 1997 for Kinston, but he also struck out 145 times. The HR/strikeout trend would continue through AA and AAA, with marks of 21/142, 21/122 and 17/133 from 1999-2001. Further complicating Peoples' path to the major leagues was the fact that the Indians had a guy by the name of Jim Thome playing 1B starting in 1997, so he was pretty well blocked. Still, Peoples could have at least turned himself into a prospect that would have brought something back via trade, as Richie Sexson, Sean Casey and others managed to accomplish. But Peoples finished with a career minor league average of .250, including just .222 in his final season in 2001. He blasted 104 HR's, but struck out 639 times as well.

Best 1st round pick: No future hall of famers in 1996's 1st round, but the A's did pick up a solid 3B with the 10th overall pick when they selected Eric Chavez out of Mount Caramel HS in San Diego. Chavez won six straight Gold Gloves, the first as a 23-year old in 2001, and the future looked bright and endless for the Oakland star. In addition to the Gold Gloves, Chavez hit over 20 HR every year from 2001-2007. Injuries derailed his promising career however, and he played in just 31 games from 2008-2009. But when he was in the lineup for Oakland, he was a steady presence both at the plate and in the field. Chavez is looking to bounce back with the A's in 2010, but is hitting just .234 with 1 HR so far.

Honorable mention: Kris Benson, the #1 overall pick, was better know for his hot/crazy wife than for his pitching...Jake Westbrook was the 21st overall pick for the Colorado Rockies...Mark Kotsay (9th overall to Florida) has put together a solid career in the OF...Pitcher Gil Meche has been pretty much league average since he was selected 22nd overall by Seattle.

Indians best pick: In the 56th round, the Indians selected righthanded pitcher David Riske out of the baseball hotbed of Green River Community College in Auburn, WA. Players selected in the 56th round do not typically last long in professional baseball, let alone make the major leagues, but Riske is pitching in his 11th season as a middle reliever for Milwaukee in 2010. Riske has a career record of 20-20, with a 3.57 ERA and 22 saves. He's been a solid middle reliever for most of his career, and was the best player and the best value in the Indians' 1996 draft.

Honorable mention: The only other player signed by the Indians in 1996 that ended up having a decent career was SS John McDonald, selected in the 12th round out of Providence College. Johnny Mac was a defensive whiz who was blocked by the greatest defensive SS in the history of baseball in Omar Vizquel. He slid over to 2B, and was blocked by probably the greatest defensive 2B in the history of baseball in Robbie Alomar. Bad timing, to say the least. A solid utility infielder that could play anywhere on the infield, McDonald is still playing for the Blue Jays in 2010. He has a career batting average of just .238 and has 13 home runs in over 1700 career AB's.

Best early round picks: With their 5th round pick, Arizona chose power righty Brad Penny out of Broken Arrow HS in Oklahoma...Atlanta took Mark DeRosa in the 7th round...Boston picked up solid contributors Justin Duchscherer and Shea Hillenbrand in the 8th and 10th rounds, respectively...White Sox 5th round pick Joe Crede showed flashes of all star ability before back problems derailed his career...The Royals took righty Chad Durbin out of a Louisiana high school in the 3rd round, and also picked up black sheep Giambi brother Jeremy in the 6th round...With their 3rd round pick, the Dodgers took solid SS Alex Cora...Minnesota picked up OF Jacque Jones in the 2nd round...The Yankees selected the oft-injured Nick Johnson in the 3rd round...Philly picked up one of the cornerstones of their franchise in the 2nd round, selecting SS Jimmy Rollins out of a California high school...The Expos took the mildly insane Milton Bradley in the 2nd round out of a Long Beach HS...Casey Blake and his beard were selected in the 7th round by Toronto out of baseball powerhouse Wichita State.

Best late round picks: Expansion team Arizona took speedy 2B Junior Spivey in the 36th round...The Braves plucked a winner out of the 53rd round, taking Brian's brother Marcus Giles to be their 2B...Houston picked up 2/5ths of a pretty solid rotation in the 20th and 23rd rounds when they selected power righties Wade Miller and Roy Oswalt, respectively...The Dodgers plucked lefty Ted Lilly out of Fresno CC in the 23rd round...The Yankees came up with a solid OF in the 30th round with their selection of Marcus Thames...Oakland took current Blue Jay closer Kevin Gregg in the 15th round...Pittsburgh took the injury-plagued but dominant lefty reliever Mike Gonzalez out of a Texas HS in the 17th round...Texas hit it big with their 31st round pick when they selected "3B" Travis Hafner out of Cowley County CC in Kansas...Slick fielding middle infielder Orlando Hudson was signed as a draft and follow out of the 33rd round by the Blue Jays...Adorable little Jamey Carroll was selected in the 14th round by the Expos.

The ones that got away: Boston took righthanded pitcher Aaron Harang out of a San Diego HS in the 22nd round, but he found San Diego State too tempting to pass up...Florida took future Indians 2nd round pick and current Blue Jay Brian Tallet in the 14th round, but they were unable to come to terms...Minnesota took catcher Josh Bard in the 35th round, but he chose to attend Texas Tech instead...Seattle could have had an impact draft, but they were unable to come to terms with 48th round pick Juan Pierre or 59th round choice Barry Zito...Everyone's favorite message board whipping boy Jason Michaels was selected in the 44th round by expansion Tampa Bay, but he didn't sign.

Other interesting picks: First round picks Travis Lee (2 overall), John Patterson (5), Matt White (7) and Bobby Seay (12) were granted free agency after "super agent"...you guessed it, Scott Boras...found a loophole in the Professional Baseball Agreement that required teams to offer contracts to every pick within 15 days of the draft. Despite the fact that most teams never offered formal contracts that quickly, Boras was able to have his clients declared free agents and negotiate on the open market. Expansion Tampa Bay and Arizona took advantage of this (or at least they thought they did), with Arizona signing Lee and Patterson and the Devil Rays signing White and Seay. The expansion franchises spent almost $30 million combined, and in return received a combined 10 or so wins over replacement (WAR). Boras tried to use the $30 million as an example that the draft unfairly limited the earning potential of his clients and American-born baseball players as a whole, but was unsuccessful. The loophole was closed the next year, and Boras would have to find other ways to make life miserable for MLB GM's.

Indians June 1996 draft:

1. Danny Peoples, 1B
2. Ryan McDermott, RHP
3. Jarrod Mays, RHP
4. J.D. Brammer, RHP
5. Grant Sharpe, 1B
6. Paul Rigdon, RHP
7. Jim Hamilton, LHP
8. Rob Stanton, OF
9. Sean DePaula, RHP
10. William Jackson, OF
11. Joe Horgan, LHP
12. John McDonald, SS
13. Cody Allison, C
14. Troy Kent, SS/3B
15. Tonayne Brown, OF
16. Kapio Spenser, RHP
17. Mark Taylor, LHP
18. Mike Bacsik, LHP
19. Dan Wright, RHP
20. Mike Huelsmann, OF
21. Jamie Brown, RHP
22. Tim Palmer, C
23. Adam Taylor, C
24. Arelio Rodriguez, SS
25. David Willis, C/1B
26. Dennis Konrady, SS
27. Bob Reichow, RHP
28. Brian Whitlock, SS
29. Mel Motley, OF
30. Matt Koeman, RHP
31. ChadDarnell, RHP
32. Jonathan McDonald, RHP
33. Mitch Johnson, RHP
34. Samuel Moses, RHP
35. Humberto Vargas, RHP
36. Robert Aaron, RHP
37. Josh Walker, RHP
38. Jeremy Jones, C
39. Marc Gwyn, RHP
40. Byron Watson, OF
41. Miles Bryant, OF
42. Travis Veracka, LHP
43. Alfred Leatherwood, 1B
44. Brian Bosch, C
45. Scott Krause, 2B
46. Brad Brenneman, RHP
47. Mark Zenk, SS
48. Ryan Soponmaa, C
49. Chris Hesse, OF
50. Anthony Wright, OF
51. Casey Smith, C
52. Mark Cridland, OF
53. Joey Cole, RHP
54. Matt Minter, LHP
55. Charles Robertson, RHP
56. David Riske, RHP
57. Randy Keisler, LHP
58. Ovid Valentin, OF

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