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Looking Back at the Draft: 1997

July 8, 2010
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The year is 1997.

Pakistani citizen Mir Amal Kasi is sentenced to death for gunning down 5 CIA employees as they were entering the gate of their headquarters in McLean, VA. Madeline Albright becomes the 1st female Secretary of State. Tony Blair becomes Prime Minister of England. Timothy McVeigh is convicted and sentenced to death for the Oklahoma City bombing. The 200-year old ship USS Constitution sets sail for the first time in over 116 years out of Boston Harbor. Mother Theresa dies in India. Iraqi officials are caught sneaking out the back of a facility under UN inspection with logbooks detailing the creation of prohibited bacteria and chemicals. An Iraqi military "escort" onboard a UNSCOM helicopter nearly causes it to crash while trying to divert it from a facility producing illegal weapons.

The Indians make a magical run to the World Series, defeating the Yankees and Orioles in the playoffs on heriocs from Sandy Alomar and Tony Fernandez. They fall painfully short in game 7 against the Marlins. New acquisitions David Justice and Marquis Grissom help make up for the departure of Albert Belle (via free agency) and Kenny Lofton (trade).

Indians 1st round pick: With the 27th pick in the 1st round, the Indians selected righthanded pitcher Tim Drew out of a Valdosta, GA high school. Drew's older brother J.D. was the 2nd overall pick in the draft out of Florida State, and has had a long career as a big league outfielder. Their younger brother Stephen is currently playing shortstop for Arizona. Unfortunately for the Indians, the pitching Drew brother ended up being the least talented of the trio. Tim finished his big league career with a 2-4 record (1-3 with the Indians) and a 7.02 ERA. Drew only pitched in 35 career games, and threw 84.2 innings. He struck out 40 batters and walked 40. Drew pitched for the Expos and Braves after he was included in the Bartolo Colon deal, and found no more success in the NL than he did in the AL.

Best 1st round pick: With the 16th pick in the 1st round, Houston selected the Big Puma himself, Lance Berkman. Berkman is still going strong for the Astros in his 12th season in the show. The Rice University product has 320 career HR's, a .297 career average and .958 career OPS. Berkman is a 5-time NL all star, and led the league in RBI's in 2002. He was a solid defender in the OF before moving full time to 1B in 2008. Berkman finished in the top-5 of NL MVP voting four times, but has never won the award.

Honorable mention: The Angels took 3B Troy Glaus with the 3rd overall pick out of UCLA, and 318 HRs later, he's still going strong...Baltimore took Jayson Werth with the 22nd overall pick as a catcher, but Werth would have his success in a different city, league and at a different position...Toronto selected their long-time CF Vernon Wells with the 5th overall pick, and he went on to win 3 Gold Gloves in CF.

Indians best pick: This may have been the worst draft in the history of the franchise. Other than Drew, only one player drafted by the Indians ever made the major leagues, outfielder Dustan Mohr. Mohr played the majority of his career with the Twins, never appearing in a game for the Tribe. He finished his career with a .249 batting average and 49 home runs.

Honorable mention: Like I said, this draft was brutal. Looking over the entire draft though, it seemed the talent pool overall was down compared to past and future drafts. That's no excuse for having just two of the 52 players selected ever making it to the majors though. The Indians had two compensatory picks for losing free agent OF Albert Belle to the White Sox, and used them on OF Jason Fitzgerald and C Edgar Cruz. Cruz never had more than a cup of coffee at the AA level, and Fitzgerald was never able to produce at AAA.

Best early round picks: Colorado took IF Chone Figins out of a Florida HS in the 4th round...St. Louis snagged pitcher turned OF Rick Ankiel in the 2nd round, and paid the Scott Boras client 1st round money...The Phillies got a good rotation arm in the 2nd round with their selection of Randy Wolf, and then a bullpen arm in the 5th round when they took Derrick Turnbow...2B turned SS turned 3B Michael Young was chosen in the 5th round by the Blue Jays, but they dealt him to Texas for Esteban Loaiza (oops).

Best late round picks: Boston selected IF David Eckstein in the 19th round out of Florida...Minnesota plucked solid lefty J.C. Romero out of the 21st round...Seattle took starter Joel Piniero out of a Florida CC in the 12th round...Toronto made probably the best pick of the draft when they took talkative IF Orlando Hudson in the 43rd round; he's won 4 Gold Gloves and made a pair of all star teams.

The ones that got away: Most notably, Tim's brother J.D. Drew was selected 2nd overall by Philly, but the Scott Boras product didn't get enough to sign so he took his game to the independent leagues in order to be declared a free agent; it didn't work, and he signed quickly the next year when he was selected 5th overall by St. Louis...Chicago took Jeff Weaver out of Fresno State with a compensatory pick in the 2nd round, but couldn't sign him...Houston chose UCLA OF Eric Byrnes in the 4th round, but they were unable to come to terms...The Dodgers missed a huge opportunity when they were unable to sign their 2nd round pick, who was a local kid out of Long Beach; I'm talking of course about SS turned 2B Chase Utley...The Mets could have had a great draft, but were unable to sign Garret Atkins (10th round), Jeremy Guthrie (15th) nor David DeJesus (43rd round)...Toronto selected but couldn't sign RP Chad Qualls in the 52nd round.

Other interesting picks: Chicago's North Siders took HS outfielder Antwaan Randle El out of an Illinois HS in the 14th round, but he would of course go on to Indiana University to play QB...Continuing with the QB with crazy name theme, Minnesota took 3B Marques Tuiasosopo in the 34th round, but he would end up playing QB for the University of Washington...Everyone's favorite platoon OF Jason Michaels was chosen in the 15th round by the Cardinals out of Miami, but they were unable to come to terms.

Indians June 1997 draft:

1. Tim Drew, RHP
1. Jason Fitzgerald, OF
2. Edgar Cruz, C
2. Rob Vael, RHP
3. Rob Pugmire, RHP
4. Eric Thompson, OF
5. Jonathan Hamilton, OF
6. Brian Benefield, 2B
7. Mark Turnbow, RHP
8. Johnnie Wheeler, LHP
9. Dustan Mohr, OF
10. Joe Kilburg, 2B
11. Daniel Jahn, LHP
12. Brad Freeman, SS
13. Chad Hawkins, RHP
14. Mike Hughes, LHP
15. Tyler Swinburnson, RHP
16. Denny New, LHP
17. Brian Shackelford, LHP
18. Troy Silva, RHP
19. Devon Nicholson, RHP
20. Nicholas Waak, RHP
21. Eric Rosa, C
22. Kelly Dampeer, SS
23. Heath Bender, 1B
24. Reggie Nelson, SS
25. Ryan Upshaw, OF
26. Chris Jackson, C
27. Todd Harding, 2B
28. Derek Wiggington, OF
29. Courtney Hall, RHP
30. Francis Paiso, LHP
31. Brandon Smith, 1B
32. Jason Basil, C
33. Anthony Jackson, OF
34. Jonathan Rouwenhorst, LHP
35. Kris McWhirter, RHP
36. Danny Borrell, LHP
37. Ryan Satterwhite, C
38. Austin Roberts, RHP
39. Brandon Wheeler, RHP
40. Brandon Mauer, C
41. Brad Drummond, RHP
42. Ryan Haley, 2B
43. Danny Alvarez, RHP
44. Joey Cole, RHP
45. Brian Seever, OF
46. Jeff Parker, RHP
47. Justin Hutton, C
48. Mark Hamilton, LHP
49. Richard Booth, OF
50. Darnell Sanders, 1B

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