Looking Back at this Years Draft
By Jeff Ellis
June 17, 2012
The draft has come and gone, and now the Indians are seeing signings trickle in. There is little doubt that the draft has seen a drastic change this year thanks to new rules. I thought it would be a good time to look back on the entire draft to see what was good, bad, and who did well, or not so well. Also to focus a bit on the Indians draft, who I like and what the Indians approach seems to be in this new draft format.
The first major change people are seeing right now is the speed at which players are signing. There is a new level of interest with these signings, and that is seeing the amount of money these players have signed for. Thanks to the new slotting pool’s, teams can only spend so much.
For example, the first pick had a slotting value of 7.2 million, and Correa signed for 4.5 million. That meant Houston had 2.7 million to spend all over the draft. I will get back to Houston in a bit, but that extra cash has already paid off for them.
Thus far I have seen five official signings in the Indians top ten, but let’s first look at the three seniors, Joe Wendle, Jacob Lee, and Josh Martin. They will help show just how the draft has changed, and why signing bonus numbers are so important. Those three players signed for 10K, 2.5K, and 5K respectively. I know some fans might think that the Indians were cheap, but what they really did with those 3 picks is save 411K to use later. If you think that’s bad, check out Boston who gave their 7th rounder 1K to sign, which is often what an undrafted free agent gets. It also showed me the value of signability.
Jacob Lee was a 9th round pick, and Josh Martin a 10th rounder, yet Martin got twice as much. Yet typically, one would think it would be the 9th rounder who would get more. The Indians liked both players, but you do have to wonder if a part of the reason for the early draft spot was because one player was willing to sign cheaper. The pool forced teams to be ruthless and save every dollar they could to make sure they could use that money to sign other picks. In a bizarre way, players who were willing to sign cheaply became more valuable. Its why James Ramsey went in the first round to St. Louis, he is a good player, but the money they saved with him, will help with their second rounder. In the biggest over slot I have seen they signed Carson Kelly, who was in my top 35, for 1.1 million over slot. They are going to pay him more than twice what they pay Ramsey. The reason Ramsey went so early was that even though he was a top 100 talent, he was going to sign cheap, which made him extremely valuable in a draft with a money pool.
I would be surprised if the Indians don’t sign every pick in their top ten. It is against the rules to make pre draft deals, but every team had a price figure it would cost to sign a player. They checked multiple times I am sure, and probably checked again before drafting. If a player changed their mind, the teams lost the picks slotting value. If you looked back at the first pick again it would mean that if Correa had refused to sign Houston would have lost 7.2 million from its total pool value. Teams were not messing around and risking the loss of value. If they did not think they could sign a player in the top ten then they took a cheaper signable guy, so they would have more money to spend later. It was better to take a player who would sign for 1K, then to take a risk on a player who was unlikely to sign.
My favorite draft was that of the Houston Astros. They played the new draft perfectly. Carlos Correa cost 4.5 million. The highest bonus thus far is Byron Buxton at 6 million. Both of those players were at the top of my board, without a 1.5 million dollar difference at all. That money different alone might allow them to add Hunter Virant, who the Astros took in the 11th round. I was actually critical of the Astros for drafting Virant in the 11th, wondering why they wasted a pick on an unsignable player. Yet it was pure genius in retrospect. They took a gamble on who was far and away the best player on the board, a top 40 player in the draft. If they failed to sign him it did not affect their signing pool, but if they did end up having the money to sign him it’s like they just add a supplemental first who would already be one of their top ten prospects. This is on top of players like Rio Ruiz, who suffered a blood clot, or he would have been a first rounder to me, and Lance McCullers JR, who has the second best ceiling of any pitcher in this draft. The Astros had a weak system and used the draft to add a lot of talent. They figured out the system and played it perfectly.
The draft I disliked the most was the Washington Nationals. Their draft was the complete opposite of Houston’s, because they got one player then a bunch of lesser talent. Lucas Giolito has an amazing amount of talent, but do you really want to bet your whole draft on a single high school arm that has already had elbow issues. They drafted two guys who were top 100 talents, while half of their top ten were not even listed in BA’s top 500. Even crazier is that they signed those guys for some decent change. I think their lowest bonus in their top 10 picks was 25K; they drafted lesser guys and paid them solid money. They have signed seven of their top ten and have managed to save almost 700K, but that is not enough to get Giolito, I think he is going to want 3 million, so they need to save close to 900K. For me, I just have a hard time with a draft that is strongly based around one player. Prospects are extremely volatile, and first rounder’s still have a huge bust rate. I will also take a bunch of good talent over one great player.
As for the Indians draft, I loved how they played this draft. They took an approach very similar to what Houston did. I might have preferred another bat early, but I understand the approach. The Indians love to get up the middle players; it has been a constant theme when they add talent. They believe that Tyler Naquin is a centerfielder going forward. He brings two plus tools, hitting and his arm which is actually plus plus. The only hitter who I thought could have more potential plus features at that point was Richie Shaffer who had eye, power, and defense, but I am not sure if any of them had plus plus potential. Much like Stephen Piscotty, another bat I loved, neither were up the middle guys. I had Naquin ranked 22, so 15 is a bit of a reach, but since he signed for 500K under slot then it’s hard for me to argue. I would rather have Naquin, Nelson Rodriquez, Logan Vick, and Andrew Calica then just grabbing a slightly better talent and signing him for slot. One more thought on Naquin, this guy can hit. Just in terms of hitting, I think he has the potential to put up Victor Martinez type numbers minus the power. In other words, he has the potential to deliver a high average, low strike outs, and a whole mess of doubles.
As a whole, this is one of my favorite drafts since I started covering the Indians. In round two, they took high school righty Mitchell Brown, with a good arsenal of pitches who should have gone in the supplemental round. I am always intrigued by a cold weather arm like Brown; often these players end up outperforming expectations. The reason is that they don’t get as many starts as players in warmer climates, so sometimes they get a bit overlooked as well. This was, to me at least, the major reason Mike Trout ended up being a late first rounder. It was a warm winter, and I know Brown was thoroughly scouted, but you still have to wonder. Plus he is the son of an athlete; his father was a power lifter, who helped him work on his training regimen. So I doubt he is a guy who is ever going to end up with a tired arm. He was signed 160K over slot, which I have no problem with. I fully expected him to go in the supplemental. He has 2/3 potential, and becomes a top five prospect in this system.
The Indians next took Kieran Lovegrove, who is not only a big, very projectable arm, but also seems like a great human being. He helped start a nonprofit whose goal is to make sure that anyone who wants to play baseball or softball gets the chance to play the game. I think that says enough about how much Lovegrove loves the game, and about what an individual he is at a young age. He truly seems to be a plus plus person, who has potentially number two upside.
The Indians didn’t stop and in round three they drafted a top player, who happened to fit an organizational need. D’Vone McClure is one of the top athletes the Indians drafted. He does not have top end speed, but he has quick wrists, and the potential for plus power. He is extremely raw, and just recently stopped playing football to focus on baseball. He might be the last guy from the class to make the majors, just because of how raw he is. Yet his potential and his right handed power are great assets for the system. I mentioned in the capsules, but it’s been obvious the Indians are really mining the state of Arkansas for talent. It’s not one of the huge baseball states, but the last two years there has been a focus on taking players from the state. I wonder if the Indians see it as up and coming. Plus they have spent two high picks on high schoolers from Arkansas in the last two years in Dillon Howard and now McClure.
I, like many, expected a college senior in round five, but instead they took the top junior college player in the draft in Dylan Baker. The big question with Baker is will he develop his changeup. He already has a potential plus breaking pitch to go along with a plus fastball. If he can make his change average, then he can be starter. If not then Baker would automatically become the second best bullpen arm in the system behind Cody Allen in my opinion, with the chance to be the best very soon. He is the classic case of a cold weather pitcher that no one saw. This is because he is from Alaska, which I am sure no one truly scouts. This was pick 173, and the Indians still got a top 100 player. Oh, and he is the fifth player in the draft who is going to be considered for the Indians top ten at the end of the year.
Two more names to mention from the top ten are Josh Schubert and Caleb Hamrick. Everything I have said about McClure can be reiterated with Schubert. The difference is he was not a football star as far as I know. He is also more of a corner outfielder than a centerfielder. He is yet another high upside, right-handed athlete, with potential plus power. It is going to take going over slot to sign him, and I would bet 400K gets it done, which is about 255K over slot. The Indians are currently 750K under slot. I still wonder if 8th rounder Caleb Hamrick is signable, he was considered a hard sign before the draft, and I think he might have been a risk, and if they fail to get him, then they might go over slot on a player chosen after ten. Hambrick is going to cost over slot to sign, this is why if he does not the team will have more money to spend.
I mention these players because I want to make sure Indians fans realize the Indians did go in with a plan. Between the seniors they drafted, and Tyler Naquin they were able to save a little over 900K, and this money will then be used like it was with Brown to sign players who would have otherwise been unsignable. I for one think this is the smartest approach to the new draft. The Indians minors were much weakened by trades and graduations; this draft was focused on adding talent. Not a singular talent, but as many talented players as they could add. I guess it goes this way would you rather sign one player who has MVP potential or get six guys with all star potential, while also knowing that the odds are against any one player actually reaching their potential.
I am just asking people to keep an open mind. Four years ago, no one wanted the Indians to draft Lonnie Chisenhall. Three years ago when Kipnis was being talked of as a first round pick, we all thought the Indians insane, and a few hated him in round two even. Two years ago people were saying the Indians should not sign Pomeranz to just get a compensation pick the next year. Last year Lindor failed to excite many a fan, since he lacked flashy tools. Yet going back everyone of those picks have looked spot on, and I think that for a time the front office has earned a bit of a the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the draft.
One last note, I am learning to like the new draft format for one big reason: it has made it so players sign quickly. As I write this, it seems that the Indians have already signed six of their top ten players. Now Mitchell Brown will get a chance to pitch a bit in the minors. In the old format, he would have never gotten a chance, since he was over slot and basically not allowed to sign until August. Especially for the young high school players, this is going to allow them to get a full season in Mahoning Valley, which means top players will get even more time to develop, which is going to allow them to hit the majors quicker and help the Indians sooner.
Also keep your eyes open for my ln-depth look at the Indians draft, highlighting the players with the best power, hitting, etc..
Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffmlbdraft, or email him at email@example.com
Good catch Tony, can't believe I put hambrick every time will fix that
I am just happy they are getting something from the draft, from CC to Crowe, the best offensive player they drafted in the first 2 rounds was Zach Sorenson, so when I look back thats why I am more than happy with the drafts.
I'm not sure I understand why the bonus pool savings would go down if Hamrick isn't signed. Those savings were accumulated as a result of signing other draft picks below slot.
I understand that the bonus pool of $4,582,900 would be reduced by $136,000. But, I wouldn't think that would affect the under-budget amount already accumulated.
First off, it is HAMRICK...not Hambrick. There is no "B" in his last name. Also, if the Indians do not sign him they lose $136K in their bonus pool allotted to the 8th round pick. So that $750K extra they have goes down to about $600K.
Lovegrove should pitch for rookie level Arizona....though I believe he will take some time to get ramped up and may not pitch right away.
The drafts have certainly been better the last few years. First off, their 1st round picks from 2008-2010 have all made it to the Majors. That's a start. Also, most teams view drafts as successful if they find two regular players out of it. The draft from 2010 and 2011 had lots of upside and risk, but what made them "good" at the time was the Indians tolerance to take on that risk. 2011 is looking much better from a performance standpoint than 2010, I agree.
If you compare Grant to the last 20 years of drafting then this has been a great period. I think we have to wait and see a bit more. 08 can be judged but lets see about the rest, its a baseball draft they take for ever
If you don't like the picks, then please explain why, everyone has an opinion. I thought they want massive upside on picks 2-4, and btw if Naquin does what he is expected to do then he is going to play for a long time. He was not my choice, but I get it. After him every pick I was huge on, sorry thats just my perspective. This is not like years back when I had a few picks were I went Really?
People love to hate on Naquin, but then again everyone hated on Kipnis and Chiz on those days so let's see
You said "if they fail to get [Hambrick], then they lose the money on players picked after round 10."
I'm not sure what you mean. Are you saying that if the Indians are under budget after signing all of their top 10 picks other than Hambrick, they can't use that savings to spend more than $100,000 on select picks after round 10 if they fail to sign Hambrick?
Just saying, everyone's been ready to annoint the Indians strategy under Brad Grant as a successful change, but all we have to show from the drafts 2008-onward is Kipnis, a struggling-to-stick Chisenhall, and a couple bullpen arms with upside and health questions. And Ubaldo.