Saturday, February 19, 2011

2011 Draft - Ready for another college starting pitcher?

Imagine it's June and the Indians make their first round selection in the 2011 first-year player draft.  The Indians' representative or the commissioner or whoever it will be this year says something like:

With the 8th pick of the first round the Cleveland Indians select _______, _HP, from the University of ________"

That is exactly what happened the last two years with Alex White (2009) and Drew Pomeranz (2010). 

Well, it is likely to happen again and here is why:

1. The Indians are priming for another mini-dynasty and what they need right now from this draft is a solid guy who can contribute very soon after being drafted..
2. The strength of this draft, at the top, is college starting pitching and the position players, after Anthony Rendon, pale in comparison to those pitchers..

3. The Indians feel that they will be able to get an above slot talent at the 67th pick this year, very similar to what they got with LeVon Washington last year with the 55th pick.  The reason is that there are so many teams with multiple picks before the Indians pick in the second round that there is a high likelihood that some teams will take signability picks whose talent may not equal their draft slot but whose bonus will be below slot or at slot.  When you consider that the Rays have 11 picks in the first 75 selections, the Blue Jays 6 all of which are included in the record THIRTY extra picks before the second round even begins, a situation like this has historically added up to a number of lower talents drafted higher for the teams with multiple picks to save money.  As I mentioned earlier the Rays will have to spend close to $10 million just to sign slot talent on their picks in the top two rounds. 

All this adds up to the Indians having what essentially amounts to more like the 58th pick in this draft.  That is, they are likely to get the 58th best player (or higher) on their board which we hope is of the order of talent of Washington.

I think the Indians will go this way in the draft:

1. College pitcher
2. HS position player
3. College postion player
4. College pitcher
5. College position player

After that, I hope it is Katie bar the door with the Indians doing a repeat of last year with the focus this time, again, on high-priced HS talent to prop up the lower levels of the farm system even more.  It is, in fact, those levels that will fuel the end of the run once our young players start hitting free agency again.  The only difference this year is that they need to find a way to get more HS pitchers on the order of TJ House and even Clayton Cook signed in those later rounds this year.  I also think they need to go back to the well that got them guys like Josh Judy, Erik Stiller, Neil Wagner and Dallas Cawiezell.  Although only Judy has worked out I see this as a very successful approach by the Indians.  That is, use some later round picks on guys who project as solid 6th-7th inning guys in the majors if they reach their potential. 

Now, who will that first round pitcher be?

My money right now is on Trevor Bauer from UCLA.  He pitched tonight for the first time this spring:

and he is in the second tier of college pitchers after Gerrit Cole, Matt Purke, Taylor Jungmann and Sonny Gray.  Cole also pitches for UCLA which may or may not help Bauer fall to the Indians.

There is also the possibility that the Indians would take John Stilson who had sick K/IP numbers last year for Texas A&M doing a long man role striking out 114 batters in 79 innings.  At a D-I school like A&M, that is pretty amazing.

Stilson pitched on Friday night against a weak LeMoyne team but was dominant:

There is also an outside chance that we could end up with Danny Hultzen (Virginia) or Matt Barnes (Connecticut).  This is where the scouts come in but I would really we get Bauer or Stilson as Hultzen reminds me of Huff and Sowers (possibility of being a pitchability lefty) and I am just inherently frightened by pitchers from the Northeast, although I think Charlie Nagy was from Connecticut, wasn't he?  From what I have read on Barnes I would say Nagy wouldn't be a bad comp but I still would like a warm-weather pitcher.

Hultzen dominated on Friday:

whereas Barnes did well on Saturday agaisnt Minnesota.

So, there you have it.  I predict the Indians will pick one of those four pitchers: Bauer, Stilson, Hultzen or Barnes.  If Purke or Jungmann fall to the Indians and the above guys are snapped up instead, you gotta pop one of those two although the only reason they would fall would be due to bonus demands.  That is why I hope it is one of the 4 above.  I think they can be signed for slot which leaves us money for the later round flyer picks.

It's early so a lot can change but I see all 4 of those guys being there when Cleveland drafts and I see each of them being a safe pick for the Indians because, barring injury, each has a chance to be a solid ML starting pitcher, probaby a #2 upside with a #4-5 downside. 

More on the draft later on.

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