Sunday, June 5, 2011

2011 Baseball Draft Preview - The night before the next day

Welcome to my draft coverage.  The 2011 ML baseball draft will be held over 3 days.
Day 1 – 7 pm Monday, June 6th, until the supplemental first round is finished.
Day 2 – Rounds 2-30
Day 3 – Rounds 31-50

The Indians will have the 8th pick in the first round and the 67th pick in the second round.  By my research, since compensation picks were started, the Indians have the worst combination of first and second round picks for a team finishing with the 7th worst record in baseball overall.

First Round (8th pick)

The Indians recent first round draft history has been documented many places.  They prefer college players to HS players.  Here are the last four first round picks of the Indians:

2007 – Beau Mills
2008 – Lonnie Chisenhall
2009 – Alex White
2010 – Drew Pomeranz

Mills was the clunker which I called at the time.  Trying to go safe that year the Indians wound up with very little from that draft, drawing an “F” grade from Baseball America.

The players the Indians will probably choose from are:

Anthony Rendon, 3B, Rice
Gerrit Cole, RHP, UCLA
Trevor Bauer, RHP, UCLA
Dylan Bundry, RHP, Oklahoma high schooler
Danny Hultzen, LHP, Virginia
Bubba Starling, OF, Kansas high schooler
Taylor Jungmann, RHP, Texas
Matt Barnes, RHP, Connecticut
Jed Bradley, LHP, Georgia Tech
Archie Bradley, RHP, Oklahoma high schooler
Francis Lindor, SS, Florida high schooler
Sonny Gray, RHP, Vanderbilt
George Springer, OF, Connecticut
Taylor Guerrieri, RHP,South Carolina high schooler

In all likelihood, by the time the Indians draft (Arizona will already have drafted twice by then) Rendon, Cole, Bauer, Bundy and Holtzen will be off the board.

That leaves the remaining guys in three categories:

High Reward, some risk Bauer, who will probably be gone, has a high risk in that he has had outrageous pitch counts this season (133 on Saturday) and that he isn’t very tall.  Lindor and Starling are marquee players but each come with a high price tag and the typical question marks that haunt HS hitters. Guerrieri is a late entry into this field and the Indians are supposedly considering Archie Bradley.  If I was going to rank them in terms of order of likelihood of eventual ML success it would be:

Lindor > Starling = Archie Bradley > Guerrieri

High Reward, Some question marks – The two guys who fall into this category are Jed Bradley and Sonny Gray.  Bradley was highly regarded before this season and has been in a lot of top 10 lists this spring but his mediocre performance, especially when compared to his competitors for the top draft spots, has really put him in question.  The question for Gray is can he start in the pros?  He is a short righthander who can easily be a back end of the bullpen guy.  You don’t draft those guys at #8 so the only reason to draft him that high is if the Indians were CERTAIN he could be a starter.  His stuff is dominant but he HAS to be a starter to be worthy of this selection. 

Lower risk, certainty of getting reward if injury-free – The guys who fall in this category are Jungmann, Barnes and Springer.  Springer is a good college hitter but pales in comparison to Jungmann and Barnes.  The former is a lead-pipe certainty of being a major league #3 starter if he stays healthy.  He is durable, hasn’t been abused and is a big game pitcher.  Barnes, on the other hand, has significant projectability left in his fastball as he is a cold-weather pitcher but has significant now value.  I think he a ML #3 downside with the possibility of being a #1 if everything comes together.

For these two think Barnes = Charles Nagy  and Jungmann =  a poor man's Clay Buchholz of the Red Sox.

You can’t go wrong with either and I hope the Indians take one of them with their first pick.

As if this list was not enough, Keith Law just did his latest mock draft and he has the Indians drafting Joe Ross, the HS pitcher from California whose brother, Tyson Ross, was a high draft choice a few years ago.  Two years ago it was said that the Indians were looking at Jason Kipnis with their first round pick because they were scouting him extensively.  Turns out they were looking at him as a second or third round pick and got him in the second round.  I think the same may be true for Ross.  If the Indians are looking at Joe Ross as their pick in the first round, they have some serious issues in their scouting department as there is no reason, none at all, in this deep a draft, to get cute.

Baseball America, in its latest mock draft, had the Indians drafting Jed Bradley. 

Analysis: The Indians DO NOT need to hit a HR with this pick.  Doubles and triples abound in this draft (see Barnes, Jungmann).  The Indians should pick Barnes or Jungmann with my money on Barnes.  Any other pick is too much risk for this position in the draft.  Unfortunately, both Barnes and Jungmann pitched VERY, VERY poorly in their starts in regionals this weekend whereas Jed Bradley pitched just OK (7 IP, 8 H, 2 ER).  Scouting directors sometimes have very short memories so Bradley may have just made himself the Indians’ pick even though his overall stats scream overdraft to me.  I am thinking that teams drafting in the middle of the first round who pick Barnes and Jungmann will be smiling in a couple of years, especially if the Indians don't draft Barnes.

Second Round (67th pick)

The Indians picks in the second round the last three years (they forfeited their pick in 2007) were:

2008 – Trey Haley
2009 – Jason Kipnis
2010 -  Levon Washington

As the Indians don’t draft again for 59 picks, it will be interesting to see what their strategy is.  I will have more on this Monday night after the first round is done.

Analysis:  So many teams have multiple picks in the first round plus first round supplemental that I think you will see a number of signability picks.  That means some top prospects, probably of the high cost/high risk/high reward type will be available.  I think they will go for a high risk HS pitcher at this slot.  Maybe that is why they are scouting Ross, although he should be gone long before their second pick.  I will have more on this Monday night after we find out how the first round goes.  Guesses as to HS pitchers who might be available in the second round and are either well above or slightly below their draft slot when the Indians pick include:

Jose Ferandez, RHP, Florida HS
Joe Ross, RHP, California HS
Tyler Beede RHP, Massachusetts HS
Michael Fulmer, RHP, Oklahoma HS
Dillon Maples, RHP, North Carolina HS
Jorge Lopez RHP, Puerto Rico HS
Hudson Boyd RHP, Florida HS
Brian Brickhouse RHP, Texas HS

Third Round (97th pick)

In 2007 the Indians did not have a third round pick.  Here are their picks in that slot in the last 3 years:
2008 –  Cord Phelps
2009 – Joe Gardner
2010 – Tony Wolters

There is no pattern here as Phelps was a reach, an overdraft, really, based on one year of decent power at Stanford after two years of no power; Gardner was a safe pick and Wolters was a player who fell due to bonus demands. 

The strength of this draft is starting pitching.  There are also enough position players who are intriguing with catchers usually being significantly overdrafted.  Considering all this I think the position that will be largely untouched at 97 is college relievers.  The college relief pitchers who are juniors who might be available at 97 are:

Chris Reed, Stanford
Tony Zych, Louisville,
Lenny Linsky, Hawaii
Kyle McMillen, Kent State
Navery Moore, Vanderbilit
Colten Murray, RHP, Kansas
Brooks Pinckard, RHP, Baylor
Scott McGough, RHP, Oregon State
Nick Maronde, LHP, Florida
Matt Price, RHP, South Carolina

Longer shots for this high of a slot include juniors
Nick Ramirez, LHP, Cal State Fullerton
Brian Flynn, LHP, Wichitat St.
Sam Stafford, RHP, Texas
Jack Armstrong, RHP, Vanderbilt

and seniors:
Ryan Duke, RHP, Oklahoma

These latter guys should also be available, and may be targets of the Indians, in later rounds.

It is also possible that the Indians will pick up a college starter who they think has closer potential and immediately convert him to the bullpen or, like Jensen Lewis a few years ago, give him a year or two to see if he can develop as a starter then turn him into a reliever when it looks like his value will be greatest there.

Analysis: I think the Indians will use this pick to catch their breaths and find a solid college reliever.  Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez have shown them that guys groomed in college and/or early in their pro careers to be closers can make great major league relievers.  I have predicted Scott McGough from Oregon State for a while and I will stick with their prediction.

Fourth Round (128th pick)

Here is who the Indians have picked in the last four years.
2010: Kyle Blair
2009: Kyle Bellows
2008: David Roberts
2007: TJ McFarland

The only pattern here is overdrafting in 2007-2009.  None of these guys were even CLOSE to being projected to go this high.  Blair was closer to his draft slot but has really struggled this year at low A whereas good college pitchers go to high A in their first full season and usually have success.  Thus even the Blair pick is in question right now, although I still like it.  I saw him pitch on in person on Friday and all of his pitches seem to be elevated.  He can overpower most low A hitters with that stuff but he would probably get hammered at higher levels as he was by one batter who hit a long HR on a belt high fastball.

So, what will the Indians do to break that trend?  The Indians have had good luck drafting hurt pitchers.  Vinnie Pestano stands out (drafted knowing he was having TJ surgery) and potential first rounder Robbie Aviles was available and drafted last year.  I think this will not be lost on the Indians.  Also remember Nick Adenhart of the Angels who I was screaming for the Indians to draft a few years ago when he was a top 10 draft prospect who hurt his arm right before the draft.  He signed for a reasonable amount with the Angels as I had predicted and, had it not been for a tragic car crash which took his life right after his first big league start, he could have been an all-star by now, fulfilling his pre-draft potential while signing for much less money than had he not been hurt.  The point is, there are plenty of HS and college pitchers who have arm injuries who have fallen down draft lists.  They are led this year by RHP John Stilson of Texas A&M who tore his labrum this spring.  Shoulder injuries are tough to come back from, much tougher that TJ surgery, but wouldn’t you gamble on spending $400,000 on a first rounder who got hurt than a mediocre prospect?  Don’t be surprised if Matt Purke, the top draft prospect from TCU who is a sophomore-eligible RHP who has had bad performance this year, drops due to fears about him being injured.  BTW, Stilson has gotten a second opinion that says he may not have to have surgery so he may not be available here.

This is a good spot to gamble. 

If the Indians don’t gamble on a hurt pitcher I could see them gambling on a top HS player who has fallen due to high bonus demands (similar to Wolters last year), uneven play down the stretch or threat of injury that may or may not be real (believe me, folks, this happens all the time in this draft).  We will know more after round 3 but the Indians might want to be looking at scouting reports for marquee HS guys who are either hurt or tough signs.

Analysis:  I think you will see the Indians go for a top HS player who has dropped, especially if Stilson is not available.  This is a high risk/high reward slot for me and I think the Indians will approach it this way.

Fifth Round (158th pick)

In the past 4 years the Indians have selected the following guys in the 5th round:

2010: Cole Cook
2009: Austin Adams
2008: Zach Putnam
2007: Jonathon Holt

So, there you have it.  College pitchers selected in this slot who may or may not be back end of the bullpen guys.  College pitchers who may or may not be around when this slot comes up include the following starters in addition to the relievers I mentioned in my 3rd round commentary.   

Cole Green, RHP, Texas (senior)
Tyler Pill, RHP, Cal St. Fullerton
Carson Smith, RHP, Texas State
Austin Wood, RHP, Southern Cal
Sam Gaviglio, RHP, Oregon St.
Brett Moonyham, RHP, Stanford

Guys who probably will be gone by this point but would be good values here are:

Corey Mazzoni, RHP, North Carolina St.
Logan Verrett, RHP, Baylor
Madison Boer, RHP, Oregon
Adam Morgan, LHP, Alabama

The Indians may look for a LHP at this point as their farm system doesn’t have a lot of quality LH starting pitching at the moment.  I think if they go for Barnes or Jungmann with their first pick, I think LH starting pitching becomes a priority for them in this round and in rounds 6-10.

Analysis: I think the Indians will go with a college starting pitcher.  If the previous rounds go as I think they will that will give them 3 solid picks in the top 5 and set them up to take risks later on.  John Mirabelli has been quoted as saying if you can get 2-3 guys from the draft to make solid contributions to your major league team you will have a successful draft.   I look for them to pop Adam Morgan, Kylin Turnbull, Brian Flynn or gamble on Ryan Carpetner (Gonzaga) or underperforming Brett Mooneyham (Stanford) or fall back to a HS lefty such as Andrew Suarez, Cody Kukuk or dipping guys who sunk on draft lists this year, Phil Pfeifer, Cody Glenn or even Blake Snell or Adam McCreery if they can’t find a college lefty they want and, in so doing, add a little more risk to their draft.

Rounds 6-10
This is where all heck will break loose, or so I predict.  The Indians will use at least 2 of these 5 picks on highly rated guys who have dropped.  Last year they did this 3 rounds earlier but with the depth at the top of the draft pushing good prospects down to the 3rd-5th rounds, I think they will start a little later. The other 3 will be on the best position players available at that point.  There will be lots of decent position player prospects, especially middle infield college guys and probably some guys who will turn out to be better than their slots. 

I'll have more Monday night (analysis and preview of the next day's rounds) with a preview of Tuesday and then more Tuesday night (analysis and preview) and then analysis on Wednesday night.  



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