The 2012 amateur draft is approaching. The Indians have the 15th selection. Who will they draft?
The conventional wisdom and a number of mock drafts has us selecting Andrew Heaney, a LHP from Oklahoma State. Heaney is a guy whose downside is David Huff. His upside may be as a poor #2 or good #3 starter and he is likely to get to the majors quickly. However, do the Indians need a #3-to-David Huff starter next year? I don't think so and here is why I think they will surprise us and draft the best HS pitcher available, especially if he will sign for slot or below.
Their projected rosters (see below) say that they DON'T need a guy like Heaney who is not a top of rotation pitcher and, in fact, using up his service time over the next 5 years might be a waste due to redundancy to guys we already have. Where we NEED him is 2016 and beyond but a lot of his service time could be chewed up by then. What would happen if we draft a HS pitcher? He could be in the majors in 2016 so he would arrive maybe one year after or the same year as our top prospects Francisco Lindor, Dillon Howard. Tony Wolters and Luigi Rodriguez.
For me, for the next few years we will be living on our core and free agents. We have the money and the space. We should start planning on the new wave taking hold in 2016 when we will still have a lot of our core (Santana, Marson, Chisenhall, Kipnis, Pestano, Carrasco, Brantley, Donald, Gomez, McAllister, Tomlin. Lee) plus some of Barnes, LaPorta, Phelps and others currently who are currently on the Carolina, Akron and Kinston rosters as bit players.
What we need are studs for the next push that will be 2016-2020. If Heaney arrives in the majors in 2013, he could be gone after 2018 and could be pitching his best in lean years 2014-2017. If we draft a good HS starting pitcher and he matures normally he could be here in 2016/7 and be here through 2021/2, just about the time that Lindor, Howard, Wolters, Rodriguez and others are approaching free agency.
So, my money is on a stud HS pitcher. Here are the guys, in order of preference, I would like to have who have at least a ghost of a chance of being here at slot 15 in this year's draft:
1. Lance McCullers Jr. - My top choice, probably gone but may be there
2. Matt Smoral - He has missed most of the season but he is a Cleveland area kid (Solon), would more than likely sign for slot or below and is a big LHP who was ranked in the top 10 in some rankings (and 13th by Baseball America) before the season began..
3. Walker Weickel - He is a fast riser who, after a bad start, is coming on strong. He was ranked as the 11th best prospect by Baseball America before the season.
After the first round I would go for the best available college hitter in the second round and best available college senior in the 3rd round. The remaining strategy for me in the first 10 rounds would be to take the best available HS player in the 4th round, go over slot to pay him, and then make up the difference by drafting college seniors and cheap college juniors in the 5th-10th rounds (1 OFer, the rest pitchers) and draft almost exclusively college players after that so that we can stay in slot.
Given the changes in the draft and how slotting is now almost mandatory, you want to go under slot. If you draft Smoral or Weickel you will be able to go under slot and you can leverage that into a value talent for the draft slot in the 4th round..
I will have more to say about rounds 2-10 this weekend.
As I said, for reference, here is my roster analysis that drove my analysis above:
Future roster analysis
For 2013 our roster will look something like this:
SP - Masterson, Jimenez, Tomlin, McAllister, Gomez
RP - C. Perez, R. Perez, Sipp, Joe Smith, Pestano, Hagadone, Open, Open
DH - Open
C - Santana, Marson
IF - Cabrera, Kipnis, Chisenhall, Open, Donald
OF - Choo, Brantley, Open, Open
There will be money to spend. Given that we have no impact players in the minors
Assuming that we spend that money on ML veterans on 1- and 2-year deals in 2014, the roster will look much the same as it did in 2013 except that we will have to replace Jimenez, Choo and R. Perez.
Now, let's fast forward ahead to 2015. The roster will look like this:
SP - Tomlin, Carrasco, McAllister, Gomez, Open,
RP - Pestano, Sipp, Hagadone, Open, Open, Open, Open, Open
C - Santana, Marson
IF - Kipnis, Chisenhall, Open, Open, Donald
OF - Brantley, Open, Open, Open