The Indians have one of the weakest farm systems in baseball. They need prospects...bunches of prospects. So, in this draft budget limiting era how do you do that? The Indians set the standard last year by saving money where they can in the first 10 rounds and then applying that money to appropriately selected players with talent but with bonus demands that appeared to be excessive for their talent level. In doing this they may have overspent but they got good prospects in their system, especially pitching prospects.
Looking at this year's draft which appeared weak, there was still some strength in pitching, especially HS pitching and college senior pitching.
So, in coming up with my draft strategy for the Indians this year I thought they should go for the most high reward player they could in the first round, preferably a HS position player and then go for pitching in their next 9 selections, all of which were on the second day of the draft, especially left handed pitching since their 2012 draft group did not include one left-handed pitcher. And they should do this bearing in mind that about 60% of their draft budget or more could have to be used to sign Clint Frazier. This means they have to have SOME economy picks in the first 10 rounds to save some money. Teams can do this by drafting college seniors who they can sign for $1000 to $10,000. They can also save money by drafting guys who they know will sign for under-slot bonuses. This gives them cash to pay for draftees who have slipped in the draft due to their bonus demands. While you usually overpay these types of guys, you do get better talent than what you should expect for the draft slot in which they are picked.
I think the Indians and I were on the same page. They executed the strategy I thought they should. I don't know that they got a lot of high upside guys like they got last year but they got some guys they liked who at least were on the national prospect 'map'. Let's just hope their scouts see things other teams may have missed in some of these guys.
Here is my impression of what the Indians did:
3rd round -Dace Kime - RH pitcher, college junior - I see this as an economy pick. Look for Kime to sign for an under-slot bonus. He is a converted college reliever who the Indians think can have starter upside. The question is, with your second pick in the draft do you spend it on a guy who isn't really solid in the role you expect him to fill as a pro? The answer is, only if you can get him cheap. So watch to see how much below slot they sign Kime for. If they get him for a relatively low bonus and use that money to sign other guys, I am good with this pick.
4th round - Kyle Crockett - LHP - college junior, college reliever - This guy has LOOGY written all over him. Again, you don't draft LOOGYs with setup man upside this early in the draft. He will probably move quickly up through the system and will likely, if he doesn't stumble in his development, be the first Indians' draftee from this group who gets to the majors. However, in 2007 the Indians said the same about a college closer they drafted from Tampa U., Jonathon Holt. Holt never even got a sniff of AAA, let alone the majors. Again, this HAS to be an economy pick and, if they don't sign him for an underslot bonus, I think they have missed the mark with this pick, going for a safe, low upside guy way too early in the draft. If they get him for a relatively low bonus and use that money to sign other guys later, I am good with this pick.
5th round - Sean Brady - LHP - HS - short guy - The guy is listed as 5'10"! That is a huge negative right there. But he is a prospect. My hope here is that we can sign him at slot or a little below like we signed Dylan Baker last year. At slot or a little below he is an OK pick. Again, some upside but not a lot but not a lot of cost either. So, again, look for his bonus. Maybe we get some value here for less than slot.
6th round - Shane Casey - RHP - HS - tall guy - Here, to me, is the key to this draft so far beside, of course, Clint Frazier. I think the Indians believe Casey is undervalued and will use some savings in other rounds to sign him. Let's hope they are correct.
7th round - Kenny Mathews - LHP - JUCO - The Indians have had some luck with JUCO guys and so it is encouraging to see them draft JUCO guys. He is also left-handed. I see him signing for an overslot bonus like Cody Anderson two years ago. Again, it is all in their scouting and they are good at picking guys in the top 10-14 rounds who end up as decent relievers who make it to the majors.
8th round - Trevor Frank - RHP - College senior - As I said above, one way to save money is to draft college seniors. Frank was one of the most highly rated college senior pitchers available. I woud drafted Boyd from Oregon State earlier but this is a cost savings move. Let's hope Frank has something in the tank that can make him a pro reliever (likely slot for an Indians' college pitcher draftee who doesn't have a whole lot of upside as a starter). Otherwise, he just is a guy filling a slot saving the Indians some money.
9th round - Thomas Pannone - LHP - JUCO - Another JUCO guy. Another LHP. Not a great prospect in most circles but certainly not an unknow guy. Maybe a guy like Baker they can sign for a slot or under slot bonus, maybe just a tad over slot.
10th round - Ross Kivett - Second baseman - college junior - This is the most puzzling draft pick so far. Not even listed in Baseball America's top 500 prospects and ony the 11th ranked prospect in a relatively weak Kansas area draft crop. Don't be fooled by him being the Big 12 player of the year. College secondbasemen without power who are juniors are NOT great prospects. As a junior he has draft leverage and can go back to school. So, to me, it looks like this was NOT an economy pick as Kivett has leverage. It was NOT a high upside pick who slipped in the draft that we could use draft savings for. It was a silly pick. We should have used this pick to draft Randall Fant LHP, college senior, or another college senior pitcher who we could sign for $1000 and save about $130,000 of our draft budget.
The way the draft works is that the total you spend in the top 10 rounds has to be less than or equal to your draft budget. If we draft Fant in the 10th round and Kivett in the 11th round and pay Kivett 10th round slot money we would have saved $100,000 on our budget. Why? First, college seniors have no leverage. They are usually given $1000 bonuses. Second, every pick after the 10th round has a $100,000 cap. Anything you pay over that cap goes against your draft budget. So, if Kivett signs in the 10th round and signs for slot it counts $130,000 against our budget. If Fant is drafted in the 10th round and signs for $1000 then we save $129,000 on our budget ($130,000 slot value minus the $1000 we would have given Fant). Then had we drafted Kivett in the 11th round and payed him $130,000 (10th round slot money), we would have had to use $30,000 of the $129,000 we saved by drafting Fant in the 10th round to pay Kivett in the 11th round ($130,000 - $100,000 cap = $30,000 overage charged against budget).
So, just by flipflopping the lowly rated Kivett who almost postively would have been there at the beginning of the 11th round, we would have had an extra $100,000 to use to sign other guys. Significant tactical mistake by the Indians.
Just for grins, here is, for posterity, what I would have done in the first 10 rounds:
1st - Clint Frazier
3rd - Stephen Tarpley - LHP - Scottsdale AZ CC
4th - AJ Puk - LHP - HS - Iowa
5th - Matt Boyd - LHP - Oregon State (senior)
6th - Casey Shane - RHP - HS - Texas
7th - Daniel Gibson - LHP - Florida
8th - Randall Fant - LHP - Arkansas (senior)
9th - Trevor Frank - RHP - UC Riverside (senior)
10th - Garrett Williams LHP - Calvary Baptist HS
Let's see how today goes.