In the past when I have asked experts about why a the Indians would draft an unranked guy in the 3rd round I almost always receive the answer: "Teams like who they like".
Well, that is as unsatisfying as a hot fudge sundae hold the hot fudge and hold the ice cream.
How many times in the past have the Indians drafted a guy in the early rounds who was a complete unknown? I remember one time in particular, when the Indians drafted Cody Bunkelman, his college coach said the Indians maybe showed up one time...for a kid they drafted in like the 5th round! Bunkelman lasted about a year and a half and he was gone.
In recent years when we had draft bonus limits, the Indians seemed to have very understandable draft strategies.
Which brings us to this year. Below is a list of the guys the Indians drafted in the top10 rounds this year. Next to each is their draft slot, the Baseball America ranking and the MLB ranking. It is important to note that Baseball America ranks 500 players and MLB ranks only the top 200.
Player, Level, Draft Slot, BA ranking, MLB ranking
Quentin Holmes, HS, 64, 50, 33
Tyler Freeman, HS, 71, 97, 141
Jonathon Rodriguez, HS, 102, 223, not ranked
Ernie Clement, College Jr., 132, 92, 114
Austin Wade, College Sr., 162, 355, not ranked
Michael Rivera, College Jr., 192, 175, 172
Kirk McCarthy, College Jr., 222, 219, not ranked
Eli Morgan, College Jr., 252, 257, not ranked
James Karinkcak, College Jr., 282, 122, 163
Jesse Berardi, 312, 105, 166
OK, what do we make of this? From the scouting reports it looks like we have drafted a bunch of guys with 1, 2 or 3 tools. Nothing wrong there as most of the 5-tool guys are gone early in the draft. The goal, then, should be to pick guys with one outstanding tool and one good one. It sounds like the Indians may have done a lot of that. From a fan point of view this isn't as satisfying as it could be, being like a hot fudge sundae, hold the ice cream.
What pops out right away, though, is that a lot of these guys (6) are ranked about where they should be (for their draft slots) based on two different ranking systems. Yes, there are differences but, as the title says, those differences can mostly be accounted for by different teams valuing different players slightly differently. Four of the picks, the 3rd and 5th round picks and the 9th and 10th round picks are not in line with their talent slot. The first two were drafted higher than their talent slot would indicate and should be signable for less than their slot. Their 9th and 10th round picks were guys who were rated much higher than where they were drafted. They are both college juniors and could go back to school if they can't get enough bonus money. As both thought they would go in the top 5 rounds, they likely will take significantly overslot bonuses to sign.
When I consider their top 10 picks as a package, the Indians appear to have taken the path that makes perfect sense: draft HS kids early, then draft college guys for the rest of the first 10 rounds and, on average, draft guys about where they slot in terms of talent, selecting only one college senior, and a relatively highly ranked one, at that.. As I said before, signing HS kids at the end of the first 10 rounds is difficult. College juniors, however, tend to sign and for slot in the first 7 rounds. Thus, the Indians got HS talent at the top and more assuredness of signing by drafting college players in the rest of the top 10 rounds. So it looks good on paper but the question is...can the Indians sign all these 10 guys and not go over their draft budget? I think they can. Here is how:
Holmes signs for $100,000 over slot
Freeman signs for $65,000 under slot
Rodriguez signs for $100,000 under slot
Clement signs for slot
Wade signs for $150,000 under slot (he still gets about what BA projected him for as talent)
Rivera signs for slot
McCarthy signs for slot
Morgan signs for slot
Karinchak signs for $200,000 over slot
Berardi signs for $200,000 over slot
That would give the Indians a draft overage of $185,000. To not lose a first round draft pick next year they have to spend less than $191,000 (5%) over their $3.829 million budget. Thus, the Indians are good as far as that. As Karinchak and Berardi were expected to go in the first 5 rounds, giving them a bonus near the middle of the 5th round (roughly $340,000) seems appropriate.
So, given their lack of first round pick and very low slot in each round due to the Indians' great regular season record last year, I think this has been a very good draft, on paper. Now, the only questions are have the Indians drafted the RIGHT players and have they drafted players they will sign? If they do sign all of these guys and get a few Cody Armstrong, Austin Adams guys late, this could be a very productive draft, something that more than a few fans were thinking might not happen this year.