Talent evaluators generally gave the crop of baseball prospects available in this year's draft a mediocre rating. Despite the talent available, however, this was the most intriguing draft in years because of the uncertainty created by baseball's new Collective Bargaining Agreement. One of the biggest outcomes of the new CBA is a dramatically re-structured amateur talent acquisition system, one that imposes strict limits (with severe penalties) on the amount of money that can be spent on the draft and the international free agent market. In the draft, the new system does not level the playing field so much as it sets up a controlled spending differential based on W-L record and draft position.
The signing period for drafting players was this past Friday (a much earlier date courtesy of the new system), giving the opportunity to look at what Cleveland and the AL Central competition did in the draft. It will be years before the products of this draft can be evaluated, but it is possible to look at the inputs now. Baseball America's draft database is an essential link for anyone interested in the draft (and note, the list of later round picks is still being finalized).
Cleveland signed all of their picks through round 16, six between rounds 18-24, and four picks at the end of the draft after round 35. All told, the Indians spent approximately $4.4M in this year's draft, just below their allotted spending cap. The following table breaks down the results from the AL Central as a whole
|Top 10 picks signed||10/10||11/11||9/9||10/10||12/13|
|11-20 picks signed||8/10||9/10||9/10||8/10||7/10|
|21-30 picks signed||4/10||9/10||10/10||10/10||5/10|
|31-40 picks signed||4/10||3/10||5/10||3/10||2/10|
|H.S. picks signed||7||7||5||11||6|
|J.C. picks signed||6||3||5||7||1|
|College picks signed||13||22||23||13||19|
* - all of the pitchers selected by Cleveland are RHP
Of the 14 picks Cleveland did not sign, ten were high school players and an additional two were JUCO players. Part of this reflects the lack of leverage available to college draftees, but it also shows the Indians aggressive approach towards selecting young talent. 17 of the Indians 40 selections were high-school players, 25/40 were either high-school or JUCO players. The move towards selecting younger players has been an on-going trend for Cleveland. Every draft is different in terms of its distribution of talent, but looking back a few years to 2009 where Cleveland selected and signed just one high school player (Joseph Colon, out of Puerto Rico), the difference is clear. This does not mean this draft will be better or worse than that 2009 draft, which was actually quite good (Alex White, Jason Kipnis, Austin Adams, Cory Burns, Preston Guilmet, Joe Colon, Mike Rayl, Tyler Sturdevant, Matt Packer), only that the Indians seem to be valuing youth more highly in the draft, while not taking a singular approach to the draft.
Elsewhere in the AL Central, Kansas City took the most aggressive approach in the draft by a large margin, with the Twins adopting the most conservative approach by an equally large margin. The different in draft pool spending, nearly $10M between Minnesota and Detroit this year, is interesting to consider as the next few draft cycles progress. One of the criticisms regularly levied on the new CBA is that it undercut small market teams' ability to exploit the draft to their advantage. Prior to this CBA, however, there was nothing preventing large market teams from pouring huge amounts of money into amateur scouting and the draft, and several clubs, notably Boston, had already begun to do so. The new system should, in theory, prevent such practices by creating set spending limits. Owing to their moderate success last season, Cleveland was hurt by these caps this year, being outspent by every team aside from Detroit in the AL Central. The biggest losers with the new CBA are the amateur players themselves, as they have much less negotiating leverage with teams.
Based on Baseball America's rankings, the Indians got good value out of their draft position, securing six players ranked in BA's top 151 (Tyler Naquin #25, Mitch Brown #44, Dylan Baker #82, D'Vone McClure #91, Kieren Lovegrove #131 and Josh Schubert #151) despite having only four picks in the top 150. Many of these guys have already made their pro debuts in Goodyear and Mahoning Valley, or will be doing so shortly.