2013 MLB Draft: Reviewing the Indians approach in the draft
The draft has come and gone, and now it is time for my annual post draft piece. It was a very interesting draft and as always had a lot of trends that I found while following it.
I have to start with the first pick Clint Frazier. He was fourth on my board and I had done enough research that he seemed like everything the Indians look for in players. In the end I will pat myself on the back as I think I was the only person to get the pick correct - the research paid off. I did find it funny with some of the national negative reaction that the Indians took Frazier and that there were better players. I had him fourth, but only because the other three players are so close to the majors.
I wanted to tackle the three big issues that were on Frazier this year. I have mentioned them all before, as I had heard them all as reasons why Frazier could slide, and in many places he was sliding out of the top ten picks. The first concern was he didn't hit breaking balls well. The next concern was that he is a corner outfielder. The last and major concern was that his lack of size would hold him back. I want to tackle each of these in turn.
The fact that Frazier has trouble with breaking balls should not be a huge issue. Most high school hitters do as you rarely face a high school pitcher who relies on his breaking stuff and has great breaking stuff. It's hard to get used to hitting breaking pitches without repetition. I think with the advantages his bat speed give him along with just how hard he works this is a non-issue. I fully expect him, once he gets the reps, to have no problem with offspeed pitches.
The second issue is that Frazier is doomed to play left field. Frazier is a plus athlete, with 70 grade speed and a 70 grade arm. He is physically fully developed, and won't get bigger and have to move off the position. So the only reason you would think that Frazier can't play center is if you just don't he can handle the position. I see a kid with an 80 grade work ethic and desire and who has all the tools. I understand why teams have concerns as he has not looked natural in center. Yet I think it is far from the slam-dunk everyone makes it that he will move off the position. There are few elite defensive center fielders anymore; I mean Shin-Soo Choo is still playing center. If Choo can play center then Frazier certainly can down the road. His tools and work ethic make me think he could still turn into a plus defender in center.
The last and biggest knock, no pun intended, is his size. He is under six feet and this lead teams to wonder if he can truly have big time power in a smaller frame. Frazier has what I call a Lebron James body, which means he is a high school kid with a body like a grown man. Physically, the Indians have to do nothing with him as he is in peak physical condition. In a weird way this became a negative as well because as the draft approached scouts looked at him and thought there is no physical projection left for him.
If Frazier was exactly the same player, with the same build, and everything but was four inches bigger at 6'3", I think he might have been the top pick in the draft, and you would hear about potential 80 grade power along with 70 grade speed as a package that screams superstar. He would be compared to Frank Robinson.
I understand if he was bigger he would have more power potential but it still struck me as crazy just how much it meant. I am not saying he is going to be a Hall of Famer, but the potential to be a very good player is there. I kept thinking about the fact Jose Bautista is "small" at six feet and it has not seemed to hamper his ability to hit for power.
This made me wonder if there wasn't a Frazier effect on the whole draft. The Indians might have thought they got a steal taking a player teams overlooked because of height. They clearly thought there was value in taking sub six foot players as they took nine players under six feet which is almost a quarter of the entire draft.
This was the major trend along with drafting left handers and guys from Texas and California. Yet the one that I could not get away from was the size issue.
Size does matter, but more so in pitching than hitting. Of the nine sub six foot players the Indians drafted seven were hitters, and many where guys with good bat speed and hit tool. The Indians maybe think they found a new Moneyball approach, finding the value but grabbing guys who fall because of their size. Time will tell if this approach works but it was the most interesting approach I have seen in a draft in years.
For those who might have been confused by Harold Reynolds' butchering of Moneyball, the idea is finding the inequalities in the game and exploiting it. When the book was wrote, it was teams using outdated stats like RBI and average over something like on-base percentage. No stat is Moneyball, Moneyball is finding an advantage other teams are missing. If you can find productive players who fall or are undervalued because of lack of size or because they are below a certain height threshold, this would be exactly what Moneyball was about.
Now before I sign off there is one more interesting approach the Indians took this year. They seemingly went underslot on every pick in rounds one through ten. As of writing this article, they were already close to half a million underslot on their first round signings.
As the draft went on it became obvious the Indians where taking safe players, easy signs for the most part, some might even say reaches. By round five it hit me that every guy was going to sign for below slot and the Indians were doing what the fans would hate and playing it safe. In the end it might be a smart move though.
The rationale is simple to go underslot and get solid talent and make sure to preserve your draft pool. Then once round eleven starts take some guys for organizational depth and then swing for the fences with later picks.
They have already signed a few of these players, and some like Crowe are virtually unsignable. Yet if the Indians save money and bring in Plutko, Brown, and maybe Frank Duncan, this would add college arms who should be major leaguers. Plutko is a near ready innings eater. He would make the Indians top ten which is not something that anyone in round three through ten would do. Brown would instantly be the top lefty in the organization's system. Yet if a deal is not reached they don't lose pool money and they can take a shot at Crowe, or Quinn, or Young.
They drafted ten guys who are hard signs and figured they will get a few. It is an interesting approach and the team must feel secure in its depth. They got players they liked and drafted them a round early to conserve money.
I can't judge this approach until the signing deadline, but I will be back then to give a full view on this draft based on who was signed and if this risky approach worked.
Stay tuned as I will have my tools and awards article later this week, along with an interview with OSU pitcher and now White Sox farmhand Brad Goldberg, and my shadow draft will follow soon after.
Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffmlbdraft, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
It will be an interesting year for the draft evaluation since we may have to wait until late to see who is signed after round 11. It reminds a bit of 2008 in that regard. I enjoyed your observations in that regard.
Also, if you look at NBA scouting sites you can see that wingspan, or arm length varies significantly between guys of identical height. So does hand size too.
Likewise with pitchers, guys like Martinez and Maddux weren't big guys.
RE: Moneyball, interesting thought. I noticed the size 'emphasis' but didn't quite put it together. Seems right on, IMO.