2014 MLB Draft: The Indians shadow draft
Since the last of the Indians top picks have signed it is time for my annual shadow draft piece.
I wait for all the signings since on draft day teams know exactly how much it will cost to sign players. Don’t think for a second that there is not a verbal deal with every player in the draft before his name is called; pool money is too valuable to waste on maybes. I am going to go through round 10 and then jump to round 14 which means a total of 13 picks, with my reasons why I am keeping or selecting a different player.
Pick 21: Bradley Zimmer, OF
I am keeping Bradley Zimmer, and there is no debate for me. The only other player to consider is Grant Holmes who was also a top 10 talent to me. The issue for Holmes is he cost $300K more and was rated below Zimmer. If you read any of my draft stuff at all you know I am a big fan of Zimmer who has all the tools to be a star. He is a 6’5” centerfielder who is a bit of a late bloomer. He should add some power and already has plus speed in spite of his large frame. He should have no problems staying in centerfield and has what projects as a plus hit tool. Basically he has a chance to be a plus version of current Indian Michael Brantley who just made the All-Star team.
Pick 31: Sean Reid-Foley, RHP
This is a pick that caused debate for me as I do like Justus Sheffield, but I could not pass on a player I had in my top 20 for a guy who was closer to 40 for me. This was especially true when you add in Foley signed for almost $400K less than Sheffield. The savings on this pick plus the Zimmer pick means for this draft that I would not have to take a single senor sign and every single pick I can grab a prospect. Foley is a safer right-handed pitcher. He is a mid-rotation guy much like Sheffield, but I think safer due to his size and durable frame. Before the draft I thought but never stated to a degree that he reminded me of Dillon Howard in terms of stuff and as a known high school arm. Howard flamed out because of non-baseball issues, but I wonder if the Indians didn’t see some similarity as well. This might have been enough to scare them off.
Pick 38: Mike Papi, OF
This was the pick I got right in my mock and I have been big on Papi for a while. I have long considered him very similar to DJ Peterson who went in the top 15 last year and Michael Conforto who went 10th overall to the Mets. I like how the Indians plan to give him every chance to succeed in the outfield where his plus arm could be a weapon. Even if it doesn’t work, his bat will play at first base and I think he should be the first non-reliever from this class to the majors. The amount of polish he has is kind of amazing when you consider he really only played two years of college baseball, so there might be a bit more projection than anyone thinks. Papi would have been one of the top players on my board and he was under slot, so there is little reason to consider changing this pick. The only guy I was tempted by here was Chase Vallot who I was much higher on than most, but decided it was not enough to move me off Papi.
Pick 61: JD Davis, 3B
Davis was a personal favorite of mine through the process. I was a big fan of this pick by the Astros who then announced him as a third baseman where he would have played this year in college if not for the fact his college teammate, and first round pick, Matt Chapman was already manning the position. Davis was a relief pitcher at times and his fastball hits 97 so he has the arm to play third base. Davis was a great hitter in college who showed an improved eye and legit power from the right side of the plate. I was also tempted by another college slugger here in Sam Travis, but since I had them on similar grades I went with Davis who was a cheaper sign. The Indians really liked Hockin, and it cost them as he was signed for $171K overslot. I had Davis rated higher, and his right handed power as a bonus fills a big organizational need as well. Earlier in the year I had Davis as a top 30 prospect and he had a late slide which hurt him on draft day, but right here he would be an easy choice for me.
Pick 97: Bobby Bradley, 1B
This pick was the Indians biggest divergent pick from past approach in this draft where they took an all bat no defense offensive prospect who you hope can be an average defender at first someday. I stay with the pick as I had Bradley rated as a mid-second round prospect who fell to the Indians mostly because he is a future first baseman. I have stated it before that first base is the offensive guard of the MLB draft; if it’s all you can do you slide because the position just isn’t as valued. Bradley improved with the bat this year and his power tool still looks like a plus trait with a chance to be plus-plus. I know people will not love this draft so far as I am going almost all offense, but I am sticking with the board with my picks.
Pick 128: Austin Gomber, LHP
This was a pretty good draft for college arms or at least appeared that way but thanks to lack of performance and injuries it really took a toll. The depth of this draft turned to high school arms and in general the college arm group became highly over-rated to me at least. Still, at this point there were two college arms who intrigued me: Chad Sobotka and Gomber. In the end I went with the healthy player with the more developed secondary stuff in Gomber. Sobotka has more upside but could also easily end up in the pen. Gomber is a 6’5” lefty who projects as a back end starter thanks to his developed secondary stuff and he should be a quick mover. As a bonus the Cardinals drafted him, and I will say when it has come to the draft in recent years the Cardinals and I often agree. This is really just a great sign that I am semi-competent when I scout. The point is the Cardinals are often fantastic at drafting and developing lefties, so if they like Gomber that should be a point in his favor. The Indians took another lefty here in Sam Hentges, a high school lefty who is young and huge already. I have no real issue with the pick, but the Indians had to pay a lot of money to a kid who was not rated to get that much. It reminds me a lot of Sean Brady last year. I could easily end up wrong, but I can’t justify giving twice the money when I think Gomber is going to have a better shot at the majors.
Pick 158: John Curtiss, RHP
The Indians took a senior sign with this pick in Julian Merryweather. Now Merryweather was a higher rated senior and got a bit of a senior premium price at $20K, but thanks to the fact I have gone under on all but one pick I have some cash. This way I can go grab another college arm here which costs me $266,900. Curtiss is a red shirt sophomore because he Tommy John back in 2012 and missed his entire 2013 campaign. Curtiss is a big right handed pitcher at 6’4” who has hit 95 this year out of the pen. He was slated to enter the Longhorns rotation next year. I would try him out there realizing that he has a safe floor thanks to what he has shown in the pen this year. I like the upside with a safe floor with this pick and add another solid college arm.
Pick 188: Greg Allen, OF
This is a pick I am keeping as I love the total package that Allen brings. His speed and ability to work a count and walk ability reminds me so much of Michael Bourn at the start of his career. Allen is a lightening quick, good defender, and on base ability guy who is one of if not the best leadoff prospect in the Indians system. I have written so much on Allen, so I feel a bit redundant. This was a great pick and it was even under slot.
218: Simeon Lucas, C
Lucas looks like a potential offensive catcher with average defense and a good arm. His tape is excellent and he was able to perform very well against top competition including some guys who went in round one. He has good size already, and it will be his offense that gets him through the minors. The Indians system in general lacks catching since most of the guys the Indians have drafted have been disappointments, so there is a legit chance for a guy like Lucas to quickly make a mark and try and establish himself as the top catching prospect in system. His bat and positional value easily make him worth the slot value here.
Pick 248: Branden Kelliher, RHP
I wanted to start this out by posing a question: How many 6’7” pitchers are there in the majors? I tried to find the answer but was unable to. Taller pitchers often have major problems with consistency of mechanics and injuries. I like Micah Miniard, but I would much rather take the chance on a smaller arm than a huge one. This is especially true when the smaller arm throws harder and has better and more developed secondary stuff. Kelliher won’t come cheap as he cost $100K more than Miniard. I am going to steal him away from the A’s who know a thing or two about smaller arms. I really think if he had gone to school he would have been a first rounder in a couple of years. His secondary stuff is very polished for a high school arm and he commands all of his pitches well. I would rather take a risk on a smaller arm than an oversized arm; track record just strikes me as better.
Pick 278: Alexis Pantoja, SS
The weakest position in baseball is shortstop and that is why I think the Indians took Pantoja here. Pantoja's defense looks to be a plus skill; all the questions rest in the bat. If he can just be a step below average then with his defense he can be a starter. There is a good chance for a utility bat either way here. This round was so littered with senior signs even though Pantoja signed for slot; he was the third highest paid player in his entire round. As of now not a single player from the 9th round has signed over slot.
Pick 308: Gage Hinsz, RHP
The Indians took Stephen Patterson here for $10K, so instead I have them taking Gage Hinsz. Hinsz signed for the highest bonus of any player after round ten costing $580K. Hinsz is built like Tyler Kolek who went second in the entire draft, and cost $6 million. Hinsz is 6’5” 210 and is hitting the low 90’s. The issue with Hinsz is that he played in Montana where there is no high school baseball. He is very raw, but having saved enough cash means that I can take a risk on upside here. Hinsz just hasn’t had the chances and will have a longer development cycle. Yet the size and potential is worth the risk and high cost here. Hinsz is as boom or bust as they get, but could be the guy in a few years you wonder why he lasted so long.
Pick 428: Connor Goedert, 3B
I am fast forwarding to the Indians 14th round selection where the Indians selected Grayson Jones who they are not going to sign. At this point in the shadow draft I am $20K under slot and $140K under what the Indians spent over their 10 rounds, so I can grab one more player here. Goedert went at the top of the next round to the Astros for double slot. Goedert is the younger brother of former Indian prospect Jared Goedert. He put up video game numbers this year. He hit .446 with 19 homeruns and was top five in pretty much every single offensive category. He was a mess defensively, but adding another right handed bat with some power was too good to pass on this late.
So there it is my shadow draft. At the end of the day I actually spend $40K less than what the Indians did, not including the penalties that are incurred. I am able to add 13 players who are all legit players to watch. I add eight hitters and five pitchers. I am able to add a mix of talent which also fills some organizational needs. I kept six of the players the Indians drafted, and am still a fan of the draft even if I decided to go different directions with a lot of the selections.
Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffmlbdraft, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org