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Draft 2009: Summer Draft-and-Follows

June 30, 2009
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The baseball draft is over and all that is left at this point of the draft is our two top picks,
Alex White and Jason Kipnis, right? Well, if you are a diehard prospect fan there is one element of the draft left besides these two. It is the summer draft-and-follow guys.

Since the new collective bargaining agreement went into place almost 3 years ago, major league teams weren’t allowed anymore to draft guys going to junior college and hold their rights until the next year. This was called the draft-and-follow process. I reported in my 2007 interview with John Mirabelli that the Indians had gone hot and heavy into another process, one in which they draft HS and college kids and then follow them as they play on summer league teams. This process has been named the summer draft-and-follow process where teams draft players and scout them up to the August 15th deadline and then decide if they want to offer them a bonus and, if so, how much.

We all know about little league that extends through HS and American Legion ball in the summer. But there is also a very sophisticated set of wood bat-using summer college leagues that normally keep college freshmen and sophomores...and some college juniors…in shape for the college teams which start fall practice when school starts again. These American Legion and summer college teams are now being used by the Indians to get extra scouting opportunities to look at some of their lower round draft picks, picks normally referred to as ‘flyers’. These are kids who might be considered hard to sign because they have high bonus demands or a good college scholarship to go to in the fall. They also might be raw talents whom the Indians have not had a chance, due to player injury, bad weather or just not enough scouting hours in the day, to get a good look at.

In the past two years the Indians have signed about a dozen of these guys after watchng them play in the summer. Last year it was stud prospects like Bryce Stowell. In 2007 it was guys like Josh Judy, Dallas Cawiezell and Chris Jones, who the Indians signed after watching them play in summer college or HS leagues. All these guys are doing from OK to very good in the Indians’ system now.

Not every summer draft-and-follow is signed. A number of them have bad summer seasons or, like Tyler Kuhn of West Virginia, just decide that they want to return to school. Some, like Matt Willard and Walter Diaz from the 2007 draft are little more than organizational players who chose to sign and take a shot a pro career instead of returning to college. Finally, a few of these HS kids are drafted even though they have virtually no desire to sign and many of those aren’t even playing on a summer league team.

So, who are the summer draft-and-follows for the Indians this year? Well, I hit the cell phone lines and the Google search engine and talked to a bunch of these guys and read about others. The following list gives the player, the round in which they were drafted and a link, where available, to their summer league team and, where possible, what their estimated bonus demands are, either reported in the media or by me talking to them. One pastime for fans of a team having a year like the Indians is to follow these summer D&F guys to, well, get their minds off of things! Enjoy this list and let’s hope some of these guys turn out to be knockout prospects.

21. Jeff Rowland, OF Cotuit Kettlers - Cape Cod League
24. Michael Hamann, RHP American Legion Post 83 in Sandusky (link to recent article )
25. Blake Hauser, RHP, American Legion Post 137 in Richmond, VA
31. Raynor Campbell, 3B, Bourne Braves - Cape Cod Leeague
32. Matt Packer, LHP, Orleans - Cape Cod League ($200,000)
34. Westley Moss, OF, Orleans - Cape Cod League
36. Austin Evans, RHP, Vermont - New England Collegiate League and stats
37. Steve Ewing, RHP, Florida Bombers Traveling Team ($500,000)
38. Robert Sabo, RHP, Waynesboro VA Generals - Valley League
39. Brian Hernandez, 3B, Yarmouth-Dennis - Cape Cod League
42. Jonathon Kountis, RHP, Licking County - Great Lakes League and stats
43. D. J. Gentile, DH Mat-Su Miners - Alaska League
45. James Jones, RHP Battle Creek - Northwoods League
47. Christian Powell, RHP, American Legion Post 20, Greenwood, SC ($500,000)
48. Burch Smith, RHP, Playing but summer team unknown

I also talked to Tyler Joyner who said he plans to attend East Carolina next year and not sign. Nick Sarianides’ (pronounced like serenity) coach said he anticipates that he will come back to school next year.

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