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Indians finding nontraditional ways to add help with draft

Indians finding nontraditional ways to add help with draft
Scouts take in action at a college game (Photo: AP)
November 28, 2014
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A few weeks ago some interesting Indians news broke which kind of flew under the radar. It is rare when the Indians make a high profile addition and no one notices, but then again, I guess high profile is relative when it comes to the world of the MLB Draft.

When you talk about the world of the MLB Draft there are some names that tend to stand out. Jim Callis and Jonathon Mayo get a lot of publicity because they work on the broadcast. Callis in particular is quite good at what he does right now. Thanks to the fact they both work for MLB they are the faces of the draft. The best way to put it is they are the Kiper and McShay of the MLB Draft. I will let you decide who is who.

ESPN is the number one name in sports and their main draft guy is Keith Law. Law is a personal favorite of mine, so I will admit bias when I say individually he is my favorite draft writer to read and follow. I will admit another conflict of interest when I mention that Chris Crawford also does a fantastic job. I have written for Chris the past two years on his websites, the new one being Draft to the Show.

No one has a greater depth of information than PGCrossChecker. It is not a cheap site but the amount of information is frightening right down to the fact they have test scores for some kids. They have a solid group of writers, but the big names when it comes to the draft are David Rawnsley and Patrick Ebert.

The biggest name for the draft in terms of content and history has often been Baseball America. They have suffered over the years as many of their best and brightest have been hired by baseball organizations or gone to other publications. Jim Callis was one of their more recent big losses.

I mention Baseball America because their best draft writer to me was Clint Longenecker. I say was because the Indians added him to their scouting staff this month. He is not the first addition from Baseball America, nor the first draft writer to become a scout, but this does show what has become a pattern and a very interesting change in general for the front office.

Last year I wrote an article on the Indians draft struggles as they compares to other Major League teams. I didn’t pull any punches and what was clear to me is that everything we thought about the Indians and their poor approach to drafting was true. In fact it was worse than I think many of us even thought.

I went so far as to say on Twitter that for all of the millions of dollars the Indians spent on scouting at the time they would have been better just buying a Baseball America draft guide and letting an intern just pick who was the highest rated guy left and be done with it.

It turns out the Indians basically agreed with me. In 2007 they hired Keith Woolner from Baseball Prospectus and since then they have brought in at least six more writers from Baseball American or Baseball Prospectus. They have gone away from the traditional scout and moved to people who started out as writers who didn’t have natural ties to baseball. They aren’t alone as the Cubs and Astros have also signed high profile writers away from Baseball Prospectus in recent years.

This all happened right as Brad Grant took over for John Mirabelli as the amateur scouting director. The 2008 Draft was Grant’s first draft but it is clear the Indians have changed their approach with Grant. The funny part is by consensus it has worked. The Indians are taking more risks and drafting high school players, which was something they had avoided. This past year they were given the top grade by Baseball America for their draft, and in general they have received high praise for these drafts.

Longenecker joins another recent Baseball America draft expert in Conor Glassey who is an area scout for the Indians. I assume Longenecker will do the same. I am not sure which region he will be assigned to, but as an Indians fan it should be an exciting addition. The draft is the lifeblood of a team and the Indians are doing their best to be one of the better drafting organizations.

If nothing else this is a very interesting addition. The Indians front office was one of the ground breakers when it came to advanced stats and Moneyball ideas. Billy Beane gets a lot of credit but the Indians were right there as well. This is a new approach that could pay dividends for the Indians. They are finding scouts in nontraditional ways.

Bottom line, a new approach was needed for the Indians, and this one has started to pay dividends. So while many of you might not know who Clint Longenecker is, there is a good chance he could have the biggest impact on the Indians franchise of any signing they make this offseason.

Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffmlbdraft, or email him at jellis121@yahoo.com

User Comments

Homer
November 28, 2014 - 2:46 PM EST
I caught this transaction several weeks back, I think it's interesting route to take to add talent.

I usually rant about the indians creating opportunities, by drafting, signing, trading, and acq. talent. I think they've done that here and in recent yrs. Although, I think there's still some room here for improvement... ie...acq. competitive lotto pks, acq. recently drafted / signed players they've liked via tr., and acq. International bonus pool space, exceeding their draft pool space intentionally (w/o max penalty). These are ways to create and expand the amateur talent base and maximize talent.
shy
November 28, 2014 - 12:53 PM EST
Well Jeff signing a prospect writer is a welcome development. I have always said the Indians should fire Mirabelli and the scouts and hire one good PI to infiltrate the Royals and steal their draft list, it would save on payroll and improve performance. You have to be careful to keep a balance though. I would use Longenecker as a bird-dog- to flush some prospects out that may be lost in the bushes- but trust ex-players on the eye test part of it. This year's draft was really good, we're on the right track. Thanks for presenting a side of the business that is underreported!
GSon
November 28, 2014 - 12:06 PM EST
Save for the last couple of years.. the Indians system has been more productive.. The last couple of years saw impact of a slotting system that worked and wasn't just words.. The Indians strategy or what I referred as " the cuteness " of saving first round money for higher signing bonuses for more guys.. followed by the latest strategy version where Position Player / Pitcher / Position Player/ Pitcher.. was used and resulted in picks that will never ever be worth what the Indians thought. If the strategy is get the best guy.. then DAMMIT!!! get the best guy..for every pick..
Daingean
November 28, 2014 - 8:56 AM EST
One thing I have noticed most about Grant and team is the preference for middle of the diamond guys with their top picks. NOTE: Chiz was a SS in college.
Troy
November 28, 2014 - 7:26 AM EST
Lol rocky. Mirabelli was horrible. Under normal conditions in sports when a front office employee who makes decisions on player personnel and has a poor track record he gets fired. Mirabelli instead got a promotion for being incompetent. Go figure.
pathofkindness
November 28, 2014 - 1:52 AM EST
Nice article Jeff! Interesting stuff. I used to think that Shapiro was one smart cookie. But with the realization a handful of years ago that the Tribe hadn't been able to figure out how to draft well, I've changed my mind about that. Sure, the MLB draft is a crapshoot, but they were getting nothing from a pretty large investment and for a small-market team like us, that's a killer. Recent years *seem* to have been better, but the jury's still out on most of the 2012 and 2013 top picks.
Rocky55
November 28, 2014 - 1:22 AM EST
Brad Grant is the God of the Draft. Been saying it for years. The worst thing the Indians have done was to hire Mirabelli from the tigers. As a draft guy I really appreciate the improvement in the last 4-5 years & so does my wife. She was sick of me bitching about Beau Mills, Trevor Crowe, Jeremy Sowers, et al.

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