Cleveland Indians: Draft Review

General Manager: Mark Shapiro
Farm Director: Ross Atkins
Scouting Director: Brad Grant

2006-2009 Draft Results:
First three rounds included
x- over-draft signees ($200,000+ signing bonus)

2009 1st Round: Alex White, RHP, North Carolina
2. Jason Kipnis, OF, Arizona State
3. Joe Gardner, RHP, UC Santa Barbara

The key to this draft for Cleveland was being able to land White with the 15th overall pick. The former University of North Carolina hurler is expected to move quickly. He also represents the end of the line for Cleveland’s uninspired (early round) college pitching selections. In other words, the club finally used its first round draft pick on a college pitcher with the ceiling of a No. 1 or 2 starter. Third round selection Joe Gardner did not appear in a pro game in ’09.

Kipnis had a solid debut in short-season ball by hitting .306/.388/.459 in 111 at-bats. After stealing 20+ bases in each of his past two college seasons, the outfielder nabbed just three in six attempts in pro ball. He did show some pop in his bat with an ISO of .153, but he’s probably more of a gap hitter. If he can improve his base running, Kipnis could be a valuable player after showing an aptitude for getting on base, with a walk rate of 11.9%.

2008 1st Round: Lonnie Chisenhall, IF, North Carolina CC
2. Trey Haley, RHP, Texas HS
3. Cord Phelps, 2B, Stanford
5x – Zach Putnam, RHP, Michigan
7x – Tim Fedroff, OF, North Carolina
16x – T.J. House, LHP, Mississippi HS
22x – Bryce Stowell, RHP, UC Irvine
26x – Moises Montero, C, Florida JC

The club spent some money in ’08. First rounder Chisenhall has shown a solid bat and there has been nothing said to suggest that the make-up issues (which caused some teams to pass on him in the draft) have resurfaced. This past season, Chisenhall hit 22 homers between high-A and double-A.

Second-rounder Haley has shown zero ability to find the strike zone and posted a 7.53 BB/9 rate in 77.2 low-A innings in ’09. Phelps had an OK year in high-A, with the best part of his offensive contribution being the 93 walks that he took, good for a 16.3% walk rate. He hit just .261, though, with a .102 ISO. He was also caught 14 times in 31 stolen base attempts.

Putnam had a nice first full season in pro ball and reached double-A. He made five starts in high-A and posted a 2.45 FIP with a walk rate of 1.88 BB/9. He then moved to the bullpen in double-A and posted a 2.65 FIP in 56.2 innings. Putnam posted a walk rate of 2.86 BB/9 and a strikeout rate of 9.05 K/9. He could see the Majors some time in 2010, if needed. Fedroff was another over-slot signee who had a nice year. Spending the season in high-A, the outfielder hit .278/.383/.381 in 278 at-bats. The left-handed hitter showed a patient approach at the plate with a walk rate of 14.5%, but the struck out at a rate of 25.1%, despite showing limited power (.103 ISO). He could end up as a tweener.

Stowell split time between the bullpen and starting rotation in ’09 while playing in high-A. He showed that he can miss some bats (9.15 K/9) but he also had trouble finding the strike zone and posted a walk rate of 5.02 BB/9. He’s probably better suited to the bullpen unless he can clean up his control. Still just 20, Montero’s bat has been MIA since going pro. This past season in rookie ball, the catcher hit just .235/.271/.328 in 119 at-bats but he continues to show a great arm behind the dish by nabbing 42% of base stealers in ’09.

House was a great pick. He did not make his debut until ’09 and he jumped right to low-A ball where he allowed 127 hits in 134.1 innings while posting a 3.51 FIP. Eric Berger (8th round), a left-hander out of the University of Arizona, took a huge step forward in ’08 and reached double-A, where he allowed 32 hits in 33.2 innings.

2007 1st Round: Beau Mills, 1B, Lewis-Clark State
2. None
3. None
x- Chris Jones, LHP, Florida HS

This was definitely a “Meh” draft for the Indians. Mills continues to exhibit raw power, but his ISO slipped to just .149 in ’09 at double-A. He likely won’t hit for average in the Majors and his walk rate dipped to 5.7%. This all suggests he could wind up as a quad-A player, unless he shows some improvement in 2010. The club surrendered its second- and third-round picks thanks to its free agent activity. The money saved in those rounds was used to entice Jones to forgo college. The left-hander, though, has had modest pro results.

Fourth rounder T.J. McFarland, a left-handed prep pitcher, was a nice signing. He just needs to miss a few more bats to really climb the depth chart, but he’s only 20 years old and spent the season in low-A ball. Joey Maholic (32nd round) and Josh Judy (34th round) have both shown promise, regardless of what rounds they were drafted in. Maholic had health issues in ’09, but Judy reached double-A and performed well in the Arizona Fall League. He could be a useful pitcher, especially if he keeps his ground-ball rate up.

2006 1st Round: David Huff, LHP, UCLA (supplemental 1st)
2. Steven Wright, RHP, Hawaii
2. Josh Rodriguez, 2B, Rice
2. Wes Hodges, 3B, Georgia Tech
2S. Matt McBride, C, Lehigh
3. Adam Davis, 2B, Florida
x- Ryan Morris, LHP, North Carolina HS
x- Ryan Miller, LHP, Texas JC

With six picks in the first three rounds – and another two over-slot signings – the ’06 drafted looked like it might infuse a lot of talent into the system. However, that draft class is looking more like a train wreck for the organization with most of the players under-performing. Huff has reached the Majors and made 23 starts, but he looks like a No. 4 or 5 starter after posting a strikeout rate of 4.56 and a FIP of 4.69. Only his slider was a reliable pitch for him in ’09, with his fastball being far below average, in terms of value.

Wright’s career may have been resurrected with a move to the bullpen in double-A. Rodriguez will likely top out as a Major League utility player, while Davis’ career stalled in high-A ball. Neither Morris nor Miller has shown as much as hoped after signing above-slot deals.

Hodges looked like he could be the third baseman of the future for the club, but he had an off-year in triple-A while struggling with injuries. McBride could end up as a useful bench player, perhaps in the Jake Fox mold. Pitchers Chris Archer (5th round) and John Gaub (21st) were sent to Chicago in the Mark DeRosa trade.

Up Next: The Cleveland Indians Top 10 Prospects

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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alex trebek
Member

Nice write-up. The 2008 Indians draft class looks like it could be outstanding. Chisenhall could be an above-average 3B and I’m high on the pitching trio of Putnam, House and Berger. I saw Berger in Akron last August and didn’t really know much about him, but he carried a no-hitter into the 6th and that opened my eyes. I couldn’t agree more with you about the 2009 draft, I like the picks of White and especially Kipnis, but otherwise…. eh.