The Indians made their picks for the first day in the draft, an impressive four in the first two rounds. How this and the past few seasons drafts will pan out, we are yet to know, but the Indians have a long history of taking players that were possibly not the best available in the early rounds. Since 1965, the Indians have had the first overall pick four times, Rich Hand in 1969, Chris Chambliss in 1970, Eric Raich in 1972 and Jeff Shaw in 1986, who was taken one pick before Moises Alou. Even with the failures, almost 40% of Cleveland’s first round picks have made it to the Majors as have 20% of second and third round picks over the years. Instead of focusing on those, this top ten list will be the greatest players ever drafted (and signed) by the Indians after the third round.
10. Active Indians: Josh Tomlin – Round 19 in 2006, Cody Allen – Round 23 in 2011, Vinnie Pestano – Round 20 in 2006
The Indians have had a slew of great late picks recently, but it is yet to be seen how these players will wind up historically. Pestano is already ranked among the greatest Indians relievers ever, but has been inconsistent over the past two seasons and is now in AAA. Allen has started off much the same as Pestano and is currently closing for the Tribe in just his third professional season. He made his debut after just 54 minor league relief appearances, a fact that is extremely impressive given his place in the 23rd round.
Tomlin has had the best career of the three listed at ten, despite missing almost all of 2013 with Tommy John surgery. He was 23-19 going into this season and has improved upon that, winning three games already with an ERA of 3.06. With a few more solid seasons, any of the players here could break into the top five by the end of their careers.
9. Luke Scott – Round 9 in 2001
Scott is the only player in the top ten not to play for the Tribe and the highest active player on the list. After being drafted in ’01, Scott was involved in one of the worst trades in Indians history, going to Houston for Jeriome Robertson in 2004. Scott has slugged .821 in his career and averaged twenty home runs a season during his time in Baltimore from 2008 through 2011. It is unquestionable that he would have been a major upgrade over other players like Jason Michaels, Trot Nixon and David Dellucci who came to the Tribe over the years Scott was in his prime.
8. John Farrell – Round 16 in 1983
Before he won a World Series in his first season as the manager of the Red Sox and before he was the director of the Cleveland Indians minor league system, Farrell was an outstanding pitcher, although it was for a very short period. Farrell made his debut in 1987 and threw four fantastic seasons as an Indians starter, winning 32 games with a 3.93 ERA. Injuries derailed his career as he pitched just 27 more games before retiring to join the coaching ranks.
7. Ron Hassey – Round 18 in 1976
It is rare to get a skilled college catcher late in the draft, but the Indians scored with Hassey, who ended up being a major part of the team from 1978 through 1984. He knocked in 226 with a .716 slugging percent during his seven years with the Tribe, before being traded to the Cubs for Joe Carter. He went on to play another seven seasons, smashing 71 home runs and knocking in 438 RBI.
6. Von Hayes – Round 7 in 1979
Hayes was worth most for the Indians as the man traded to the Phillies in exchange for five other players including Julio Franco. He made his Indians debut in 1981, but played just 193 games in two years before being moved. With Philadelphia, Hayes was an MVP candidate, going to the All-Star game in 1989 and knocking in 696 career runs.
5. Paul Byrd – Round 4 in 1991
Byrd is the highest drafted player of this top ten and he didn’t make his name with the Indians until 15 years after he was drafted. Byrd was traded to the Mets prior to his Major League debut in exchange for Jeremy Burnitz. Byrd then bounced from team to team, tallying 109 wins in his 14 year career. He finally made his debut with the Tribe in 2006, when he helped the team into the playoffs in 2007 and posted a 4.68 ERA in 84 starts.
4. David Riske – Round 56 in 1996
Relief pitchers tend to be the most common type of player to fall through the cracks and Riske is a most extreme example. Over 1,500 players were chosen before Riske, who made his debut just three years after being chosen in the 56th round. He went on to be one of the greatest right handed relievers in Indians history, posting a 3.55 ERA with 318 strike outs in 317.1 innings. Riske was a huge part of the Indians relief corps in the early 2000’s and it is amazing that he fell so far in the draft.
3. Brian Giles – Round 17 in 1989
The Indians had many fantastic draft choices in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, including Charles Nagy (Rd 1 in 1988), Albert Belle (Rd 2 in 1987), and Manny Ramirez (Rd 1 in 1991), leading to the teams success and overall depth that made it so they couldn’t take advantage of some of their best picks. Giles was a great pick for round 17, but the Indians had no room in their crowded outfield and traded him to the Pirates for Ricardo Rincon. Despite this, Giles had a tremendous career, including two All-Star appearances with Pittsburgh and 287 career home runs.
2. Buddy Bell – Round 16 in 1969
The Indians weren’t very successful in the 1970’s, but this particular pick had nothing to do with it. Bell was drafted as a second baseman, but became one of the best third basemen in team history. He didn’t stay around with the Tribe too long, but ended up going to five All-Star games and winning six Gold Gloves in an amazing 18 year career.
1. Jim Thome – Round 13 in 1989
The undisputed greatest power hitter in Indians history was the team’s 13th round pick in what ended up being an extremely weak draft class. Thome alone out homered the entire first two rounds in his career which spanned 22 years, starting just two years after he was drafted in 1991. Thome holds many Indians records including single season (52 in 2002) and career home runs (337). In addition to being the greatest power hitter for the Tribe, Thome is also the greatest first baseman in team history and possibly the greatest overall hitter, in the running with Napoleon Lajoie, Lou Boudreau and just a handful of other players. All this, 612 career home runs and 1,699 RBI out of the 13th round in the amateur draft.