The MLB amateur draft is quickly approaching and while much emphasis will be placed on first and second round picks from this years draft, they are generally forgotten in the following seasons unless they maintain top prospect status. Because of this, we will look back at the last five Indians drafts and see how the Indians choices have fared. We did this last year and will be continuing on in that tradition, focusing mostly on the 2009 draft as any player that is going to make a big splash from that season should at least be dominating at the AAA level by now. We will also cover the tail end of 2008 and how the 2010 draft class appears to be shaping up.
Major League Ready
Jason Kipnis (2), Alex White (1), Cory Burns (8), Preston Guilmet (9), Vidal Nuno (48)
Amazingly, 2013 All-Star, Jason Kipnis is the only player to remain on the Major League Indians from the 2009 draft. This is especially odd since two players drafted since 2011 have already made their debuts. Little needs to be said of Kipnis who has been one of the Indians best hitters since 2012. For the rest of the players who have gone pro since signing with the Tribe there have been a few different stories. Alex White was traded to the Rockies for Ubaldo Jimenez, a deal that didn’t work out very well for either team. White made 27 starts for the Rockies from 2011 to 2012 with a 6.30 ERA before being traded to the Astros, where he hasn’t been seen at the pro level since. He missed all of 2013 to Tommy John surgery and has now made a couple relief appearances in AAA for Houston as he works his way back to mediocrity.
Preston Guilmet was another player who made his debut with the Indians before moving on. He made his debut in 2013, but wasn’t quite good enough this Spring to make the team out of camp and was traded to the Orioles for Torsten Boss. Of the other two pitchers, Burns was traded to the Padres for Aaron Cunningham and is currently in AAA with the Rangers with an ERA over 8.00. Cunningham was released after the 2012 season and is currently in AAA with the Diamondbacks.
Vidal Nuno was the kind of late round pick that no one expects to make it pro, yet he has done just that, only not with the Indians. Cleveland released the reliever after posting an ERA of almost five with Lake County in 2010 and he has since burned through the Yankees farm system, making his debut in 2013 and making the team out of camp this season. Nothing makes this draft look worse than the fact that the best Major League pitcher to come out of it was the round 48 pick and he has succeeded with another team.
Austin Adams (5), Joseph Colon (12), Tyler Sturdevant (27), Brett Brach (10)
There are still a few players beyond Kipnis that have a chance to go pro, but the chances of another All-Star coming out of this draft are almost non-existent. The most MLB ready player left may be Sturdevant, who holds a 1.07 ERA in 25 innings out of the bullpen in Akron this season after missing all of 2013 due to Tommy John surgery. He has worked hard to get back, playing in Fall and instructional leagues after last season and now the work is paying off. As a hard throwing, strike out heavy reliever, there should be some room on a Major League roster for him soon.
Austin Adams (3.86 ERA in 23.1 IP) was originally a starter, but moved to the bullpen after missing 2012 due to injury and has been solid before this season. While his numbers aren’t terrible, he is behind at least eight other relievers on the Indians MLB pipeline. While it is possible that good play could improve his place on the depth chart, he is unlikely to ever make a big impact at the MLB level.
Brett Brach has been all over the place in the Indians minor league system from Mahoning Valley to Columbus. After starting 2014 with a 8.10 ERA in two starts and 6 innings, he was released and has since signed with the Washington Nationals, but has been sent back to the Advanced A level. It is hard to imagine him ever making it pro after so many years and since he hasn’t posted a sub-4.00 ERA with at least 100 IP since 2011 with Kinston.
Colon is a few years younger than those other pitchers and has been pitching very well one level lower as a starter with the Akron Rubberducks. With a 2.37 ERA through 11 starts, this has been his best season yet and he deserves a promotion. He is the only player left from the 2009 Indians’ draft that has a chance of being something really special.
Joe Gardner (3), Kyle Bellows (4), Ben Carlson (6), Jordan Henry (7)
This draft as a whole should be considered a bust, so we will limit this section to only players drafted in the top ten rounds. Gardner was included in the Jimenez trade, but didn’t even make it as far as Alex White and is currently in AA with the Cubs after being released by the Rockies. He has not played above the AA level in his career.
Bellows was still with the Indians by the end of 2013, but is obviously never going to make it to the Major League level. He has never batted above .255 or played above the AA level. He ended 2013 at the Indians lowest level, the Arizona League Indians rookie level team.
Carlson may have had the shortest career of anyone in the 2009 draft, despite being drafted in the sixth round. He retired from baseball after just two seasons, batting under .200 with the Captains in 2010. Henry stuck around a little longer and was a solid outfielder, averaging almost 30 steals per season in his first three years and batting .300 in Akron in just his second professional season. Despite this, he still left baseball after the 2012 after three straight seasons in AA.
Carlos Moncrief, T.J. House
The Indians cleaned house of the 2008 draft this past year as Matt Langwell, Zach Putnam, Trey Haley, Cord Phelps and Adam Abraham are all gone from the minor league system, leaving very few players left. Of those, Lonnie Chisenhall is blossoming into a star at the Major League level and T.J. House made his MLB debut in the past month. Moncrief is essentially the only potential Major Leaguer left from this draft, but isn’t playing up to his potential right now in Columbus. Over the past three seasons he has averaged 16 home runs and 17 steals moving from Lake County to Akron.
Up & Comers
Tony Wolters (3), LeVon Washington (2), Alex Lavisky (8), Tyler Holt (10)
The top pick from 2010, Drew Pomeranz, was sent to Colorado in the Jimenez trade, but there are still quite a few players who could make it to the big leagues. Wolters is the top prospect left and was moved to catcher after being drafted as a short stop to speed up his advancement. It has taken some time, but Wolters appears to be back on track this year in Akron. He is maintaining his infield talent by spending time at second base and could end up being an interesting type of utility player that could be back-up catcher and middle infielder.
Lavisky is also a catcher at the AA level and has been playing well, batting .282 with three home runs in 21 games. While he doesn’t project as a Major League starter, he could eventually be a back-up catcher or emergency option once he hits AAA.
Washington is a very exciting outfielder and has played all over the place in the Indians minor league system and is currently rocking things for the Carolina Mudcats. He is batting .308 and getting on base more than 40% of the time in addition to his awesome defense. He already has 14 assists in his first 162 minor league games. Injuries have slowed his ascent, but he is definitely one to watch as he rises through the system.
Holt is the most advanced player left from the 2010 draft, being promoted to AAA in the past month. He has increased his average and slugging percent at each level to the point where he hit .298/.416/.347 for the Rubber Ducks this year. He also is an above average defender with 25 assists in 350 games in center field. If the Indians continue to have offensive and defensive issues as the season drags on, Holt could make his debut in August or September.
2009 Draft Stats
- Of the 50 players drafted in 2009, 28 were signed, but only five remain on an active roster within the Indians organization.
- Of the 28 signed players, five have made it to the Majors, six have made it to AAA and six to AA.
- Joe Gardner (with the Cubs) and Joseph Colon are the only players signed from the Indians 2009 draft that haven’t made it to AAA, but are still in MLB affiliated baseball.
- Alex White (-0.3 career WAR) was the 15th overall pick in the draft. The next 15 player drafted average of 2.39 career WAR, most of which came from Mike Trout, who was drafted 25th.
- The Indians haven’t have a player drafted between the second and ninth round in 2009 reach to Majors to this point, but 43 other players taken between those two picks have reached the Major Leagues. Some players included are Paul Goldschmidt, Brian Dozier, Dallas Kuechel and Brandon Belt.