Preview of the 2020 MLB Draft for the Cleveland Indians
Heading into this year’s MLB Draft, the Cleveland Indians have the twelfth best farm system in baseball. That is according to MLB.com and mirrors where the team’s system ranked halfway through last season. In total, the Indians currently have two Top-100 prospects in their system. The first being third baseman Nolan Jones who ranks 42nd. The second is shortstop Tyler Freeman who ranks 96th.
Furthermore, the Indians have the 23rd-overall pick in the first round of the draft. Additionally, Cleveland has a 36th Competitive Balance Round A pick, a 56th pick in the second round, and three more selections in the third, fourth and fifth rounds. Given that there are only four draft picks this year for the Indians, it is extremely important for the organization to try and identify the prospects that have the highest ceiling.
However, there will be a few curveballs that are thrown from the other teams around baseball. Based on recent history it might be relatively easy to try to identify where the Indians might focus, especially with their first round pick.
When trying to find the area where the Indians might focus, let’s take a look back at each draft since 2010. Over that time, Cleveland has drafted a pitcher three times, an infielder twice, and an outfielder the other five years. Among those first round selections, there have been some notable names.
The biggest on the position player side was Francisco Lindor who the Indians drafted in 2011. Additionally, Bradley Zimmer was a first round pick for Cleveland in 2014 as was Clint Frazier in 2013 and left-handed pitcher Drew Pomeranz way back in 2010. Overall, based on those names alone, the Indians have done fairly well with hitting on many of their picks. Although, Lindor was easily the most impactful over the last decade.
In addition, over that period of time more often that not the Indians have focused on bulking up with pitching in the draft. In total, from 2010 until 2019 the Indians drafted 111 players and 59 of those selections were pitchers. Therefore, 53% of those selections fell into the pitching category meaning that there is a significant chance the Indians will focus heavily on that area this year.
Current State of the Farm System and Needs
However, that’s likely not going to be the only area of focus for Cleveland. The outfield could be an area for the organization to once again focus on as could the catching position. Of the Indians Top 30 Prospects, only four of them are outfielders. Also, the team only possesses two top catching prospects and both are currently in A-Ball.
As for the outfield, it seems to always be an area where Cleveland needs depth. Bradley Zimmer was expected to be a superstar for the organization in the outfield. However, injuries have held him back for a significant period of his big league career. Additionally, first round pick of 2012 outfielder Tyler Naquin was also expected to be a big part of the team. However, Naquin hasn’t lived up to expectations.
The one area the team is flush in is the middle infield and that’s something that the Indians pride themselves on quite a bit. So, it’s likely that the team won’t focus on that area. Of the top-30 prospects in the organization, one-third of them are infielders with five of them landing in the Top-ten alone.
On the pitching front, the Indians have 13 prospects in their Top-30. They always have lots of pitching depth, and they like to build their big league roster in a way where there are always options in the starting rotation and bullpen. Therefore, it would not be a surprise to see them come away from this draft with a big pitcher of some sort.
Dream Names on the Pitching Front
If the Indians had it their way, they would love to add someone like left-handed pitcher Asa Lacy of Texas A&M University to their system. Lacy has a very high ceiling and the stuff of a true frontline starter. Additionally, right-handed pitcher Emerson Hancock out of the University of Georgia or left-handed pitcher Reid Detmers of the University of Louisville would be two other names. Hancock and Detmers both rank in the Top-ten within the Top 200 Draft Prospect list, according to MLB.com.
First Round Names to Watch – Pick No. 23
One of the biggest names to watch is Tanner Burns of Auburn University. Burns comes with potential injury and durability issues attached to him, but scouts compare him to Sonny Gray of the Cincinnati Reds. If Burns is able to replicate Gray, then the Indians would likely be happy knowing they have a middle of the rotation starting pitcher for the future.
Secondly, another name to watch on the pitching front is right-handed pitcher Bryce Jarvis out of Duke University. Jarvis has developed himself into a high strikeout pitcher over the last few seasons and that could be something that makes him attractive to the Indians.
In addition, another name to watch on the pitching front is right-hander Chris McMahon out of the University of Miami. McMahon is viewed highly in the eyes of scouts and could be a very effective pitcher at the big league level.
Over on the position-player side, a name to watch would be Ohio State University catcher Dillon Dingler. Dingler has drawn similar comparisons to Sean Murphy of the Oakland Athletics. Dingler could be a viable solution behind the plate. That’s if Cleveland doesn’t feel like Bo Naylor is the long-term answer.
Additionally, the Indians could focus on someone like Austin Wells out of the University of Arizona. There’s still uncertainty regarding Wells long-term outlook behind the dish. In fact, he could follow a path similar to Kyle Schwarber of the Chicago Cubs which could give Cleveland an outfield option in the future.
Competitive Balance Round A and Second Round Names to Watch – Pick No.’s 36 and 56
Outfielder Daniel Cabrera of Louisiana State University is a potential option with one of these picks. Cabrera started out as a left fielder, but has played right field more often over the last few years. Cabrera could potentially be an option for the Indians batting order down the road.
If Cleveland took one of the position players mentioned above with it’s first overall pick, then this could be where the team adds an impactful arm. Cole Henry also out of the University of Louisiana could be a selection here.
Henry projects to be a middle of the rotation arm in the future. However, there are some durability concerns regarding Henry and that could be cause for concern. Additionally, left-handed pitcher Jake Eder out of Vanderbilt University might intrigue Cleveland. Eder also has the ceiling of a mid-rotation starter and comes with a three-pitch mix overall.
Third Round Names to Watch – Pick No. 95
Depending on what happens with the other three previous picks, this could be a critical one for the Indians. Texas A&M outfielder Zach DeLoach could be a potential selection here. DeLoach has played a lot of centerfield, but long-term scouts feel as though he could be suited for a corner outfield spot instead. Additionally, Tyler Gentry out of University of Alabama. Gentry comes with a lot of athleticism along with the ability to play all three outfield positions. That versatility could intrigue Cleveland to select him.
Over on the pitching front, Tommy Mace out of the University of Florida could be a great pick to round off the draft for Cleveland. Mace is a solid option among pitchers in this year’s class and draws comparisons to someone like Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Dustin May. If Mace turns out like May, then the Indians could get a steal here.
Additionally, left-hander Nick Swiney out of North Carolina State University is a name to circle with this pick. Swiney has really worked on reducing his overall walk rate the past few years. Furthermore, there are some concerns regarding his long-term outlook as a starting pitcher, but that doesn’t mean that the Indians couldn’t come away with a great value pick with this selection.
Fourth and Fifth Round Names to Watch – Pick No.’s 124 and 154
With both of these selections, the Indians might very well chose to go young with high school players. One potential could be right-handed pitcher Hunter Barnhart out of St. Joseph High School in California. Barnhart has shown inconsistencies so far in his pitching career, but that’s to be expected given that he is 18 years old. Projecting ahead to the future, scouts believe that he could be a big time strike thrower.
Another name to watch in the pitching arena is left-hander Nick Griffin out of Monticello High School in Arkansas. Griffin is still very young, coming in at 17 years old, but he’s the type of southpaw that the Indians could groom to be their own guy moving forward. In addition, Griffin has the ability to play right field.
Another possible name is Vanderbuilt University product Hugh Fisher. Fisher, who is a left-handed pitcher, projects mainly as a reliever by many scouts, but he possesses an intriguing slider. That alone could convince Cleveland that there’s value in having him in their bullpen eventually.
Switching over to the position player side of things, University of Michigan outfielder Jesse Franklin could catch the eyes of the Indians front office and scouting staff. Franklin was the top high school prospect in the state of Washington during 2017 and scouts are still torn on where his long-term position will be. Some see centerfield as a legitimate option, while others believe he’s a better option in left field.
As more of a wild card pick, the Indians might look to focus on outfielder/left-handed pitcher Caden Grice out of Riverside High School in South Carolina. Grice could end up potentially being a two-way player. However, there are still things to work on in both areas of his game.
As is the case with any MLB Draft, this draft is an important one for the Cleveland Indians. Given that the Indians are a small market team, having a deep and effective farm system is priority number one. Luckily for the Indians, this year’s draft is heavy on the pitching front which has been a key area of focus for the organization in previous years. Only time will tell how the Indians do with their selections and if a future star for the organization is drafted.
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