The Indians' lousy 2012 season, which ended with a 68-94 record, bears fruit Thursday. The Indians hold the fifth pick in the Major League Baseball draft. Rounds 1-2 unfold Thursday night. The 40-round draft concludes Saturday. The Indians don't select again until the third round, No. 79 overall. They lost their second-rounder by signing Nick Swisher and their competitive-balance pick between the second and third rounds by signing Michael Bourn. Of the draft class, Tribe scouting director Brad Grant recently said: "I don't think there's a clear-cut No. 1." But there appears to be clear-cut top two. The Houston Astros pick first and are considered a virtual lock to opt for Stanford right-hander Mark Appel or Oklahoma right-hander Jonathan Gray. Whomever the Astros do not choose is expected to go second to the Chicago Cubs. The only way that scenario could change would be if either club is scared off by Gray's reported positive test for Adderall, which came to light this week. Jim Callis of Baseball America wrote in his publication's draft preview: "Appel and Gray remain alone on the first tier of prospects." An American League scouting director told Callis that "there's a severe difference between those two and everyone else." The Astros held the top pick last year and seemed ready to take Appel. But it didn't happen, reportedly because agent Scott Boras rejected a $6 million signing bonus. Appel fell to the Pirates at No. 8, did not sign and returned to school. Colorado picks third. Assuming the two pitchers are gone, San Diego third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant is the favorite to go next. Bryant is a right-handed batter with prodigious power. If Colorado passes on Bryant, Minnesota at No. 4 almost assuredly will scoop him up. Beyond Appel, Gray and Bryant, analysts differ on the upper-tier prospects. But eight players have emerged as high probabilities to be taken within the top 15 (listed alphabetically): Indiana prep lefty/outfielder Trey Ball; Georgia prep outfielder Clint Frazier; Washington prep catcher/third baseman Reese McGuire; Georgia prep outfielder/first baseman Austin Meadows; North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran; New Mexico first baseman/third baseman D.J. Peterson; Nevada right-hander Braden Shipley; and Texas prep right-hander Kohl Stewart, who is a Texas A&M recruit at quarterback. Callis predicted that the top four would be Appel, Gray, Bryant and Stewart. He had the Indians taking Shipley. MLB Network's Jonathan Mayo, in his Mock Draft 2 for mlb.com, predicted the top four would be Gray, Appel, Bryant and Stewart. He had the Indians taking Moran. "I really don't know how the first four picks are going to go," Grant said. "If I knew how the first four picks would go, or you told me how the first four would go, I'd tell you who five would be. I don't have a grasp of that yet." This much, Grant said, is certain: The Indians will draft the best player available on their board, not a player to fill a need. "Whatever happens with the first four picks will dictate what we do, of course, but we're definitely going to take the best player," he said. "It's not going to be: We're looking for college or high school. It's going to be whatever's there and whatever the best player is. "When you start to draft toward need, you get away from the strength of the draft. This year's draft, when you're at five, is very good. It should be a very, very good pick. The difficulty for us is, we'll have multiple players we like." Grant said the draft quickly becomes "average." Callis wrote that scouts rate the overall crop of talent as "mediocre." Such assessments seemingly would ease the angst of not picking again until No. 79. As much as he likes to select players, Grant prefers to watch Swisher and Bourn play for the Tribe. "It's well worth sacrificing those two picks, for sure," Grant said. "Having No. 5 offsets that a little bit. It's easier for us to look at No. 5 and know we're going to get a really good player." Just because the Indians have a long wait until their second pick does not lessen the preparation by Grant and his scouts. "We do our due diligence on everybody, because you just don't know where guys will go in the draft," he said. "We scouted 850 players. We will have 850 players on our board. We made sure we got to know all of them. We made sure we didn't eliminate anybody during the course of the spring."
Indians seeking 'best player available' with fifth pick in MLB draft
Cleveland Plain Dealer | Jun 6