CLEVELAND: A Progressive Field hot dog vendor has as good a shot as anyone predicting the Indians’ first-round draft pick.
With the Indians forced to wait until the 15th overall pick in the 2012 MLB draft that begins tonight, it’s anyone’s guess which prospect will fall to them.
Tribe amateur scouting director Brad Grant considers this year’s draft as “average” in overall talent, making it less obvious who the top players are and who will fall to the middle of the round.
“Last year [the draft] was very deep,” said Grant, who is in his fifth year heading the Tribe’s draft. “The strength this year is high school players and college pitching. Where it falls short, though, are college position players.”
Selecting in last year’s draft eighth overall, Grant and his staff had their sights set on Florida high school shortstop Francisco Lindor all the way.
“We thought it would come down to two or three players, but we thought Lindor would get to us,” Grant said.
However, this year it’s tougher to project whom the Indians will take in the first round. Not only do they have to wait until the 15th slot to pick, but also with a draft class short on depth, there’s little consensus on who the top five players are.
“This year, it’s less clear,” Grant said. “When we took Alex White [in 2009], he was the 15th overall pick. We didn’t think he’d get to 15, but he did. The further down you go in the draft, the less clear it becomes. So, we’ll put up 15 names and react accordingly.
“There’s less certainty this year. Normally at this point in time, you kind of hear who’s No. 1 and who’s No. 2, but I think it’s still up in the air. A lot of teams are still working through the process like we are, going through trying to figure out what order to put everyone in.”
Grant has personally scouted 175 of the 850 or so players available. The first round gets under way at 6 tonight and concludes Wednesday after 40 rounds.
By finishing with an 80-82 record last year, the Indians own the 15th, 79th, 110th and 143rd selections in the first four rounds.
Despite losing their top pitching prospects in left- hander Drew Pomeranz and right-hander Alex White when they were shipped to Colorado last season in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, Grant said he resists the urge to go with a draft philosophy based solely on need.
“We look to take the best player,” he said. “When you start drafting towards needs, you start making mistakes.”
While the Indians aren’t tipping their hand as to whom they’re targeting in the first round, the following four players have been linked to the team in several mock drafts. • Junior left-hander Andrew Heaney of Oklahoma State is the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year and a first-team All-American selection. The 6-foot-2, 175-pounder went 8-2 with a 1.60 ERA and led the nation with 140 strikeouts.
• Clemson junior third baseman/first baseman Richie Shaffer (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) led the Tigers with a .339 batting average with 20 doubles, 10 home runs, 46 RBI and 49 runs scored.
• Right-hander Chris Stratton from Mississippi State was the SEC Pitcher of the year last year as a junior and this season garnered Player of the Year honors. The 6-foot-3, 198-pounder went 11-1 with a 2.21 ERA this year, finishing fifth in the nation with 123 strikeouts.
• Stanford third baseman/outfielder Stephen Piscotty batted .320 with 54 RBI. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound junior is a first-team All-American who was the Cape Cod League batting champion (.349) last summer as a sophomore. The previous year, Piscotty was named the PAC 10 Freshman of the Year.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Aeros blog at www.ohio.com/aeros. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.