Sheldon Ocker

CLEVELAND: There are new rules in place for this year’s amateur player draft designed to level the playing field.

The new basic agreement between the owners and the players union specifies that each team create a pool of no more than $4.5 million to use to pay bonuses for its first 10 picks. Theoretically, a club can spend as much as it wants on an individual player’s bonus, but that amount will be deducted from the total.

“Every team has to stay within its pool,” Indians amateur scouting director Brad Grant said Wednesday. “And if you don’t sign one of your first 10 picks, the money [that was offered] is lost.”

In other words, signing ability has taken on even more importance than it did under the old system, particularly with high school players who can use the threat of going to college as a bargaining tool.

“Signability is very important in the draft,” Grant said.

After the first 10 rounds, each player can be offered no more than $100,000, unless a team has money left over from its $4.5 million pool.

In contrast to last June, when the Indians took 17-year-old shortstop Francisco Lindor with the eighth pick, the Tribe won’t make its choice until 14 other clubs have had a shot at the best players.

Grant says that’s OK, because even though he describes this as only “an average draft,” plenty of players will be available who can eventually make the club stronger.

“The overall talent is average,” Grant said. “Last year it was very deep. The strength this year is high school players and college pitching. Where it falls short is college position players.”

Grant personally has scouted 175 players, and he will be looking at a board with the names of 850 players on it when the draft begins on Monday. It will conclude Wednesday after 40 rounds. In addition to the 15th pick in the first round, the Tribe will have the 79th pick and the 110th pick before the end of the third round.

As usual, the Indians will not be trying to fill a particular need, despite the loss of their two best pitching prospects, Drew Pomeranz and Alex White, in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade. Grant says that is the wrong approach.

“We look to take the best player, especially in this year’s draft,” he said. “When you start drafting toward needs is when you start making mistakes.”

Sheldon Ocker can be reached at socker@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.