Tribe Comes Out a Winner at Signing Deadline

The madness that is draft signing deadline day has ended and the Indians have emerged, well, looking pretty good.

The Indians were able to sign their four top picks yesterday. 1. LHP Drew Pomeranz, $2.65 M 2. OF LeVon Washington $1.2 M 3. SS Tony Wolters $1.35 M and RHP Kyle Blair $580k), as well as their 8th round pick, C Alex Lavisky ($1.0 M).

This could turn out to be quite a haul for the Indians. The Tribe was expected to sign three, maybe even four of the five, most likely failing to sign either Washington (a Scott Boras client) or Wolters (who had high demands as well, and probably slid to the third round because of that). They landed all of them.

People ask me what the Indians do with the money they supposedly saved when they traded away Russell Branyan, Jake Westbrook, Austin Kearns, Kerry Wood, and Jhonny Peralta. Here’s your answer, folks. They poured it into this draft class, which might be better than signing a free agent. Tony Lastoria at Indians Prospect Insider estimates that the Indians spent between $9-10 million all together on the 27 draft picks. The Indians signed 27 of 50 and an impressive 20 of their top 23 picks. Highest pick not to sign was their 15th rounder (LHP Ben Wetzler).

Most of this information comes courtesy of Lastoria’s site, Indians Prospect Insider. I will be the first to admit I don’t follow the prospects as closely as I should, but Tony’s site got me up to speed real quick on this draft class, and quite honestly, I’m really excited about this draft class because of what he’s written about these kids. Highly recommend checking out his site.

So let’s take a quick look at the five new players, and see what they bring to the table.

1. LHP Drew Pomeranz, B. 11/22/1988, drafted out of University of Mississippi. At 6’5” 235 lbs., Pomeranz is a big, overpowering lefty who throws at about 91-92 MPH, but can hit 94, and he ideally projects as a legit #2 starter in the big leagues. His changeup is a work in progress, but he has a “nasty” curveball-type pitch. Scouts consider both his fastball and his curve “plus pitches.”

Ed’s take: I’m excited about Pomeranz, if for no other reason than he’s not the “crafty lefty” type ala Jeremy Sowers that the Indians had been stocking up on in the draft. I’ve read nothing that says he’s got ace stuff, but he definitely can be a front of the rotation starter, and that’s what you need from a high pick.

2. OF LeVon Washington, B. 7/26/1991, drafted out of Chipola JC (FL). Washington was the first-round pick of the Rays last year (31st overall), but did not sign. He slid again, mostly due to sign-ability concerns (as stated, Scott Boras is his agent). While Washington has a great left-handed bat, with plus speed and a surprising amount of pop in his bat, he doesn’t seem to have a home on defense, as his arm may force him to move to second base. There have also been questions about his character. Still, he’s a very athletic player who some scouts compare to Coco Crisp, Shannon Stewart, or Johnny Damon.

Ed’s take: Washington is a high-risk, high-reward type of draft pick, although the questions about his defense worry me. The character issues don’t bother me as much with this pick, as the Indians insist they have done their homework on Washington.

3. SS Tony Wolters B. 6/9/1992, drafted out of Rancho Buena Vista High School (CA). The left-handed hitting Wolters might be the most exciting sign, as he was the one many people thought the Indians wouldn’t be able to sign. Wolters is described as a legit SS, but his best skill is is bat, which is described as consistently good from both sides of the plate. He’s also been described as a “baseball rat” as he’s undersized at 5’10”. Has been compared to Dustin Pedroia

Ed’s take: Everyone seems thrilled to sign Wolters, and therefore I am too. Lastoria has said he might be the best player the Indians selected in the draft, and slid due to sign-ability issues. But the Tribe signed him and without a lot of good SS options in the minors, to net a guy who everyone thinks will make the bigs is a good thing.

4. RHP Kyle Blair B. 9/27/1988, drafted out of University of San Diego. Described as a pitcher who was considered a “value pick” for the Indians. He’s struggled with injuries but has shown he can perform when healthy. Fastball is from 89-93 MPH with little movement, but his curveball has the potential to be excellent. Relies on location and deception. Considered a “safe pick” who will reach the majors quickly but has a limited ceiling, most likely of a back end starter.

Ed’s take: Uh-oh. Red flags went up in my brain reading the scouting report on this guy, and it seems like the Tribe is getting a right-handed complement to the Lefty Troika From Hell (Jeremy Sowers, Aaron Laffey and David Huff). But you need guys like this in the organization, as you’re not going to be able to draft aces all the time. Drafting guys like Blair will keep the Indians from signing an overpriced back of the rotation veteran free agent, so he can’t be all bad.

8. C Alex Lavisky B. 1/13/1991, drafted out of St. Edward HS (OH). Two things jump out at you about Lavisky: first, he’s local. He played not too far from where I live in Lakewood, OH at St. Edward High School. He’s from Cleveland, and I’m hoping he’s an Indians fan. Secondly, he’s a great defender at the catcher position, and has good power. He could turn out to be a great pick for the Tribe because at 6’2”, 210 lbs right now, he figures to get bigger and stronger.

Ed’s take: I am always in favor of Cleveland teams taking a chance on the local guys, especially when the locals could be pretty good. The Indians don’t have too much depth in the catching pipeline and even though Carlos Santana appears entrenched at the position for a few years, it never hurts to have a backup plan. I’m hoping this kid pans out – in an Indians uni.

Final take: All in all, I’m thrilled with the Indians aggressive approach to this draft class. Casual fans may not realize it, and bitter fans (or Paul Hoynes) may not want to admit it, but this is what a team that is serious about turning around their fortunes does in the draft. They be aggressive, take risks, and SIGN THE DAMN PLAYERS! No, they may not work out, but you’ll never know unless you sign them. Way to go Tribe, this could be the start of something beautiful.

Tags: Alex Lavisky Austin Kearns Ben Wetzler Carlos Santana Drew Pomeranz Jake Westbrook Jhonny Peralta Kerry Wood Kyle Blair Levon Washington Russell Branywan Tony Wolters

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