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Indians Turn To College Bats

June 3, 2003
By Jim Ingraham

CLEVELAND--After concentrating on pitching in most of the early rounds of recent drafts, the Indians used two of their three first-round picks this year on college hitters.

It's the first time the Indians have selected a college position player in the first round since 1996. With the 11th overall pick, the Tribe chose Tulane first baseman Michael Aubrey. With the 18th pick, which they got from the Phillies as compensation for losing Jim Thome, the Indians selected Ball State outfielder Brad Snyder.

The Indians also received a supplemental first-round pick as compensation for losing Thome, and with that pick, the 31st overall, they selected Texas high school righthander Adam Miller. Aubrey, the Conference USA player of the year and a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award, hit .420-18-79 at Tulane this season.

"He is a player who has competed at the very highest level, and been very successful," said Indians assistant general manager for scouting operations John Mirabelli. "He's a very smart kid, with a tremendous work ethic, and strong character."

Recruited as a lefthander/first baseman, Aubrey was used in both roles as a freshman and sophomore. But as a junior he played first base exclusively.

"I wanted the chance to play every day, and I just felt I had a better future as a hitter," Aubrey said.

The 21-year-old lefthanded hitter is considered above-average defensively at first base. Offensively, he was rated as the second-best college hitter in the draft, behind Rickie Weeks. "Michael is a very accomplished college hitter," said Mirabelli. "I've compared him a lot to Sean Casey. He's a hitter first, and we think that his power will follow."

There may not have been any player in the draft more excited about the team that selected him than Snyder was to be chosen by the Indians. A native of Bellevue, Ohio, about 60 miles west of Cleveland, Snyder was a rabid Indians fan growing up.

"I watched the Indians every day on TV as a kid," Snyder said. "They've always been my favorite team. I definitely had a lot of my family rooting for them to draft me."

Like Aubrey, Snyder is a 21-year-old lefthanded hitter. He was the Mid-American Conference player of the year this season.

"Brad really blossomed this year," Mirabelli said. "He's changed himself physically, getting bigger and stronger. And he has a better-than-average makeup."

A right fielder at Ball State, Snyder will begin his professional career as a center fielder. "We feel he has the arm and speed and athleticism to play center field," Mirabelli said. Miller is an 18-year-old from McKinney (Texas) High who was 10-2, 0.56 this spring. In 75 innings he gave up 48 hits, with 117 strikeouts and 16 walks.

"We targeted him early in the process," Mirabelli said. "We expected he would be there at 31 for us. We've had some success here with high school righthanded pitchers. He's a sinker/slider/change guy, with good command and control."

Mirabelli said Miller is advanced for a high school pitcher. "This is not a down-the-road guy," he said. "He could be playing in a full-season league for us in '04."

Miller has committed to the University of Arizona, but according to Mirabelli, "his family has told us he wants to sign." Aubrey and Snyder also both indicated that signability should not be a problem.

The Indians selected college catchers with their second- and third-round picks. In the third round they chose Javi Herrera from Tennessee, and in the fourth they tabbed Stanford's Ryan Garko, who caught Jeremy Guthrie, the Indians' first-round pick in last year's draft.

Aubrey is the first college position player taken by the Indians in the first round since 1996, when they selected Texas first baseman Danny Peoples.

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