Indians 2002 Draft Overview
By Allan Simpson
Scouting Director: John Mirabelli (first year: 2000).
2000 Draft (First three rounds, picking 26th)
2001 Draft (First three rounds, picking 21st)
Predictably, their drafts lacked any sense of philosophical continuity. And while they scored with first-round picks Manny Ramirez (1991) and C.C. Sabathia (1998), the Indians also had their share of misses. They selected college first basemen David Miller and Danny Peoples with consecutive first-round picks in the mid-90s, though few teams saw either as a legitimate first-rounder. Peoples was an acknowledged "signability" pick in 1996--a curious selection because the Indians were in the midst of selling out every home game at the time.
With their fourth scouting director in four years in 1999, things hit bottom as the Indians may have had the worst draft in the last 10 years. They didn't have a first-round pick; second-rounder Will Hartley retired after 64 minor league games; third-rounder Eric Johnson quit in Class A to go back to his football career; fourth-rounder Jeff Baker didn't sign and has emerged as a first-round pick this year; fifth-rounder Curtis Gay was released after hitting .187 in two-plus seasons; sixth-rounder Shane Wallace's career is on hold after Tommy John surgery; and seventh-rounder Daylon Monette didn't sign.
So the Indians made another change, going outside the organization to hire respected Tigers national crosschecker John Mirabelli as scouting director. Cleveland's draft fortunes improved swiftly and dramatically, without the customary transition draft most first-year directors endure. Mirabelli took third baseman Corey Smith with his debut first-round pick in 2000, and he immediately became the organization's top prospect.
Mirabelli then outdid himself with a watershed draft in 2001. With Ramirez, Sandy Alomar and David Segui leaving Cleveland as free agents, the Indians had five of the first 51 picks and put them to good use, getting some of the best high school arms in last year's draft. Righthanders Dan Denham, J.D. Martin, Jake Dittler and Travis Foley already rank among the organization's top prospects.
The addition of the young pitchers helped to prompt a dramatic change in organization philosophy that coincided with Mark Shapiro assuming the role of general manager. Unlike his predecessor John Hart, who emphasized a team built on power arms and power bats, Shapiro has retooled the organization around pitching and defense. The offseason departure of Roberto Alomar, Marty Cordova, Juan Gonzalez and Kenny Lofton officially ushered in a new era in Cleveland.
Mirabelli's third draft is expected to continue his club's approach. A draft that is deep in pitching should be made to order for the new-look Indians. They have the 22nd pick and four extra picks--two for the loss of Gonzalez (33rd and 82nd overall), one for Cordova (72nd) and one for their failure to sign first-round pick Alan Horne last year (41st).
The Indians also have the draft-and-follow rights to Sacramento City College righthander Sean Smith, a 16th-round selection last year who has surfaced this spring as a first-round talent.
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