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Draft Report Card

Dan Denham
Photo: Bill Setliff

Best Pro Debut: RHP J.D. Martin (1) put up the best numbers of any 2001 draftee, going 5-1, 1.38 with a 72-11 strikeout-walk ratio and a .164 opponent batting average in 46 innings at Rookie-level Burlington. His teammate, RHP Dan Denham (1), was named the Appalachian League’s top pitching prospect after going 0-4, 4.40 with 31 strikeouts in as many innings. 1B Andy Baxter (32) hit .244-11-46, leading the Appy League in RBIs and extra-base hits (31). He finished second in homers, as did 1B Rickie Morton (25) in the short-season New York-Penn League, where he batted .282-12-40.

Best Athlete: OF Jonathan Van Every, a 29th-round draft-and-follow from 2000, was the best athlete signed by the Indians in 2001. From their draft, raw OF Jose Cruz (36) gets the nod.

Best Hitter: OF Michael Conroy (1) hit .244-2-23 in the Appy League, but the Indians aren’t worried. They like his array of tools and don’t think his performance is out of line for a New England high school player facing more experienced pitchers.

Best Raw Power: Morton, who broke Greg Vaughn’s single-season home run record at Sacramento City College before transferring to Pacific.

Fastest Runner: A switch-hitter, Cruz can get to first base in 4.0 seconds from the left side of the plate and in 4.2 seconds from the right.

Best Defensive Player: Van Every is the best pure center fielder in the system. Among the 2001 draftees, SS Bryce Uegawachi (26) is a plus defender.

Best Fastball: Denham maintained a 94-95 mph fastball throughout the Appy League season and instructional league. RHP Travis Foley (4), another quality high school arm, throws 93-94 mph, though his velocity doesn’t come as easy as Denham’s.

Most Intriguing Background: Martin and his older brother Kevin, a non-drafted free agent from Southern Colorado, were signed as a package deal by the Indians. It was one of three instances where a first-round pick was signed along with an older brother by the same organization.

Closest To The Majors: LHP Marcos Mendoza (5) has a plus slider that could hurry his ascent to the majors as a middle reliever. Mendoza and RHP Nick Moran (3), whose best pitch is a curveball, will start next season at high Class A Kinston.

Best Late-Round Pick: RHP T.J. Burton’s (18) instructional league performance had Cleveland thinking of a young Bret Saberhagen. He’s very projectable at 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds, throws strikes and already shows a fringe-average fastball and an average slider. The Indians signed Burton, Cruz and RHP Jimmy Schultz (22) late after missing out on . . .

The One Who Got Away: RHP Alan Horne (1), their second of four first-round picks. Horne was part of the cream of the exceptionally deep crop of high school righthanders, and Cleveland settled for signing Denham and Martin.

Assessment: Denham and Martin make a nice compensation package for the loss of free agent Manny Ramirez, especially considering that Cleveland signed Juan Gonzalez to replace Ramirez. The Indians’ biggest need is pitching, and they tried to fill it with this draft.

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