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Cleveland Indians Draft Report Card

By David Rawnsley

Best Debut: Few Indians draftees got off to quick starts. Two collegians, LHP Anthony Marini (16) and RHP Kyle Denny (26) had the most success. Marini went 5-3, 3.60 at short-season Mahoning Valley; Denny went 3-4, 3.44 at Rookie-level Burlington.

Best Athlete: OF Eric Johnson (3) was a Division I-AA All-American safety at Western Carolina. The Indians lured him away from a potential NFL career by giving him a $700,000 bonus and they hope the blazing runner will develop in baseball along the lines of Brian Jordan.

Best Hitter: Despite limited baseball experience, Johnson was not overmatched at either Burlington or Mahoning Valley. He hit .242-4-32 overall and showed good bat speed and a surprisingly mature approach at the plate.

Best Power: C Will Hartley (2), the team’s top pick, struggled at the plate in his pro debut hitting just .159-4-14–in part due to a sore right shoulder. He’s a switch-hitter with plus raw power.

Fastest Runner: Johnson has first-step quickness and well above-average top end speed. He should be an adept basestealer as he learns to read pitchers.

Best Defensive Player: Hartley has good catch-and-throw tools, but was unable to catch regularly due to his shoulder. Johnson has all the tools except a strong arm to be a top-notch center fielder.

Best Fastball: RHP Devin Rogers (8) can hit 95-96 mph on the rare occasions when his mechanics come together, but pitched very little in college at Nicholls State. He will be a challenge for the organization’s pitching instructors.

Most Intriguing Background: OF Michael Bishop (44) played baseball at Blinn (Texas) JC but is better known for finishing second in the 1998 Heisman Trophy balloting after quarterbacking Kansas State to college football prominence. A seventh-round pick in the NFL draft last April, he is a backup QB for the New England Patriots.

Closest to the Majors: Johnson’s progress depends on his ability to hit; the rest of his tools should play quickly. RHP Stephen Cowie (9) is the most advanced prospect the Indians signed.

The One That Got Away: SS Jeff Baker (4) was the MVP of the World Junior Championships in Taiwan in August and should make an immediate impact at Clemson.

Best Non-Draft Sign: The Indians like the power/speed combination of 1998 draft-and-follow OF J.J. Sherrill (23), who hit .206-3-24 with 28 stolen bases for Burlington. The Sacramento City College product must learn to make more consistent contact.

Summary: The Indians, with their third scouting director in three years, didn’t have a first-round pick. Hartley was considered a reach in the second round, and Baker didn’t sign. The middle rounds will have to produce in order for this draft to succeed.

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