Indians 2020 MLB Draft Preview: Cleveland Eyes The High School Ranks
Unlike the NBA or NFL drafts, MLB teams do not draft for immediate need. There’s good reason for that, as even the most MLB-ready draft prospects usually take two seasons to get fully established in the majors. But as we ready for the 2020 MLB draft, it is useful to look at where teams are deep and where they are thin at the MLB and minor league level.
Also of note:
2019 MLB RECORD: 93-69
STATE OF THE SYSTEM: The Indians’ system is filled with youth and upside, especially among their Top 10 Prospects. Six of those players were born in the year 2000 or later, and none has played above Double-A. The group’s youth, tools and upside should make the progress of Cleveland’s minor leaguers extremely interesting over the next few years.
BEST DRAFT PICK OF THE DECADE: SS Francisco Lindor (first round, 2011). Lindor isn’t just the Indians’ best draft pick of the decade. He’s one of the best draft picks of the past decade, period. The 2011 No. 8 overall pick finished second in the 2015 Rookie of the Year voting, has finished among the top 10 in MVP balloting three times and has accrued 27.6 WAR (as measured by Baseball Reference) over his five-season career. Behind Lindor, the title probably goes to righthander Shane Bieber, who has developed into a top-end starter since the Indians took him in the fourth round of the 2016 draft.
WORST DRAFT PICK OF THE DECADE: LHP Brady Aiken (first round, 2015). After questionable MRI results in 2014 kept Aiken from signing with the Astros as the No. 1 overall pick, the Indians drafted the lefthander and signed him with the 17th pick in 2015. Aiken was coming off Tommy John surgery and didn’t make his pro debut until 2016. In the four seasons since his selection, Aiken has failed to advance past low Class A and has pitched all of 0.2 innings over the last two seasons.
DEEPEST POSITION(S): Middle infielders. By far, this category goes to middle infielders. Seven of their Top 30 Prospects are shortstops—including Top 10 Prospects Tyler Freeman, Brayan Rocchio and Gabriel Rodriguez. Two more—Aaron Bracho and Jose Tena—project as second basemen, giving the team nine prospects who should play up the middle in the big leagues. That means the team should have plenty of options to potentially replace Lindor, who is a free agent after next season.
WEAKEST POSITION(S): Center field. The Indians have a dearth of true center field prospects. George Valera and Oscar Gonzalez project as left fielders and Daniel Johnson and Will Benson should wind up in right field. None of the team’s Top 30 Prospects, however, have center field pedigree. With promising rookie Oscar Mercado in tow, however, they might not have to worry about that position for a while.
DRAFT TRENDS: The top of the Indians’ drafts in recent years has been predominantly populated by high schoolers. Fourteen of Cleveland’s top three picks over the past five years have come from the prep ranks. The only exception was Oregon State catcher Logan Ice, whom the Indians selected in the second supplemental round in 2016.