Guardians' Draft strategy: 'We take the best available player'

July 16th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Mandy Bell's Guardians Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

OK, maybe Cleveland won’t take 19 pitchers like it did in last year’s MLB Draft, but it’s not off the table.

“We take the best available player,” Guardians director of amateur scouting Scott Barnsby said. “We did not expect going into last year that we were going to take 19 pitchers, however it’s kind of a flip of a coin. … That doesn’t mean we’ll do that this year. If it happens, great.”

The Guardians' front office is taking its last few days to prepare for the 2022 MLB Draft, as the event is set to get started at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday with the first two rounds. The Draft will continue Monday for Rounds 3-10 before wrapping up Tuesday with Rounds 11-20.

The team has spent the last year getting to know every player it could potentially draft as well as possible. The organization prides itself on the relationships it establishes with these young prospects prior to their professional careers beginning. But as far as a strategy going into this year’s Draft, it may be as simple as Barnsby put it: They take the best player available when it’s their turn to pick.

That’s when those relationships and the tireless work every local scout puts in to know everything there is to know about each player on the board comes in handy. Which players are likely to sign? Which players fill a void in the farm system? Which players have the best skillsets to thrive in this organization? The Guardians enter the Draft with a handful of names in their heads, but all those questions are what’s answered the second the team is on the clock to make its picks.

“We’re constantly asking ourselves the question, ‘What are we missing?’” Barnsby said. “And then we work together to try to figure that out. Over the last few weeks, we’ve spent many hours in the room meeting with our area scouts and so many other people that have contributed to the process.”

In MLB Pipeline’s latest mock Draft, our Draft expert Jonathan Mayo projected the Guardians to take right-hander Dylan Lesko with their first-round pick (No. 16 overall), assuming the hurler from Buford (Ga.) High School is still on the board. If not, our Pipeline crew expects Cleveland to target middle infielders (as it has the last few years) like Zack Neto from Campbell University or Cole Young out of North Allegheny High School (Wexford, Pa.).

But as Barnsby continues to reiterate: The team won’t have too structured of a plan heading into the Draft and will stick to the idea of taking who it views as the best player on the board when the Guardians are on the clock.

“In terms of the depth,” Barnsby said, “I think we’ve spent equal amounts of time in every demographic -- high school, college, position player, pitcher -- and I can sit here and honestly tell you there’s talent in every area, which is exciting.”