Tribe selects Naylor at No. 29 to open Draft

RHPs Hankins (35), Torres (41), Sandlin (67) also tabbed on Day 1

June 4th, 2018

CLEVELAND -- Before the MLB Draft began on Monday night, Scott Barnsby's message to the Indians' army of scouts was a simple one. The team's new director of amateur scouting expressed appreciation for the countless hours spent in cars, on planes, in hotels and in bleacher seats behind home plate at fields around the country.
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The hard part was done. The time to reel in potential Major League talent had arrived and -- with four picks on Day 1 of the Draft -- Cleveland was in prime position to cast a wide net, see how the big board developed throughout the night and nab some new prospects. Beginning with the selection of prep catcher Noah Naylor in the first round, the Indians enjoyed a promising haul.
"It was an exciting night for us," said Barnsby, who took over this year for Brad Grant after his extremely successful decade of Drafts for the Indians. "We're really excited about the four guys that we took."
In Naylor, who was taken with the 29th overall pick in the first round, Cleveland acquired a player deemed by some evaluators as the best high school bat in this Draft class. The Indians then took a pair of prep right-handers in Ethan Hankins (35th overall) and Lenny Torres Jr. (41st overall). Before a shoulder issue stalled his season, Hankins was viewed as having No. 1 pick potential.
Following those three prep selections, the Tribe wrapped up Day 1 by picking Southern Mississippi right-hander Nick Sandlin in the second round (67th overall). Sandlin throws from multiple arm angles, features as many as five pitches and turned in some of the best statistics of any Division I collegiate arm this year. Barnsby was jokingly asked if Indians manager Terry Francona had called yet to see if Sandlin was available for the big league bullpen.
"I think we're about to get that phone call tonight," Barnsby said with a laugh.
All in all, it was hard to see the Day 1 quartet as anything but promising for the Indians, who are trying to stock the farm in an effort to sustain the Major League team's successful run in recent seasons. That process will continue on Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The preview show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage beginning at 1 p.m. ET.
A year ago, the Indians did not pick until No. 64 in the second round, when the franchise nabbed fleet-footed prep outfielder Quentin Holmes. The lack of a first-rounder was due to Cleveland signing free-agent slugger in the offseason prior to the 2017 campaign, in which the club captured its second consecutive American League Central crown.
Things were a little more hectic for Barnsby and the team's scouts on Day 1 this time around.
The 18-year-old Naylor -- the first catcher taken in the first round by the Indians since 1976 -- was selected out of St. Joan of Arc Catholic High School in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. The lefty-hitting catcher is the younger brother of Padres first-base prospect , and he comes with a similar offensive profile, according to MLB Pipeline.
In seven games for the Ontario Blue Jays (an elite 18-and-up team based in Canada) this spring, Naylor hit .421 in 26 at-bats, and he also toured Florida as a member of the Canadian Junior National Team during Spring Training. That included playing games against the staffs of the Red Sox and Blue Jays.

Naylor also took part in the High School Home Run Derby during the All-Star Game festivities at Marlins Park last July. While he has shown pop in those types of events, what really stood out to the Indians was Naylor's ability to control the bat through all regions of the strike zone. Cleveland was also intrigued by his positional versatility and plans on testing him out in the infield.
"We're excited about Noah's bat. He can really hit," Barnsby said. "Controls the strike zone. Really good hand-eye. Can drive the ball to all fields. There's power there. Defensively, [he's] a stay-behind-the-plate catcher with arm strength."
The 18-year-old Hankins dealt with shoulder issues in his senior season with Forsyth Central High School in Georgia, diminishing his Draft stock. When healthy -- and the Indians are confident he is now -- the 6-foot-6 Hankins can touch 97-98 mph with his fastball to go with a good changeup and developing curve. In helping USA Baseball's 18U National Team to a gold medal in the World Cup, the righty posted a 0.75 ERA with 27 strikeouts and three walks in 12 innings.

The Indians gained the 35th pick used on Hankins as compensation for signing with the Phillies in free agency last offseason.
"Ethan is an impressive young man," Barnsby said. "It's a four-pitch mix and he throws a lot of strikes. He's an athletic kid. The arm works well, so we're absolutely looking at him as a starter."
During Competitive Balance Round A, the Indians doubled down on prep right-handers with the selection of Torres. During his senior year with Beacon (N.Y.) High School, the 17-year-old Torres had 85 strikeouts and a 0.68 ERA in 41 innings. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound pitcher can reach 96 mph with his fastball, impressed the Indians with his slider and has a developing changeup.

Naylor (Texas A&M), Hankins (Vanderbilt) and Torres (St. John's) are each committed to a college program, but Barnsby was optimistic that they would sign with the Indians. That confidence stems from the rapport built over the past several weeks and months by area scouts Mike Kanen (Naylor and Torres) and CT Bradford (Hankins).
"We're working through that," Barnsby said. "Our area scouts have done a great job building relationships with them. We're confident that these guys want to go out and play."

The Indians wrapped up Day 1 with the selection of Sandlin in the second round. After spending two seasons as a reliever, Sandlin moved up to the role of Friday night starter for Southern Miss and turned in a brilliant campaign. In 102 1/3 innings, the right-hander went 10-0 with 144 strikeouts and 18 walks, while leading all Division I pitchers in ERA (1.06) and WHIP (0.71).
"He's not a real big guy, but he's got now stuff out of the 'pen," Barnsby said. "He varies his slots. Unique. Deceptive. And he's able to throw strikes from all variations."
After a draining day, and while holding a conference call around midnight ET, Barnsby spoke with the energy of someone who wished he could see all four players in an Indians uniform by Tuesday morning.
"With four picks," he said, "we were looking forward to it coming in."