Lacking first-round pick, Indians lean on scouts

June 15th, 2017

CLEVELAND -- The MLB Draft is always about the players in the end, but the lack of a first-round pick this year made the preparation much different for the Indians. In that way, Brad Grant, Cleveland's senior director of amateur scouting, felt that this Draft was about the scouts.
Rather than having a team of scouts dedicated to getting as much information as possible on first-round talent, the Indians were able to spread their evaluators more evenly, getting multiple looks at players in the Draft's deeper rounds. That created a heightened sense of conviction among the scouts, who could strongly pair their opinions with the data.
Indians Draft Tracker
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"Our decision-making process kind of removes bias and emotion," Grant said after the Draft concluded Wednesday. "Because we had so many looks, because we were able to layer on so much more information, it felt like their voice and value came out even more this year."
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The Indians' top pick of the Draft was second-rounder Quentin Holmes, a fleet-footed outfielder from Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School in Queens, N.Y. Cleveland took prep stars with its top three selections, but finished with a Draft class that featured 26 collegiate players to 14 high schoolers.
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The Indians forfeited their first-round pick as part of the signing of free-agent slugger to a three-year, $60-million contract during the winter.
The Indians waited until the seventh round to grab an arm, picking left-hander Kirk McCarty out of the University of Southern Mississippi. The Tribe ended with 21 position players and 19 pitchers, including 13 arms from the college ranks. Cleveland did not take a prep pitcher until the 11th round, when it picked lefty Matthew Turner out of Miami Palmetto Senior High School.
Turner was the Tribe's first selection on the Draft's third and final day, which covered rounds 11-40.

"Turner was the guy that we wanted to make sure we got," Grant said. "We built a really strong relationship with his family before. He's a big high-upside left-hander. I'm not sure how many other teams were on him, but because of the relationship that we built with him, he was the one that we targeted and made sure we got."
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Establishing relationships -- one of the jobs of an area scout -- played a big role in this Draft.
As an example, 12th-rounder Dante Mendoza (a cousin of Orioles closer Zach Britton) played for an Indians' summer ball team in Jupiter, Fla., last year and got to know members of the organization. Mendoza, who is a pitcher out of Torrance High School in California, also built a strong rapport with area scout Carlos Muniz. Those connections helped lead to him being picked by Cleveland.
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The Indians' 35th-rounder, righty Spencer Strider of the Christian Academy of Knoxville (Tenn.), was taken not only for his promise, but because the Indians learned that his parents grew up in Cleveland. He attended all of the team's World Series games last fall.

Along those same lines, the Indians used their picks in the 31st and 35th round, respectively, on lefty Asa Lacy (ranked 124th on MLB Pipeline's top 200 Draft prospects list) and outfielder Cole Turney (No. 182). Both players are expected to head to college, but Cleveland selected them in part to form a relationship potentially for down the road.

"Day 3 is really for our scouts," Grant said. "It's those guys that they really know well, and it's those guys that they have strong feelings for, they are the ones that we've targeted. And usually, we've had a lot of success at being able to find guys back there."