Guardians' Top 5 homegrown Draft picks

November 23rd, 2021

CLEVELAND -- The Guardians had a core group of homegrown Draft picks filling their 2021 roster, including Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale, Triston McKenzie, James Karinchak and Roberto Pérez. While it’s evident the team has been able to churn out elite pitching talent, this certainly wasn’t the first time the team had seen success from its own Draft selections.

Let’s take a look at the top five homegrown Draft picks in Guardians history:

1. Jim Thome, 48 bWAR
Drafted: 13th round, 1989

It seems hard to believe that Thome was drafted as a shortstop out of Illinois Central Junior College and wasn't taken until the 13th round, but he became arguably the best first baseman to ever go through Cleveland’s organization.

Thome was the power bat for Cleveland's magical teams of the 1990s, and he holds the club record for most homers with 337. He ranks second in the organization with 937 RBIs and first in walks (1,008). His .414 on-base percentage and .566 slugging percentage rank first among Guardians first basemen. He began his career with the club as a 20-year-old in 1991 and was selected to three All-Star Games before he left in 2003. But he returned to Cleveland for part of the '11 season, hitting .296 with three homers and 10 RBIs in 22 games.

2. Manny Ramirez, 30 bWAR
Drafted: First round, 1991

Ramirez was the man with the iconic right-handed swing, who caught the Guardians’ eye as a high schooler in New York. The first eight years of his career were spent in Cleveland and during that time, he was selected to four All-Star Games and won three Silver Slugger Awards. In his final two seasons with the club, Ramirez led the American League in slugging percentage and OPS and knocked in an MLB-best 165 runs in 1999.

Ramirez ranks second of all homegrown Draft picks in bWAR and leads all Guardians right fielders in games played (967), runs scored (665), hits (1,086), doubles (237), homers (236), RBIs (804), walks (541), slugging percentage (.592, which is the highest of all Cleveland players) and OPS (.998).

3. Francisco Lindor, 28.7 bWAR
Drafted: First round, 2011

Lindor’s time as a member of the franchise may have been limited to six seasons (including a pandemic-shortened 2020), but he was still fourth in defensive WAR (9.4) and fifth in overall WAR (28.7) while ranking first in homers (138), slugging percentage (.488) and OPS (.833) among all Guardians shortstops.

He emerged on the big league stage in 2015 and was elected to the All-Star Game each season from '16-19. He won two Gold Glove Awards, two Silver Slugger Awards and quickly became one of the best players in the game. From '17-19, he recorded the third-most extra-base hits and homers in a single season (among shortstops), and he logged the second-most home runs and hits through the first five years of a career by anyone in club history with 130 and 835, respectively.

4. Albert Belle, 27.4 bWAR
Drafted: Second round, 1987

Belle may not have left Cleveland on the greatest terms, but there’s no denying the contributions he made to the club during its iconic run in the 1990s. In eight seasons with Cleveland, he hit .295 with a .949 OPS, which is the fifth highest in club history among those who played at least 150 games.

Belle ranks second with 242 homers among all Guardians players, trailing just Thome, who hit 337 in 1,880 more plate appearances. Belle was a four-time All-Star with Cleveland, winning four Silver Slugger Awards and finishing in the top three in the AL MVP Award vote three times. When he was the runner-up for the honor in 1995, he led the AL with 121 runs scored and 126 RBIs; he also led the Majors with a .690 slugging percentage, 50 homers and 52 doubles, becoming the first -- and only -- player to eclipse 50 in both categories.

5. CC Sabathia, 27.5 bWAR
Drafted: First round, 1998

Sabathia was 20 years old when he first took the mound on April 8, 2001. That season, he posted a 4.39 ERA in 180 1/3 innings with 171 strikeouts and a 4.22 FIP, making him the runner-up for the AL Rookie of the Year Award. Over his seven and a half seasons with the club, he accumulated the second-highest bWAR (27.5) of all lefty starters in franchise history and trailed just Sam McDowell in games started (237), wins (106), innings pitched (1,528) and strikeouts (1,265).

In 2007, he earned the AL Cy Young Award by going 19-7 with a 3.21 ERA over a Major League-leading 241 innings, with 209 strikeouts and a 1.141 WHIP.

Honorable mention

Charles Nagy (first round, 1988): In 13 years with the Guardians, Nagy went 129-103 with a 4.51 ERA and a 24.8 bWAR.

Buddy Bell (16th round, 1969): Bell spent seven years in Cleveland, owning a .274/.328/.382 slash line and a 24.5 bWAR.