First-rounder Benson, Tribe happy to finalize deal

Outfielder, 18, steals show at introductory news conference; Grant: 'We've got a tremendous person'

June 17th, 2016

CLEVELAND -- Will Benson has a few plans for the hefty signing bonus that he just received from the Indians. The young outfielder wants to get something for his parents. He will tithe to his church. Benson wants to give some money to his high school and help fund a project for building a baseball facility for kids.

Benson does not plan on buying a new car. He said his 2001 Ford Explorer runs just fine.

"It works," Benson said with a laugh. "It gets me from Point A to Point B. I'll take that."

Draft signing and bonus tracker

Before Friday's game against the White Sox, Benson -- an outfielder out of The Westminster Schools in Atlanta -- and a handful of other signees from last week's MLB Draft were on hand at Progressive Field. Benson, who was taken with the 14th overall pick in the first round, received a $2.5 million bonus, according to's Jonathan Mayo.

Cleveland also announced the signing of three additional Draft picks Friday: catcher Logan Ice (Competitive Balance Lottery B), right-hander Aaron Civale (third round) and infielder Samad Taylor (10th round).

One day after turning 18, Benson stole the show in his first professional news conference. He quipped that he tried to do too much as a high school hitter, because "the girls want to see the long ball." He wore socks with Mickey Mouse all over them ("That's just me," he said.). He spoke about how he wants the Indians' outfield to someday become the "No-Fly Zone."

"As you guys will hear," said Brad Grant, the Indians' director of amateur scouting, "we've got a tremendous person. On top of a tremendous person, though, we're really excited about the baseball skills he brings to the table as well. He's a guy who's got a chance to be a five-tool player, a guy who's got a chance to hit the ball a long way."

Benson also signed for less than the No. 14 slot value of $2,973,700, giving Cleveland some savings as it works through negotiations for the rest of its Draft selections. For example, the extra funds could help sign prep infielder Nolan Jones, who was taken in the second round (No. 55) and whose Draft slot has a value of $1,159,200. The Indians have $7,499,600 in pool money to sign their picks from the first 10 rounds.

In 35 games during his senior year, Benson hit .454 with eight home runs, 11 doubles, 41 RBIs and a 1.380 OPS. He led the Wildcats to their first state title since 1975, and he was named to the 2016 Rawlings-Perfect Game All-American First Team. Benson also appeared in the 2015 Team USA Baseball Tournament of Stars summer showcase, as well as the Under Armour All-American Game in August at Wrigley Field.

Jim Rickon, Cleveland's Minor League hitting coordinator, visited with Benson in May and asked the young hitter to test out a few adjustments during a workout.

Indians' 2016 Draft picks

"The amazing thing was Will felt it right away," Grant said. "Balls were going 450 feet away and going up over trees. I hadn't ever seen anything like that before."

"I had never done anything like that before," Benson chimed in.

After doing extensive work behind the scenes to get to know Benson and his family, Cleveland was hoping the right fielder would be on the board when the 14th pick came around. Benson, meanwhile, was also praying that the Indians would be the team to take him, too.

"There was a connection," Benson said. "I wanted to be with the Cleveland Indians, just because of the connection we had and the kind of people they are. They are very family oriented. ... I was hoping I made it to 14. Not many kids are saying, 'I want to make it to 14.' But, I made it 14 and I'm very thankful."

On Friday, Benson walked through the clubhouse, up the dugout steps and gazed out at the ballpark he hopes to call home someday.

"It's a blessing," he said. "It's almost a feeling of, OK, now you're here. Now, it's time to put your words into action."