Tribe takes last year's No. 1 pick Aiken at 17
Lefty recovering from Tommy John surgery after not signing with Astros in 2014
CLEVELAND -- The Indians did not let last summer's drama surrounding left-hander Brady Aiken deter them from taking a chance on the promising pitcher.
On Monday, Cleveland selected Aiken with the 17th overall pick in the first round of the Draft, landing a player that went first overall in the annual event one year ago. Aiken is recovering from Tommy John surgery on his left elbow, but the Indians clearly felt the reward outweighed the risk in this case.
"Our scouts did a really good job and spent a lot of time evaluating Brady over the past two years," said Brad Grant, the Indians' director of amateur scouting. "We're very excited to have the opportunity to select a player as talented as Brady, with the character of Brady as well."
Following the first-round selection, Cleveland spent its next two Day 1 picks on prep pitchers, taking righty Triston McKenzie with the 42nd pick (Competive Balance A round) and lefty Juan Hillman with the 59th pick (second round).
The Draft will continue on Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage of those rounds beginning at 1 p.m.
The 18-year-old Aiken was selected with the top overall pick in last year's Draft by the Astros, but the team's concerns over his throwing elbow led to stalled negotiations. Following an agreement on a $6.5 million bonus last year, Houston lowered its offer to $5 million after a post-Draft physical. Aiken declined the deal, joining Danny Goodwin (1971) and Tim Belcher (1983) as the only No. 1 overall picks not to sign.
The slot value for the 17th overall selection is $2,393,600 for this year's Draft.
Aiken, who was rated as the 24th-best Draft prospect by MLB.com this time around, wrote about his decision last year in an article on the Players' Tribune website in March, shortly after his reconstructive elbow surgery.
"Since last summer," Aiken wrote, "a lot of people have wondered how I could have turned down a multi-million-dollar signing bonus after being picked first in the Draft. Now, I know they'll probably be wondering about it again. I can honestly say I don't regret not signing. It was a very difficult decision, but it also was an informed decision."
Messages left with Aiken and his advisor, Casey Close, were not immediately returned on Monday night. Aiken did take to Twitter on Monday night.
Aiken was initially committed to pitch for UCLA, but the lefty opted instead to attend IMG Academy's post-graduate team, making him eligible for this year's Draft.
On March 26, Aiken left his only start for IMG Academy in Florida after just 13 pitches due to discomfort in his left elbow. Six days later, Aiken underwent surgery to replace the ulnar collateral ligament in the joint, showing that Houston's concerns were valid. Dr. David Altchek performed Aiken's surgery in New York.
Altchek also performed Tommy John surgery for Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco in 2011.
The procedure typically requires a 12-18 month recovery process.
"Right now, he's still just in the initial stages of returning from the surgery," Grant said, "and just returning at this point to the range of motion exercises. I'm not going to go into the specifics of [the medical reports]. We obviously did our whole due diligence with him and we feel good about Brady and where we are with it."
Grant said the Indians did not discuss Aiken's history with the Astros prior to the pick.
Prior to the elbow injury, Aiken pitched injury-free during his senior season with Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego. He displayed strong command of a fastball that sat around 92-94 mph and topped out around 97 mph. Aiken also throws a curveball and changeup -- the latter of which was considered one of the best offspeed pitches among 2014 Draft prospects.
At Cathedral High, Aiken went 7-0 with a 1.06 ERA in 11 starts as a senior. He was then a 2014 Perfect Game USA Team All-American and helped lead the team to the gold medal at the 18-and-under World Cup in Taiwan in September '13.
Aiken then became the fifth lefty pitcher ever to be selected first overall in the Draft -- the first since the Rays made David Price their top pick in 2007.
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Aiken is the first pitcher taken with Cleveland's top Draft pick since lefty Drew Pomeranz in 2010, ending a run of four consecutive years in which the Indians picked a position player with their top selection.
Grant said the Indians have been impressed by how Aiken has handled the events of the past year.
"That's one of the things that really stands out with Brady is his character and his work ethic and his commitment to getting better," Grant said. "That's something that definitely stood out in terms of his character and his willingness to return from here."