CLEVELAND -- Francisco Lindor spent a lot of time around veteran Carlos Beltran this spring, while they both suited up for Puerto Rico during the World Baseball Classic. The Indians' shortstop wanted to dive into the wealth of knowledge that Beltran possesses.While Beltran served as one of the faces of
CLEVELAND -- Francisco Lindor spent a lot of time around veteran Carlos Beltran this spring, while they both suited up for Puerto Rico during the World Baseball Classic. The Indians' shortstop wanted to dive into the wealth of knowledge that Beltran possesses.
While Beltran served as one of the faces of Puerto Rican baseball for several years, Lindor and a crop of other young players are emerging as the latest wave of stars from the island. On Tuesday, Cleveland hoped it found another future star in the third round (No. 102) of the MLB Draft, taking raw outfielder Johnathan Rodriguez out of the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico.
:: 2017 MLB Draft coverage ::
"That's special. I wish him nothing but the best," Lindor said. "I will probably call or text him at some point [soon] to congratulate him, because getting drafted by our organization is always special. It's always an honor. I definitely will reach out to him.
"I have never been to [the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy], but it's a good school back home. There's three baseball academies over there that are helping the kids. I'm looking forward to meeting the kid. It's a dream come true."
On Monday night, Cleveland grabbed high school outfielder Quentin Holmes (pick No. 64) and prep shortstop Tyler Freeman (pick No. 71) on the first night of the Draft. The Draft concludes on Wednesday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 beginning on MLB.com at noon ET.
Rodriguez, who will turn 18 in November, hails from Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, and is listed as a 6-foot-3, 180-pound outfielder. The switch-hitter boasts a strong arm (already deemed a 60 on the scouting scale, per Baseball America) and has offensive upside. Rodriguez was named a 2017 Rawlings-Perfect Game second-team All-American and made the Canada-Puerto Rico All-Region first team.
"What we really like about Johnathan is just his age," Indians senior director of amateur scouting Brad Grant said. "He's the second-youngest player in the Draft this year, a guy that we're very excited to be able to get with a third-round pick and a guy that we think can come on with the bat and eventually hit for a lot of power in the future."
Round 4 (132nd overall): 2B Ernie Clement, University of Virginia
Cleveland's first collegiate draftee of this class was one of the hardest hitters to strike out in the nation this past season. Clement, 21, was ranked 114th in MLB.com's Top 200 Draft prospects and likely benefited from scouts heading to UVA to watch first-round teammates Pavin Smith and Adam Haseley.
• Tribe takes 'throwback' Clement in Round 4
"Ernie was a stand-alone player," said Virginia head coach Brian O'Connor. "I talked to a lot of scouts that watched a lot of our games that said they wouldn't be surprised if he's the one who makes the big leagues and stays there the longest. So I think the year that he had, the summer that he had in the Cape Cod League, he climbed up people's boards from that."
What evaluators saw was a high-contact hitter who struck out only seven times in 254 at-bats this year. For his career, the right-handed-hitting Clement fanned just 31 times in 745 college at-bats. In 58 games, he posted a .315/.345/.366 slash line with eight extra-base hits, 14 steals and 80 hits. Clement was the 2016 Cape Cod League Most Valuable Player and was named third-team All-ACC in both '16 and '17.
Round 5 (162nd overall): OF Austen Wade, Texas Christian University
The Indians grabbed their fifth position player of the Draft in Wade, who has shown strong strike-zone discipline throughout his career at TCU. In three seasons with the Horned Frogs, Wade amassed 113 walks compared to 93 strikeouts. This past season, the corner outfielder (6-foot-1, 185 pounds) hit .342/.453/.504 with five homers, 16 doubles, three triples, 37 RBIs and 15 steals.
"We like the versatility in the outfield," Grant said. "He's a plus runner who can move around. He's playing right field now, but he can play center. He has the tools to be able to play center. He can play left. And he's another guy we like the contact ability with."
Round 6 (192nd overall): C Michael Rivera, University of Florida
Rivera, who is ranked 172nd on MLB.com's Top 200 Draft prospects list, missed a chunk of the 2017 campaign due to a broken hamate bone in his hand. While healthy, the catcher threw out 8-of-10 would-be basestealers and was an above-average defender. Offensively, Rivera hit .241/.344/.346 in 41 games for the Gators, but it is his skills behind the plate that are his calling card.
"[He's] an elite catch-throw prospect," Grant said. "He's a very good framer. He has a very good understanding of how to call a game. He works extremely well with the pitchers. A great leader and a guy we're excited about defensively behind the plate."
Round 7 (222nd overall): LHP Kirk McCarty, University of Southern Mississippi
It took seven rounds for Cleveland to take a pitcher in this year's Draft. In McCarty, the Indians are getting a 5-foot-10, 185-pound southpaw who averaged 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings this past season. In 17 starts, McCarty went 10-2 with a 3.52 ERA, striking out 103 and walking 22 in 99 2/3 innings. He made First-Team All-Conference USA.
"His ability to throw strikes is what stands out with him," Grant said. "[We] realized in the seventh round that we had not taken any pitchers yet. We realized that we probably should. We had truly settled on taking the best player available and making sure we got the best player available."
Round 8 (252nd overall): RHP Eli Morgan, Gonzaga University
The Indians grabbed a collegiate arm for the second pick in a row, taking a righty who boasts a plus changeup. In his career at Gonzaga, Morgan tallied 281 strikeouts in 257 1/3 innings. This past season, he went 10-2 with a 2.86 ERA, piling up 138 strikeouts against 31 walks in 100 2/3 innings. Morgan was one of four pitchers in the nation to have multiple 15-strikeout games in 2017.
"He's an elite strike-thrower," Grant said. "The changeup has a chance to be an above-average pitch for him. He's another guy we were excited to be able to have the opportunity to draft."
Round 9 (282nd overall): RHP James Karinchak, Bryant University
Karinchak (No. 163 on MLB.com's Top 200 Draft prospects list) has flashed first-round stuff in the past, but arm issues during his junior year caused both his pitch velocity and Draft stock to drop. The righty hit 96 mph on his fastball before a shoulder issue in March, and he came back sitting around 90-93 mph on the radar gun. Karinchak still struck out 86 in 56 2/3 innings, posting a 3.65 ERA in 13 starts in his third season. For his career, the righty with a three-pitch mix (fastball, curve and changeup) registered 272 strikeouts against 103 walks with a 2.83 ERA in 229 innings.
"There's some concerns with that," Grant said of the shoulder injury. "But that's something that we kind of look at as a positive. You look back at some of those guys that we've done it with in the past, like [Brady] Aiken in the first round [in 2015]. For us, we feel like our medical staff is a competitive advantage."
Round 10 (312th overall): SS Jesse Berardi, St. John's University
Ranked 166th among MLB.com's Top 200 Draft prospects, the left-handed-hitting Berardi features a high-contact swing that helped him hit at a .356 clip as a junior for St. John's. In 55 games, the shortstop had 15 extra-base hits, 12 steals, 47 RBIs, 47 runs, more walks (38) than strikeouts (35) and a .918 OPS. Berardi was drafted out of high school in 2014 (40th round by the Phillies), but he opted to head to college. In three years at St. John's, he posted an .838 OPS. He played shortstop as a junior, but he likely projects as a second baseman down the road.
"[He's] handled the bat well," Grant said. "[And he] has the ability to play short and then move around to other positions as well. We'll start him off as a shortstop."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.