The Cleveland Indians Have the14th Pick in Tonight’s 2016 MLB Draft
Tonight marks the start of the 2016 Major League Draft begins with the Cleveland Indians picking 14th in the first round. It’s the highest they’ve picked since 2013 when they drafted high school outfielder Clint Frazier fifth-overall out of high school. Currently the Tribe’s top prospect (according to your’s truly at least), he’s having himself a hell of a year with the Double-A Akron Rubberducks.
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In fact, each of the last three first-round picks by the Indians ranks among the top three prospects in the organization with 2014 first-round pick Bradley Zimmer second and 2015 first-round pick Brady Aiken third. The Indians have amassed a lot of talent in the draft in recent years, could 2016 be more of the same? Here are a few guys the Indians could target in this year’s first round tonight (in no particular order):
Blake Rutherford – OF, Chaminade College Preparatory (HS-CA)
Rutherford is a 19-year-old high school outfielder out of West Hills, California. The UCLA commit and New Jersey native stands 6’2″ and weighs 190 pounds. He bats left-handed and throws right-handed. He has a very athletic and projectable frame that scouts feel can fill out as he matures at the professional level. He’s a “five-tool” player who shows flashes of brilliance in all facets of the game. He’s a bit like Clint Frazier in that while many feel he could play centerfield, he probably profiles better in right field. For him, though, that shouldn’t be an issue thanks to the bat and arm.
The Indians haven’t shied away from taking toolsy high school kids lately, drafting some kid named Francisco Lindor in 2011 (I hear he’s working out ok) in addition to Frazier in 2013. Many feel Rutherford is a top ten talent in this draft so a good chance he doesn’t last til the Tribe’s pick at 14, but if he is there, he’d be an excellent selection for the Tribe.
Jason Groome – LHP, Barnegat High School (HS-NJ)
Groome is a guy that almost no one thought could be an option at 14 weeks ago; however, questions about his maturity and college commitment may cause him to drop tonight. In fact, Baseball America recently mocked Groome to the Indians at 14. Still only 17, the high school lefty stands 6’6″ and weighs about 220 pounds. He throws in the mid-90s and flashes some of the best stuff in the draft wish some even calling him the best high school talent in tonight’s draft.
Despite some thinking he could drop to the Indians, many more think he’ll still go top five (possibly even third to the Atlanta Braves). However, concerns over his commitment change from Vanderbilt and junior college could play into the Tribe’s hands. By switching from a four-year university in Vanderbilt to a junior college, Groome sets himself up to be eligible for the 2017 draft should he decide not to sign versus having to wait til the 2019 draft.
Indians’ 2015 draft pick Brady Aiken decided to forgo a four-year university after failing to sign with the Houston Astros in 2014, instead enrolling in a junior college which made him eligible for the 2015 draft where the Indians ultimately took him. The Indians took a chance on Aiken, who cold have returned to college and been eligible for this year’s draft, so could they do the same if Groome fell?
Zack Collins – C, University of Miami
Collins is a rare left-handed hitting catcher who was originally drafted out of high school by the Cincinnati Reds 2013 (27th round). He decided instead to attend the University of Miami where he’s enjoyed a stellar career. In his three seasons with the Hurricanes, Collins has hit .316 with a 1.056 OPS, playing in at least 57 games all three years.
He’s hit 39 home runs in his collegiate career, including 13 this season. he also has 37 doubles and eight triples. Perhaps more impressive though is the fact that he’s walked more than he’s struck out in his career (168 BB,159 K). As a junior this year, he’s struck out just 48 times compared to 69 walks.
He’s an offensive catcher without question but his defense has been getting better. Scouts have described his abilities as “passable” behind the plate. Baseball America still calls him the top catching prospect in the draft even with the defensive limitations. he may always be a below average defensive catcher but the bat should make him playable back there. There’s a lot of talk of the Chicago White Sox taking Collins with the number ten pick tonight but if he slips past them, the Indians could consider him, especially with catcher being such a weak spot in the system.
Ian Anderson – RHP, Shenendehowa Central (HS-NY)
Yet another high school arm, Anderson stands 6’3″ and weighs 175 pounds with room to grow. The 18-year-old right-hander hails from Rexford, New York. He another than can run his fastball up to the mid-90s. He’s got a good feel for a changeup, especially for a high schooler. He’s also got a promising curveball.
Anderson is committed to Vanderbilt, and that alone could put him on the Tribe’s radar. The Indians drafted Vanderbilt commits Justus Sheffield and Triston McKenzie with their second first-round picks in the previous two years. They were able to get both to sign and forego their scholarships to the college powerhouse. Could Anderson be next?
Jordan Sheffield – RHP, Vanderbilt University
You may have noticed that Jordan shares the same last name as a current Iprospectorpsect, Justus Sheffield. The two are in fact brothers, with Jordan being the older of the two. The elder Sheffield plays for Vanderbilt, where he thought he’d have been teammates with his brother if not for the Indians. Also like his brother, he’s a bit undersized standing just 6’0 and weighing 185 pounds (some reports list him at only 5’11” even).
The 21-year-old right-hander was originally drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 13th round back in 2013 but did not sign after suffering an injury and requiring Tommy John surgery. He did not pitch in 2014 for the Commodores due the injury and worked mostly out of the bullpen in 2015. However, since moving to the rotation full-time in 2015 as a junior, he’s taken his game up a notch. In 16 starts, he went 8-6 with a 3.01 ERA. He struck out 113 batters in just 101.2 innings (10.0 K/9).
Sheffield has a good fastball that he can consistently throw in the mid-90s, with some giving it a 70-grade (80 is the high mark). He also has a plus changeup and a curveball that’s a legit third pitch, even though it’s still developing. Sheffield may be a bit of a stretch though at 14 for the Indians, with many feeling he’s more of a later round talent. He’s also got two years of eligibility left rather than just one due to being redshirted his freshman year. If the Indians feel 14 is too rich for him there’s a chance they could consider him in the second round (55th) should he somehow fall that far.
Eric Lauer – LHP, Kent State Unversity
A Midview High School Alum and Grafton, Ohio native, Lauer stands 6’3″ and weighs about 200 pounds. The left-hander was originally drafted in 2013 by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 17th round but decided to attend Kent State University instead. In his three years with the Golden Flashes, Lauer has pitched in 45 games (42 starts) posting a 1.87 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. As junior this season he’s been even better, going 10-2 with a tantalizing 0.69 ERA and 0.74 WHIP. He’s struck out 292 batters in his 270 collegiate innings (9.73 K/9). He’s improved his control every year as well, walking only 28 batters in 104 innings this season.
As great as his numbers have been, Lauer has been pitching in the MAC, which is a far cry from the powerhouse SEC or ACC conferences. However, in 2015 he pitched in the Cape Cod summer league where he faced some of college baseball’s best talent and more than held his own. In eight starts, he went 4-1 with a 2.04 ERA, 0.98 WHIP , and 11.3 K/9, proving he could pitch with the best of them.
Lauer is viewed by most as a late first round guy with some projecting him to the White Sox with their second first-round pick. Indians could be reaching a bit with the 14th pick as he doesn’t have the raw stuff that many first rounders have, but he could have the highest floor of any left-hander in the draft.
Plenty of Others to Consider
There are numerous others the Indians could consider, not only at No. 14 tonight but at No. 55 and No. 72 as well. College bats like Will Craig (Wake Forest) and Buddy Reed (Florida) could be options as well as prep bats like Josh Lowe (HS-GA), Nolan JOnes (HS-PA), Gavin Lux (HS-WI), and Taylor Trammell (HS-GA).
The Indians haven’t shied away from prep arms in recent years either so players like Forrest Whitley (HS-TX) and Braxton Garrett (HS-AL) could be in play if on the board. The Indians haven’t gone with a true college arm with their first pick since taking Drew Pomeranz fifth overall in 2010, but perhaps they look at someone like Cal Quantrill (Stanford), Justin Dunn (Boston College), Kyle Funkhouser (Louisville), or Dakota Hudson (Mississippi State).
The first two rounds of the draft begin tonight and can be seen on MLB Network and MLB.com. Be sure to check back here for updates and analysis on who the Indians pick.