The MLB Draft is coming up soon, and although it doesn’t get the fanfare that the NFL Draft does, it’s still an important part of the franchise building process, and that’s no different for the Cleveland Indians.
The MLB Draft is the cheapest and easiest way to acquire talent in baseball. Teams don’t have to give up other players, they don’t have to dish out ridiculous contracts, and they don’t have to spend time dealing with agents.
The Draft is how the Indians were able to acquire Francisco Lindor, Cody Allen, and Jason Kipnis among many others. Most of the players on this roster are homegrown and the Cleveland Indians are the only organization they have ever known. For a small market team, it’s vital to build through the draft to build a contender. And that’s what they have done.
Building through the draft is something the Tribe will have to continue to do. And the 2018 Draft presents a tremendous opportunity for it. There are several reasons why Indians fans should care about this year’s MLB Draft and pay attention to what happens with it.
Reason #1: The Indians have several early picks
The Cleveland Indians will have four picks on the first day of the Draft, including two first rounders.
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 15, 2018
The Indians will have three of the first 41 selections in this year’s draft. That’s a lot of high level talent that the team can add to its farm system. Last year, the Indians didn’t have a selection until the 64th overall pick. They’ll have three picks before then this year.
The extra first round pick is from the free agent loss of Carlos Santana as he rejected the team’s qualifying offer this past winter and signed with the Phillies. That netted the Tribe the 35th pick.
With so many picks in the early rounds, this is a turning point draft for the Indians. The farm system isn’t very highly regarded right now but by nailing these picks, that narrative can change quickly. That leads me into my next point…
Reason #2: The Indians have a weak farm system right now
The Tribe’s farm is devoid of any real depth. Francisco Mejia and Triston McKenzie are both very highly rated prospects. Mejia is blocked at his natural position and McKenzie is still a year or two away. Other than those two guys, there really isn’t much quality talent available for the Cleveland Indians to call upon.
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Bobby Bradley is the team’s third best prospect and he’s a three true outcome type player. It’s either a big homer, a strikeout, or a walk, all with a very low batting average. That type of player is getting valued less and less in baseball. The rest of the system doesn’t offer much promise either.
In the past, the Indians have sacrificed some of their talent in order to make improvements to the big league roster, and there’s nothing wrong with that. When a team is contending, that’s just how it goes. But those trades have taken a toll on this farm system that now may not have the necessary talent to make the improvements the team wants to this July.
Reason #3: There’s a rebuild coming…
As much as no one wants to think about the possibility of a rebuild, it will be coming sooner or later. If you take an objective look at this roster, the contract situation, the state of the farm system, and the rest of the league, you would come to the conclusion that 2018 is the last best chance for the Indians to win the World Series.
The window for a championship is closing. Once it closes, what follows? A rebuild. There’s no way around that. The Indians are a small market team with a nearly maxed out payroll and can’t afford to stay continuously competitive like the Yankees or Dodgers.
The young prospects that the Indians will draft this year will be the focal points of the new rebuild that fans will inevitably go through. During a rebuild, fans need to be excited about the prospects the team has to be excited for the future of the team and the next championship window. With four early picks on Day 1, the core of the next championship Indians team could be built in this draft.
This is why everyone, even the most average fans, should care about the MLB Draft and what the Cleveland Indians decide to do in it. This draft will shape the future of this organization. With a ton of early picks, a farm system in need of repair, and a rebuild on the way, fans should be looking at the future of this team, starting with the Draft this June.
The Draft is the most important method of player acquisition, especially for the small market teams like the Indians. It determines the future of organizations. A good draft can limit a team’s futility to a few years, while bad drafts can put a team in perpetual disarray. But Cleveland sports fans are already aware of the implications of bad drafting.
The MLB Draft starts on June 4th and continues through June 6th. The first night will be televised live on MLB Network, and the final two days will be on MLB.com.