The Cleveland Indians will be making some big picks early in the MLB Draft on June 4th. One possible selection is from right in the Tribe’s backyard.
Austin Becker is a right handed pitcher from Big Walnut high school in Sunbury, Ohio, just to the southwest of Cleveland. He’s MLB Pipeline’s 96th ranked draft prospect and could see himself selected on the first night of the MLB Draft.
Becker has a commitment to Vanderbilt University, one of the premier college baseball programs in the country, should he decide to go to college. But there’s a good chance he never makes it to Vanderbilt. He’s projected to be a Day 1 pick in the MLB Draft and the Cleveland Indians could be the team to pick him.
Austin Becker, RHP, Big Walnut (OH) HS
Becker comes in at 6’6″ and 185 lbs, a very tall and very projectable right handed pitcher. He sits in the mid-90s with his fastball, ranging anywhere from 93-96 MPH on his heater that has good movement.
He also has a power curveball in his arsenal that stymies opposing hitters and mixes in a changeup that has a lot of potential. His secondary pitches need a little more polish before he’s ready for the big leagues, but that’s to be expected with almost every high school pitching prospect.
Becker pitched for Team USA’s high school team last year and turned in a dominating performance, which helped his climb up the draft boards. He’s fallen a bit of late, mostly due to his loss of command and control this spring as he battled through the cold weather just like the rest of us.
Could the Cleveland Indians draft him?
It’s very possible. The Indians have four picks on the first day of the draft. They pick at 29, 35, 41, and 67 overall. According to the latest rumors, the Tribe could be targeting outfielders only if the top high school arms don’t fall to them. It’s fairly likely at this point that none of those top-tier prep pitchers make it to the Indians at 29 overall.
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But the Indians would presumably still have interest in taking a high school pitcher early in this draft even though it might not be with their first selection. The second round selection at 67 overall would make a lot of sense as a place to draft Becker. It wouldn’t be too much of a reach, and he might not be there at their next selection at 103 overall in the third round.
As with every high school draft prospect, the big question is if the team can convince the player to forego college and join the professional ranks. Some players tell teams they need ‘X’ amount of money to sign. Some wait to see what an offer will be.
Becker has a commitment to Vanderbilt, and as a pitcher, that’s one of the best programs to go to. Getting him to pass on attending Vanderbilt and sign a contract might prove to be difficult for most teams. But scouts are generally able to figure out if a player will sign with them or not.
According to reports, Becker is willing to sign if he goes somewhere in the first three rounds, and gets at least $1 million in a signing bonus. For comparison, the slotted bonus for the Indians second round pick at 67 overall is $939,700. They might have to go a little over slot to sign him, but with a bigger bonus pool this year, the Tribe could easily scrounge up the money necessary.
As for the Indians, Becker grew up right in their backyard. I’m going to presume he grew up an Indians fan given his proximity to Cleveland and their Triple-A affiliate in Columbus. If his hometown team drafts him on the first night of the draft, it would be almost impossible for him to say no, wouldn’t it?
Every kid who ever played baseball dreamed of one day playing for their favorite team growing up. If Becker gets that chance and gets drafted by the Indians, I would think he will most likely sign.
While teams generally try to look at more objective reasons to draft a player, Becker would provide a good story, and not to mention how great a player he is. With three solid pitches, he could become a starting pitcher in the big leagues, and maybe it will be with the Cleveland Indians.
The Indians are well known for their ability to develop pitching, similar to Vanderbilt’s reputation. Becker will be a good pitcher one day, he just needs the chance to develop, either in college, or in the minor leagues.