CLEVELAND — The Indians have used their top draft pick on college players the past five years.
Expect that trend to change Thursday when another installment of the first-year player draft gets under way in Orlando, Fla.
Cleveland, which owns the 13th overall pick in the draft, is expected to spend it on a high-ceiling, high school star, most likely a pitcher.
Baseball America, widely recognized as the top amateur baseball publication, has the Indians considering prep pitchers Blake Beaven, Phillippe Aumont, Jarrod Parker, Madison Bumgarner and Josh Smoker before settling on Beaven.
“The pool of talent has forced us to take a long, hard look and get involved with a lot of these high school guys,” said assistant general manager John Mirabelli, who runs the draft as the head of Cleveland’s scouting department. “They are the strength of the draft. We’ve been involved with some high school guys very intently.”
The Indians’ top pick is more important than ever this time around, since it is the club’s only selection through the first four rounds. Cleveland lost its second- and third-round picks as compensation for signing free agents David Dellucci and Roberto Hernandez this offseason.
“I think it puts the spotlight on that pick,” said Mirabelli, who won’t choose again until the 138th selection. “The focus is on that pick. You have to have a good, deep draft, and we’re going to. But that’s the key pick for us. It has the chance to make the most impact.”
Where the Indians might have drafted for need in the past, they won’t have that luxury with a limited number of picks.
“It’s going to limit our flexibility where we’ve been able to address or look at certain things in the past,” Mirabelli said. “Because we don’t have the picks, it’s going to make it more difficult.”
Baseball America predicts the Indians would consider taking position player Beau Mills out of Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) if he surprisingly falls to 13, but if they do wind up drafting Beaven, they will be getting an intimidating pitcher with a hard fastball.
Beaven, a 6-foot-7, 210-pound right-hander, went 9-2 with a 0.19 ERA during his senior season for Irving High School (Texas) and allowed just 23 hits, while striking out 139 batters in 73 innings.
Baseball America lists him as the eight-best pitcher in the draft, with Parker (sixth) in front of him, and Bumgarner (10th), Aumont (11th) and Smoker (12th) behind him.
Tampa Bay is expected to make Vanderbilt junior David Price the No. 1 overall pick. The left-hander was 9-0 with a 2.91 ERA in 14 games this spring.
The Indians did not have a first-round pick last year, taking left-hander David Huff out of UCLA with a sandwich selection between the first and second rounds (39th overall). Following a four-start stint at Class A Mahoning Valley last year, Huff is off to an impressive start at Single-A Kinston, where he entered Monday 4-2 with a 2.72 ERA in 11 starts.
Cleveland’s most recent top draft pick to make it to the big leagues is struggling left-hander Jeremy Sowers, who was the sixth overall selection out of Vanderbilt in 2004.
The Indians’ top pick in 2005, outfielder Trevor Crowe (14th overall) is batting just .193 with a home run and 21 RBIs in 52 games for Double-A Akron.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or email@example.com.
WHO: Cleveland vs. Kansas City
WHERE: Jacobs Field
PITCHERS: Sabathia (8-1, 3.78 ERA) vs. De La Rosa (4-5, 4.97)
TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM