Tribe OK without first-round pick
Indians confident there's Major League potential in draft class
CLEVELAND -- John Mirabelli can't say for certain what's coming the Indians' way in the upcoming First-Year Player Draft.That's because, for the first time in Mirabelli's seven-year tenure as the head of the club's scouting department, the Indians do not have a first-round pick in the '06 draft, which takes place June 6-7. The Tribe's first-round pick was awarded to the Angels as compensation for the free-agent signing of Paul Byrd. "Part of the challenge when you pick late," Mirabelli said, "is it's hard to gauge what's coming your way." The Indians will have a lot of players coming their way once the first round is complete. They have a supplemental first-round pick at No. 39 as compensation for the loss of Bob Howry. In the second round, the club has three picks at Nos. 56 (for the loss of Kevin Millwood), 57 (for the loss of Howry) and 69. The Indians also have a supplemental second-round pick at No. 75 for the loss of Scott Elarton, giving them five out of the first 75 selections. "I think that's a good position to be in," Mirabelli said. "Those players and ability are going to be very similar to talent as those at the bottom of the first round. I think we could be getting some good value there." The reports on this year's draft class talent level rate as thin at the top, and Mirabelli said he agrees with that assessment. But he's also confident the Indians will come out with some strong prospects. "There are Major League players in this draft," he said. "There are players with the ability to help the Indians win a championship." Now it's up to Mirabelli's staff to find them. To do so, the Tribe's scouting network first looked back at the draft's history to determine what type of talent has traditionally been available at No. 39. "But as the year progressed," Mirabelli said, "there were a lot of injuries and non-performance. So we scrapped that [plan] and just went and scouted the best players." The draft is always somewhat of a crapshoot, because even the most prized commodities often don't pan out as big leaguers. The Indians will stick with their standard approach of picking the "best player available," though Mirabelli did say that college pitching is the strength of this year's class. "We hope we get lucky," he said. "We're going to take the guy with the best upside."
That was the strategy Mirabelli would take whether the pick is No. 1 or No. 100. Here's a look at how the Tribe's last three top picks are faring: Trevor Crowe, CF, 2005, pick No. 14: Crowe began the '06 season at Class A Kinston and is displaying the type of steady bat that earned him a high selection out of the University of Arizona. But with Grady Sizemore locked in at center field at the big-league level, the Indians will try to groom Crowe as a second baseman -- an area where the organization is devoid of true prospects -- during the fall Instructional League. Jeremy Sowers, LHP, 2004, pick No. 6: Sowers has wowed the Indians and fans alike with his fast rise through the Minor League system. In just his second full professional season, Sowers is dominating Triple-A hitters, thanks to the consistency of his command and his ability to eat up innings. He could very well be in the Tribe's rotation shortly. Michael Aubrey, 1B, 2003, pick No. 11: Injuries have hounded Aubrey's professional career from the beginning. He missed most of 2005 with a back injury that also held him out of big-league camp with the Indians. After rehabbing the injury for the first few weeks of the '06 season, he reported to Class A Kinston and he recently was promoted to Double-A Akron. But a strained right knee has landed him on the DL again.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.