Thome pick proves Draft talent pool can run deep
Future Hall of Famer a 13th-round selection in '89'; top 15 yielded big league talent
CLEVELAND -- What began with a scout jotting down notes turned into a sculptor carving out a likeness.
Later this summer, the Indians will unveil a statue of former Cleveland slugger Jim Thome, honoring one of baseball's all-time great home run hitters. That is quite an achievement for a skinny third-base prospect who was selected in the 13th round of the 1989 First-Year Player Draft to little fanfare.
"I'm a little lost for words," Thome said in January, when the Indians announced plans for his statue at Progressive Field. "As a player, I don't even want to say you dream about that."
That said, not even Cleveland can claim to have dreamt about an unheralded prospect turning into the franchise's home run king and a future Hall of Famer. That is the beauty of the annual Draft, which is often unpredictable. There are plenty of stories of both success and failure to be found within the Draft's many rounds.
The 2014 Draft will take place on June 5-7, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on Thursday, June 5, at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 74 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of the second and third days will begin with a live Draft show at 12:30 p.m. ET on June 6.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and you can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
With this year's Draft just one week away, it is a fitting time to look back at some of the best selections by Cleveland over the years. What follows is a list of the Indians' most successful picks in franchise history for each of the first 15 rounds:
Round 1: Manny Ramirez, 1991
Taken out of George Washington High School in New York, Ramirez reached the big leagues in '93 and developed into one of the best right-handed hitters of his generation. Over 19 Major League seasons, Ramirez hit .312 with a .996 OPS and launched 555 home runs. He spent his first eight seasons with Cleveland, where he was named to four of his 12 career All-Star teams.
Round 2: Albert Belle, 1987
Belle spent eight of his 12 big league seasons with the Indians and was one of the most feared hitters in the American League. A five-time All-Star, Belle launched 381 career home runs between tours with the Tribe, White Sox and Orioles. During the strike-shortened 1995 season, Belle piled up 50 homers, 52 doubles, 121 runs and 126 RBIs in 143 games for Cleveland.
Round 3: Dennis Eckersley, 1972
Best known for helping create the modern-day closer's role with the A's, Eckersley actually began his 24-year career in the Majors with the Indians. The 1992 AL Cy Young and Most Valuable Player made his first All-Star team (1977) as a member of the Tribe. Eckersley ended his prestigious career with 197 wins, 390 saves and was voted into the Hall of Fame in 2004.
Round 4: Paul Byrd, 1991
Doug Drabek could have been Cleveland's top fourth-round pick, but he didn't sign after being selected by the Tribe in 1980. Byrd did sign in '91, but was then packaged in a November '94 trade with the Mets to land Jeromy Burnitz. Byrd won 109 games in parts of 14 big league seasons with seven teams. He found his way back to the Indians for the 2006-07 seasons.
Round 5: Alan Embree, 1989
Indians fans might remember Embree best as the player traded with outfielder Kenny Lofton in the 1997 swap that netted Marquis Grissom and David Justice from the Braves. Embree spent just three years with Cleveland, but the lefty reliever went on to pitch for 10 teams in parts of 16 seasons. When his career was finished, Embree was among baseball's top 30 all-time in appearances (882).
Round 6: Kevin Kouzmanoff, 2003
The Indians have swung and missed in the sixth round over the years, making Kouzmanoff the club's top selection among the picks. The third baseman was off to a hot start this year with Texas (.362 through 13 games) before being sidelined with a back injury. Kouzmanoff has compiled 7.6 WAR in parts of seven big league seasons with five teams.
Round 7: Von Hayes, 1979
Over the years, the Indians have used the seventh round on some solid picks, including Russell Branyan (1994), David Bell (1990), Larry Anderson (1971) and Hayes. Among those choices, Hayes developed into a solid regular in the big leagues. After two years with Cleveland, Hayes was traded in 1982 to Philadelphia, where he became a staple in the Phillies outfield for nine seasons.
Round 8: Steve Kline, 1993
You could flip a coin to choose between Kline and Curt Leskanic (1989) as the Tribe's best eighth rounder. Both spent 11 seasons in the Majors and were traded away before making an impact with Cleveland. Kline had better ERA (3.51) in more games (796) than Leskanic (4.36 ERA in 603 games) and spent part of one season (1997) with the Indians.
Round 9: Luke Scott, 2001
Scott never made it to the Majors with the Indians, but he is Cleveland's clear choice as the best ninth-round pick in team history. Traded to the Astros by the Tribe in 2004, Scott has launched 135 home runs in 889 games in parts of nine seasons with Houston, Baltimore and Tampa Bay. Scott is currently playing in Korea.
Round 10: Fernando Cabrera, 1999
The 10th round has been a black hole for the Indians in terms of big league success, though Cabrera went on to appear in 132 games in the Majors. In parts of seven seasons with the Indians, Orioles and Red Sox, the righty posted a 5.24 ERA. Cabrera had a 4.35 ERA with 10 strikeouts per nine innings in his 94 games with the Tribe.
Round 11: Tom Lampkin, 1986
Lampkin appeared in only four games for the Indians in 1988 and was then traded to San Diego in July '90 in exchange for Alex Cole. Lampkin went on to become a solid big league backup catcher over parts of 13 seasons, spent with the Indians, Padres, Brewers, Giants, Cardinals and Mariners. Lampkin hit .234 in 777 games and had a 35-percent caught-stealing rate.
Round 12: John McDonald, 1996
One of the more respected players in the game, the 39-year-old McDonald used his stellar defensive skills to log 16 years in the Majors as a role player. Currently a member of the Angels, McDonald has appeared in over 1,000 games combined with eight teams (Indians, Blue Jays, Tigers, D-backs, Pirates, Phillies, Red Sox and Angels). He spent parts of seven years with the Tribe.
Round 13: Jim Thome, 1989
Thome developed into one of baseball's all-time great sluggers over the course of his 22-year career. In parts of 13 seasons with Cleveland, Thome became the franchise's home run leader, launching 337 of his 612 career long balls with the Indians. He ranks seventh on baseball's all-time list in homers and walks (1,747) and is a virtual lock for the Hall of Fame after appearing in 2,543 games with six teams.
Round 14: Ryan Church, 2000
The Indians traded Church, along with Maicer Izturis, to the Expos in 2004 in exchange for pitcher Scott Stewart. In parts of seven seasons spent with the Expos, Nationals, Mets, Braves, Pirates and D-backs, Church hit .264 with 56 homers and 267 RBIs in 654 games.
Round 15: Jerry Dybzinski, 1977
Dybzinski was born in Cleveland, he attended Cleveland State University and he was selected by his hometown team in the 15th round of the '77 Draft. The middle infielder then spent the first three of his six big league seasons with the Indians. In 468 career games, Dybzinski hit .234 in stints with the Tribe, White Sox and Pirates.