Welcome to Tribe Talk, where Bleacher Report’s Cleveland Indians fans weigh in on the ups and downs of the club each week throughout the season.

This week we focus on the signing deadline for draft picks and discuss our thoughts on the draftees signed by the Indians, debate whether the MLB slotting system needs an overhaul, and share our thoughts on how much draft position really matters. 

I would like to thank this week’s participants Dale Thomas, Dan Tylicki, and Scott Miles for their contributions. This discussion is open to all, so please feel free to comment below and share your thoughts on the questions we’re addressing this week.

Go Tribe!

1. On Monday, the last day before the signing deadline for draft picks, the Indians pulled out an 11th hour miracle by getting their top three draft picks signed. 

The feat was impressive given that many were speculating that they would only be able to sign perhaps two of the highly regarded picks. Were you impressed that the Tribe was able to pull this off? 

Do you think the three players in question (Drew Pomeranz, 1st rd, $2.65MM, LeVon Washington, 2nd rd, $1.2MM, and Tony Wolters, 3rd rd, $1.35MM) were worth the money? 

Now that the deadline has passed and the Tribe has signed 26 of their 50 draft selections, how would you say the team did in the draft overall this year?

Samantha Bunten: I’m certainly pleased that the team got their top three picks signed, though I’m not sure it was truly as big of an accomplishment as it was made out to be. 

Bonus-wise, these were not expensive players. They got all three signed for less total money than what many early first round picks get as individuals. The total they gave out in bonuses to the top three, mathematically speaking, gave them three players for about half the price of Bryce Harper. 

Seems impressive until you consider that Harper was overpriced and that, in the Indians’ case, you get what you pay for. I’m not saying I think the top three picks were bad selections (I’m particularly fond of Wolters), I just think they might have netted better players if they weren’t so concerned about signability issues. 

True, sometimes it’s wise to avoid such players (first rounders who are Boras clients in particular). But then again, if the Indians track record in the draft over the last 10 years has taught us anything, it’s that playing it safe rarely breeds any sort of concrete, consistent success.

Dale Thomas: Yes, I’m encouraged that the Tribe got their top three signed. I think they did a good job here and overall I’d give them an A- for this year’s draft. 

Actually, I’m most excited by Wolters. Wouldn’t it be great to have a guy that truly loves the game? His hitting will come around, and his defense is already there…and he’s only 18.

Dan Tylicki: I do like that they were signed in the end, though how the third rounder got more than the second rounder I don’t know. I’m not really a big fan of grading MLB drafts—even though I’ve done it myself—mainly because the draft is such a crap shoot that you never really know what’s going to happen. 

Nonetheless, I think they did well based on watching the film of the first three picks. Washington has the tools, he just needs to focus on developing them, as does Wolters. Pomeranz doesn’t have a big hill to climb to be the best starting pitcher we drafted under Shapiro, so he better accomplish that.

Scott Miles: It’s no secret that the Indians have struggled with the draft in recent years. Part of the reason has been bypassing players who had “signability” issues – asking for more money than the team was willing to pay. 

I’m not saying that all three of these players will be stars—you don’t even know if they will reach the big leagues—but it’s very encouraging that the Tribe was able to sign the guys they targeted so highly. So yes, I would say the draft went very well this year.

2. Let’s take a closer look at the Tribe’s top draft pick, first rounder and number five-overall selection Drew Pomeranz.

Now that he’s been signed and we can consider his price along with his talent, do you think he was the right choice for the Tribe in the first round? 

Do you think the Tribe may have prioritized him over another (better player) for signability reasons? If so, do you agree with their decision to do that?

Samantha Bunten: I think Pomeranz was an acceptable choice, but not the ideal one in the first round. But considering the team’s current needs, a top tier college pitcher isn’t a bad pick. 

What I did like about the pick was that the Indians finally appear to be changing their draft strategy from overloading on corner players and power bats to drafting pitchers and athletes who can play up the middle. 

What I don’t like about it has more to do with Pomeranz’s personal weaknesses: he has some command issues, and he’s yet to develop an adequate change-up. That’s fine for a pitcher being drafted out of high school, but a college pitcher should at least have a change up that is on its way to being major league ready, even if it needs some polishing in the minors first. 

That being said, the rest of his repertoire looks pretty good. If he can develop his off-speed stuff and hit his spots consistently, he’ll have very high upside. 

Dale Thomas: I think Pomeranz was a solid pick and the pick the Tribe had to make. He was the SEC pitcher of the year, 9-2 record with good control (139 strikeouts, 49 walks). 

I might have some concerns about his delivery with that big sweeping overhand style. Guys will run on him. Beyond that, I think he has the potential to be a number-one starter. Hopefully he’ll be able to shorten his delivery without sacrificing control.

Dan Tylicki: I was not the biggest fan of the signing. I get that he was probably the best college left-hander in the draft (never draft a high school pitcher, in my opinion), but after reviewing everything I had a much better opinion of Chris Sale, and personally would have taken him. I’m not saying that just because he’s already in the majors; I noticed this when reacting to the draft. 

In terms of signability though, that’s always a possibility, as it would be silly to draft someone if you couldn’t sign them. If that was their reason for picking Pomeranz over someone like Barret Loux, who didn’t sign, then that’s fine.

Scott Miles: I think he was the top player for the Indians in that slot. 

There may have been some position players with more upside than Pomeranz, but the Tribe’s starting pitching is clearly a weakness. Pomeranz has the potential to be a front-end starter for the Tribe for years to come.

3. The way the Indians approach signing draft picks brings up an interesting issue about how the process works across the league. The rules for slotting bonuses in the MLB are not hard and fast, rather, strongly suggested guidelines for how big a bonus a player drafted at a given slot should receive. 

Like most of baseball’s “guidelines,” very few teams adhere to them. Except the Indians, who are generally staunch followers of the guidelines the league sets. 

The Indians claim they’re just following the rules, but many think it’s just another excuse for the team’s ownership to be stingy. 

What’s your take on this? Are the slotting guidelines really rules that should be followed by the Tribe if no one else is following them? Do you think the Tribe is being cheap by adhering to them? 

Generally speaking, would you support an enforced slotting system for the league so that teams with more money or more spendthrift ownership don’t have an advantage in the draft?

Samantha Bunten: I’m generally not a fan of the way the NBA conducts itself, but there’s one thing they did get absolutely right: the slotting system. 

I’m not necessarily a staunch supporter of enforced slotting bonus amounts in MLB, but I do think it would be a good way to ensure that teams with less money aren’t constantly getting shafted in the draft. 

The absence of a salary cap and the impact of anti-trust laws already create a huge lack of parity in baseball. Let’s not make it even worse for the have-nots by putting them at a disadvantage in the draft as well, which should be the one place where they can go for talent if they can’t afford to purchase it on the open market. Really, it’s that or we all just agree to get rid of Scott Boras. 

Dale Thomas: To me, these “guidelines” are put out there for reasons other than the game of baseball. Like any other sport, baseball makes enforceable rules for things they consider to be critical to the game and to the balance of the game across the league. Simply stated, guidelines are a bunch of crap. 

I can’t eliminate the idea that the Indians are using the guidelines as an excuse, but at the same time I believe they would go outside the guideposts like everyone else if the conditions were favorable to doing that. It’s not like they have never thrown some money around, it’s more that they throw it at the wrong people, then freak out about it. 

I’m not really up for an enforced slotting system. Well-run teams under clever ownership can make enough money to be competitive. 

Put a winner on the field and players will come in from all directions. Winning teams are not necessarily dictated by the weight of a signing bonus.

Dan Tylicki: If no one else is following a guideline, then there’s not really any reason to either. Larry Dolan’s about as much of a tightwad as I am (not a compliment), and adhering to a guideline others scoff at is a clever excuse so that they don’t have to spend any money.

In theory, I would love an enforced slotting system in the draft, so that money isn’t an issue and clubs just have to look at talent. That being said, that kind of system would cause the possibility of players choosing to play overseas, so it would not solve all the draft problems, but at the same time it’s not meant to.

Scott Miles: I think the Indians did a pretty good job balancing the slotting system. They didn’t overpay for their top guys, yet they were also able to give Alex Lavisky, the catcher from St. Edward, about a million dollars, even though he was an eighth or ninth round pick.

Ideally, there would be a slotting system like the NBA (and the NHL, or so I’m told) so that it would never be an issue that the worst teams can’t sign the best players because they’re asking for too much money. 

I’m not sure if this will ever happen, but it needs to for the sake of competitive balance…let the Yankees and Red Sox sign those guys away from teams when they’re 28, not just be able to draft and develop them, too.

4. With the season coming to a close in less than two months, draft positions for 2011 will soon become apparent. 

Given the poor record the Tribe has this season, they will have a high pick in next year’s draft. The question is, how high? 

This brings up an interesting philosophical debate for losing teams: if you’re having a poor season no matter what, are you better off being truly at the very bottom of the barrel, in order to get a better draft position the following year, or is it always best to post the best record possible, even if said record will never be good enough to matter?

Samantha Bunten: No, no, no. I don’t care if you are 46 games out in your division by July; you NEVER cede games to improve your draft status. 

Fans come to the ballpark to see the team win, not to watch it jockey for position in a draft that will happen next year. Perhaps even more important, the MLB draft is different than the draft for other sports in that the likelihood of success for any given draft pick, be it a first-rounder or a 17th-rounder, is almost impossible to predict. 

It’s just never worth the gamble. A Stephen Strasburg comes along once every ten or so years. Most of the time, you’re talking about gambling away wins on a  Jeremy Sowers or a Trevor Crowe. No thanks.

Dale Thomas: Oh man…Go out there each and every day and try to win. It’s your obligation, no matter what. 

I mean, let’s say we have a long term plan wherein we throw games for five straight years to get number ones, and get ’em we do. Then we contend for five years. Then we dump and throw games for five more years, contend for five, and so-on. 

How is that baseball? It’s more like insider trading. Bookies wouldn’t even like it.

Come to think of it, hasn’t Kansas City done the ‘last place’ thing for like 30 years? This really blows my five-year plan…

Dan Tylicki: It looks like we will probably have a top five selection again this year, so ideally we can get the best players. While in some sports it seems wiser to lose the final game or two to give yourself a better position, unless there’s an amazing prospect in the next draft and you’re tied for the worst record, there’s no reason not to keep playing. 

As I’ve said above, the MLB draft is pretty much a crap shoot; the fifth, sixth, or seventh pick really doesn’t make a difference except to the player himself. It means little for the team, so there’s no reason to throw a game.

Scott Miles: I don’t think its as much of an issue because the baseball draft is too much of a crap shoot compared to the other sports. 

It is so broad. With 1,500 players involved you can easily miss on the top prospects. There is never a cut-and-dried consensus number one player (well, except for Strasburg). 

The Indians just need to stick with their philosophy now of playing as many young guys as possible, continue competing hard, and worry about next year next year.

5. Fun Question of the Week: Who is your favorite Indian who was drafted and developed by the team? Did the fact that this player came up through the Indians system have anything to do with your attachment to him? 

If the player you chose above is now retired or with another team, who is your favorite current Indian who was drafted and developed by the Tribe?

Samantha Bunten: That has to be Charlie Nagy or Manny, both former Indians who I would be attached to no matter what, but who I feel an additional sense of ownership of/fondness for because they were home-grown. 

I’d add Paul Shuey to that list as well as a more under-the-radar player who meant more to Indians fans because he came up through our system. 

As far as players still currently in the system, it has to be David Huff, despite his insistence on consistently proving my faith in him to be ill-founded. That honor should have theoretically gone to Adam Miller, but that was never a possibility since he’s been broken, uh, pretty much since the day we drafted him in 2003.

Dale Thomas: I could pick CC Sabathia, Charley Nagy, or Manny Ramirez. I love all those guys, and yes I do credit much of the love to the fact that they came up through our system…like family or something. 

But I’m going to go with Rick Manning as my all time fave because he was drafted way back in 1972 and, in a way, is STILL with the team. Now that’s longevity. 

For the last part of this question I’m stuck on that word ‘developed’… as in currently playing and playing well… hmmm…Trevor? Nah, I guess I’m currently without a favorite.

Dan Tylicki: This is a tough one, as there are several players drafted in the late 1980s/early 1990s that would fit in here. My first choice would be Manny Ramirez. He got lumped in with Thome a lot, and since the latter lasted longer he seems more well liked in Cleveland, but I loved the way Ramirez played the game, and still do, performance enhancers aside. 

My second choice is Charles Nagy. He didn’t have the personality like Ramirez or others, but he got the job done day in and day out, and that’s all you can ask of anybody.

Scott Miles: It has to be Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez, no? How can you not love those guys and what they meant to the city? Two future Hall of Famers. It’s hard to beat that. 

For me personally, after working for the Lake County Captains for two years, I definitely feel something a little extra when I watch the Indians now. Jeanmar Gomez, Josh Tomlin, Chris Gimenez, and Trevor Crowe were all guys I saw up close and personal. 

Jared Goedert, Hector Rondon, Carlton Smith, Nick Weglarz, and Matt McBride are some of the guys in AAA that I remember watching as well. I definitely root for all of those guys, even if I never imagined some of them would get this far (OK, just Gimenez).

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