The Indians have done better in the early rounds of the first year player draft over the past few years – selecting players like Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis and Franciso Lindor. These players look like they could be solid major leaguers, if not stars. It still doesn’t erase the fact that the Indians had very little success with the draft prior to 2008, particularly when it came to first round picks. With some of the players, like Adam Miller, bad luck and a series of injuries kept them from ever making it to the majors. Others, like Michael Aubrey and Jeremy Sowers just couldn’t cut it in the bigs. One of the better selections for the Tribe during this period, Jeremy Guthrie, found success once the Indians already gave up on him. Now you can add another player to the list of first round picks that never made it in Cleveland – the Indians traded 2007 first round pick Beau Mills to the Cincinnati Reds for cash. He will report to the Reds’ Double-A Pensacola team; he was playing at Triple-A Columbus prior the deal.
Beau Mills looked like he may break the trend of failed draft picks when he was selected back in 2007. He was the son of Houston Astros manager Brad Mills; in 2007 Brad was a coach with the Boston Red Sox. In fact, the Red Sox had selected Beau Mills in the 44th round of the 2004 draft, but he decided to wait a few years and was taken by the Indians. At the time the Indians liked his power bat, and the fact that he came from a baseball family background. In his only season at Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho (just prior to his being drafted), Mills hit .458, 38 home runs and 143 RBI and led the team to their 15th NAIA national title and earned him NAIA player of the year.
Early in his minor league career, he put up big numbers as well. In his first full minor league season, 2008, he hit .293/.373/.506 with 21 home runs for the advanced Class-A Kinston Indians. These stats also earned him the Carolina League MVP for the season. He was promoted to Double-A Akron for the 2009 season and spent the 2010 season there as well. His production actually dropped off for 2010 – .267/.308/.417 with 14 home runs in 2009, and .241/.312/.377 with 10 home runs in 2010. After a good start in 2011 in Akron, he was promoted to Triple-A Columbus. He’d had some issues with injuries over the past few years, and had spent time on the DL in 2012. He was hitting .197/.239/.394 with 7 home runs for the Clippers this season. He struck out 34 times in 127 at-bats.
So while Mills obviously had a ton of power, there were issues in his personal life. He started his college career at Fresno State, but had academic issues and team code-of-conduct violations that led to his suspension; eventually he transferred to Lewis-Clark. When he was with the Double-A Akron Aeros in 2010, Mills, along with Josh Tomlin and Jerad Head, were arrested and charged with felonious assault after an altercation in an Akron bar.
While no pick is a sure thing, and all teams make mistakes with drafting, it seems like the Indians made a lot of mistakes from the late 1990s through 2007, particularly in the first round. Players taken after Mills in 2007 (picked 13th overall) include Jason Heyward, Rick Porcello, Ben Revere and Nick Hagadone. While those players may have had their share of struggles, they at least made it to the majors…something you cannot say about Mills. I should add that the Indians currently have another high pick from the 2007 draft in their system – Matt LaPorta was selected 7th overall by the Milwaukee Brewers.
While many of the Indians’ early round picks were busts, they’ve had some success in later rounds of the draft. The players currently on the 25-man roster that the Indians drafted themselves are Jason Kipnis (2nd round, 2009), Josh Tomlin (19th round, 2006), Lonnie Chisenhall (1st round, 2008), Vinnie Pestano (20th round, 2006), and Tony Sipp (45th round, 2004). The Indians also developed two of their international free agent signings, Jeanmar Gomez (signed 2005), and Rafael Perez (signed 2002).