When the Indians selected Beau Mills in the first round of the draft in 2007, they probably hoped he would be the regular first baseman or DH by now. Instead, he’s out of baseball and raising bulls at a ranch in Texas. Because his father, Brad Mills, is now the third base coach for the Indians he’s able to provide regular updates on his son’s new career. So how does a player go from a first round pick in 2007 to raising bulls in 2013? Mills ended up being a disappointment both on and off the field while in the minors with the Indians. He never played a major league game, and the Tribe passed over a number of other solid players in that year’s draft in favor of Mills.
While the Indians have done better in the past couple of years with the draft, they’re still feeling the sting of a number of botched drafts in the early and mid 2000s. If you look at the current roster, only Jason Kipnis (second round, 2009), Lonnie Chisenhall (first round, 2008), Cody Allen (23rd round, 2011), and Vinnie Pestano (20th round, 2006) were drafted by the Indians. Kipnis and Chisenhall are the only two that were selected in the first two rounds, and all but Pestano have been drafted within the past five years. While there are some good players in the minors right now that came via the draft (like Francisco Lindor), the bad drafts of several years ago have hurt the Indians the past couple of years. They’ve typically done better on international scouting and on trades, but years of draft failures end up taking their toll.
So who did the Indians pass over in 2007, in favor of Mills? These are just a few of the names that were taken after he was selected (not all are all-star caliber players, but since Mills never even made it out of the minors, I figured I’d look at a few people that at least made the majors) – Jason Heyward, Devin Mesoraco, Pete Kozma, J.P. Arencibia, Rick Porcello, Ben Revere, Todd Frazier, Brett Cecil, Sean Doolittle, Tommy Hunter, and Nick Hagadone. I know that no team is perfect when it comes to drafts, and everyone makes their share of mistakes and has players turn out to be busts. It just seems that for a lot of years between 2000-2007, you can select any year of the draft and look at all of the players the Indians passed by. To miss that many times is a mess, especially for a smaller market team that relies on low-cost options like the draft, international signings, and trades. The Indians have missed on their share of trades for prospects too (like with several of the players in the Cliff Lee deal and Matt LaPorta). They still look brilliant compared to their own draft performance. Heck, they passed over Nick Hagadone for Beau Mills but managed to make sure that he was included in the Victor Martinez deal in 2009.
Mills’ minor league career is one of on-field mediocrity and a big off-field issue. Even though Mills is only 26, after a rough 2012 he chose to leave baseball. There are a lot of players that hang on beyond the age of 26, hoping to one day at least sniff the majors even if they’re mostly career minor leaguers. I guess coming from a baseball family, and having other options in life, it was probably a little easier for Mills to walk away. He started with Class A short-season Mahoning Valley in 2007 after he formally signed, but moved up to Lake County after just eight games. He spent most of the season with the Captains, except that he moved up to Kinston for the last 10 games of the year. His total 2007 line was .261/.337/.424 with 6 home runs.
In 2008 Mills spent the entire season with Kinston and hit .293/.373/.506 with 21 home runs. His numbers suffered a bit when he moved up to Double-A Akron the next year, but he still put up a respectable .267/.308/.417 with 17 home runs. Things really started to unravel for Mills in 2010, both on and off the field. He spent the entire year in Akron again, but took a step back offensively – .241/.312/.377 with 10 home runs. In June of 2010, Mills, along with Jerad Head and Josh Tomlin, were involved in a fight with a bouncer at an Akron bar. The three were eventually charged with felonious assault after a bouncer sustained broken ribs and a punctured lung in their fight. Reportedly they were verbally assaulting the bouncer, and it soon escalated to violence. At the time of the incident, Mills was batting just .205 with the Aeros.
Mills eventually made it to Columbus in the second half of the 2011 season, and hit .269/.326/.496 with 7 home runs over 35 games. In 2012 he against started with Columbus and hit .197/.239/.394 with 7 home runs over 39 games. In June, the Indians finally gave up on Mills and traded him to the Cincinnati Reds for cash. The Reds stashed him at their Double-A Pensacola affiliate, where he hit .272/.343/.495 with 10 home runs over 60 games. Mills’ value primarily came from his power; he was definitely not known for his defense and was a mediocre contact hitter. When the power (which was there in the lower levels) really started to fizzle, that’s when the Indians decided to cut him loose. He was considered a 3B/1B when he was drafted, but after a shoulder injury he was pretty much limited to first base. While he did have some injuries in the minors, basically he just never lived up to his promise, particularly once he reached the higher levels of the minors. He went from the MVP of the Kinston Indians in 2008, to traded for cash in 2012 for a team that stuck him back in Double-A. The Indians thought he could be a reliable power presence in the lineup, but unfortunately he never made it past Triple-A.
If you’re interested in some of the other first round picks dating back to 2001, I wrote this piece about them back in 2011. It’s nice if you’d like to read about successful first round picks like Michael Aubrey, Jeremy Sowers, and Dan Denham. (That’s sarcasm, in case you missed it). I used to think “ugh they could have had Jacoby Ellsbury instead of Trevor Crowe” in 2005, but if you look at some of the others passed over that year, they also missed Clay Buchholz and Matt Garza (among others). They also passed over Jered Weaver for Jeremy Sowers in 2004 and I need to stop looking at these or I’m going to start crying or drinking.
Here is the breakdown for how the Indians acquired the rest of their current 25-man roster, in case you’re interested:
Free agent signings: Rich Hill, Scott Kazmir, Brett Myers, Jason Giambi, Mark Reynolds, Nick Swisher, and Ryan Raburn. (Since Michael Bourn is on the DL, he’s not currently on the 25-man. He obviously fits into this category though).
Players acquired via trade:
Nick Hagadone (from Boston in the Victor Martinez deal)
Ubaldo Jimenez (from Colorado for Drew Pomeranz and Alex White)
Corey Kluber (acquired from San Diego; part of the 3-team Jake Westbrook deal)
Justin Masterson (from Boston in the Victor Martinez deal)
Zach McAllister (from the Yankees in the Austin Kearns deal)
Chris Perez (from the Cardinals in Mark DeRosa deal)
Bryan Shaw (from Arizona in the 3-team Choo deal)
Joe Smith (acquired from the Mets in 3-team Franklin Gutierrez deal)
Yan Gomes (from Toronto in Esmil Rogers deal)
Carlos Santana (from the Dodgers in the Casey Blake deal)
Mike Aviles (from Toronto in the Esmil Rogers deal)
Asdrubal Cabrera (from Seattle in the Eduardo Perez deal)
Michael Brantley (from Milwaukee in the CC Sabathia deal)
Drew Stubbs (from Cincinnati in the 3-team Choo deal)
So that means that the current breakdown of the 25-man roster is 4 players from the draft, 7 players acquired by free agency (plus don’t forget about Michael Bourn, who is currently on the DL), and 14 via trade. That means 56% of the current 25-man roster was acquired via trade, 28% acquired via free agency, and 16% via the draft. They currently have nobody that was an international signing, but a couple of notable international signings from the past few years include Fausto Carmona/Roberto Hernandez and Victor Martinez. The Indians have paid the price of years of bad drafts, and that’s not considering the trades of draft picks Alex White and Drew Pomeranz (although White, to this point, has been injured for a sizable portion of his major league career and not very successful overall). Hopefully they’ve turned a corner on these draft busts (particularly in the early rounds), because I really don’t want to read about Tyler Naquin’s beet farm in six years, unless he’s doing it on the side during the offseason.