With their first three picks in the 2015 draft, the Indians took three high school pitchers. I discussed Brady Aiken in a blog post last night, but I wanted to feature some of the picks that came after him. The Indians hadn’t selected a prep arm in the first round of the draft since CC Sabathia in 1998 until they drafted Justus Sheffield in the comp round of the first round last year. Aiken and comp round pick Triston McKenzie this year make for three prep pitchers in the first round over the past two years. I’m not necessarily saying that’s a good or bad thing; just different from what we usually see early in the draft from the Indians.
Round 1 Competitive Balance Round A (#42 overall) – Triston McKenzie, RHP out of Royal Palm Beach High School in Florida. McKenzie is a tall, lanky pitcher – 6’5″ and 160 lbs. He already has a decent fastball and curveball, both of which are expected to improve as he fills out a bit. Some scouts have called McKenzie a bit advanced for a high school pitcher; he was recruited by Vanderbilt as well. He’s viewed as having a high ceiling, but with a bit less risk than the Aiken pick.
Here is a video of McKenzie, if you’d like to see him in action:
Round 2 (#59 overall) – Juan Hillman, LHP out of Olympia High School in Florida. While you may not recognize Hillman’s name, you’re likely to recognize the name of his godfather/guardian – Tom Gordon. “Flash” Gordon was a reliever and three-time all star, also the namesake for a Stephen King novel. Hillman is considered very athletic, and is already throwing three pitches – a fastball that ranges from 89-92 mph, a curveball and a changeup. Like McKenzie, a lot of experts think he can add velocity and endurance as he fills out. MLB.com had ranked him as the 52nd best prospect overall.
Here is a video of Hillman if you’d like to see him in action:
Round 3 (#93 overall) – Mark Mathias, right-handed second baseman out of Cal Poly. The first position player selected by the Indians this year is known more for his bat, than for his defense. Initially a shortstop, Mathias’s labrum/shoulder issues meant that he was used as the DH in 2015. With the move to second base, he’s expected to be an average defender with an okay arm. More recently, Mathias was known for his extra-base hits, and the fact that he makes relatively hard contact with the ball. As he develops, he has the potential to turn into a power hitter, but his solid approach at the plate is what has gotten him the most attention.
Here is a video of Mathias if you’d like to see him in action:
Round 4 (#124 overall) – Tyler Krieger, switch hitting shortstop out of Clemson. Like Mathias in the Indians’ prior pick, Krieger also had labrum/shoulder issues that kept him limited to DH during the 2015 season. He doesn’t have Mathias’s power potential, but does hit line drives to all parts of the field. His mediocre arm and defense have many scouts thinking that he’ll end up a second base, or as a utility infielder.
Here is a video of Krieger if you’d like to see him in action:
Round 5 (#154 overall) – Ka’Ai Tom, left handed hitting CF out of University of Kentucky. A junior, the U of K’s bio on Tom actually refers to him as “a hitting machine that sprays line drives to all fields.” He hit .373 and just missed winning the SEC batting crown last season, and was also just the second University of Kentucky player to hit for the cycle (and the first since 1994). Unlike Mathias and Krieger before him, Tom is considered a good defender with a solid arm – he’s yet to make an error in his college career. Tom also has the distinction of being the first Hawaiian-born player to play baseball at the University of Kentucky. He also attended the same high school as Heisman trophy winner Marcus Mariota.
Here is a video that breaks down Tom’s swing:
Round 6 (#184 overall) – Jonas Wyatt, RHP out of Quartz Hill High School in California. Wyatt has good velocity for a young pitcher – his fastball averages 90-94 mph and he’s even hit 96 mph. Some scouts have referred to him as a “thrower” rather than a “pitcher” and believe his mechanics will need refined to find success in the majors. Wyatt is athletic with great arm strength though, so he does have a lot of potential once a team works with him a bit.
Here is a video of Wyatt if you’d like to see him in action:
As of right now, these are the players drafted by the Indians. I will update this post at a later time with some of their additional picks.