Found August 08, 2012 on Death, Taxes, and Rebuilding:
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By: Eric Grinnell

For the third-part of this series, I wanted to look at the Indians scouting department and player development.  If you missed the first two pieces of this series, this series attempts to analyze who deserves most of the blame for the Indians disappointing ’12 season and the disappointment of the last decade in general (yesterday I looked at Manny Acta and the Indians players).

In this piece, I will mainly focus on John Mirabelli (ran the Indians draft through 2007) and Brad Grant (has run the Indians draft since 2008), but will also talk about the Indians player development more generally as well.

John Mirabelli – Current Vice President of Scouting Operations, Ran Indians Draft from 2002 to 2007

Blame Score – 8.5/10

John Mirabelli deserves a lot of blame for the Indians poor performance this past decade.  For the purposes of this piece, I’m strictly talking about Mirabelli in his capacity as running the Indians draft from 2002-2007.  But the poor drafts under Mirabelli’s helm is a large reason for the Indians disappointing decade.

Now that MLB stars command $100M-$200M on the open market, small market teams are really forced to build through the draft.  Small market teams like the Rays, Reds, Twins, A’s, and Nationals (to a lesser extent) have been able to sustain big league success due to solid drafting.  Drafting and developing is really the only way to go for small market teams.  Thus, it should come as no surprise that the Indians have had limited success in the last decade, because their drafting has been abysmal.  But I think calling Mirabelli’s drafts “poor” would be a compliment.

During Mirabelli’s tenure as Indians draft czar, the Indians draft choices could be summarized as “conservative.”  The Indians often drafted college players that were viewed as being close to MLB ready.  They shyed away from high school players, and weren’t very big on tools.  This approach led to some pretty bad drafts.  The most notable players to come from Mirabelli’s drafts were:

Jeremy Gutherie (1st round ’02)
Ben Francisco (5th round ’02)
Michael Aubrey (1st round ’03)
Adam Miller (1st round supplemental ’03)
Ryan Garko (3rd round ’03)
Kevin Kouzmanoff (6th round ’03)
Aaron Laffey (16th round ’03)
Jeremy Sowers (1st round ’04)
Scott Lewis (3rd round ’04)
Trevor Crowe (1st round ’05)
Jensen Lewis (3rd round ’05)
David Huff (1st round ’06)
Vinnie Pestano (20th round ’06)
Josh Tomlin (19th round ’06)
Beau Mills (1st round ’07)
Josh Judy (34th round ’07)

Look at that list for a minute.  Now consider that in every draft, a team has 50 picks.  So with 300 picks over 6 drafts, the Indians got only one legit guy (Pestano).  Most of the guys on that list have made the bigs at some point, but the only four that have stuck around for any extended period of time are Pestano, Gutherie, Kouzmanoff, and Fransisco, and the later three are average at best.

So yes, I think a lot of the blame for the past decade and for the Indians poor ’12 season lays on the shoulders of John Mirabelli’s poor drafts.  I mean come on, when you’re best first round pick in six drafts is arguably David Huff, you know you’re drafts were pretty bad.

Brad Grant – Current Director of Amateur Scouting, Has Run the Indians Draft Since 2008

Blame Score – 6/10

Brad Grant took over draft duties from John Mirabelli in 2008, and quickly changed the Indians draft philosophy.  Gone were the days of drafting safe college players, and in were the days of aggressive drafting of younger, more “toolsy” talent, and a willingness to pay over-slot.

Grant’s philosophy was a much needed breath of fresh air that earned a lot of praise in the scouting community.  This was really the philosophy that the aforementioned small-market teams successfully used, and there was a lot of hope that the Indians were finally on the right path of drafting and developing their own talent.  Hell, the Indians 2010 draft was even rated by Baseball America as the best in baseball.

But while Grant’s tenure has undoubtedly been an improvement over Mirabelli’s, I think it’s fair to start questioning just how successful it has been.  Again, many believe that Grant has done a great job, but the fact is, the Indians still do not have a lot of homegrown talent and Grant has swung and missed on a good amount of over-slot signings.  Here is a list of some of the players Grant has drafted.

Lonnie Chisenhall (1st round, ’08)
Trey Haley (2nd round, ’08)
Cord Phelps (3rd round, ’08)
Zach Putnam (5th round, ’08)
T.J. House (16th round, ’08)
Bryce Stowell (22nd round, ’08)
Alex White (1st round, ’09)
Jason Kipnis (2nd round, ’09)
Joe Gardner (3rd round, ’09)
Austin Adams (5th round, ’09)
Drew Pomeranz (1st round, ’10)
LeVon Washington (2nd round, ’10)
Tony Wolters (3rd round, ’10)
Kyle Blair (4th round, ’10)
Alex Lavisky (8th round, ’10)
Tyler Holt (10th round, ’10)
Michael Goodnight (13th round, ’10)
Fransisco Lindor (1st round, ’11)
Dillon Howard (2nd round, ’11)
Jake Sisco (3rd round, ’11)
Bryson Myles (6th round, ’11)
Eric Hasse (7th round, ’11)

The first thing that sticks out is that Grant has done well with his first rounders.  Chisenhall, White, Pomeranz, and Lindor have all been well regarded in the baseball community and even though none has really established themselves yet, the first three have already made it to the show and Lindor is considered the best out of them all.

But a lot of these names are probably unfamiliar to the casual baseball fan.  Even though guys like T.J. House, Trey Haley, Bryce Stowell, LeVon Washington, Tony Wolters, and Dillon Howard were lauded as being good, high-upside picks at the time, they’ve never made it to the show and have shown very little in their minor league careers.

Ultimately, it comes down to this for me—we still have only one legit big leaguer to show from Grant’s drafts (Jason Kipnis).  All the praise by draftniks and the scouting community doesn’t change the fact that the Indians still have very little home grown talent, and we just completed Grant’s fifth draft, so he’s had some time.  Now don’t get me wrong, I still like the approach Grant is going with, and the drafts have certainly been an improvement over Mirabelli’s, but I think it’s now fair to point out that the results haven’t been drastically different.

INDIANS PLAYER DEVELOPMENT IN GENERAL

In a combined 11 drafts by Mirabelli and Grant, the Indians have a whopping 2 legit players to show for it (Kipnis and Pestano).  You could argue that the problem was just poor scouting, and in Mirabelli’s case, I think a lot of people would say you are right.  But I have to think it’s time to start questioning the Indians development team as a whole, because no matter how bad the Indians drafts were, it is still absurd that we only have 2 solid players to show for 11 drafts.

**********************************************

The last 2 parts of the series will go as follows:

Thursday – The GMs: Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti
Friday – The Owners: Larry and Paul Dolan

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