Indians take a left-handed turn06/07/2004 2:45 PM ET
By Justice B. Hill / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- In a draft heavy on college pitching, the Indians used their first three picks Monday in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft on college pitchers.
"As I've told you guys before, the strength of this draft was clearly, clearly pitching -- particularly college pitching," said John Mirabelli, an assistant GM and the architect of the Tribe's draft
And Mirabelli made sure he grabbed as much of that pitching as he could. He used his No. 1 pick on one of the crown gems of the draft: left-hander Jeremy Sowers.
Draft experts had Sowers, a 21-year-old junior from Vanderbilt University, rated as one of the top 10 players available, and Mirabelli's rankings had Sowers at the top of his player board.
"He's a left hander with a field of pitches," Mirabelli said. "We've got a long, track history on this guy. With this draft and with what was available, we thought he was a good pick for us."
Sowers' work at Vanderbilt this season might bear out Mirabelli. With the Commodores still alive in postseason, Sowers has a 10-5 record with a 2.64 ERA in 119 1/3 innings.
In 18 appearances (16 starts), he has yielded 97 hits. He's struck out 118 and walked 23. He has tossed two complete games and has one shutout for the year.
A native of Louisville, Ky., Sowers was named to the All-SEC second team for the second straight year. He was named SEC Pitcher of the Week twice in 2004 (four times in career).
He is one of only two Commodores pitchers to record at least 300 career strikeouts. He is one of only three pitchers to register 10 or more wins in a season.
Also, he holds the school record for most innings pitched in a season with 119 1/3 and also ranks in the school's top five in single-season strikeouts, career wins and career innings pitched.
Sowers, a physician's son, started and was the winning pitcher in Game 1 of the NCAA Regional last Friday as Vanderbilt beat George Mason and advanced to the Super Regional. He was named to the Charlottesville Regional All-Tournament Team.
The Commodores will play the University of Texas in the best-of-three series that begins Friday in Austin, Texas.
In 2001, Sowers was the No. 1 pick of the Reds after earning National High School All-American honors at Ballard High School. He was also named Mr. Baseball.
"He brings to the table command, control and change of speeds," Mirabelli said. "Not (having) an overpowering fastball, he mixes four pitches, and he can pitch on both sides of the plate."
With the second pick of the day, Mirabelli selected 22-year-old Justin Hoyman, a right-hander from the University of Florida. Hoyman is 11-1 with a 2.71 ERA in 18 starts for the Gators, who are also still alive in the postseason.
After Hoyman, Mirabelli took a native Ohioan, right-hander Scott Lewis, who played for Ohio State. Lewis had been viewed at one time as a top-tier prospect until having elbow problems. But he showed enough this season to rekindle interest in his talent.
"Where he was taken in the draft certainly says an awful lot of what professional baseball thinks of his talent, especially since he only had five starts this year coming off major surgery," Ohio State baseball coach Bob Todd said. "We wish him the best of luck and hope he has a very successful pro career."
Mirabelli hopes so, too. He's counting on Lewis, as well as Sowers and Hoyman, to fortify an organization that already has a deep pool of young pitchers.
"We obviously have a history with this guy; we've seen him since high school," Mirabelli said of Lewis. "He's a profile guy. Just the fact that he could not compete on a full-time basis probably hurt his draft status a little bit."
Mirabelli liked Lewis' value, especially for a third-rounder. He did point out that Lewis still has to get back to form. He's not there yet.
Sowers is, though. He might be as polished a pitcher as any in the '04 draft. Mirabelli said Sowers brings a more refined approach to pitching than Jeremy Guthrie, the team's No. 1 pick in 2001, did.
Yet Sowers might not cost the Tribe as much to sign as Guthrie did. Sowers won't come at a cut-rate price, despite reports that signing dollars might be at a premium this draft.
The Indians and Mirabelli are aware of this, and Mirabelli didn't seem worried about Sowers and his willingness to sign. The two sides had a few feeling-out sessions before a pick was made.
Sowers fit into Mirabelli's draft equation, which is simple: skill, mental makeup and signability.
"Those are the three criteria we used to slot players on our board," Mirabelli said. "It's not the same for every team. It's not the same for us that it might be for the Anaheim Angels.
"But that's how we put 'em up there, we pick the guy and then we try to sign 'em."
Position: LHP B/T: L/L
H: 6-1 W: 165
Born: 1983-05-17 Class: SR
BODY SIMILAR TO TOM GLAVINE. HIGH WINDUP, HIGH 3/4. SHORT ARM. SLIGHT HAND PUMP AT TOP OF JERKY DELIVERY. SLIGHT ACROSS BODY DELIVERY. MOST FB'S 87-89, SLIGHT ARM SIDE RUN. SLURVE-CB TIGHT, FLASHES DOWN ROT. GOOD ARM SPEED FADE CHANGE . LOCATES ALL PITCHES, ESPECIALLY FB. QUICK ARM W/ DECEPTION DELIVERY. CONFIDENT IN A QUIET WAY. GOES AFTER HITTERS.
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