06/08/2004 7:18 PM ET
Tribe goes after pitching
Vandy lefty starts Indians' run on college arms
By Justice B. Hill / MLB.com
|The Indians hope they can find another jewel in the later rounds like Jason Davis, a 21st-round pick in 1999. (Ron Schwane/AP)
CLEVELAND -- John Mirabelli didn't sway Tuesday from the approach he had taken Monday during Day 1 of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.
Mirabelli said the draft was deepest in college pitching, though nobody projected to have Mark Prior's potential. So he picked pitchers -- a lot of 'em.
"There's some upside there," he said of the 30 pitchers he did select. "There's also some risk. But I felt like we had to do that with just traditional picks and with what we viewed as a fair draft in terms of top-end, high-ceiling guys."
Perhaps no risk was bigger than the one Mirabelli took Monday in the third round. Sitting there for the taking was pitcher Scott Lewis, a left-hander from Ohio State. Lewis might have been a steal at No. 77 overall.
Then again, Lewis might become just another risky pick that doesn't turn out. He's coming off Tommy John surgery, and Mirabelli was quick to say that Ohio State might have put Lewis back into its rotation too soon.
"Are we taking a little bit of a risk with the injury?" Mirabelli said. "Yeah, we probably are."
But Mirabelli said he felt comfortable rolling the dice on Lewis, a pitcher who, if he had been healthy, projected a lot higher in the draft order. Mirabelli said he did a lot of dice rolling in the second day, although he didn't think that approach differed from other teams.
As he put it, not a lot of high-ceiling, multi-tool guys remained on Day 2. Those players that were available came with flaws or too much raw talent to pass up. And Mirabelli aimed his sights on pitching -- as much of it as he could find.
"As I've said many times, pitching is a game of attrition," he said. "We're always gonna go after pitching, and I think that's a good philosophy to take -- a pitching-first type of organization.
"There's never, ever been a problem having innings to develop pitchers."
In deciding whom to take in Day 2, Mirabelli also found merit in drafting from a pedigree. He picked two players whose brothers are in the Indians farm system.
One of the two was Dan Denham's brother, Jason; he's an outfielder. The other was Cory Smith's brother, Carlton; the younger Smith is a hard-throwing pitcher.
"We've got the family thing going on here," Mirabelli said.
Indeed, but Carlton Smith and Jason Denham both have signed to play in college ball, but they might look favorably at joining the professional ranks, Mirabelli said. He stressed that their knowledge of professional ball would help them make their decision.
From a draft that offered few surprises, Mirabelli said the only one that came readily to mind for him was Charles Lofgren, an outfielder/pitcher. A fourth-round pick, he had the potential to go much higher than he did.
"I think there were a lot of high expectations for him," Mirabelli said. "He's a guy that I think has some upside, more than fourth-round upside, in my opinion."
Mirabelli described Lofgren, a high school kid, as a great athlete and a fierce competitor, but he couldn't pinpoint why Lofgren had dropped to the fourth round.
"I really like this kid as a person," Mirabelli said. "There's a lot of interesting pieces to Chuck Lofgren. He goes to the same high school, had the same coach who coached Barry Bonds."
In equaling as intriguing as Lofgren, though, is Jordan Chambless, a high school pitcher whose committed to play quarterback at Texas A&M.
"He's a guy who has some upside," Mirabelli said. "He should be interesting to sign. We kind of look at that. We kind of looked at that as the draft went on."
"He's a left hander with a feel of pitching," 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."
Mirabelli hopes so, too. For an organization never has enough talent, regardless of how good it might draft. But it counts on getting lucky along the way, counts more on its top picks reaching their potential.
That means guys like Lewis, right-hander Justin Hoyman and left-hander Jeremy Sowers, the team's No. 1 pick, need to develop. The sooner the better. But if not them, hopefullly some other pitcher will break from the pack and become the 2004 version of Jason Davis, a 21st-round pick in 1999.
That'll be the test of this draft and its benefit for the Indians. Pitching is at the center of it, which didn't surprise Mirabelli.
"We pretty much knew from the pool of players we were dealing from in this draft that it was very deep and very lopsided in terms of pitching," he said. "So one thing that stands out is the abundance of pitching.
"We try to balance out every one of your drafts, if you can. But this one was tilted, obviously, toward pitching."
Justice B. Hill is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.