For the first time since 1999, the Indians didn't have a first-round pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. But scouting director John Mirabelli said that wouldn't deter the Tribe from landing a quality Major League prospect with the club's sandwich pick at No. 39. In selecting left-hander David Huff out of UCLA, the Tribe hopes it landed just such a player. "He's a certified college elite starter," Mirabelli said of Huff. "Anytime you can get a bona-fide, legit, left-handed starter, it's something you have to be happy with, and we are."
Huff, 21, is a pitcher of the same mold as Jeremy Sowers, the Tribe's No. 1 pick in 2004 who is currently tearing up Triple-A batters every five nights. "[Huff is] a little more physical [than Sowers]," Mirabelli said. "His build is different. But their arsenals are similar." Though Huff's stuff isn't dominant from a radar-gun perspective, his command of the strike zone, refined repertoire and ability to work quickly make him an intriguing pick. Huff went 7-3 with a 2.82 ERA, 90 strikeouts and 121 1/3 innings pitched in 15 starts during the regular season for the Bruins this spring. The junior ranked second in the Pacific-10 in innings pitched, third in strikeouts and fifth in ERA and was a first-team all-conference selection. The Indians aren't the first team to draft Huff, though it's a safe bet they'll be the last. "All indications are that he will sign," Mirabelli said. Once signed, Huff would likely report to short-season Mahoning Valley, where it's expected he would be used sparingly, considering the innings he's already racked up.
"With college pitchers, it's not a bad thing to have them take a step back, a deep breath and put them on the side," Mirabelli said. "It's not as important to get them out and get their careers started quickly." The Angels took Huff in the 31st round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft, and the Phillies selected him in the 19th round of last year's Draft. Last year, rumors of an arm injury and a commitment to the Bruins forced his slide to the 19th round, though he was 100 percent healthy this season. Some prognosticators had Huff getting taken in the first round of this year's draft. But an early run on position players helped him fall to the Indians. "It is an honor to be selected so high in the draft," Huff said. "It was unbelievable this morning watching the draft online and seeing my name up there. It is an incredible feeling to know that I am the first pick of an organization." Huff, a native of Huntington Beach, Calif., played his freshman season at UC Irvine and played the '05 season at Cypress Junior College. He's also a veteran of the Cape Cod League. Scouts have raved about Huff's deceptive changeup, which serves as compensation for a fastball that tops out in the upper 80s. His command of those pitches helped him notch three complete games in 16 starts this season. "He's had those kinds of weapons going back to high school," Mirabelli said. "Those have been his strengths all the way up." Huff also has experience in big games, most recently Saturday's second round of the Malibu Regional tournament, in which he took the loss against Pepperdine. "Dave pitched as well as any Saturday pitcher in the country all year long," UCLA coach John Savage said. "He was exceptional for us, especially in the way he pitched for our team late into games."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.