CLEVELAND -- When the offseason started, the Indians boasted three picks in the First-Year Player Draft before the arrival of the third round. That has since been whittled down to one first-round selection, but no one in the front office is complaining.
The Indians lost their second-round pick for signing Nick Swisher, and they gave up their Competitive Balance pick for signing Michael Bourn. Those lucrative free-agent contracts have left Brad Grant, the Indians' director of amateur scouting, with the fifth-overall pick in the first round and some down time before the third.
"As soon as we signed Swisher it was no problem whatsoever," Grant said. "And then to add the talent of Bourn, too? The type of player with a third pick compared to his Major League impact that you can have right away, we were completely on board with that."
The question now is, who will be on the board when the time comes to pick fifth?
The 2013 First-Year Player Draft will take place Thursday through Saturday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on Thursday at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 73 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. Rounds 3-10 will be streamed live on MLB.com on Friday, beginning with a preview show at 12:30 p.m., and Rounds 11-40 will be streamed live on MLB.com on Saturday, starting at 1 p.m.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
This is the second Draft under the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement, which altered the way teams are allowed to handle signing bonuses within the first 10 rounds. Grant said the main takeaway from the first Draft under the revised system was to look at the monetary allotment more as a pool rather than specific slot values for each player.
For example, the Indians were able to sign first-round pick Tyler Naquin for $1.75 million last summer even though the 15th overall pick had a suggested slot value of $2.25 million. Cleveland then used some of the cash saved to sign right-hander Mitch Brown (the team's second-round pick) for $800,000 when his slotted value was $639,700.
"We learned to balance it more as a pool," Grant explained. "You're looking at it as a pool instead of it as slots, so it's kind of figuring out the way to best balance your allotment. Then, you try to get the players with the most ability within that pool.
"With [the fifth-overall pick], it'll be a little bit different, because of where we are with the talent pool that's available."
Following the fifth pick, the Indians do not select again until the 79th overall pick (third round). From there, Cleveland has the 111th overall pick (fourth round) and then one pick every 30 selections through the remainder of the Draft. Cleveland had $4.6 million for its pool last summer compared to $6,188,800 this year.
Over the course of the past year, Grant has scouted in person an estimated 125 players of the 850 or so that will be listed on the Tribe's Draft board. Even with the gap between the Tribe's first two picks, Grant said the team's strategy this year is not much different than in previous summers.
"I don't think it alters the strategy, especially picking as high as we are," Grant said. "It's still the best-player-available approach. I think you've got to draft to the strength of the Draft. If you start to try to draft towards needs, or draft towards where you are as a Major League club, then you might move away from the strength of the Draft Class."
Here's a glance at what the Indians have in store as the Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
For the first time since 2010, and for the second time in the Draft's existence, Cleveland boasts the fifth-overall pick. The Indians will look to make the most of it, considering they do not pick again until the third round.
The Indians have been linked to a handful of the players expected to go within the first 10 picks, as they should. Without a second-round or compensation-round pick, Cleveland should do its due diligence on any player who might be there for the taking with the fifth-overall pick. Typically, that is a spot for a more polished player with the potential to rise swiftly through a farm system.
In the past two Drafts, the Indians have taken a position player with their top selection. In 2010, when the Tribe most recently picked fifth, the team took collegiate left-hander Drew Pomeranz. Oklahoma's Jonathan Gray and Stanford's Mark Appel are widely considered the top two college arms in this Draft and, if one is still there at No. 5, Cleveland would probably pounce.
"This Draft, there's a little bit of a balance to it," Grant said. "Especially up top, I think there is the balance of college pitching, college position players, high school pitching and high school position players. I'd say it's a balanced Draft. I wouldn't say it's an above-average Draft by any means this year, but I'd say it's a balanced Draft."
In a recent mock draft, MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo predicted that the Indians would select highly-touted third baseman Colin Moran out of the University of North Carolina. ESPN's Keith Law had Moran potentially going as high as the first pick to the Astros, throwing some uncertainty into the handful of picks that follow. If not Moran, the Indians could target San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant should the club feel inclined to stick with a collegiate position player. College arms expected to go early include Gray, Appel and Braden Shipley (Nevada). One high school pitcher being targeted early is righty Kohl Stewart out of St. Pius X High School (Texas). Cleveland has also been linked to prep outfielder Clint Frazier of Logansville High School (Ga.).
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.
Any team going up to five percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75-percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75-percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100-percent penalty on the overage and the loss of first- and second-round picks. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100-percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.
Cleveland's top selection (fifth overall) comes with a suggested value of $3.787 million. The Indians' next pick -- in the third round at 79th overall -- has a value of $692,200. Overall, the Tribe has nine picks within the first 10 rounds with a bonus allotment worth $6,188,800 ($687,644 on average), which is the 19th-highest pool in the Majors for this Draft.
Grant insists that the Indians plan on taking the best-player-available approach for the fifth-overall pick and, when a team is picking that high in the first round, that is a fine strategy. It is deeper into the Draft when teams start to tackle organizational needs at the lower tiers of the farm system. Cleveland currently has a wealth of middle-infield talent in its system. There is always a need for impact pitching, especially in the early rounds, and the Indians could benefit from continuing to strengthen its crop of outfield and corner infield prospects.
The Indians have shown no hesitation when it comes to selecting high school players the past few years, especially in the early rounds. Last June, Cleveland picked three prep players within the first four rounds and selected 16 high school players (six pitchers) in the Draft's 40 rounds. Overall, Cleveland still took more college athletes (24) last year. The Tribe split its Draft 50-50 -- or 20-20, in terms of picks -- between pitchers and position players. Cleveland tended to lean more toward college players in the later rounds.
• Recent Draft History •
After watching 2011 first-rounder Francisco Lindor suit up with the big league squad in Spring Training, it was easy to come away thinking he could survive in the Majors right now. Cleveland has a development plan in place for the 19-year-old shortstop prospect, however, and the club is sticking to it rather than rushing Lindor up the organizational ladder.
Lindor opened this season with Class A (high) Carolina and has been doing all he can to force the Tribe's hand in terms of earning a promotion to Double-A Akron. Through 49 games, the switch-hitting Lindor was batting .319 with 13 stolen bases, 18 extra-base hits, 18 RBIs and 29 runs scored for the Mudcats. It has been an offensive showing on par with his stellar defense.
"The guy, every night, gets two or three hits, makes an exceptional play," Indians vice president of player development Ross Atkins said recently. "The leadership, his commitment, his professionalism, we haven't experienced anything like that from a high school player."
It is possible that Lindor makes a push for the Majors at some point next summer. If the plan holds, Lindor would likely advance to Double-A this year, open next season at Triple-A and, if the opportunity presents itself and his performance remains steady, he could potentially see The Show in 2014.
With the 698th pick (23rd round) in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, the Indians selected right-hander Cody Allen out of High Point University. A little more than a year later, Allen was in Cleveland's big league bullpen. He was the second player from the 2011 Draft to reach the Majors and is currently a staple at the back end of the Tribe's relief corps.
"The scout that's responsible for drafting him should get a bonus," Indians manager Terry Francona said recently. "If you get a kid that low -- a kid like that -- that's pretty unique."
In The Show
There are currently only three players on Cleveland's active roster who were drafted and developed by the organization. The short list includes second baseman Jason Kipnis (second round, 2009), as well as relievers Vinnie Pestano (20th round, '06) and Allen. The Indians began the season with third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall (first round, '08) on the Opening Day roster, but he is currently playing at Triple-A Columbus.
Indians' recent top picks
2012: Naquin, OF, Class A (high) Carolina
2011: Lindor, SS, Class A (high) Carolina
2010: Pomeranz LHP, Triple-A Colo. Springs (Rockies)
2009: Alex White, RHP, 60-day DL (Astros)
2008: Chisenhall, 3B, Triple-A Columbus