First pick sets tone for rest of Indians' Draft

First pick sets tone for rest of Indians' Draft

CLEVELAND -- Months of work come to a close when the final name is spoken in the annual MLB Draft. When the phone line finally goes silent and the scouts begin shaking hands with members of the front office, the three-day whirlwind can be a little overwhelming

"I need to clear my mind," Brad Grant, the Indians' director of amateur scouting, said with a laugh. "Everything's kind of running together."

In a span of 72 hours, thousands of names are whittled down to dozens. In Cleveland's case, the club walked away with 41 picks in the Draft, which concluded with Rounds 11-40 in a rapid-fire selection process on Saturday. The Indians believe they walked away with a potential cornerstone player in prep outfielder Will Benson, the team's first-round pick (No. 14 overall), plus good value and depth throughout the rest of the Draft.

As has been the trend in recent years, the Indians took more collegiate players (23) than high schoolers (18), with the bulk of the pitching (13 out of 17) coming from the college ranks. Northeastern's Aaron Civale (third round) and UC Santa Barbara's Shane Bieber (fourth round) highlighted the pitching front. In all, the Tribe picked nine outfielders and nine infielders, while also addressing an organizational need by selecting six catchers (most in a Draft by Cleveland since 2007).

The spotlight, however, was on Benson.

"We couldn't be more excited about this pick," Grant said. "He's a big, physical athlete -- a potential five-tool-type player."

A product of The Westminster Schools in Atlanta, the 6-foot-5 Benson projects as a right fielder with big power. He has drawn comparisons -- due to his stature, position and hometown -- to Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward. Benson, who turns 18 later this month, was thrilled to have his name called by Cleveland.

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"It was a blessing. I'm so happy. I'm on cloud nine," Benson said on Thursday night. "It's an honor, and I'm looking to just make the Cleveland Indians organization better."

As far as big league bloodlines, the Indians grabbed right-hander Zach Plesac (the nephew of former Major League reliever Dan Plesac) out of Ball State in the 12th round, and high school shortstop Dan Sinatro (the son of former big leaguer catcher Matt Sinatro) in the 40th round.

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Plesac underwent Tommy John surgery in April, contributing to him still being on the board in the 12th round. In terms of value, the Indians selected high school infielder Nolan Jones (ranked 20th by MLBPipeline.com) with the 55th pick (second round), outfielder Conner Capel (ranked 73rd by MLB.com) with the 152nd pick (fifth round) and third baseman Ulysses Cantu (ranked 105th by MLB.com) with the 182nd pick (sixth round).

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"Cantu and Capel, both of those guys were guys that we kind of prioritized this spring," Grant said. "They were high-profile guys coming out of the summer, guys we knew extremely well, guys we spent a lot of time on talking about in January. To be able to take those guys in the fifth and sixth rounds was exciting for us."

Grant also felt Cleveland got great value in the 11th round with the selection of outfielder Andrew Calica out of UC Santa Barbara. Calica -- previously picked out of high school by the Indians in the 17th round of the 2012 Draft -- won the Cape Cod League batting crown in '15 with a .425 average. That was the highest mark for the batting title in that league since 1982 (Terry Steinbach, .431).

"He's a guy that we really liked out of high school," Grant said. "With the upside there for Calica, he's guy we were excited to take right there."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.