Indians favor college players in Draft

College players favored by Tribe in Draft

The Indians concluded early on that it was a lean year for high school talent, and the club's selections in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft certainly reflected that assessment.

The Tribe used 36 of 50 selections on collegiate players.

"High school talent was down," Indians director of scouting Brad Grant said. "We did look, but there weren't that many high school players we felt as strongly about."

The Indians used 32 of their picks on pitchers, including 25 right-handers. Only seven of the 32 pitchers are high schoolers.

Going after so many arms was as much by design as what was available when the Indians' turn came around.

"A little bit of both," Grant said. "We've always felt strongly about developing pitching and we look to take as much pitching as we possibly can."

With the 29th overall pick in the first round, the Indians drafted Lonnie Chisenhall, a third baseman from Pitt (N.C.) Community College.

"This was the best player available," Grant said. "Lonnie's been a guy that we've had targeted from the beginning. Picking at 29, it's really difficult to know who's going to be there. There were no surprises above him, [and] he was the best talent on the board at 29."

Chisenhall, a 6-foot-1, 200 pounder who bats left and throws right, was drafted in the 12th round by the Pirates as a high school senior in 2006. He chose to attend the University of South Carolina instead, where he usually hit third for the Gamecocks and earned a reputation as one of the best hitters in the nation. But an incident that led to Chisenhall's arrest on burglary and larceny charges caused his dismissal from the team. He later transferred to Pitt C.C.

Chisenhall, who lives in Newport, N.C., was hoping the Indians would call his name. He regularly attends Kinston Indians' games, the Indians Carolina League Class A affiliate.

"I've probably been to 30 or 40 Kinston games," Chisenhall said on Friday. "I'm really excited they drafted me."

The Indians have done their due diligence on Chisenhall and are convinced that his problems are behind him.

"We truly believe it was a one-time mistake, he was in the wrong spot at the wrong time," Grant said. "We believe he's learned from it and moved on. At 19 [years old], he has two years of college experience, and with that incident, a lot of maturity."

Grant spent plenty of face time with Chisenhall to make sure. So did Indians northeast cross-checker Scott Meaney. The Indians had Dr. Charles Maher, the team's sports psychologist and director of psychological services, meet with Chisenhall. Cleveland's assistant general manager, John Mirabelli, knows Chisenhall's high school coach very well. Area scout Bob Mayer has known Chisenhall since his junior year in high school.

The Indians pored over all the evaluations before making their decision. The end result was a very thorough background check, which Chisenhall aced.

"We've gone above and beyond doing our research," Grant said. "We very much value makeup; we very much value character. Every person that we talked to spoke very highly about Lonnie's character."

Chisenhall is looking forward to putting his past behind him. One way to do that is by getting people to talk about his play.

"It was something I learned from," he said. "A one-time mistake. I was a dumb kid. I wasn't where I was supposed to be."

The Indians plan to start Chisenhall off at shortstop, and as he moves through his Minor League career, he's expected to become a third baseman. Chisenhall said he's spent more time at third base than shortstop, so the move won't be a problem.

Indians' top five selections
Pick
POS
Name
School
29.RHPLonnie ChisenhallPitt CC
76.RHPTrey HaleyCentral Heights HS (Texas)
107.2BRobert PhelpsStanford U
141.RHPDavid RobertsCal St Long Beach
171.RHPSteven PutnamU of Michigan
Complete Indians Draft results >

"The bat is a No. 1 tool, his bat is ahead of his power right now," Grant said. "He's a very disciplined hitter; he's got a very patient approach. Right now, he's more of a line-drive, gap hitter, and as he continues to mature, he'll develop power."

After Chisenhall the Indians selected pitchers with three of their next five picks, including one high school and two collegiate pitchers. The other two picks were used to draft college infielders.

Grant said taking five college players on the first day out of six choices reflected the strength of this year's Draft.

In the second round, the Indians chose Trey Haley with the 76th overall pick, a 17-year-old right-handed pitcher from Central Heights High School in east Texas, the same neck of the woods as Boston's Clay Buchholz.

Haley, who has committed to attend Rice University in Houston next fall, has a fastball that tops out at 95 mph and a curveball that has been clocked as high as 82 mph.

"Haley's an exceptional high school right-hander, he's got a chance to have two plus pitches in the future," Grant said. "He's a big strong kid, going to fill out. We felt very fortunate to be able to get Haley."

Haley's letter of intent to attend Rice is an obstacle, but Grant said the Indians wouldn't have used a second-round pick on the pitcher if they didn't think they could sign him.

"Like any other negotiation, it's going to be a process," Grant said.

In the third round, 107th overall, the Indians selected switch-hitting second baseman Robert "Cord" Phelps of Stanford University.

"His power has really developed this year," Grant said. "This was a chance to add an offensive switch-hitting second baseman with some power."

California State-Long Beach right-hander David Roberts went to the Indians in the fourth round, 141st overall.

"He's a 6-3, 220-pound pitcher with a plus fastball who was used in the bullpen at Long Beach," Grant said. "We'll look at him as a starter, long-term-wise, he may end up back in the bullpen."

Right-hander Steven Putnam of Michigan was Cleveland's choice in the fifth round, 171st overall. Phelps often serves as the Wolverines' designated hitter.

"We like him better as a pitcher," Grant said. "He's big, strong [and has a] plus fastball, curveball, slider, changeup and split -- five pitches."

The Indians spent their sixth-round pick (201st overall) on Jeremie Tice, a third baseman from the College of Charleston. Grant said Tice had a huge year offensively.

The Tribe raided the college ranks with all but two of their remaining picks in the 15 rounds picks.

Cleveland took North Carolina right fielder Tim Fedroff (7th round, 231st overall), Arizona left-hander Eric Berger (8th, 261st), Oklahoma State outfielder Donnie Webb (10th, 321st), Rice University right-hander Matthew Langwell (11th, 351st), North Iowa right-hander Guido Fonseca (12th, 381st), Chipola Junior College right-hander Carlos Moncrief (14th, 441st) and Nevada-Reno third baseman Jason Rodriguez (15th, 471st).

The Indians took three players from the University of Michigan -- Putnam, third baseman Adam Abraham (13th round, 411th overall) and first baseman Nathan Recknagel (19th, 591st).

The Indians selected Logan Thompson, a shortstop from Jupiter (Fla.) Community College and the son of special assistant for baseball operations Robby Thompson, in the 42nd round.

The 50 players Cleveland drafted included 32 pitchers, six outfielders, four third basemen, four shortstops, a second baseman, a first baseman and two catchers. Five of the 14 high school players chosen by the Indians weren't selected until after the 45th round.

"We felt very, very good about this year's Draft," Grant said. "When we came into this year's Draft we wanted to get the players that we liked. We lost quite a few that we liked, but at the same time we were able to draft quite a few players our area scouts felt very strongly about."

Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.