On Friday, the Indians signed their first-round pick of the 2015 draft in left-handed pitcher Brady Aiken, who famously was 2014’s number one all-around draftee choice of the Houston Astros, but did not sign after failing to come to terms with the Astros last year, and then undergoing Tommy John surgery this past March. Despite his health concerns, the Indians still took a chance on Aiken, who last year became the first number one pick not to sign since Tim Belcher in 1983.
According to reports, Aiken is already in Arizona rehabbing his elbow at the time of his signing.
Last year, Aiken was reportedly offered $6.5 million to sign with the Astros, but tensions grew high when doctors discovered an “irregularity in the ulnar collateral ligament” in Aiken’s throwing arm, according to Sports Illustrated. The Astros came back offering less money, which Aiken turned down, instead deciding to see how he would fair in this year’s draft.
After joining Florida’s IMG Academy to train prior to the 2015 draft, Aiken suffered another blow when it was discovered he needed Tommy John surgery. He wrote an essay for The Player’s Tribune in March talking about his experience, and acknowledging that he was disappointed with the injury, but he planned to rehab and come back as strong, if not stronger, than before.
The Indians demonstrated their faith in the surgery and Aiken’s rehab potential during the draft when they selected him as the 17th all-around pick earlier this month. In a rotation that already boasts the strong arms of Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, and Carlos Carrasco, an eventually-healthy Aiken could be a huge boost and addition to the group. Although his big league debut will clearly be a few years out, it never hurts to know that there are strong arms coming through the system to replace or support the strength that is already there.
The Indians have had mixed luck with their first round draft picks throughout the years, so there’s no precedent to say that Aiken will excel within the system or fall flat. Recent draftees have a high potential for success, so if there’s any trend, it’s that Aiken is following a very recent line of strong prospects in the Indians organizations. Here’s a look at some of the Tribe’s recent first round picks, as well as some of their notable first round picks from throughout the years:
- In 1965, the first year of the MLB Draft, the Indians selected catcher Ray Fosse out of Marion High School in Marion, Illinois. Fosse grew into a two-time All-Star, two-time Golden Glove winner with the Indians, though is most well-known for the fateful 1970 collision at home plate with Pete Rose during that year’s All-Star Game. Fosse suffered a fractured and separated shoulder that didn’t heal correctly. Although he didn’t immediately start a decline, the collision leaves a lot of “what-if’s” in terms of Fosse’s career.
- Steve Dunning with the Indians first round selection in 1970 and was the second overall pick in that year’s draft. He was sent to the Majors immediately, which likely proved an error on the part of the Indians. Although he had been touted as one of the best pitching prospects in baseball, Dunning pitched only 136 games in his seven-year career in the big leagues. Despite not fully living up to expectations, Dunning does have the distinction of hitting a grand slam off the Oakland A’s pitcher Diego Segui in 1971.
- Everyone knows Rick Manning today as one of the Indians TV commentators, but he also has the distinction of being the Tribe’s first round draft pick in 1972. He won a Golden Glove with the Tribe in 1976 and spent nine years in the Indians organization, where he hit .263 with 36 home runs. Manning finished out his career in Milwaukee, hitting .237 with 20 homers.
- A few of the Indians first round draft picks are well-known for their roles with the great rosters of the 1990’s Indians teams. Manny Ramirez was drafted in 1991 and Charles Nagy was the first round pick in 1988. Ramirez joined the big league team in 1993, Nagy in 1990, and both became known as some of the strongest in their roles. Ramirez hit 236 home runs for Cleveland between 1993 and 2000, and was a four-time All-Star with the Indians, along with winning the Rookie of the Year award in 1994. Nagy was one of the team’s most notable starting pitchers, and pitched for the Indians for 13 season, amassing a 129-103 record and 4.51 ERA. He threw 31 complete games while wearing a Tribe uniform.
- In 2008, the Indians selected a young infielder from North Carolina in the first round of the draft. Lonnie Chisenhall is certainly a first-round pick who has name recognition, although not always for the reason of success. Chisenhall, who bounced around the Indians infield before being designated at the team’s third baseman, is becoming a classic example of a “AAAA” player – one who consistently bounces up and down between the Majors and Triple-A, putting up high numbers on the AAA stage that aren’t always replicated in the big leagues. With the recent shift of Giovanny Urshela at third for the Tribe now, though, with Chisenhall in Columbus, there’s a good chance Chisenhall may stay with the Clippers for a while until he can prove his consistency.
- In recent years, the Tribe has had a relatively strong draft, particularly in the early rounds. Francisco Lindor was selected in the first round of the 2011 draft, and his highly-anticipated Major League has happened without much disappointment. Sure, he’s not hitting massive home runs right off the bat and he’s already made two errors, but he’s also contributed to the team with his speed, some impressive defensive work, and a handful of hits. He’s hardly been a disappointment. Tyler Naquin, the 2012 first round pick, recently received a promotion to Columbus, where he is already hitting .278 with one home run. This is all coming off his 33 game run in Akron this season, where he hit .338. Naquin has nine total errors in four seasons of minor league ball, which bodes well for the future big league outfielder. 2013’s first round draft pick, Clint Frazier, isn’t having the same sort of success he had in high school, but is adapting to the professional atmosphere at a consistent pace. He’s a prime candidate for the Indians “wait, don’t rush” mentality throughout the minors, as he realized last year in Lake County that he’s not going to be the same power hitter he was in high school immediately upon entering the professional ranks. Last year, the Indians had three first round picks in Mike Papi, Bradley Zimmer, and Justus Sheffield. Zimmer and Sheffield have been the breakouts of the group, with Zimmer flying through the minors. He is currently in High-A Lynchburg, though it would hardly be a surprise if he were to find himself in Akron tomorrow. Zimmer is hitting .302 in the Carolina League with nine home runs. Sheffield, a starting pitcher with the Lake County Captains, has already struck out 70 batters this season and is about to appear in the Midwest League All Star Game on Tuesday. He boasts a 6-1 record and 4.72 ERA.