In past years, the Cleveland Indians have walked away from the MLB First Year Player Draft with questionable results. Their drafting hasn’t blown anyone away, but it hasn’t been as wretched as it could be.
Recently, the tides seem to be turning, with the Indians coming away with players such as Bradley Zimmer, Clint Frazier, and Bobby Bradley – names that carry weight in the baseball world, and names that make other squads jealous. Hopefully, last year’s draft can carry that same weight.
One of the most notable names to come out of the 2015 draft is that of Triston McKenzie, a right-handed pitcher out of Royal Palm Beach High School in Florida. McKenzie, drafted 42nd overall in the first round of the 2015 draft, had previously committed to play baseball at Vanderbilt, the defending College World Series champ, which made the decision to play in pro ball or at the collegiate level a difficult one. He told the Sun Sentinel in June that he didn’t plan on making a decision right away, and that he would weigh all his options – including not being eligible for the draft again until his junior year of college should he forgo the opportunity to sign this time around. McKenzie didn’t take too much time, however, as he knew by the end of the month that he was going to sign with the Tribe to the tune of a $2,302,500 signing bonus.
McKenzie’s signing bonus was reportedly the highest for a right-handed pitcher in last year’s draft class. Cleveland.com reported that the money certainly helped in making McKenzie’s decision, but the bottom line in choosing to sign was the opportunity to play professional baseball.
“This is a dream-like moment for me,” said McKenzie. “You always dream of playing for a professional baseball team and it’s coming to fruition for me. “
McKenzie said it was a tough decision to turn pro instead of attending Vanderbilt.
“It was a very tough decision,” he said. “In the end it came down my love of the game and my drive to play baseball. It’s been my dream to play professional baseball.”
McKenzie was able to make his first strides as a member of the Indians organization last year in four games with the Arizona League Indians. He made three starts in those appearances and pitched a total of 12 innings. With a 1-1 record and 0.75 ERA in his brief season, McKenzie struck out 17 batters and gave up one run on four hits. He walked four batters.
During his senior year of high school, McKenzie compiled a 9-5 record with a 0.79 ERA. He struck out 157 batters in 15 games compared to just 16 walks. He was a 2015 Perfect Game USA first-team Preseason All-American, and led Royal Palm Beach to the Class 7A state tournament for the first time since 2000, where he threw five complete games and allowed four runs, three of which were in the team’s state semifinal loss. McKenzie throws a fastball, curve, and changeup. He’s 6’5” and 160 pounds, so much of his focus throughout his development should be on adding a few pounds to add some power to his performance.
McKenzie adds pitching depth throughout the Tribe’s system. He follows Justus Sheffield, another Vanderbilt commit pitcher who was drafted in the first round by the Tribe in 2014, as a young, promising pitcher who was drafted early and given high expectations from the system. Hopefully, McKenzie repeats the pattern of success found in Sheffield, who spent his first full season in Lake County, pitching 127 2/3 innings and striking out 138 batters.
Photo: Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post