The Tribe’s first 10 rounds

Benson3Will Benson was just one of two players to accept the invitation to experience Day 1 of the MLB Draft from MLB Network’s Studio 42. As part of the day in and around New York, the young hitting prospect received a tour of Yankee Stadium.’s Mark Newman sent this note over from that trip: “One of the cool scenes during the day as he toured Yankee Stadium was him posing between the plaques of Jackie Robinson and Nelson Mandela as his mom, Ramona, took his picture. Then he proceeded to read all the Mandela quotes on the plaque closely.”

After chatting for only a few minutes with Benson via conference call, that story is not the least bit surprising. What is surprising about it is that Benson is all of 17 years old. This kid has lofty goals and aspirations, and he hasn’t even stepped onto a professional baseball diamond yet.

Now, we’ll see where Benson goes from here, and he has a long road ahead of him before he potentially reaches the Major Leagues. I will say this, though. In my decade-plus of covering the Draft, there have been two players who struck me as extremely polished and mature well beyond their years after the first interview. One is Benson, and the other was Francisco Lindor.

Lindor also had big goals for himself on and off the field. We’ve all seen what he’s turned into between the lines for the Indians. This year, now that he’s a full-time shortstop in the big leagues, he’s also started to do work away from the stadium. On Saturday, for example, the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif., will host Lindor, who has made it part of his mission to impact youth in Cleveland and around the country.

Asked if he had heard of Lindor’s work with the R.B.I. program, Benson said it was actually a topic of conversation with Cleveland’s scouts before he was drafted by the club:

“CT Bradford with the Indians, the area scout in Georgia, he was explaining to me how the Indians are all about giving back to the kids and being prevalent in the community. That’s kind of part of my mission. I’m very thankful the Indians drafted me, but it doesn’t mean anything if I don’t impact the people that are in Cleveland, impact the world.”

Benson will be a fun player to follow as he climbs the organizational ladder, and not only for the tape-measure home runs he can launch.

Here is the rundown on Cleveland’s picks in the Draft’s first 10 rounds:

Round 1 (No. 14): OF Will Benson
The Westminster Schools (Atlanta)
Slot value: $2,973,700 pre-Draft ranking:

Brad Grant, Cleveland’s director of amateur scouting: “We couldn’t be more excited about this pick. He’s a big, physical athlete — a potential five-tool-type player. Very good ability to hit, to hit with power to all fields, to run, throw and field. Really, the whole package. He’s a special person that comes from a very special family, as well. A guy we’re very excited about and a guy that our scouts did an unbelievable job in working through and really getting to know and putting all the pieces together with him.”


Partially due to his size and frame, and also because he comes from Atlanta, Benson has faced comparisons to Jason Heyward. Grant said he doesn’t like to label a prospect in that manner, but he added: “Those are obviously natural comparisons with the body and the size and the presence to him and the power potential. I think Will Benson is exciting for all of those reasons.”

Benson had this to say about being compared to Heyward: “It’s an honor to have that comparison. I think, defensively, that’s a good comparison. I think we both have a lot of range and can throw the ball really well. I think, offensively, I can possibly do better. That’s no discredit to what Jason Heyward has done. He’s a monster on the offensive end. He’s always on base and he can hit for average. But, I think I can hit for a little bit more power and still have that average. Defensively, I want to be just like that or even better. Offensively, I think I can take it to the next level.”


Round 2 (No. 55): INF Nolan Jones
Holy Ghost (Pa.) Prep
Slot value: $1,159,200 pre-Draft ranking:

Grant: “He’s another guy that we couldn’t be more thrilled about getting. Again, a very good hitter. He’s a guy who we feel is going to hit with power as well in the future. He has a plus arm — solid fielder. Another guy with really good makeup as well. He’s a guy that we spent a whole lot of time with — our scouts spent a whole lot of time with — and got to really know him and his family well as well.”


Lottery Round B (No. 72): C Logan Ice
Oregon State
Slot value: $892,200 pre-Draft ranking: 108

Grant: “What really stands out about Logan is his defensive ability. He’s an advanced framer, an advanced defender behind the plate. He does some things defensively the are very, very good and he put together a very good offensive year as well. He’s a guy that we’re very  excited about getting with that third pick.”


Round 3 (No. 92): RHP Aaron Civale
Slot value: $655,500 pre-Draft ranking: 136

Grant: “We view him as a right-handed starter, a guy that can really throw strikes, a guy that has a solid-average fastball, the making of a plus slider, a very good changeup. What really stands out about him is his ability to control the fastball, the ability to work it to both halves, the ability to keep it down in the zone.”


Round 4 (No. 122): RHP Shane Bieber
UC Santa Barbara
Slot value: $482,500 pre-Draft ranking: 151

Grant: “He’s another guy that has an advanced feel to pitch. He really commands the fastball extremely well and he’s another guy who throws a ton of strikes. He’s got a solid-average fastball, a solid-average slider and a feel for a changeup.”


Round 5 (No. 152): OF Conner Capel
Seven Lakes (Texas) HS
Slot value: $361,300 pre-Draft ranking: 73

Grant: “He’s a big strong guy that we feel is probably going to be more power than hit. He does make consistent contact — he made it all summer. And we think the power is going to continue to develop with him. We feel like he’s got a chance to be a solid-average hitter and then hit for power as well. So, a good combination there.”


Round 6 (No. 182): INF Ulysses Cantu
W.E. Boswell (Texas) HS
Slot value: $270,300 pre-Draft ranking: 105

Grant: “We’re going to play him at third base and see. What stands out about Cantu is his ability to hit. All summer long we watched him. All summer long he hit. He’s got some power in the bat, too, despite the 5-11 frame. But, he can really hit. He’s got an unbelievable understanding of the strike zone. He doesn’t chase. There’s not much swing and miss at all. His bat is what stands out about him.”


Round 7 (No. 212): C Michael Tinsley
Slot value: $202,900 pre-Draft ranking: n/a

Grant: “We’re going to send him out there as a catcher, certainly. But, what really stands out about him as well is his bat. He’s a guy that does not strike out. In 251 plate appearances, it was like 18 strikeouts. So, he’s a guy that makes hard consistent contact, uses all the fields, and we’re going to continue to give him every opportunity to catch. I think if you look at our organization, you look at our instructors and our managers, we’ve got a lot of former catchers in our system. So, we’re going to work with him and see if we can get him better.”

Round 8 (No. 242): RHP Andrew Lantrip
Slot value: $178,700 pre-Draft ranking: n/a

Grant: “He’s another guy with elite ability to command the strike zone. I know I keep pointing it out, but 90 innings with five walks. He’s a guy who’s got solid-average stuff across the board. He can really pitch with his fastball, move it around. He’s got an average slider. He’s got a feel for a changeup. He’s a guy we feel could start and can advance as a starter with his ability to throw strikes.”

Round 9 (No. 272): OF Hosea Nelson
Clarendon College
Slot value: $166,700 pre-Draft ranking: n/a

Grant: “We try to factor that in [that his statistics came in Juco]. I mean, to hit .530 with 20 home runs and 18 doubles in Juco with a 1.600 OPS is still pretty good. Wherever you do it, it’s really good. He’s a good athlete. He’s a plus runner. He’s a guy that put together an unbelievable year, so we’ll see where it goes. But, we definitely factored in the numbers with him, too.”

Round 10 (No. 302): SS Samad Taylor
Corona Senior (Calif.) HS
Slot value: $156,600 pre-Draft ranking: n/a

Grant: “Samad is an interesting guy. He’s only 17 years old. He played really well over the course of the summer, played well over the course of the spring. He’s a plus runner. He can play both short, play second, play the middle infield. Just with his age and where he’s going, we feel the bat has some upside. He does make contact right now and, as he continues to get stronger and continues to fill out, we feel there’s more upside in the bat as well.”


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