Following the five-round 2020 MLB First-Year Player Draft, MiLB.com takes an organization-by-organization look at each pick with help from team scouting executives.
The Indians may not boast a farm system as loaded with elite talent as other teams around the Majors, but they do excel in one area in particular: youth. Seven of the team’s top 10 prospects are 20 years old or younger, and that doesn’t include Nolan Jones and Tyler Freeman who last month turned 22 and 21, respectively.
Heading into the 2020 Draft, the Tribe looked to build on that trend while also focusing on simply getting the best players available. And while they did lean toward more experienced players in some rounds, overall they’re ecstatic about the new crop of talent and how it’ll mesh with the existing one -- especially given the circumstances in the world in recent months.
"We were thrilled with the results for a lot of reasons,” Indians amateur scouting director Scott Barnsby said. “I think as you work through this, especially with the situation that we were working through this year, just like every other team, to see it come together is really special. … We're excited about the Draft we had.”
First Round: Carson Tucker (No. 23 overall)
Athleticism runs in the Tucker family. Carson’s mother ran track and played volleyball at Arizona State, and his father played one Minor League season in the Cardinals organization in the 80’s. More relevantly, his brother, Cole, is a shortstop for the Pirates who made his big league debut last season.
He’s also a bit of a clairvoyant, it seems.
The Indians made that prediction come true when they selected Carson with the 23rd overall pick, making him the highest-drafted player out of Mountain Pointe High School in Arizona -- one slot ahead of his brother. He brings immediate value to the top of the system, likely landing somewhere in the club’s top five prospects, all of whom are position players.
Tucker’s best tool is his bat, as he profiles as a strong contact hitter with the chance to add a little pop. He’s sound enough defensively to stay at shortstop and does enough with his legs to assume a potential top-of-the-lineup role. More than anything, though, the Indians are excited about Tucker’s intangibles, partly a result of his upbringing.
"It certainly helps that he's got a brother that's a Major Leaguer and a family that is very familiar with athletics and competition,” Barnsby said. “One thing we know about Carson is he loves to compete. He's always loved competing since a young age. So the fact that he goes against some really talented players and he's been pushed extremely hard by his brother is certainly a benefit."
Competitive Round A: Tanner Burns (No. 36 overall)
Cleveland turned to the college ranks with its second pick, nabbing right-hander Tanner Burns out of Auburn. His calling card is his fastball, sitting comfortably in the mid-90’s, but he possesses an above-average breaking ball and a solid changeup as well. He utilized them well in the formidable Southeastern Conference, once striking out 15 batters in a game to tie the school record shared by Tim Hudson and top Tigers prospect Casey Mize.
Not only did Burns miss out on his junior year due to the coronavirus pandemic, he also missed out on a tremendous chance to boost his Draft stock possibly into the first round. He was a preseason All-SEC and All-American selection and was on the watch list for the Golden Spikes Award. Had he lived up to the hype, it’s possible his stock would have soared and he wouldn't have been available for Cleveland at this slot.
“As you continue to work through a competitive conference like that, if he continued to have success on Friday night, sure, he could've definitely increased his Draft stock,” Barnsby said. “But either way, we were ecstatic to get him where we got him and look forward to him joining the organization."
Round Two: Logan Allen (No. 56 overall)
No, not that Logan Allen. The Tribe added another pitcher with the same name to their roster when they chose the left-hander out of Florida International, also adding a second college arm to their class. This Allen profiles similarly to the 23-year-old southpaw, funnily enough, as his best pitch is his changeup which mixes with a solid fastball and breaking ball.
Allen spent the summer of 2019 on the USA Baseball Collegiate National team, where he struck out 11 over 10 innings. Conference USA may not be as prestigious a circuit as the SEC, but Barnsby sees some similarities to Burns in Allen along with the lefty's overall tenacious approach on the mound.
“Our scout in Florida did a really nice job getting to know Logan,” Barnsby said, “and some of the same qualities stick out with him in terms of how he constantly wants to gets better, how he's constantly working. … I think probably the best way to sum him up is he just has zero fear of attacking the zone, which I think is a really positive quality."
Round Three: Petey Halpin (No. 95 overall)
Halpin has committed to play at the University of Texas, but if he decides to forgo the burnt orange for the navy and red, he could prove to be a real steal. Rated as MLB Pipeline's No. 76 overall prospect in the Draft, he rose from relatively low interest to the top three rounds, thanks to strong performances in the PDP League, High School All-Star Game and Area Code Games prior to his senior year at Mira Costa High School in California.
He certainly has room to grow since he turned 18 a few weeks before the Draft, making him one of the youngest prospects in the class. That’s not to say he’s not already developed -- Halpin has showcased top-notch speed and throwing ability, making him a prime fit to stay in his natural center field. He’s also solid with the bat, offering good contact and showing flashes of power that could increase as his body matures.
And even though he seems to be years away from contributing in Cleveland, Indians brass is eager to add Halpin to the mix, not only for his offensive and defensive skills but the spirit he displays on the diamond.
"He brings an awful lot of energy to the ballpark,” Barnsby said. “He's always out there competing, and I think that's a consistent theme with a lot of the players that we drafted. … The passion for the game is something that we're excited about.”
Round Four: Milan Tolentino (No. 124 overall)
Much like Tucker, Tolentino has baseball in his genes -- his father, Jose, helped lead Texas to the College World Series title in 1983 alongside Roger Clemens and, after a 15-year career in pro baseball, works as the Angels' Spanish radio broadcaster. And while his pops only spent one year in the bigs, Milan has a chance to become a regular in Cleveland if he signs instead of attending UCLA.
He's especially proficient on defense as he grades out to have both a plus arm and glove that will keep him at shortstop. He’s decent with the bat, too, and while he hasn't displayed much power, he hits for solid contact and has good speed. He’s also tremendously experienced, having played in the High School All-Star Game last summer and represented Team USA at the WBSC U-18 World Cup.
"The track record speaks for itself,” Barnsby said. “Milan has been around the game a long time. His dad played professionally, his dad's the Spanish broadcaster for the Angels. So we had an opportunity to spend quite a bit of time with Milan over the last year or so and just learn not only his overall feel for the game, but his -- it just translates on the field. … To be able to get a player of that caliber in the fourth round is really exciting."
Round Five: Mason Hickman (No. 154 overall)
Hickman knows a thing or two about pitching in big games. In fact, he may have pitched in the biggest game of anybody in this Draft -- in the decisive third game of last year’s College World Series final, the right-hander struck out 10 over six innings and earned the win to clinch the title for Vanderbilt.
That experience should make for a smooth transition to the pros, as will his developed arsenal of pitches. Throwing from a 6-foot-6, 230-pound frame, Hickman deals a polished fastball and curveball along with a solid slider and changeup, so he’s got what it takes to stay in the rotation in a system thin on starters. His credentials from his time with the Commodores won’t hurt, either.
“We all know their reputation and we know the type of baseball that they play and the success there, so to take the ball Friday night at Vanderbilt says a lot,” Barnsby said. “And not only to take the ball Friday night but have success and have success on a big stage as well, in the College World Series. ... Pretty exciting to think about what Mason's going to end up being down the road."
Overall Outlook: The Indians had a great deal of success in the back half of the last decade and much of that core is still intact. They’ll likely still be competitive for another couple years, giving their young Minor League talent time to grow and develop without being rushed. Whenever that next generation takes over in Cleveland, it'll have a tough act to follow. However, if the players drafted this month and the years before live up to their potential, they have the chance to deliver a commanding follow-up performance.
Jordan Wolf is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter: @byjordanwolf.