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The View From Pluto: Major League Baseball's System of Draft, Sign and 'See Ya in Four Years'

The Indians selected 18-year-old pitcher Daniel Espino with the 24th pick in the 2019 MLB draft. But, fans won't likely see him in an Indians uniform for years.
The Indians selected 18-year-old pitcher Daniel Espino with the 24th pick in the 2019 MLB draft. But, fans won't likely see him in an Indians uniform for years.

Major League Baseball is relatively low-key when it comes to selecting its next superstars. The draft that happens each June gets little attention compared to the fanfare of the NFL and NBA. WKSU sports commentatorTerry Pluto says the Indians had a top-25 pick last week, but hardly anyone noticed. 

A guessing game among 1,000 players

The Major League Baseball draft is immense. The three-day event is comprised of some 1,000 high school, college and Puerto Rican players.

But baseball is in the shadows of the NFL and NBA that make their drafts primetime viewing with months of speculation and hype. The first 41 picks are broadcast on MLB Network and the second round is streamed on MLB.com. The remainder of the draft is streamed online.

Pluto says that with that many players in a vast system of minor leagues, it’s hard to keep up with who’s who. “I don’t know who was the top high school or college player,” Pluto said. “I forgot which college baseball team won the national title.”

See ya' in four years, maybe

Pluto guesses most people don’t know who the Indians drafted in the first round last year. (It was catcher Bo Naylor with the 29th pick. He currently plays with the Lake County Captains).

“Most people know the Browns drafted Baker Mayfield last year. If you follow basketball, most people know the Cavs drafted Collin Sexton. You draft them. You sign them and you see them. But in baseball, you draft them, you sign them, and you see them in four years maybe.” It takes players at least that long to work their way up to the big leagues. The NFL and NBA usually play their draft picks right away.

The 24th pick: Daniel Espino

In last week’s draft, the Indians selected an 18-year-old pitcher, Daniel Espino, with the 24th overall pick. The high school star from Georgia spent most of his life in Panama.  

Pluto acknowledges he doesn’t know much about the prospect, other than the fact that he can throw a 100 mph fastball. Espino is committed to play at LSU, but he's expected to sign with the Indians. 

It's not all about drafting high

But Pluto is sure about this: “In general you’d rather have more first round picks than lower rounds. But just because you get drafted in the lower round, doesn’t mean you have no shot.”

He looks to the Indians current pitching rotation with Zach Plesac andShane Bieber. Plesac, who got his first major league win last Friday over the Yankees, was selected 362nd in the 12th round of the 2016 draft. “He has vaulted over these first rounders to make the majors, and he’s in the rotation.”

Bieber was selected 122nd that year in the fourth round. He’s currently 5-2 with a 4.07 ERA.

Who did the Indians select in the first round that year? Outfielder Will Benson.

In 2017, Benson played for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers and has played 2018 and this season with theLake County Captains. On April 18, Benson hit four home runs in one game.

“He’s only 20. Will Benson may be good, but you have to wait for him. In fact, sometimes what happens in baseball is you draft a kid like Benson when he’s 18. When he’s 24, he figures it out and he starts to play. And then people say, ‘How could you give up on Will Benson?!’ You never know when to hang on to them and when to give up on them.”

In the current Indians lineup, pitcher Trevor Bauer was a No. 3 pick. Francisco Linder was No. 8. But catcher Roberto Perez, who has 11 home runs so far this season, was selected 1,011th in the 33rd round of the 2008 draft.

Pluto says prospects have to have lots of patience and determination, because not many actually make it to the big leagues. 

"If you want to drive over to Akron or Lake County or Mahoning County, odds are if you’re watching a game there and there are 25 guys in the game, maybe two or three will get to the big leagues. But it may not be the two or three you think.”

Copyright 2021 WKSU. To see more, visit WKSU.

Amanda Rabinowitz
Amanda Rabinowitz has been a reporter, host and producer at WKSU since 2007. Her days begin before the sun comes up as the local anchor for NPR’s Morning Edition, which airs on WKSU each weekday from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. In addition to providing local news and weather, she interviews the Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto for a weekly commentary about Northeast Ohio’s sports scene.