July 23, 2016

Partly sunny

Tribe: Cleveland picks Georgia high school outfielder

CLEVELAND — The Indians went down to Georgia for their first-round selection in Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft on Thursday.

Owning just one pick (No. 5 overall) within the first two rounds, Cleveland used it to take Loganville High School (Ga.) center fielder Clint Frazier — this year’s Gatorade High School Player of the Year.

“We’re really excited,” Indians director of scouting Brad Grant said. “He’s an impact bat. He generates unbelievable power. That’s the thing that’s real special with Clint. It’s not just power. He has the chance to be a very good (overall) hitter.”

It equaled the highest the Indians have chosen since 1992 — also chose pitcher Drew Pomeranz with the fifth pick in 2010 — when they selected relief pitcher Paul Shuey with the second overall pick. But because they traded their next two scheduled picks to acquire Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn this offseason, the Indians don’t choose again until the third round (79th pick) today.

Still, Cleveland is hoping it landed a future star in the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Frazier, a bushy-haired redhead, who Baseball America ranked as the No. 1 center fielder in the draft, and who Grant said possesses unique bat speed that is projected to play out on the big-league level.

As a senior this season, Frazier hit .485 with 17 home runs and 45 RBIs in 32 games. His above-average speed lends itself to the center field position, but his arm strength was reportedly average this spring and Baseball America called his outfield skills “raw.”

The Indians don’t appear concerned.

“We envision him staying in center field for the long-term,” Grant said.

Though he has committed to attend the University of Georgia, Frazier said he planned on signing with Cleveland and beginning his professional career. He appeared to confirm as much when he spoke with the MLB Network after being selected and it was suggested that he could suit up for two-time world champion manager Terry Francona.

“I just want to get up there and play for him as soon as I can,” Frazier said. “This is a dream come true.”

The Indians have used their first-round selections to take position players eight times since 2002, including the past three years.

The Indians took outfielder Tyler Naquin with the 15th overall pick last year. Naquin is off to a solid start in his first full professional season, entering Thursday with a .315 batting average four homers and 22 RBIs in 56 games for High-A Carolina.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at (440) 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.