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January 19, 2012

Future Shock

Indians Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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Previous Rankings: 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008

System in 20 Words or Less: This is the youngest, riskiest, most volatile Top 11 I've ever done.

Five-Star Prospects
1. Francisco Lindor, SS
Three-Star Prospects
2. Dillon Howard, RHP
3. Ronny Rodriguez, SS
4. Austin Adams, RHP
5. Tony Wolters, SS
6. Nick Hagadone, LHP
7. Dorssys Paulino, SS
8. Luigi Rodriguez, OF
Two-Star Prospects
9. Scott Barnes, LHP
10. Robel Garcia, INF
11. Elvis Araujo, LHP

Nine More
12. Jake Cisco, RHP: This 2011 third-round pick has size and stuff, but he’s raw.
13. Zach McAllister, RHP: He has command and fastball movement, but little else. His ceiling is a fifth starter.
14. Felix Sterling, RHP: This young righty has a power arm and big potential, but he needs refinement.
15. Jorge Martinez, SS: He’s yet another teenage Dominican with loud tools. He profiles as a third baseman with power.
16. Chen Lee, RHP: This undersized righty has an electric fastball. He should pitch in big leagues this year, and has a seventh- or eighth-inning ceiling.
17. Levon Washington, OF: He’s still a great athlete, but his swing fell apart in 2011.
18. Jesus Aguilar, 1B: This massive first baseman is a bat-only prospect, but there are questions about what he can do other than hit for power.
19. Chun-Hsui Chen, C: He has impressive offensive skills, but he’s well below average behind the plate.
20. Zack Putnam, RHP: Like Lee, Putnam should reach the big leagues this year, but he profiles as a solid reliever, not an impact one.

1. Francisco Lindor, SS
DOB
: 11/14/93
Height/Weight: 5-11/175
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011, Monteverde Academy (FL)
2011 Stats: .316/.350/.316 at Low-A (5 G)
Tools Profile: Yes.

Year in Review: The top shortstop in the draft shocked teams in private workouts. He nearly went second overall, but he shocked all by falling into Cleveland's lap with the eighth overall pick.
The Good: Lindor is loaded with tools. He's a switch-hitter with outstanding bat speed. He shocked officials by pounding balls out of Safeco Field, and projects to have as much as average power down the road (15-18 home runs annually). He's a 55-60 runner who should steal a good number of bases, and all of that is wrapped in a package of advanced shortstop skills including impressive range, hands and arm strength, and off-the-charts makeup.
The Bad: Lindor was just 17 when he was drafted. His inexperience shows at times, so he'll have to refine his approach and slow done the game defensively. More than anything, he needs at-bats.
Ephemera: The eighth overall pick in the draft has been used on a shortstop 11 times. Jay Bell (1984) is the only one to play in an All-Star game.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an All-Star shortstop.
Fantasy Impact: It’s probably less than real-world value because of the defense, but he'll still be an early pick as a player with double-digit home runs and stolen bases.
Path to the Big Leagues: Lindor will make his full-season debut at Low-A Lake County.
ETA: 2015

2. Dillon Howard, RHP
DOB
: 7/1/92
Height/Weight: 6-4/210
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2011, Searcy HS (AR)
2011 Stats: DNP
Tools Profile: He has a power frame and a strong arm.

Year in Review: Howard, who was considered unsignable by many teams, got a first-round bonus of nearly $2 million as a second-round pick.
The Good: Howard has two plus fastballs: a true heater than can touch the mid-90s, and an 88-91 mph sinker with late, explosive life. His changeup is advanced for his age, and it projects to be plus. He has the ideal power pitcher's body and simple mechanics.
The Bad: Howard's curveball comes and goes, so it needs professional instruction. He had an up-and-down senior season, with fluctuations in velocity and control.
Ephemera: Howard is one of two players ever drafted out of Searcy High, which is located in the small Arkansas town of the same name. A Philadelphia native laid out the original streets of the town, which would be familiar to any Philly native (Arch, Market, Race, Spring, Vine).
Perfect World Projection: He could be a star-level starting pitcher.
Fantasy Impact: Howard's ceiling is significant, but he's far from it.
Path to the Big Leagues: Howard will likely pitch at Low-A Lake County in 2012, but the Indians might hold him back in extended spring training until the Midwest heats up a bit.
ETA: 2015

3. Ronny Rodriguez, SS
DOB
: 4/17/1992
Height/Weight: 6-0/170
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2010, Dominican Republic
2011 Stats: .246/.274/.449 at Low-A (98 G)
Tools Profile: He’s the rare shortstop with power and speed.

Year in Review: This young shortstop impressed more with his tools than his performance at Low-A.
The Good: Rodriguez has all the tools scouts look for. He has above-average raw power, is a plus runner, and has one of the strongest arms in the system. He's capable of flashy plays at shortstop. While his numbers don't stand out, he had an impressive performance for a player who had never played an organized game until 2011.
The Bad: Rodriguez's game is a bit of a mess. He swings at far too many bad pitches and needs to learn how to work the count. He has the speed to steal bases, but is still learning how to read pitches. His footwork is sloppy, and his throws are inaccurate.
Ephemera: Rodriguez hit everywhere in the 2011 Lake County lineup other than first and third. He was at his best in the five-hole, with a .310/.351/.535 line in 18 games.
Perfect World Projection: Rodriguez has the tools to be a star; he has the distinct possibility of either turning into a Jose Valentin type, or never getting out of the minors.
Fantasy Impact: It could be huge or nonexistent.
Path to the Big Leagues: Rodriguez would arguably be best served by returning to Low-A, but the presence of Lindor will force a promotion to the Carolina League in 2012.
ETA: 2015

4. Austin Adams, RHP
DOB
: 8/19/86
Height/Weight: 5-11/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Fifth round, 2009, Faulkner University
2011 Stats: 3.77 ERA (136-147-63-131) at Double-A (26 G)
Tools Profile: He’s the hardest-throwing pitcher in the system.

Year in Review: This converted infielder more than held his own in his first taste of the upper levels.
The Good: Adams has shocking velocity for his size; he sits at 93-98 mph with a fastball that lit up the third digit on the gun several times last year. His slider has improved to the point where it can miss some bats, and his clean arm action allows him to pitch deep into games.
The Bad: Adams is still far from being a guaranteed starter. His size will always be a concern, as will his changeup, which, while improving, still lacks deception and movement. He can fall in love with his velocity, which costs him command.
Ephemera: Faulkner University, an NAIA school located in Montgomery, has seen six players drafted. Adams is the highest-drafted pitcher, and none of the hurlers have reached the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a mid-rotation starter, or a dominant bullpen arm.
Fantasy Impact: It is role-dependent.
Path to the Big Leagues: Adams will remain a starter until he proves he can't or a need arises in Cleveland. He'll begin the year at Triple-A Columbus, but he should reach the big leagues at some point.
ETA: Late 2012

5. Tony Wolters, SS
DOB
: 6/9/92
Height/Weight: 5-10/165
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: Third round, 2010, Rancho Buena Vista HS (CA)
2011 Stats: .292/.385/.363 at Low-A (69 G)
Tools Profile: He’s solid across the board and has an impressive bat.

Year in Review: This 2010 third-round pick broke a bone in his hand during spring training, but he impressed New York-Penn League scouts.
The Good: Wolters can do a little bit of everything. He has an advanced approach for his age, plenty of bat speed, and projects to hit for a high average with a good on-base percentage as well. His average speed plays up due to his instincts, and he’s a steady shortstop with a plus arm.
The Bad: Wolters is on the small side and will likely never have more than gap power. His speed limits his range a bit at shortstop.
Ephemera: Wolters was at his best in his first at-bat of the game; he hit .331/.507/.525 in those plate appearances.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an everyday up-the-middle player who can hit at the top of the order.
Fantasy Impact: He’ll bring a good average, on-base skills, and a handful of stolen bases, but find your power elsewhere.
Path to the Big Leagues: With so many young, pure shortstops in the system, Wolters might have to move to second base sooner than the Indians would like. Wolters, along with Lindor, could be part of one of the best middle-infield combos in the low minors at Low-A Lake County.
ETA: 2015

6. Nick Hagadone, LHP
DOB: 1/1/86
Height/Weight: 6-5/230
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2007, University of Washington
2011 Stats: 1.59 ERA (22.2-14-7-24) at Double-A (12 G); 3.35 ERA (48.1-42-15-53) at Triple-A (34 G); 4.09 ERA (11-4-6-11) in MLB (9 G)
Tools Profile: He has a late inning-worthy fastball/slider combination.

Year in Review: He was part of the Victor Martinez deal in 2009. Hagadone had his second straight healthy season and missed bats during his brief big-league debut.
The Good: Hagadone is an intimidating presence on the mound who attacks hitters with a mid- to upper-90s fastball that misses bats. His slider gives him a second plus power offering. He's made strides in his command and control, to the point they project as average.
The Bad: Hagadone has a Tommy John surgery in his past, and there is still considerable effort in his delivery. He had trouble falling behind in the count in the big leagues, and needs to throw more strikes with his slider as opposed to using it solely as a chase pitch. He's 26 years old, so there is little projection left.
Ephemera: More than 50 pitchers have been selected out of the University of Washington. Yes, they've combined for only 85 wins in the majors, and Tim Lincecum accounts for more than 80 percent of them.
Perfect World Projection: He’ll be a set-up man with some chance to close.
Fantasy Impact: It’ll be minimal, unless he's getting saves.
Path to the Big Leagues: Hagadone will compete for a big-league bullpen role in spring training.
ETA: 2012

7. Dorssys Paulino, SS
DOB: 11/21/94
Height/Weight: 6-0/175
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2011, Dominican Republic
2011 Stats: DNP
Tools Profile: He has an outstanding hit tool, but he’s probably not a shortstop long-term.

Year in Review: Paulino was one of the top players in the Dominican, and signed in July to a $1.1 million bonus.
The Good: Paulino's bat was among the most impressive on the international market last summer. He has fantastic bat speed, an excellent feel for contact, and enough strength to project for average power once he fills out. He's an above-average runner, and his arm is plus.
The Bad: In a system filled with impressive young shortstops, Paulino is behind them defensively. He's fast but not quick, and his instincts are below average. However, he could be an above-average second baseman, and might have the bat for third base.
Ephemera: The first internet radio broadcast, which took place at the University of North Carolina, occurred four days before Paulino was born.
Perfect World Projection: He’d be a star infielder.
Fantasy Impact: He's eons away from the majors, so there’s no real feel for what he is.
Path to the Big Leagues: Paulino will make his debut in the complex league this summer.
ETA: 2016

8. Luigi Rodriguez, OF
DOB
: 11/13/92
Height/Weight: 5-11/160
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: 2010, Dominican Republic
2011 Stats: .379/.408/.579 at Rookie (25 G); .250/.320/.311 at Low-A (34 G)
Tools Profile: He has a leadoff profile. Rodriguez has speed and the ability to play center field.

Year in Review: This 18-year-old Dominican dominated the complex league and held his own at Low-A.
The Good: Rodriguez brings plenty of excitement to the game. He's one of the fastest players in the system, and was moved to center field in 2011. He showed a good feel for the position and a solid arm. He has a very good approach for such a young and inexperienced player, and has a quick line-drive bat.
The Bad: Rodriguez has a slight build and does not project to add much power to his game. He's fast, but he’s still learning how to steal bases; he gets poor jumps. He projects to be a plus center fielder, but for now his routes and jumps need considerable work.
Ephemera: In 50 Arizona League at-bats with the bases empty, Rodriguez did not have a home run, nor a single walk. All three of his home runs and all five of his walks came among his 45 at-bats with runners on.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an old-school leadoff man and center fielder.
Fantasy Impact: He’ll have a high average and plenty of stolen bases.
Path to the Big Leagues: Rodriguez will spend the year at Low-A Lake County, which has the potential to be the most intriguing team in the Midwest League.
ETA: 2015

9. Scott Barnes, LHP
DOB
: 11/5/87
Height/Weight: 6-4/185
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: Eighth round, 2008, St. John’s University
2011 Stats: 1.64 ERA (11-5-2-17) at Double-A (2 G); 3.68 ERA (88-80-34-90) at Triple-A (16 G)
Tools Profile: He has a solid three-pitch mix from the left side.

Year in Review: This southpaw was on the verge of the big leagues before he injured his knee.
The Good: Barnes throws strikes with three pitches. His fastball sits in the low 90s and has a bit of natural movement. His best secondary offering is a slider that is average to a tick above. He has confidence to use his average changeup at any point in the count. Everything about his game plays up due to his command, his left-handedness, and some deception in his delivery.
The Bad: Very little about Barnes is overwhelming. While his arsenal is deep and doesn’t have a weakness, he also lacks a true go-to plus offering that will consistently miss big-league bats. He doesn't have much projection, and multiple scouts think he's already maxed out.
Ephemera: Barnes was a third-round pick in 2005 by the Nationals out of Cathedral High in Springfield, Massachusetts. The only other player ever drafted out of that school is fellow lefty Chris Capuano.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a solid fourth starter.
Fantasy Impact: Middling.
Path to the Big Leagues: Barnes spent the offseason recovering from knee surgery, but he should be ready on Opening Day. He'll begin the year back at Columbus, but should see the big leagues at some point during the season.
ETA: 2012

10. Robel Garcia, INF
DOB
: 3/28/93
Height/Weight: 6-0/168
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: 2010, Dominican Republic
2011 Stats: .284/.371/.544 at Rookie (45 G)
Tools Profile: His bat stands out, but his other tools are solid.

Year in Review: Garcia is yet another impressive young infielder who put up big numbers in the complex league.
The Good: Indians officials see Garcia as an under-the-radar player among their bounty of youthful infielders. He has a mature approach at the plate, and a high-leverage swing that gives him the potential for 50/55-grade power down the road. He's an average runner once he gets going, and has a plus arm.
The Bad: Garcia lacks the athleticism to be a big-league shortstop. It depends on how he develops, but he should work well at second or third. He can get power-conscious at times, as opposed to focusing on hard contact, which leads to too many strikeouts.
Ephemera: Garcia was born is Las Matas de Farfan, a city of less than 40,000 people just east of the country’s border with Haiti, that has already produced five big-leaguers.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an offense-oriented infielder.
Fantasy Impact: He's a long way from the big leagues, but he could turn into an infielder with a lot of offense.
Path to the Big Leagues: Garcia's full-season debut will probably have to wait, as he's expected to play in the New York-Penn League this summer.
ETA: 2016

11. Elvis Araujo, LHP
DOB
: 7/15/91
Height/Weight: 6-6/215
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 2007, Venezuela
2011 Stats: 2.86 ERA (63-54-18-58) at Rookie (13 G); 8.10 ERA (6.2-11-7-5) at Low-A (2 G)
Tools Profile: He’s a physical lefty with power stuff.

Year in Review: The Indians have long been excited about Araujo's potential, and he was finally healthy enough to show why.
The Good: It's easy to get excited about Araujo. He's massive, left-handed, and consistently throws in the low- to mid-90s with a fastball that features plenty of downward plane. He'll flash a plus slider, and generally throws strikes.
The Bad: Araujo has taken extra time to get his career going, as he's already had a Tommy John surgery, and there is still a lot of sloppiness in his delivery. He has a tendency to overthrow his slider, which causes it to flatten out, and his changeup still needs plenty of refinement.
Ephemera: Left-handers facing Araujo in the Arizona League went 11-for-73 with four walks, good for a .195 on-base percentage.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an above-average starting pitcher or late-inning reliever.
Fantasy Impact: It’s significant, but nowhere close to a sure thing.
Path to the Big Leagues: Araujo will compete for a Low-A job in 2012, but his workload will be closely monitored.
ETA: 2015

The Sleeper: Right-handed reliever Tyler Sturdevant, a 27th-round pick in 2009, gets up to 94 mph with his fastball, has a true out pitch with a nasty cutter, and could reach the big leagues in 2012.

Top 10 Talents 25 and Under (born 4/1/86 or later)
1. Jason Kipnis, 2B
2. Carlos Santana, C
3. Francisco Lindor, SS
4. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B
5. Michael Brantley, OF
6. Dillon Howard, RHP
7. Ronny Rodriguez, SS
8. Lou Marson, C
9. Jeanmar Gomez, RHP
10. Austin Adams, RHP

This list, as well as the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, explains why the Cleveland list is so young. Kipnis slugged over .500 in his brief big-league debut, and should turn into Chase Utley lite. Santana has struggled to hit for average in the big leagues, but his secondary skills are outstanding. Why isn't he the long-term answer at first base, considering his injury history and sub-standard defense? Chisenhall was rushed to the big leagues but held his own. A more patient approach would lead to better results, as he made plenty of loud contact. Brantley has yet to live up to expectations, but scouts still see him as eventually fitting at the top of a lineup. Marson is an athletic catcher who will always provide above-average defense, and hopefully enough on-base skills to play every day but in the bottom of the batting order. Gomez has been inconsistent, and might work best in a Ramiro Mendoza swingman type of role.

 Summary: This was the most difficult ranking in recent memory, and this system will be a monster next year. Whether by monster I mean strong, intimidating beast, or nightmarishly awful is to be determined.  

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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