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November 20, 2012
Prospects Will Break Your Heart
Cleveland Indians Top 10 Prospects
State of the Farm: “A crowd of people turned away. But I just had to look. Having read the book.”
The Top Ten
1. Francisco Lindor
What Happened in 2012: The 18-year-old shortstop jumped straight to full-season ball, after only five games of professional experience at the short-season level, and held his own with the bat and wowed onlookers with his impressive defensive skills.
Strengths: Massive defensive profile at a premium position; 7 glove; smooth as silk actions; soft hands; it's all very easy; arm is strong; range is above-average; instincts are Vizquelian; mature approach at the plate; tracks the ball very well; makes a pitcher work; hit tool and power have room to grow; could be plus hitter with 4 power; runs well; natural feel for the game; advanced skills for age.
Weaknesses: Hit tool needs several grade growth; controls the bat well, but often makes weak contact; needs to add strength; shows better bat speed from the right-side; power potential is limited; will be defense-first player with gravy offense; won’t be plus runner at physical maturity.
Overall Future Potential: 7; all-star level player
Explanation of Risk: High risk; player shows advanced skills and game maturity, but is only 19-years-old; might not face legit test until Double-A.
Fantasy Future: Lindor has the potential to hit for average, with good on-base skills. He isn’t going to hit for much over-the-fence power (5-10 HR), but should produce good extra-base hit totals (25-plus doubles; 5-plus triples) and some stolen bases (15-plus), all from a premium defensive position.
The Year Ahead: Lindor will jump to High-A, but the real test will probably have to wait until he reaches the Double-A level, where the questions about the future utility of his bat will find some answers. Lindor is a slick defender, and that should carry him all the way to the majors. But the bat is what could make him a star. He’s unlikely to explode in High-A, and his 2013 numbers could look very similar to the numbers he produced at the Low-A level. At this stage of his career, its not about the numbers. For Lindor, he just needs to be getting swings and keep taking reps at short. He’s so young that development is the driving force, and production is a passenger.
Major league ETA: 2015
2. Dorssys Paulino
What Happened in 2012: Paulino made his professional debut by hitting .333 and slugging .558 across two short-season levels. Oh, yeah, he did so as a 17-year-old.
Strengths: Ultra-fast hands at the plate; can stay inside and square velocity; great feel for contact; good strength for size; can drive balls; shows game power at young age; swing has some natural loft; plus run tool; arm is solid-average to plus; projects to be above-average defender at second base; advanced game skills for age.
Weaknesses: Limited exposure to quality pitching; profiles best at second base; actions are a little stiff; arm is strong enough for most throws, but isn’t a weapon on the left side; power potential is limited; might only project to 5, which limits overall profile.
Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player
Explanation of Risk: Extreme risk; Paulino will play the entire 2013 season as an 18-year-old; so many unknowns about his game/developmental path.
Fantasy Future: Has potential to hit for high batting average, hit for some over-the-fence power (10-15 HR), lots of doubles, and swipe some bases from the keystone.
The Year Ahead: Paulino is so young that he could spend another two seasons at the short-season level and still be ahead of the curve. Some extended spring training and another stop in the New York-Penn League would be beneficial, as the young infielder can continue to take reps on the left-side of the diamond and face more mature pitchers. The bat is really good, and he could force his way to the full-season level with a good spring or a hot summer. His prospect status is on the rise, but will be somewhat limited by his future defensive projection, which is at second and not short.
Major league ETA: 2016
3. Ronny Rodriguez
What Happened in 2012: In only his second professional season, Rodriguez was able to slug 19 home runs in the pitcher-friendly environments of the Carolina League.
Strengths: Loud contact; shows ability to drive the baseball; hands are quick and strong; generates plus bat speed; solid-average (to plus) power potential; crushes left-handed pitching; plus athlete; plus-plus arm strength; glove will play at second base.
Weaknesses: Aggressive approach; expands his zone; chewed up by breaking balls from right-handers; hit tool lacks plus projection; profiles better at second base than short; actions aren’t clean; footwork can be clumsy; good athlete, but lack plus speed; speed doesn’t play well in games yet.
Overall Future Potential: 5; solid-average regular
Explanation of Risk: High risk; still quite raw;
Fantasy Future: Rodriguez has the potential to develop into a nice offensive package, with 15-20 HR game power. He isn’t going to steal a lot of bases and he might not hit for a high average, but the power gives the bat a chance to play 2B.
The Year Ahead: Huge step coming up for Rodriguez, as the Dominican will attempt to transition to Double-A baseball, a level that starts to weed out the iffy hitters. The present rawness in his game could lead to setbacks against the more advanced pitching at the level, and that could cause his prospect status to slide. Rodriguez was a late sign and has been pushed aggressively so far, so a stumble at an advanced level is to be expected at this point. Stick around. His bat has a chance to play, and his defensive profile at second base could be above-average.
Major league ETA: 2015
4. Mitch Brown
What Happened in 2012: After getting drafted in the second round, the 18-year-old righty had an impressive professional debut, missing bats and showing good overall feel for pitching.
Strengths: Excellent arm strength; clean and easy delivery; fastball will work low-90s and touch a little higher; pitches with good angle; power breaking ball could be plus offering; one source suggested “he just has stuff"; shows some pitchability; amateur cutter was flashing 6 potential; big makeup.
Weaknesses: Command needs refinement; fastball will show plus velocity but is too firm and finds barrels; changeup is behind other offerings; breaking ball can get slurvy; arm speed on secondary stuff has tendency to slow; lacks ideal height.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; no. 3/4 starter
Explanation of Risk: High risk; limited professional record; long road to show.
Fantasy Future: Has the stuff to miss bats and the strong, athletic frame to log innings. Could develop into a quality mid-rotation arm.
The Year Ahead: Brown has the arsenal and the feel for the mound to handle a jump to the full-season level in 2013. He needs refinement across the board, but his stuff should keep his head above water if given an advanced assignment. He’s a good candidate to maintain his prospect status in the system, and perhaps climb the list if his performance catches up to the quality of the stuff.
Major league ETA: 2016
5. Luigi Rodriguez
What Happened in 2012: Playing the entire season as a 19-year-old, Rodriguez flashed his defensive promise in center, showing improvement with his reads and routes and learning how to make his arm play at the position.
Strengths: Major-league quality defensive profile in center field; plus range; improving reactions off the bat; 7 run; bat isn’t empty; has some pop; leadoff hitter projections.
Weaknesses: Still very raw; hit tool needs several grade jumps to play as average; swing from right-side receives below-average reviews; questions about bat speed; lots of swing-and-miss; possible pitch-recognition issues; arm received a few fringe-average reviews.
Overall Future Potential: 5; solid-average regular
Explanation of Risk: High risk; raw; wide gap between present/future; bat needs a big jump.
Fantasy Future: Has the defensive chops to stick in center field, with a bat that has some pop and legs that can produce skills. Not likely to hit for high average, but has enough secondary skills to have some leadoff potential.
The Year Ahead: Because of his age and professional experience, playing every day against quality talent is a developmental positive even in the face of statistical disappointments. The approach is raw and the bat has a few holes, so the better the arm, the easier it will be to exploit the swing. This will most likely be a learning year and not a breakout year, but the profile warrants the patience. Rodriguez projects to be a major-league center fielder, and if the bat can step forward, the Indians might be looking at a valuable player.
Major league ETA: 2016
6. Danny Salazar
What Happened in 2012: The loose-armed 22-year-old took a big step forward after having Tommy John surgery, shoving it in High-A, and then making a smooth transition to the Double-A level, allowing 25 hits in 34 innings of work.
Strengths: Big arm strength; very fast arm; fastball is a 7; power profile despite size; good delivery; repeats; slider flashes plus; shows three pitches.
Weaknesses: Lacks size; injury history; third pitch not on same level developmental level as FB/SL; more sources projected a bullpen future than a rotation spot.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; no. 3 starter (could be 6+ reliever)
Explanation of Risk: High; injury history and limited size
Fantasy Future: Has the stuff to miss bats in any role; could be electric no. 3, with great stuff but inability to log 200 innings at highest level; could be late inning reliever (setup).
The Year Ahead: Added to the 40-man, Salazar will have the opportunity to pitch at the major-league level at some point during the season. With a Tommy John surgery on his resume, a smallish frame, and two bat-missing pitches in his arsenal, including a fastball that can touch the upper-90s, its easy to envision a fast rise to the bullpen for Salazar. But he can show three pitches and has the command to start, so his future role just might be in the middle of a major-league rotation. We will find out soon.
Major league ETA: 2013
7. Cody Allen
What Happened in 2012: Allen breezed through three minor-league levels and reached the majors, where the former 23rd round pick appeared in 27 games and struck out 27 hitters.
Strengths: Chunky fastball; works easy in the 93-95 range; lively pitch; curveball is easy plus; hard breaker with velocity and bite; both offerings are bat missers.
Weaknesses: Command/control can get loose; lack of size hurts plane when he elevates; some flyball tendencies; max effort without nuance in arsenal; power all the way (hard FB/CB).
Overall Future Potential: 6; frontline setup
Explanation of Risk: Low; already achieved major-league level; stuff misses bats.
Fantasy Future: Power arsenal will miss bats; in setup role, could rack up holds/Ks; as closer, could get saves/Ks.
The Year Ahead: Allen has the raw stuff to close, but will need more command refinement and experience to achieve that role; looks like good setup option going forward, with two plus pitches and a late-innings approach. It’s hard not to like his future in a major-league bullpen. Has a knack for missing bats and pitching with purpose.
Major league ETA: 2012
8. Tyler Naquin
What Happened in 2012: Considered a reach by some at no. 15, Naquin and his collection of tools made a 36-game stop in the New York-Penn league, where he was solid, but not spectacular.
Strengths: Big arm for center; will play at any spot; 7 grade; plus run; unorthodox swing, but has good bat to ball relationship; excellent hand speed; good situational hitter; works the count; some hit tool projection; can currently handle center field.
Weaknesses: Questions about defensive projection/profile; some sources don’t see a future center fielder; routes and reactions need work; hit tool might get exposed by quality pitching; finds himself out on the front foot; fooled by average breaking stuff; lacks game pop at present; more sources put tweener on his future than starter.
Overall Future Potential: 5; second-division player
Explanation of Risk: High; will play 2013 season at age 22; wide gap between present offensive tools and future.
Fantasy Future: If you believe in the bat, he could hit for some average (~.270), with solid secondary skills, including some on-base ability, some pop, and good speed. That will look much better in CF than in a corner.
The Year Ahead: Naquin will move to full-season ball, and the loud tools that were promised out of college will need to start showing up in game action. It’s not his fault that he was popped with the 15th overall pick, but with a profile that looks more like a fourth outfielder than a starter, he will need to silence his doubters to remain a top 10 prospect in the system.
Major league ETA: 2015
9. Tony Wolters
What Happened in 2012: The 20-year-old was impressive at the High-A level, splitting time between shortstop and second, and showing some game pop, with 46 extra base hits in 125 games.
Strengths: Quality glove; clean actions; very smooth around the bag at second; good turns as second baseman; arm plays above-average at 2B; balanced hitter; good swing; should hit for some average as well as some power; can sting a ball for his size; big competitor/gamer.
Weaknesses: Lacks plus tools; doesn’t profile well on the left-side of the diamond; range is fringe; speed is fringe; arm is only average from shortstop; offensive profile underwhelming for 2B; questions about bat vs. quality stuff.
Overall Future Potential: Low 5; fringe second division player
Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; high baseball IQ; big work ethic; good chance to maximize tools and reach highest level.
Fantasy Future: As a starting second baseman, could hit ~.270+, with 20+ doubles; won’t steal many bases; won’t hit for much over-the-fence power.
The Year Ahead: The Double-A level will be a challenge for the young hitter, but he has a knack for playing up to the competition, so he should be able to hold his own. It needs to be remembered that Wolters skipped the Low-A level, jumping straight to the Carolina League after his 2011 short-season campaign, so he’s still ahead of the curve. His bat might not be ready for Double-A, but the struggles are a part of the process, and Wolters has shown the ability to adjust. He’s not a big prospect and he doesn’t have a big ceiling, and might be a better fit in utility than as a starter, but he’s going to play at the major-league level at some point in his career and he’ll squeeze every ounce of utility out of his tools to make that happen.
Major league ETA: 2014
10. Jose Ramirez
What Happened in 2012: Somebody must have told Ramirez that he couldn’t hit a baseball because he went out and hit .350-plus in a full-season league as a 19-year-old.
Strengths: Easy swing; nice path to the ball; steady contact; great hand-eye coordination; hit tool projects to plus; loud contact for such a little body; runs well; glove is very nice; clean actions; very fluid at second base.
Weaknesses: Can’t play on the left-side of the infield; arm is a 4; aggressive approach at the plate; lacks physical projection; lacks power; high 2/low 3; hit-tool-only second baseman.
Overall Future Potential: 5; second-division starter
Explanation of Risk: High risk; limited upside and a long way to go to reach tool maturity.
Fantasy Future: Interesting player. Could hit for a high average, with enough speed for good extra-base hit totals; little to no over-the-fence power; some steals.
The Year Ahead: Ramirez is the type of player that will have to prove it at every level. His physical profile is very limiting, and his inability to play shortstop puts a lot of pressure on his bat, which lacks power potential and is tied to his hit tool. The profile isn’t ideal, but he’s a gamer type with a very good stick and good overall feel for the game, so if you want a player to cheerlead for, Ramirez is a good candidate. He could get swallowed up by superior pitching and disappear or he could join Altuve on the list of diminutive second baseman that found a way to make it work.
Major league ETA: 2016
Prospects on the Rise:
1. RHP Dillon Howard: A disappointing debut campaign in 2012 took a bite out of his prospect status, but a healthy Howard has a chance to jump into the top five. Armed with a heavy fastball, a good changeup, and the ability to pound the zone, Howard fits the profile of a middle-of-the-rotation arm.
2. LF Anthony Santander: Who doesn’t like Venezuelan outfielders named Anthony Roger Santander? As a 17-year-old, the left-fielder hit over .300 in the AZL, and despite owning a corner profile at such a young age, he has the type of offensive upside and overall baseball IQ to stand out; he has good size, strength, and speed, and plays the game with feel. It’s not a superstar package, but if the bat continues to shine in 2013, he will be a top 10 player in the system.
3. RHP Dylan Baker: A fifth-round pick in the 2012 draft, Baker has excellent arm strength, and can show three pitches that flash above-average potential. His command needs refinement, and his changeup is currently behind the low-mid 90s fastball and breaking ball, but the profile is very promising, either as a strong-bodied innings chewer, or a max-effort two-pitch reliever if he fails to refine along the way.
Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2013)
1.LHP Scott Barnes: Having already tasted the majors in 2012, Barnes is hoping to establish himself as a force in the back of that bullpen, using a low-90s fastball to set the table and a sharp 84-86 mph slider to miss bats. In addition to his slider, Barnes can also drop a quality changeup into the mix, which broadens his range and makes him a more effective option for high-leverage situations.
2.RHP Trey Haley: With funky mechanics, funky command, and an injury history, Haley the former starter was transformed into Haley the power reliever, and the Texas native is knocking on the door of the majors after an impressive 2012 season. Armed with an electric mid-high 90s fastball and the best curveball in the Indians system, Haley brings two plus-plus pitches to the table. The delivery is very whippy and across his body, so the command will likely never be sharp, but the stuff is nasty enough to survive in the zone.
3.RHP Shawn Armstrong: An 18th round pick in 2011, Armstrong really put it together in 2012, making stops at three levels and setting up a major league opportunity in 2013. The 23-year-old reliever misses plenty of bats with his explosive fastball/slider combination; the former can touch the upper-90s and the latter has quickly become a plus offering with sharp bite.
Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/87 or later)
After a stretch of six playoff appearances in seven seasons from 1995 through 2001, the Indians have finished among the top two teams in the American League Central on just three occasions in the last 11 seasons. After a surprising run to a second-place finish in 2011, the Indians came back to the level their talent suggested they should achieve in 2012. As the Indians look to get back into contention, they need to find young talent for the big-league team. Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley are two solid players who can fill up-the-middle roles on an everyday basis, and both have the potential for the occasional big season. Scouts have never been enamored with right-hander Zach McAllister because he lacks the full complement of strong stuff to consistently succeed in the majors, but his performance over 22 starts in 2012 was inspired and should keep him in the mix for the back of the Indians rotation. The under-25 talent thins out and becomes highly questionable beyond those three, as Lonnie Chisenhall’s propensity for swinging and missing is catching up to him against more consistent major-league pitching, and players like Ezequiel Carrera and Jeanmar Gomez lack impact profiles. With a minor-league system and major-league team both in desperate need of talent, it will be a long climb before the Indians are contending again. In the meantime, sit back, watch and enjoy the special player Francisco Lindor is poised to become. –Mark Anderson
A Parting Thought: The top two talents on the farm are a combined 37 years-old, and not exactly knocking on the door in Cleveland. While Lindor could be a special defender and Paulino’s bat is advanced beyond its years, the talent in the system takes a precipitous drop after those two names.
Special thanks to Nick Faleris, Mark Anderson, Chris Mellen, and Jason Churchill for their input and influence on this list.