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March 19, 2008
State of the Systems: AL Central
2008 Rookies: Whether this team is rebuilding or competing is the subject of some debate, but the only rookie on the team will be Cuban import Alexei Ramirez, who is either his listed age of 27 and entering his prime, or in his early 30s and perhaps moving downslope on his career. Either way, on an immediate basis he's a guy who can play all over the field and hit a little, so there's value there. There are a few marginal arms who could get some bullpen time, but none plays a big role in the future of the franchise.
Minor League Road Trip: With the worst system in baseball, it's hard to recommend any specific team. The team is excited about some of the talent coming out of their new focus on Latin America, so the short-season teams might be worth waiting for.
Pivotal Season: After nearly making the big-league team out of spring training last year, gigantic right-hander Adam Russell had a disappointing showing at Double-A; at 25, he can't afford another poor campaign.
I Like Him Better Than Most: Now their top position prospect, outfielder John Shelby Jr. blossomed offensively when the team moved him to the outfield, and he could reach Double-A by the second half of the season.
Don't Believe The Hype: Don't believe the 10 1/3 outstanding big-league innings he threw last fall; righty Lance Broadway is a guy with marginal stuff who lacks the command to make up for it, projecting as no more than an extra arm in the big leagues.
Get Your Bags Ready? While general manager Kenny Williams is one of the busier guys around, it's hard to see the team making a lot of moves this summer, and even if they wanted to, they're playing with a very short stack of chips.
Next Year's No. 1 Prospect Odds: The White Sox pick eighth overall in a June draft that is lining up to be a good one, and their only premium prospect is power lefty Aaron Poreda, who many feel will be a closer in the end.
2008 first round pick: 3-2
2008 Rookies: The Indians have graduated to a team filled with young talent at this point, as opposed to one that will bring in a bunch of rookies. The young arms in the bullpen are now big-league proven, and Asdrubal Cabrera gets his first full year at second base, but the only true technical rookie might be 33-year-old Japanese reliever Masahide Kobayashi, who should make a deep pen that much deeper, as Jensen Lewis is still battling to open the year in the big leagues. Aaron Laffey is currently on the outside looking in for a rotation spot, but that still could change, and Adam Miller should get a look at some point during the year.
Minor League Road Trip: Tough call between High-A Kinston and Double-A Akron. Both should have the ability to put runs on the board, with the Aeros' lineup featuring an impressive infield that includes Wes Hodges and Josh Rodriguez, while the K-Tribe will have sluggers Nick Weglarz and Beau Mills. Mills could work his way up to Double-A quickly.
Pivotal Season: While he's still the team's top prospect, right-hander Adam Miller's on-again, off-again performances are becoming a bit of a nuisance, and, at 23, another season of injuries and/or ineffectiveness would give his prospect stock a significant negative hit.
I Like Him Better Than Most: Rodriguez may not be a true shortstop, but his tremendous second half at Kinston that included 14 home runs in 261 at-bats and a .287/.372/.513 line projects him as a solid offense-oriented second baseman.
Don't Believe The Hype: Despite a highly inconsistent season at Double-A, right-hander Chuck Lofgren sits at the top of many prospect lists, but a disturbing drop in both stuff and command means he'll need quite the rebound.
Get Your Bags Ready? If the Indians are in a position to compete for a playoff spot, nearly any prospect in the system could be fair game, as the team has set talent at every position other than the outfield corners.
Next Year's No. 1 Prospect Odds: Even if Miller gets called up, it's no guarantee that he'll get the time or the 50 innings required to lose prospect status. Mills and Weglarz are both capable of further steps forward, but they're still one-dimensional slugger types.
Adam Miller: 5-2
2008 Rookies: The team traded away much of its system to build a strong 2008 team, so there's nothing in the way of rookie talent, not unless Yorman Bazardo earns a relief role in the final weeks of spring training. Scouts have always loved Francisco Cruceta's stuff, and an injury-plagued bullpen meant he had an opening, but he's been unable to get a visa this spring, and remains stranded in the Dominican.
Minor League Road Trip: Pretty much wherever Rick Porcello is--so High-A Lakeland, who will also have 2007 second-round pick Danny Worth at shortstop. Detroit's Low-A team has some interesting '07 draftees like Cale Iorg and Brandon Hamilton, while Triple-A Toledo should have some solid bats with Michael Holliman, Matt Joyce, and Jeff Larish.
Pivotal Season: Because he's 22 years old and hasn't played the game for two years, Iorg will need to shake the rust off quickly to catch up to other players at his age level.
I Like Him Better Than Most: Hamilton has a big body and swing-and-miss stuff, and he could become a more well-known name if he can harness his command.
Don't Believe The Hype: The system is generally seen as Porcello and the rest, so there's not a lot of hype running around the Detroit system. While second baseman Scott Sizemore impressed in the Arizona Fall League, he's still a 23-year-old second baseman who hit .265 at Low-A last year.
Get Your Bags Ready? The Tigers won't have much to deal at the deadline, but first baseman Jeff Larrish could be an attractive power bat to some teams, and he's certainly blocked in Detroit.
Next Year's No. 1 Prospect Odds: Without a high first-round pick (21st overall), something would have to go horribly wrong (or I guess, horribly right, if he somehow reaches the majors) for Porcello to lose his No. 1 ranking.
Rick Porcello: 6-5
2008 Rookies: Nope, that was last year. This year, it's a team with a lot of young players, not rookies. At some point in the season, 2006 No. 1 overall pick Luke Hochevar will likely be up, though.
Minor League Road Trip: A team desperate for pitching has some finally coming, as the Double-A rotation will feature Daniel Cortes, Julio Pimentel, and Blake Wood. Usually one of the worst teams in the Midwest League, Low-A Burlington finally is a team to watch, with 2007 top pick Mike Moustakas and intriguing left-hander Danny Duffy.
Pivotal Season: Exposed and unselected in the Rule 5 draft, outfielder Chris Lubanski faces a make-or-break year and is on the verge of becoming one of those guys who plays for 12 different Triple-A affiliates over the next ten years.
I Like Him Better Than Most: Their '07 second-round pick, Sam Runion, is awfully raw and possibly not ready for a full season, but on a pure size and stuff level, everything is there that teams look for.
Don't Believe The Hype: Speedy outfielder Derrick Robinson has plenty of tools, but he lacks far too much in the way of power and patience to make up for his sub-par hitting skills.
Get Your Bags Ready? The Royals are going to be in no position to deal prospects at the deadline; if anything, they'll be adding them to the system.
Next Year's No. 1 Prospect Odds: The third pick in the draft does make things a little difficult, but it's clearly a two-man race between whoever that player is and Moustakas.
Mike Moustakas: 2-1
2008 Rookies: Well, there will certainly be a rookie in center field, but we're just not sure exactly who it is. Here's what PECOTA says, using its weighted-means projections:
Player 2008 Peak Performance Carlos Gomez .251/.303/.361 .266/.323/.401 Jason Pridie .257/.301/.401 .266/.317/.425 Denard Span .267/.321/.361 .276/.328/.360
Gomez seems to be the leader so far this spring for the job, and that makes sense, as scouts disagree with PECOTA and see Gomez as the guy with the most upside.
Minor League Road Trip: The upper-level talent is pretty uninspiring, but the High-A Fort Myers squad should have a fine collection of talent, with Joe Benson, Chris Parmalee, and Wilson Ramos in the lineup, and promising lefty Tyler Robertson in the rotation.
Pivotal Season: While he showed plenty of raw power in his full-season debut, Parmalee needs to show a more complete offensive game in 2008, as his athleticism will limit him to first base or left field in the end.
I Like Him Better Than Most: Surprise 2007 first-round pick Ben Revere gets labeled by many as a one-dimensional player because of his chart-topping speed, but he's also a solid hitter with a surprising amount of juice in his bat who knows how to utilize his wheels well in every aspect of the game.
Don't Believe The Hype: Righty Nick Blackburn's 2.11 ERA at Triple-A is offset by just 57 strikeouts in 110 2/3 innings, and he's 26 years old, so there's not exactly much projection in him either.
Get Your Bags Ready? The Twins will likely not be dealing at the deadline, though if something breaks right for them, they do have plenty of young arms who could be attractive targets.
Next Year's No. 1 Prospect Odds: This one is wide-open, and having the 14th pick in the draft--a good but not great pick--just complicates matters. It's safe to assume that no matter what happens to begin the season, Gomez will get the five at-bats needed to lose prospect eligibility.