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November 20, 2009

Future Shock

Indians Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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top 11 prospects

Five-Star Prospects
1. Carlos Santana, C
Four-Star Prospects
2. Lonnie Chisenhall, SS
3. Alex White, RHP
4. Jason Knapp, RHP
5. Nick Hagadone, LHP
Three-Star Prospects
6. Hector Rondon, RHP
7. Lou Marson, C
8. Jason Kipnis, OF/2B
9. Carlos Carrasco, RHP
10. Michael Brantley, OF
11. Zach Putnam, RHP

Four More:
12. Jess Todd, RHP: Todd is a short, squat reliever acquired from the Cardinals, and one who reached the big leagues in short order, but his ceiling is probably as a seventh-, maybe eighth-inning set-up man.
13. Nick Weglarz, OF: Two years of non-performance have dropped him significantly, as a ton of walks can only get you so far. As a first baseman or left fielder, Weglarz needs to show more.
14. T.J. House, LHP: He was an over-slot lefty from 2008 who showed solid stuff in his full-season debut; he's a good breakout candidate.
15. Jason Donald, SS: He's always been a bit overrated, and profiles best as a nice utility type.

1. Carlos Santana, C
DOB: 4/8/86
Height/Weight: 5-11/190
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2004 (Dodgers)
2009 Stats: .290/.423/.530 at Double-A (130 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 2

Year in Review: One of the top catching prospects in the game, Santana only helped his reputation with a monster showing in his first year at the upper levels.
The Good: Santana's bat is so special that if he was a first-base prospect, he'd still be elite. His approach is big league-ready, as he never swings at a bad pitch. As one scout put it, "When he does finally swing, special things tend to happen." His power is plus to plus-plus to all fields, and for a player with his strength, he maintains an outstanding contact rate. He's a solid defender with above-average arm strength.
The Bad: Santana still has a lot of work to do in the areas of catching that are difficult to measure on the stat sheet. He needs to call a better game, improve his game management, and improve his English-language skills in order to communicate better with pitchers and coaches. His release is a bit long, which makes him easier to run on. His intensity works against him at times, as his tendency to overreact to calls and stare down umps can grate, even on his own teammates.
Ephemera: The wide-bodied Santana played two games at second base in the Gulf Coast League during the 2005 Gulf Coast League season, and a third game there as late as 2008 at High-A Inland Empire. While he played five positions as a Dodger, he's only caught since coming to Cleveland.
Perfect World Projection: All of the tools and skills are there for Santana to be a perennial All-Star.
Path to the Big Leagues: Lou Marson will start ahead of Santana on the organizational depth chart, but that won't last long.
Timetable: Santana will begin the year at Triple-A, but he should reach the majors at some point during the second half of the 2010 season. New manager Manny Acta, as well as the recently hired Sandy Alomar Jr., are both Latin American-born players who turned into leaders, and they could prove to be essential mentors for Santana.

2. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B
DOB: 10/4/88
Height/Weight: 6-1/200
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, Pitt CC (NC)
2009 Stats:.276/.346/.492 at High-A (99 G); .183/.238/.387 at Double-A (24 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 10

Year in Review: Twelve months ago, Chisenhall was seen as a surprise first-round pick, but after his full-season debut, he looks like a bargain.
The Good: One scout classified Chisenhall's swing as "the prettiest I saw all year," and with good reason. It's simple and smooth; the barrel of the bat enters the hitting zone quickly and stays there a long time. He has above average pull power, but he also knows how to turn on pitches. A shortstop throughout his amateur career, he looked surprisingly comfortable at third base in 2009. He showed good reactions, soft hands, and a solid arm. While he entered the draft with makeup concerns, he's been a steady hard worker as a pro, and team officials believe he's gotten past some youthful indiscretions.
The Bad: Chisenhall can give away too many at-bats at times due to his aggressive approach, as he's often looking to hit first-pitch fastballs and falling behind in the count. He was clearly pressing following his promotion to Double-A, but he found his swing during the playoffs, going 14-for-30 in seven postseason games. He's an average runner at best, and that could end up a tick below as he fills out.
Ephemera: Chisenhall went 5-for-8 with the bases loaded while playing for Kinston, with four of the hits being grand slams, including two on back-to-back days in April. The next day, he hit a three-run bomb, and he drove in a total of 13 runs over the three contests.
Perfect World Projection: If he continues to develop, look for Chisenhall to be a .300-hitting third baseman with 20-25 home runs annually.
Path to the Big Leagues: Jhonny Peralta's contract ends after the 2010 season (with an '11 option for $7 million), so things could line up well.
Timetable: Chisenhall will begin the year back at Double-A Akron, and he could arrive in the majors for good as early as Opening Day 2011.

3. Alex White, RHP
DOB: 8/29/88
Height/Weight: 6-3/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2009, University of North Carolina
2009 Stats: Did Not Play
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: The Tar Heels' Friday starter was looking like a single-digit pick heading into the year, but an inconsistent junior campaign dropped him to the middle of the first round.
The Good: White has two plus power pitches. His fastball sits at 92-95 mph and can get a bit above that when he rears back, but his best pitch is arguably his splitter, which comes in about three to five ticks lower, but it features outstanding life. He's a big-framed athlete who maintains his velocity deep into games and fields his position well.
The Bad: White had mechanical issues during the spring, as his delivery lacks smoothness, and he has problems controlling the strike zone. His slider is average at best, and some scouts have trouble projecting a pitcher who depends on a fastball/split combination as more than a bullpen arm.
Ephemera: Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter is the only pitcher selected with the 15th overall pick to win more than 70 games in the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: White could be a good third starter, or perhaps a very good late-inning reliever.
Path to the Big Leagues: Either as a starter or reliever, White could move relatively quickly, and has little in his way.
Timetable: While there was some talk of fast-tracking White as a reliever when he was drafted, the Indians will see if he can remain a starter first, as that's where more value lies. White will begin 2010 in the High-A Kinston rotation.

4. Jason Knapp, RHP
DOB: 8/31/90
Height/Weight: 6-5/235
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2008, North Hunterdon HS (NJ) (Phillies)
2009 Stats: 4.01 ERA (85.1-63-39-111) at Low-A (17 G) with Phillies; 5.40 ERA (11.2-10-8-12) at Low-A (4 G) with Indians; 4.18 ERA (97.0-73-47-123) at Low-A (21 G) combined
Last Year's Ranking: 10 (Phillies)

Year in Review: Knapp was a top young arm in Phillies' system who was a key to the Cliff Lee deal, but his season was curtailed by injuries, including arthroscopic shoulder surgery after the season.
The Good: Prior to the injuries, Knapp was receiving rave reviews in the Sally League. He's a huge, intimidating presence on the mound, and his stuff can be even more foreboding, beginning with a fastball that sits at 93-97 mph while getting up to 99 at times. His power curveball developed into a second swing-and-miss pitch during the year, and his changeup, which was once non-existent, made good strides as well.
The Bad: Knapp was seen as a raw product with ugly mechanics to begin the year, and his surgery adds more concern to his long-term health. His changeup still needs plenty of work. Players with his size and that age often end up with conditioning issues, so he'll have to stay on top of it.
Ephemera: Before joining Low-A Lake County after the Cliff Lee trade, Knapp pitched against them twice, striking out 20 over just 12 2/3 innings.
Perfect World Projection: Knapp has a power arm with a role that's still to be determined.
Path to the Big Leagues: For now, a healthy full season will do.
Timetable: Knapp's shoulder procedure to clean up loose bodies was deemed a success, and he's expected to be at full strength by the time pitchers and catcher report. He'll likely join White in the Kinston rotation.

5. Nick Hagadone, LHP
DOB: 1/1/86
Height/Weight: 6-5/230
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2007, University of Washington
2009 Stats: 2.52 ERA (25.0-13-14-32) at Low-A (10 G) with Red Sox; 2.45 ERA (14.2-8-5-21) at Low-A (5 G) with Indians; 2.49 ERA (39.2-21-19-53) at Low-A (14 G) combined; 5.06 ERA (5.1-5-5-6 at High-A) (2 G) with Indians.
Last Year's Ranking: 8 (Red Sox)

Year in Review: The strong-armed lefty looked excellent in his return from Tommy John surgery, and then he came to Cleveland in the Victor Martinez deal.
The Good: In some ways, Hagadone is an older, left-handed version of Knapp. He's another massive pitcher, and his 93-98 mph velocity is rarely found in southpaws. His fastball has a bit of natural sink to it which, combined with the downward plane from his height, can generate plenty of ground balls. His breaking ball is a plus slider with plenty of depth and tilt.
The Bad: Hagadone's changeup is not quite a 50 pitch on the scouting scale, and that fact combined with his health record has many projecting him as a reliever down the road. His control was always average at best, and he'll need to return to that level, but like many returning from elbow surgery, his location suffered in his first year back.
Ephemera: Hagadone gave up a home run to Orioles minor leaguer Joe Nowicki in his 2007 pro debut, but he hasn't given up another long ball in 29 appearances and nearly 80 innings since.
Perfect World Projection: If he stays healthy, Hagadone has closer potential, with one scout calling him "Billy Wagner, but with the body you'd expect from a guy with that kind of stuff."
Path to the Big Leagues: Bullpen issues were a big part of Cleveland's undoing in 2009, so there's nothing in Hagadone's way.
Timetable: Hagadone turns 24 in January, and he could get pushed to Double-A Akron to begin the year.

6. Hector Rondon, RHP
DOB: 2/26/88
Height/Weight: 6-3/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Venezuela, 2004
2009 Stats: 2.75 ERA (72.0-60-16-73) at Double-A (15 G); 4.00 ERA (74.1-83-13-64) at Triple-A (12 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 6

Year in Review: The fast-rising Venezuelan dominated at times in Double-A, and he now finds himself on the verge of the big leagues at 21.
The Good: Rondon has an impressive combination of quality stuff and plus command. He blisters the strike zone with a low-90s fastball than can get up to 95 mph, and he complements the pitch with both a quality slider and a good changeup. He has a loose, easy delivery and a lot of athleticism, and some believe there's still projection left in him.
The Bad: Scouts would like to see more refinement in Rondon's secondary offerings. As a pure strike-thrower, a better slider and change would do more to change batter's eye levels and make him less hittable.
Ephemera: Rondon walked more than two batters just once over 27 appearances in 2009.
Perfect World Projection: He projects as a good third starter with some room for growth.
Path to the Big Leagues: There's no immediate spot for Rondon in the Indians rotation, so he'll have to earn it.
Timetable: Rondon will begin the 2010 season back at Triple-A, but it's likely that he'll make his major league debut at some point in the season.

7. Lou Marson, C
DOB: 6/26/86
Height/Weight: 6-1/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 4th round, 2004, Coronado HS (AZ)
2009 Stats: .294/.382/.370 at Triple-A (63 G) with Phillies; .243/.319/.340 at Triple-A (28 G) with Indians; .277/.361/.360 at Triple-A (91 G) with both; .246/.347/.361 at MLB (21 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 5 (Phillies)

Year in Review: The Phillies' catcher of the future got off to a slow start in the big leagues, but he maintained his on-base ways at Triple-A before and after his trade to Cleveland.
The Good: Marson is excellent at not making outs. He controls the strike zone extremely well, and uses a simple, contact-oriented swing to spray line drives to every part of the park. He's extremely athletic for a catcher, with very good plate-blocking skills.
The Bad: Marson has very little power, having amassed just 27 career home runs in 498 minor league games. His arm is average at best. There's no more projection in him, and most scouts, while thinking highly of him, think he is what he is.
Ephemera: Marson's alma mater of Coronado High was the filming location for Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure.
Perfect World Projection: Marson can be a solid everyday catcher whose offensive value revolves around singles and walks.
Path to the Big Leagues: His path is pretty open, especially with Kelly Shoppach likely getting non-tendered.
Timetable: If Shoppach leaves, Marson goes to spring training as the favorite to be the Opening Day catcher. He could be in line for another deal, as he's just a stopgap until Santana is ready.

8. Jason Kipnis, OF/2B
DOB: 4/3/87
Height/Weight: 5-10/175
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2009, Arizona State University
2009 Stats: .306/.388/.459 at Short-Season (29 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: Kipnis is a smallish outfielder who impressed scouts throughout the spring with a monster .384/.497/.709 line for the Sun Devils, and he continued to impress in his pro debut.
The Good: Kipnis is one of those players that just grows on you, fitting great baseball intelligence, a lot of intensity, and surprising tools into a small package. He works the count extremely well and makes consistently hard contact, and he has some surprising pop for his size. His speed (average to a tick above) plays up due to his baserunning instincts. An outfielder throughout 2009, he moved to second base after the season, and early returns in the instructional leagues were promising.
The Bad: Kipnis doesn't have any one blow-you-away tool. His arm is below average, and he doesn't have the wheels for center field, so he needs to stick at second base or he'll wind up a tweener in the outfield.
Ephemera: Kipnis was a graduate of Glenbrook North High in Northbrook, Illinois, which has produced several big leaguers, and also John Hughes, the late-'80s "teen films" director.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a nice everyday second baseman with a .360+ on-base percentage and 10-15 home runs.
Path to the Big Leagues: Much of that will depend on how good he looks in the infield.
Timetable: The Indians are optimistic that with more instruction this spring, Kipnis will be ready to play second base full-time in 2010, likely starting at High-A Kinston.

9. Carlos Carrasco, RHP
DOB: 3/21/87
Height/Weight: 6-3/215
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Venezuela, 2003 (Phillies)
2009 Stats: 5.18 ERA (114.2-118-38-112) at Triple-A (20 G) with Phillies; 3.19 ERA (42.1-31-7-36) at Triple-A (6 G) with Indians; 4.64 ERA (157.0-149-45-148) at Triple-A (26 G) with both; 8.87 ERA (22.1-40-11-11) at MLB (5 G).
Last Year's Ranking: 1 (Phillies)

Year in Review: Once the top prospect in Philadelphia, Carrasco was inconsistent at Triple-A and downright awful in the big leagues after being a big part of the Cliff Lee deal.
The Good: Team officials will quickly remind you that Carrasco is still very young for his level and in possession of impressive raw stuff. He parks his fastball in the low 90s, the pitch features good movement, and he tends to stay in the strikezone with it. His changeup is a true plus offering with hard, late movement, and his curveball is solid. He's pitched six seasons in the minors without any major injuries, and his arm action is very clean.
The Bad: Carrasco has had a reputation of turning smaller problems into big ones, and that continued in 2009, as he tends to collapse with runners on base or in other pressure situations, at times almost seeming to pitch scared. He can overthrow at times, costing him movement on all three pitches.
Ephemera: Carrasco made his own trouble in the big leagues, as batters facing him when leading off an inning went 10-for-23 (.435) with three doubles and a home run.
Perfect World Projection: There are still plenty of evaluators out there who think Carrasco has mid-rotation potential, and maybe a bit more, but they are also those who wonder if it will ever all come together.
Path to the Big Leagues: He could be already done walking it if he looks good next March.
Timetable: Carrasco will compete this spring for a back-end rotation job in the majors. If he loses that fight, he'll try to make some adjustments back at Triple-A.

10. Michael Brantley, OF
DOB: 5/15/87
Height/Weight: 6-2/200
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 7th round, 2005, Fort Pierce Central HS (FL)
2009 Stats: .267/.350/.361 at Triple-A (116 G); .313/.358/.348 at MLB (28 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 11

Year in Review: Acquired from Milwaukee in the CC Sabathia deal, Brantley started the year as one of the youngest everyday players in the International League, but came on strong during the second half and finished the year with an impressive big-league debut.
The Good: Brantley profiles as a classic leadoff hitter. He works the count well, rarely strikes out, and combines plus-plus speed with outstanding instincts on the bases, as he stole 46 bases at Triple-A Columbus in 51 attempts. He's a very good outfielder at all three positions.
The Bad: Brantley will need to hit for a high batting average to play every day in the big leagues, as he has below-average power, although his six home runs this year matched his career total entering the year. His arm is weak.
Ephemera: With his first big-league paycheck, Brantley bought a camper which he has used to go fishing on a near-daily basis since the season ended.
Perfect World Projection: An everyday center fielder and leadoff hitter with a .370 on-base percentage and 40 stolen bases.
Path to the Big Leagues: Grady Sizemore isn't going anywhere for at least three more years.
Timetable: While Brantley would have a chance to be a good backup in the majors right now, he'll likely head back to Triple-A in order to get consistent at-bats.

11. Zach Putnam, RHP
DOB: 7/3/87
Height/Weight: 6-2/225
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 5th round, 2008, University of Michigan
2009 Stats: 24.0-22-5-23 at High-A (5 G); 56.2-59-18-57 at Double-A (33 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: An over-slot pick, Putnam reached Double-A in his full-season debut while being moved temporarily to the bullpen.
The Good: Putnam has a classic sinker/slider arm, both pitches are of high quality, and his command is plus as well. The fastball sits at 91-94 mph and maintains its heavy, late life, even when he gets into the upper ranges of his velocity. His slider has good depth and tilt, while he also mixes in a splitter than hitters have a tough time reading.
The Bad: For many, Putnam profiles as a pure reliever, because while he has a curveball and changeup, neither pitch has much to offer, and he seems to be more effective with just the two-pitch mix. There's a bit of effort in his delivery, but the arm action itself is smooth. Depending on who you talk to, he comes off as either very confident or a bit arrogant.
Ephemera: Putnam is a graduate of historic Pioneer High in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a school with an impressive roster of alumni including documentarian Ken Burns and rock legend Iggy Pop.
Perfect World Projection: Either a solid fourth starter or a set-up man.
Path to the Big Leagues: It will depend on the role.
Timetable: Putnam will return to starting in 2010 after a good showing in the Arizona Fall League. He'll return to Double-A Akron to begin the year, only this time in the rotation.

The Sleeper: While his full-season debut was cut short by injury, 20-year-old Dominican outfielder Aber Abreu remains a bit raw, but his raw power ranks with nearly anyone in the system.

Top 10 Talents 25 and Under (Born 4/1/84 or later)
1. Carlos Santana, C
2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
3. Matt LaPorta, 1B/OF
4. Justin Masterson, RHP
5. Lonnie Chisenhall, SS
6. Alex White, RHP
7. Chris Perez, RHP
8. Jason Knapp, RHP
9. Nick Hagadone, LHP
10. Hector Rondon, RHP

Lost in the misery of the 2009 season was what Asdrubal Cabrera did, as we're talking about a 23-year-old shortstop who plays a solid defense and hit .308 with 42 doubles while also stealing 17 bases, while finishing fourth among American League shortstops in VORP. If that doesn't scream 'future star' to you, check your ears. Reviews on LaPorta's bat aren't what they used to be, but they're still good enough to project as an above-average everyday player at first base or left field, and that means a middle-of-the-order run producer. Perez might be too low; he's just a few refinements away from being a shutdown closer, but that's been the case for a couple of years now. Just missing are second baseman Luis Valbuena, who probably fits better in a bench role, as well as fringy arms Jensen Lewis, David Huff, and Aaron Laffey.

Summary: While the flurry of 2009 trades did not add the elite talent to the system some would expect considering the star-level talent that was dealt, it has transformed the organization into one of baseball's deepest, an asset that should help with the rebuilding process.


---

Next up: the Detroit Tigers.

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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