Cleveland Indians Top 20 Prospects for 2011
All grades are EXTREMELY PRELIMINARY and subject to change. Don't get too concerned about exact rankings at this point, especially once you get past the Top 10. Grade C+/C guys are pretty interchangeable depending on what you want to emphasize.
Feel free to critique the list, but use logic and reason rather than polemics to do to. The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2011 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders. Order early and order often!
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don't make it at all.
A major point to remember is that grades for pitchers do NOT correspond directly to grades for hitters. Many Grade A pitching prospects fail to develop, often due to injuries. Some Grade C pitching prospects turn out much better than expected.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise coming from me, and some C+ prospects turn out very well indeed.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
Cleveland Indians Top 20 for 2011
1) Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, Grade B+: I think he will be a solid regular, but not a superstar.
2) Alex White, RHP, Grade B+: A quality inning-eater at worst, and could develop into a genuine ace if all goes well.
3) Jason Kipnis, 2B, Grade B+: Love the bat, and glove should be at least average with a bit more time.
4) Drew Pomeranz, LHP, Grade B+: Could be Number One on this list a year from now as a power lefty and possible future ace.
5) Nick Weglarz, OF, Grade B: Has always drawn walks, power coming along, can he stay healthy?
6) Jason Knapp, RHP, Grade B: Has B+/A- talent, but concerns about durability and command worry me enough to keep him at a Grade B for now.
7) Joe Gardner, RHP, Grade B: Another guy with a power sinker, should chew innings.
8) LeVon Washington, OF, Grade B-: Like the tools, but not sure about the refinement yet. Could rank much higher next year.
9) Nick Hagadone, LHP, Grade B-: Could also rank much higher if command issues get better.
10) Tony Wolters, SS, Grade B-: Can he stay at shortstop? Indians think so, others aren't sure. Should hit.
11) Chun-Hsiu Chen, C, Grade B-: Taiwanese catcher had breakthrough '10 season.
12) Kyle Blair, RHP, Grade B-: One of my favorite pitchers from the 2011 draft.
13) Bryce Stowell, RHP, Grade B-: My favorite of the huge corps of promising minor league relievers gathered by Cleveland.
14) Cord Phelps, 2B, Grade C+: Overshadowed by Kipnis, but could get to the majors before him and has useful skills.
15) Austin Adams, RHP, Grade C+: Very live arm, high upside, made a lot of progress last year.
16) Tyler Holt, OF, Grade C+: Looks like a steal to me as 10th round pick.
17) Scott Barnes, LHP, Grade C+: He pitched better than his 5.22 ERA in Double-A indicates, and looked good in the Arizona Fall League.
18) Jordan Henry, OF, Grade C+: Loads of speed, gets on base, lacks power, fourth outfielder?
19) Vinnie Pestano, RHP, Grade C+: Should be a very useful relief pitcher. The Indians have a ton of these guys.
20) Zach Putnam, RHP, Grade C+: Another good bullpen arm.
21) Matt Packer, LHP, Grade C+: Could rank a lot higher, had a great year.
22) Felix Sterling, RHP, Grade C+: Interesting rookie ball pitcher with upside potential.
23) Rob Bryson, RHP, Grade C+: Here's another live bullpen arm.
24) Josh Judy, RHP, Grade C+: Another good bullpen arm.
25) Corey Kluber, RHP, Grade C+: Possible fifth starter or long reliever.
26) Chen Lee, RHP, Grade C+: Another good minor league reliever.
OTHERS OF NOTE: Robbie Aviles, RHP; Cory Burns, RHP; Kelvin De La Cruz, LHP; Jared Goedert, 3B; Preston Guilmet, RHP; T.J. House, LHP; Alex Lavisky, C; Zach McAllister, RHP; T.J. McFarland, LHP; Alexander Perez, RHP; Bryan Price, RHP; Josh Rodriguez, INF; Hector Rondon, RHP; Giovanni Soto, LHP; Tyler Sturdevant, RHP; Jess Todd, RHP.
The Indians have a huge group of C+ prospects, especially potential relief arms. I spent a couple of hours trying to rank all these guys, and finally just decided to I had to get the list out. You can make a case for most of the C+ guys to rank in the top 15, but of course you can't rank them ALL in the top 15.
The system is obviously rich in pitching; you have White and Pomeranz as possible rotation anchors, as well as Knapp if he can stay healthy. Gardner and Blair can be inning-eaters. There is loads of material for the bullpen.
What the system lacks is impact hitting. Chisenhall, Kipnis, and Weglarz should all be productive regulars, but aren't franchise players. Washington and Wolters are a long way off.