Relief pitcher Nick Hagadone of the Cleveland Indians pitches during the seventh inning against the Minnesota Twins at Progressive Field on September 24, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Cleveland Indians Top 20 Prospects for 2012
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine of course. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2012 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 in the book 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.
1) Francisco Lindor, SS, Grade B+: A strong defensive shortstop who can hit, at least for average. Not expected to have big power, but not punchless either. He should be a force at the top of the order while providing a slick glove, and probably won't need as much time in the minors as many high schoolers.
2) Dillon Howard, RHP, Grade B-: Borderline B. No pro innings yet, but has body and stuff of a number two starter. Grade is cautious given lack of pro data. Could be much higher next year.
3) Tony Wolters, SS, Grade B-: Borderline B. Solid contact hitter had fine summer in the New York-Penn League, controls zone well, gets on base, effective runner, Indians say he has a chance to stick at shortstop, although with Lindor around a switch to second is very likely. That would be a nice double play combo.
4) Jake Sisco, RHP, Grade C+: Junior college pitcher drafted in the third round last year, throws hard, projectable, flashes a complete arsenal but not consistent yet. High ceiling with a chance to be special.
5) Luigi Rodriguez, OF, Grade C+: Tool-laden outfielder with power/speed potential, played well in Arizona Rookie League. High-ceiling, grade could be much higher next year with another season under his belt.
5) Ronny Rodriguez, SS, Grade C+: Another tools guy, has plate discipline problems but hit 11 homers and stole 10 bases in the Midwest League in his pro debut, skipping short-season ball completely. 19 years old, from Dominican Republic, raw but has tools to stick at short. Another guy who could earn much higher grades as he develops.
6) Nick Hagadone, LHP, Grade C+: Power arm from left side has taken well to bullpen work, held lefties to .127 average in Triple-A. At worst a strong LOOGY, but could get beyond that. Should help in 2012.
7) Elvis Araujo, LHP, Grade C+: Big lefty is Tommy John survivor, looked very good in Arizona Rookie League, throws hard but secondary pitches and command need work. High ceiling.
8) Felix Sterling, RHP, Grade C+: Another raw-but-talented pitcher, throws hard, thick legs, durable build. Command needs work, like Araujo he could rank higher with a full season of additional development.
9) Scott Barnes, LHP, Grade C+: On verge of promotion to the majors when he hurt his knee in July. Decent stuff from the left side, deceptive, command is somewhat erratic but when it is working he looks like a solid number four starter. I have liked him since he was in college at St. John's.
10) Cord Phelps, 2B, Grade C+: Shoved aside by Jason Kipnis and didn't hit in major league trial, but deserves more chances. Fits "scrappy second baseman" stereotype but has more pop in his bat than most. Probably a utility player in Cleveland, or trade bait. Worse players have been regulars.
11) LeVon Washington, OF, Grade C+: Had a terrible year at Lake County, but gets a partial mulligan due to nagging injuries and trying to make adjustments in batting stance. Still young, draws some walks, still has the tools that made him an early pick in both '09 and '10 drafts.
12) Chen Lee, RHP, Grade C+: I like this guy and I don't know why he doesn't get more attention. His numbers are always strong, he throws reasonably hard, he's deceptive, he's got some control. Seems like he'll be a fine bullpen asset.
13) Chun Chen, C, Grade C+: Good throwing arm, has power, strike zone got away from him a bit in Double-A but still an intriguing property as a catcher with some sock in his bat.
14) Austin Adams, RHP, Grade C+: Live arm, decent year in Double-A but needs sharper control. Played shortstop in college and is athletic. Could be fourth starter or a solid reliever.
15) Jake Lowery, C, Grade C+: Excellent plate discipline with power potential, working on defense, probably won't hit for much of a batting average at higher levels but should be productive.
16) Matt Packer, LHP, Grade C+: Control artist gets plenty of grounders, posts strong K/BB ratios but hittable and needs a good defense behind him. Could be four/five starter with proper support.
17) Enosil Tejeda, RHP, Grade C+: Very good stuff, overpowering K/IP ratio in New York-Penn League, could move through system rapidly as relief option.
18) Jorge Martinez, SS, Grade C+: 18-year-old switch-hitter impressed scouts with tools in rookie ball, but quite raw on defense and faces positional switch. Just scratching the surface of his power potential. High-risk/high-reward type.
19) Robel Garcia, 3B; Grade C+: Another intriguing bat from Cleveland's collection of Latin American players in the Arizona Rookie League. Switch-hitter with power and contact issues.
20) Giovanni Soto, LHP, Grade C+: Not overpowering with the velocity but still gets his strikeouts, performed well in Carolina League at age 20, strong component ratios. Plausable he could develop into a mid-rotation starter.
21) Jesus Aguilar, 1B, Grade C+: Borderline C. He can mash the ball, plate discipline and defense are big questions.
OTHERS: Cody Allen, RHP; Cody Anderson, RHP; Rob Bryson, RHP; Kelvin De La Cruz, LHP; Juan Diaz, SS; Paulo Espino, RHP (a sleeper); Eric Haase, C; T.J. House, LHP; Corey Kluber, RHP; Jason Knapp, RHP; Alex Lavisky, C: Zach McAllister, RHP; Shawn Morimando, LHP; Bryson Myles, OF; Thomas Neal, OF; Dorssys Paulino, SS (latest Latin American bonus baby, high-ceiling player but hasn't even played in DSL yet); Zach Putnam, RHP; Danny Salazar, RHP; Bryce Stowell, RHP; Tyler Sturdevant, RHP.
This is a very difficult system to analyze.
The top of the organization was lopped off by trades and major league graduations, and the next wave is primarily at the lower levels. Quite honestly, spots 5 through 21 could be listed in almost any order, depending on how you value pure upside, risk, and closeness to the majors. I tried to find a balance with the list, but every analyst and writer is going to have a different take on this system once you get past the first four or five slots.
A list based purely on scouting and upside potential is going to look very different than a purely sabermetric list. Since I combine the two approaches, the uncertainty factor is quite high right now.
Indians fans may be discouraged by the large number of C+ grades, but they shouldn't be. While some of those C+s are future role players or relievers, the younger members of the group are high-ceiling guys who are just too raw or far away to get a higher grade just yet, but who could blossom within the next year or two. I'm thinking particularly of Araujo, Sterling, and the group of hitters who were backing them up in the Arizona Rookie League. The 2013 and 2014 lists could see a lot of those guys bumped up into the B-range (or maybe even higher) if they develop properly.
The "others" group has some very interesting names as well, beginning with Dorssys Paulino who could turn into a star, or nothing, or anything in between. McAllister, Neal, Espino, Putnam, Stovall, and Sturdevant could all contribute in the majors in 2012. Bryson Myles was an on-base machine with speed in college and the New York-Penn League.
In short, I like this farm system. It is going to be a lot of fun to see what happens in 2012, especially at Lake County and Mahoning Valley.