Cleveland Indians Top 20 Prospects for 2013
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. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2013 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 reasonable 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. Some end up as role players or bench guys. Many don't make it at all.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise, and some C+ prospects (especially at lower levels) 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.
THIS LIST IS CURRENT AS OF JANUARY 15, 2013
1) Trevor Bauer, RHP, Grade A-: He needs to improve his control, thus the slight ding in his grade from last year, but I still see him as an elite prospect who can be a number one starter. He has little left to prove in the minors, and my thinking is that he's bright and motivated enough to outgrow any personality conflicts.
2) Francisco Lindor, SS, Grade B+: Outstanding defensive shortstop with solid on-base abilities. If his bat develops further, he'll end up a straight A eventually.
3) Dorssys Paulino, SS, Grade B: You can make a B+ case and his ceiling is very high. Turned out to have more power than expected, hitting well at age 17 in rookie ball, though long-term position is in question with Lindor around.
4) Mitch Brown, RHP, Grade B-: One of my favorite high school pitchers from the 2012 draft, strong-bodied kid from Minnesota with good velocity, wide assortment of secondary pitches, good makeup. Mid-rotation starter projection, but want to see more innings before raising grade past B-.
5) Tyler Naquin, OF, Grade B-: Borderline C+. Saw him play for Texas A&M. Good swing, gets on base, nice line drive bat, very strong throwing arm, good glove, but I don't think he's going to show much power. If he can hit .300+ he can be a regular, if not he'll be a fourth outfielder.
6) Cody Allen, RHP, Grade B-: Borderline C+. Ranking relief prospects is always tough, but he showed he could get big-league hitters out when his command is on and he could close eventually. Amazing rise for a 23rd round pick, to the majors in one year.
7) Ronny Rodriguez, SS-2B, Grade C+: Positives are power, speed, throwing arm. Negatives are plate discipline, contact, and lack of defensive reliability. Has been pushed fast and will play Double-A at age 21, which could make or break him given the infield depth in this organization.
8) Tony Wolters, 2B-SS, Grade C+: Doesn't have RR's tools, but he was solid enough last year as his double play partner and is actually a month younger. Skipped Low-A, got off to slow start in High-A but raked in second half (.291/.344/.474). Does that presage a breakout?
9) Jose Ramirez, 2B, Grade C+: Other sources do not rank him this highly, but I don't care. He's undersized and scouts worry about that, but he just hits the shit out of the ball, including .354/.403/.462 this year in 67 games in Low-A. Controls the strike zone, makes contact, runs well, excellent defensively at second base, has hit everywhere he's played, same age bracket as RR, LR, and TW. A year from now, this may look too low if he goes Altuve on us.
10) Luigi Rodriguez, OF, Grade C+: Another young toolsy product of Latin American program, has leadoff potential with speed and fairly good plate discipline, but strikes out too much and needs polish in all phases of the game.
11) Danny Salazar, RHP, Grade C+: One of several hard-throwing right-handers with a chance to help in the bullpen in the next year or two. You can make a case to rank him higher than this, but secondaries need more polish and has checkered health history.
12) Scott Barnes, LHP, Grade C+: I've liked him since he was in college. Seems like a solid bullpen contributor and ready to help now. Might he get a chance to start again?
13) Jesus Aguilar, 1B, Grade C+: Younger than first base competitors Mike McDade and Chris McGuiness. I don't think Aguilar hits quite enough to be a long-term solution, but he has enough pop to be a useful role player.
14) Chen Lee, RHP, Grade C+: I like him as a middle relief option with his combination of whiffs and grounders, but we need to see how he recovers from Tommy John.
15) Kieran Lovegrove, RHP, Grade C+: Another projectable high school arm from 2012 draft, third round. Will probably need more development time than Mitch Brown, but also has mid-rotation potential.
16) Giovanni Soto, LHP, Grade C+: Borderline C. Doesn't have terrific stuff, but effective in Double-A at age 20/21 and is having a great winter in Puerto Rico. Could be a surprise contributor in 2013.
17) Elvis Araujo, LHP, Grade C: One of the best pure arms in the system, but struggled with mechanical and control problems in Low-A.
18) Dillon Howard, RHP, Grade C: Second round pick from 2011 draft as massively disappointing after coming to camp out of shape. Velocity was down, though he still got a good number of ground balls and it is too soon to give up given his pedigree.
19) Anthony Santander, OF, Grade C: Young switch-hitter (17) from Venezuela hit very well in Arizona Rookie League, although scouts aren't sure his swing will work at higher levels without adjustments. Bears close watching as he moves up.
20) Chris McGuiness, 1B, Grade C: Rule 5 pick from Rangers could win playing time at first base. Solid Double-A season with good power production and hit well in Arizona Fall League, though scouting reports aren't especially enthusiastic.
OTHERS: Austin Adams, RHP; Shawn Armstrong, RHP; Dylan Baker, RHP; Rob Bryson, RHP; Chun Chen, 1B-C; Tim Fedroff, OF: Trey Haley, RHP; T.J. House, LHP; Matt Langwell, RHP; Jacob Lee, RHP; Jorge Martinez, 3B; D'vone McClure, OF; Mike McDade, 1B; Alex Monsalve, C; Mason Radeke, RHP; Nelson Rodriguez, 1B; Jake Sisco, RHP; Jordan Smith, OF; Felix Sterling, RHP; Bryce Stowell, RHP; Giovany Urhsela, 3B; LeVon Washington, OF.
This is obviously a thin system, although there are a few high points and enough stuff at the lower levels to give hope. Note that the large mass of Grade C+/C prospects are quite interchangeable and the list could be validly ordered in a dozen different ways past slot 13 or so.
The acquisition of Trevor Bauer adds the high ceiling arm they desperately needed. Since the Indians aren't likely to be in a pennant chase, they can afford to stick him in the rotation and let him work his issues out. Beyond Bauer, there are several pitchers who should be useful relief arms, beginning with Cody Allen. They are quite thin in potential starters. I like Mitch Brown, but he and Kieran Lovegrove are a long way away from being ready. Dillon Howard was a huge disappointment, Felix Sterling and Elvis Araujo mildly less so. A couple of Grade Cs to watch as sleepers: pitchability right-hander Mason Radeke, and hard-throwing Dylan Baker.
On the hitting side, there is a lot of depth in the middle infield, beginning with Francisco Lindor, who has all the attributes of a future All-Star, or at the very least a long term regular. There are numerous options who could be paired with him in the infield, including underrated Tony Wolters and numerous products of the Latin American program, the best of whom is Dorsyss Paulino. Jose Ramirez looks extremely interesting too, as I make clear above. Weak points include a lack of corner players and outfielders at the mid and upper levels who can provide power. Band-aids nabbed from other organizations such as McGuiness and McDade can only go so far.
A grade C sleeper to watch is veteran Tim Fedroff, who is old for a prospect at 26 but is a proven on-base machine and has been added to the 40-man roster.
Overall, the Indians aren't completely empty, but there are a lot of holes to fill.