Top Prospects: Cleveland Indians
Links & Disclaimer See my Top 100 Prospects list and the AFL content index for previous scouting reports and videos from every team in the AFL. For draft fans, here's my ranking of the top prep prospects for the draft and an even more recent top 53 overall prospects for the draft. See all of my previous rankings at the rankings index For an explanation about how to use asset values, how I grade players and their tools, what order I'll be breaking down each organization and what players are eligible to be ranked, see this primer of the minor league org prospect rankings series. Also, check out the Scout.com Prospect Rankings Central for more information. Covered in the primer is the cut-off for players to qualify for this list. Only C Yan Gomes and RHPs Danny Salazar and Cody Allen are recent graduates with some sort of impact on the club, but Cleveland has graduated some useful players in the last few years, like 2B Jason Kipnis, 3B Lonnie Chisenhall, OF Michael Brantley and RHPs Zach McAllister and Carlos Carrasco. Salazar emerged late in 2013 and flashed #2 starter upside, with a good chance to be a league-average starter in his first full year in the big leagues in 2014. Allen is solid late-inning relief piece while the older six guys are all everyday types of varying quality, with Kipnis the clear best. System Overview The Indians have done well picking high ceiling prep players when in the top 10 picks (Lindor and Frazier), then mix it well later on, with a slight lean to college players. They've basically met expectations in the draft, along with an international program that has been especially fruitful, producing prospects 4, 6, 8, 10, 14, 17, 20, 21, and 23 on this list, along with one of the sleepers. None of the bonuses exceeded $1.1 million and most are in the low-to-mid six figures range. The one nitpick could be that there may not be any above average regulars in that group (though Paulino and Mejia have a chance) but the sheer bulk is impressive, particularly given the low bonuses. Also, potential frontline starter Danny Salazar is in the big leagues after signing from $210,000 out of the Dominican in 2006. The organization has always been progressive when it comes to the statistical revolution and now has the big league team to go with that lofty reputation. When the big league team was rebuilding, they did a solid job in acquiring young talent, adding Brantley, Bauer, Carrasco and McAllister, though some heralded prospects, like 1B Matt LaPorta, flopped. They may have trouble producing impact talent with lower picks and international pools given this recent success, but the system/procurement system is at least league average, if not better: they're more a solution than the problem. Dollar Value Of The System Organization Total Value Boston Red Sox $430 million Kansas City Royals $340 million Tampa Bay Rays $280 million Cleveland Indians $240 million Seattle Mariners $230 million Philadelphia Phillies $200 million Milwaukee Brewers $130 million The Indians fall in the middle of the pack as expected and may move back a bit with the 21st pick/international pool this year, Bauer leaving the list next year, and possibly Lindor as well. That's defensible with a young big league core and success internationally and on the picks that matter, as I'm bullish on Frazier's potential. The Tribe have found low-bonus talent in some unusual places, and I'd expect them to continue that trend, even if the splashy All-Star type prospects won't be as easy to find in the coming years if the big league club keeps succeeding. 50+ FV Group (Asset Value Range: $23 - $60 million) 1. Francisco Lindor, SS 2014 Opening Day Age/Level: 20.4/AA, 5'11/175, B/R Drafted: 8th overall (1st round) out of FL high school in 2011 for $2,900,000 bonus PV/FV: 50/65, Asset Value: $58.9 million, Ranked 5th in the Top 100 Hit: 50/65, Power: 40/45, Run: 60/60, Field: 65/65, Throw: 60/60 Just by looking at the tool grades, position and size listed above, you can get a good mental picture of what Lindor is like (and I'm sure the video helps, too). Four future tools at 60 or 65 with high present grades for a kid that just turned 20 is some rarified territory to be sure. He isn't a true burner but can easily steal 20 bases with his wheels and instincts. Lindor has a very advanced defensive ability, with a plus arm, plus range and plus hands that are ready for primetime now. Lindor will never be a big power threat and could still add some muscle to his upper body to develop 10-12 homer game power at maturity, but already can wear out the gaps with doubles. Lindor also has an advanced sense at the plate, putting up above average plate discipline and contact numbers at full-season leagues where he was a few years younger than the pitchers. He'll go back to AA to start the year, but there's been some talk that he could take over short in Cleveland at some point this year from Asdrubal Cabrera. 2. Clint Frazier, CF 2014 Opening Day Age/Level: 19.6/Lo-A, 6'0/190, R/R Drafted: 5th overall (1st round) out of GA high school in 2013 for $3,500,000 bonus PV/FV: 20/60, Asset Value: $41.5 million, Ranked 38th in the Top 100 Hit: 20/55, Power: 65/65, Run: 60/60, Field: 50/55, Throw: 65/65 I was a big fan of Frazier out of high school last year, ranking him 4th in my final rankings; some clubs had him in this relative range but more than a few had him outside the top 10. The concerns were about his frame (no projection), his up-and-down spring (with more swing and miss than you'd like to see) and his relative rawness defensively in center field. Frazier played shortstop until his senior year and had some trouble with sub-80 mph pitching his senior year because his plus-plus bat speed makes him time his swing for 90+ mph, which he's said and shown he's more comfortable facing. Frazier can be aggressive at the plate, but has the bat speed and bat control to make this approach work, along with the 30 home run power to justify a power-based approach. Frazier had his shoulder cleaned up after it weakened at the end of the showcase season, but it draws 60 and 70 grades at full strength. Cleveland is confident that the plus speed and arm give Frazier enough raw tools to stick in center, but the bat should still profile if he needs to move to right field. 3. Trevor Bauer, RHP 2014 Opening Day Age/Level: 23.2/AAA, 6'1/190, R/R Drafted: 3rd overall (1st round) out of UCLA in 2011 for $3,400,000 bonus PV/FV: 45/55, Asset Value: $23.5 million, Not ranked in the Top 100 Fastball: 65/65, Curveball: 50/60, Slider: 45/50, Splitter: 50/55, Command: 40/50 Bauer is a really tough evaluation and scouts always start conversations about him admitting this first. He threw harder as a junior at UCLA and has regressed in pro ball, losing a little sharpness to his stuff while he's been tweaking his delivery in an effort to clean up his command, but it keeps getting worse. His idiosyncratic, borderline know-it-all, loner approach to his mechanics worked for him when things were going well, but when things go south, the coaches feel like they're getting blamed for his failure, which they have no input over. There are some signs that Bauer is softening this stance to get the help he needs to get everything in sync again. Lately, he's been sitting in the low 90's with some life on his fastball, a curve that's plus at times but inconsistent, a fourth pitch slider to give hitters a different look, and a splitter that's an effective change of pace at times. That news has taken a good turn, as Bauer was 94-97 mph in his last spring training start, so the arm speed may have returned. Bauer will start 2014 in AAA and if he can work out a few issues, he could be useful as starter or reliever for an Indians club looking to make another playoff run. 45 FV Group (Asset Value Range: $7 - $12 million) 4. Doryssys Paulino, SS: I first saw Paulino at age 14 when his Dominican agent told me to watch his top prospect for next year's July 2nd period; it was clear even then that he was going to make a lot of contact, but may fit better at second base. He beat even those offensive expectations after signing for $1.1 million with standout short-season performances at age 17, but had lots of trouble in 2013 in his full-season debut. Paulino showed some signs late in 2013 and will get another chance at Low-A this year at age 19, so there's still lots of hope. He's only a solid-average runner and the range/arm are a little shy for short, so he probably fits best long-term at second, but won't move there for another few years. 5. Tyler Naquin, CF: Naquin went in the first round in 2012 out of Texas A&M with the reputation of an outfield tweener that has a smooth lefty stroke and makes tons of contact. He's still basically seen that way, but has more believers that he can stick in center field and has more momentum with the bat after a scorching stint in the Arizona Fall League. He'll turn 23 early this season, but will start in AA and could be a big league option in September, with a chance to stick in 2015. 6. Francisco Mejia, C: One of the better prospects in baseball to not yet play in a full-season league, Mejia signed for $350,000 out of the Dominican in 2012 and made a huge impression in his pro debut. He's got an easy plus arm that some scouts have hung a 70 on, along with advanced defensive skills, a chance to hit 15-18 homers annually and make enough contact to fit in a lineup everyday. Mejia will make his anticipated full-season debut this year at age 18. 7. Cody Anderson, RHP: Anderson was a late-blooming kid from Idaho that the Tribe signed out of a California junior college for $250,000 in 2011. He didn't have a lot of innings under his belt, but threw 136 last year, reaching AA while his stuff keeps getting better. The upside is a 3/4 starter or late-inning reliever, as the 23-year-old 6'4/220 righty regularly gets into the mid-90's and has an above average slider, but his command and changeup still come and go. 8. Jose Ramirez, 2B: The 5'9/165 switch-hitting second baseman got all the way to the big leagues last September after signing for $50,000 out of the Dominican in 2009. He skipped High-A entirely last year, jumping from Low-A to AA at age 20 and continuing his trend of making tons of contact and only striking out a few more times than he walks, due in part to his small strike zone. Ramirez is a plus runner, is at least average defensively and gets the most out of his tools, which includes very little power. He's still only 21 but could be an asset in the big leagues as soon as later this year. 40 FV Group (Asset Value Range: $2 - $6 million) 9. Austin Adams, RHP: Adams signed for $70,000 in 2009 as an older prospect from a small college in Alabama, but shot through the system, reaching AA in two years and looking like a future rotation piece for the Tribe. He missed the 2012 season with the dreaded shoulder surgery, but came back with all of his velocity, sitting in the mid-90's and hitting 98 mph in the bullpen in 2013, back at AA. The 5'11/190 Adams doesn't have much plane, but has good life to his fastball and four pitches from back when he was a starter, though the consistency of his secondary stuff and command is still coming along. 10. Ronny Rodriguez, SS: Rodriguez will open 2014 in AAA at age 22, where he'll play shortstop and he has solid-average raw power along with the tools to play shortstop in the big leagues. Pretty much everything else is a problem for Rodriguez, as he doesn't make much contact, has terrible plate discipline, his power didn't play in games at AA and he makes too many careless defensive errors. The upside here is as a solid everyday starter and he's still young, but not many players overcome these sorts of issues this late in development. 11. Dylan Baker, RHP: Baker signed out of a Nevada JC in 2012 for $200,000 after getting some early round buzz earlier in the spring, but tailed off down the stretch. In 2013, he showed those flashes once again as a starter in Low-A, regularly getting into the mid-90's with a hard slider. There's still a chance Baker can develop the starter traits the Indians saw as an amateur, but he always can go to the bullpen, where he projects as a late-inning type arm. 12. Joe Wendle, 2B: Wendle doesn't wow you with his tools, as four of the five are below average or fringy, but the one that counts--his bat-- is above average and may carry him to the big leagues. He signed for just $10,000 as a 6th rounder in 2012 out of a small Pennsylvania college, but jumped all teh way to High-A in 2013 and hit .295/.372/.513 at age 23. Wendle will head to AA at age 24 and could be a solid bench piece as soon as 2015. 13. Sean Brady, LHP (Video): I saw Brady a lot leading up to the 2013 draft, where the Indians gave him $800,000 to turn pro out of a Florida high school. He sat 85-88 mph as a pitchability lefty over the summer/fall, then the 5'11 lefty starting hitting 93 mph in the spring, sitting at 89-91 regularly. His out-pitch changeup from the summer was still above average, but his soft slurve now was also above average with the added arm speed, helping Brady project as a back-end starter 14. Leandro Linares, RHP: The 20-year-old Cuban defector's bonus was subject to the international pools, so he got a meager $950,000 compared to some of his much more affluent countrymen. Linares has a mature 6'3/205 frame and been up to 94 mph with a solid-average fastball, above average curve and average slider and changeup. He fits in the back end of a rotation but could move quickly with 2014 marking his minor league debut. 15. Dace Kime, RHP: The 2013 3rd rounder out of Louisville signed for $525,000 and was a reliever in college, but has a chance to stick as a starter in pro ball. Kime comes from Defiance HS in Ohio that produced Mets LHP Jon Niese and Dodgers RHP Chad Billingsley, but his upside is as a back-end starter or set-up man. He shows four solid-average to above average pitches as a starter, with his above average curveball standing out the most. Kime works 92-96 mph in relief but 90-92 as a starter and it's unclear if his command will allow him to start, even though the stuff and 6'4/200 frame are a good place to start. 16. Tony Wolters, C: Wolters went in the sandwich round ($1.35 million bonus) out of a San Diego-area high school in 2010. He was a shortstop then that looked likely to move to second base, but due more to his fringy speed/range than his above average hands, instincts and arm. The 5'10/180 grinder had the advanced feel at the plate to still profile as an everyday guy anywhere up the middle, but ended up moving to catcher on a suggestion from manager Terry Francona. The conversion has stuck as Wolters has taken to catching; he'll go to AA at age 22 and while his hitting tools leave a bit to be desired, he should make the big leagues as a solid backup. 17. C.C. Lee, RHP: 5'11/190 righty signed for $400,000 out of Taiwan in 2008, is now knocking on the door of the big league pen at age 27 after Tommy John surgery in 2011 derailed him. Runs his fastball up to 95 from a low slot that, along with a fringy changeup and fringy command, makes his susceptible to left-handers. Lee uses an above average but inconsistent slider as his out-pitch and, when it's working for him, he looks like he can take on late-inning duties. 18. Mitch Brown, RHP: 6'1/195 righty was drafted in the 2nd round out of a Minnesota high school in 2012, signing for $800,000. He sits in the low-90's with a sinker that's hit 95, a curveball and slider that show potential, and an average changeup that provide him with the traits to be a starter. Brown has been very inconsistent in pro ball, lasting only 15 innings in Low-A before being sent back down to the AZL to work on his command. There's still 3/4 starter upside here, but Brown needs a big bounce back in 2014. 19. Kieran Lovegrove, RHP: Lovegrove was the Indians next pick after Brown, signing for $400,000 in the 3rd round out of a Southern California high school. Like Brown, Lovegrove flashes an above average fastball-breaking ball combo, but Lovegrove's velocity ranged all over the place as an amateur and the varying arm speed affected the quality of his slider. His delivery is also a little more worrisome, but his projectable 6'4/185 frame offers hope that Lovegrove can add weight and arm speed, while his fringy changeup and command make some suggest he's a bullpen type. 20. Luis Lugo, LHP: Lugo signed for $415,000 out of Venezuela at age 17, as his velocity came on after he was already eligible to sign at age 16. The 6'5/200 lefty was up to 93 mph with good feel for a solid-average changeup in a brief taste of full-season ball at the end of 2013. He looks primed for a breakout this year at age 20 with a full season in the rotation at Low-A. 21. Luigi Rodriguez, CF: Signed for $200,000 out of the Dominican in 2009 and the 5'11/160 switch hitter is quick-twitch and an easy plus runner, but hasn't figured out how to harness it on the field yet. Rodriguez has surprising pop for his size and the bat speed to give him some margin for error along with raw speed to outrun defensive and base running mistakes, but he'll need to learn to be more selective to reach his everyday player potential. He'll be 21 this year in High-A, so there's still plenty of time to make some adjustments. 22. Kyle Crockett, LHP: Crockett isn't a very sexy prospect, but scouts think he'll move very quickly and could be in the big leagues as soon as this year, after going in the 4th round last June out of Virginia. He slings from a low 3/4 slot and works primarily with two solid-average pitches (a 90-92 fastball and sweepy slider) but his slot, slider and above average command combine to be death on lefties. He already reached AA after being drafted and could be a poor man's Steven Rodriguez in the bigs as soon as late in 2014. 23. Erik Gonzalez, SS: Signed for $60,000 at age 17 out of the Dominican in 2008 and can really play the position with above average speed, range, hands and arm strength. He'll be 22 in Hi-A this year and the only reason he isn't farther along is his below average bat and power. Gonzalez could still easily carve out a utility infielder role in the big leagues, but will likely never be a threat with the bat. Sleepers: LeVon Washington, CF & Anthony Santander, OF Washington had a lot of hype out of high school, but turned down the Rays as a 1st rounder out of a Florida high school, signing with the Indians the next year in the 2nd round for $1.2 million out of a Florida junior college. He's regressed some since signing, with injuries and inconsistent contact undermining with plus-plus wheels and quick-twitch athleticism. He's still a little raw and will turn 23 this year in High-A, but has big league upside with some adjustments. Santander signed for $385,000 out of Venezuela in 2011 and has steadily progressed, but had a tough full-season debut last year. The 19-year-old 6'2/190 switch-hitter flashes five average tools and has everyday upside given his youth, but a solid 4th outfielder is a more reasonable expectation.