The Indians don’t have much high-ceiling talent in the upper levels of the farm system, but there are some intriguing names in the lower levels, particularly at low Class A Lake County. The Captains have Cleveland’s No. 1 prospect, shortstop Francisco Lindor, who will play his first full season after the Indians drafted him eighth overall last year. He should hit for average and get on base, though his game will be more about line drives than power. He and center fielder Luigi Rodriguez give Lake County a pair of promising youngsters up the middle. Lefthander Elvis Araujo needs to show he can handle a full-season workload, but he’s a power arm with an extra-large frame. A pair of late-round 2011 draft picks, Jordan Smith and Bryson Miles, could be sleepers in the outfield. LeVon Washington is also on the Lake County roster, but with Rodriguez also there and having passed him as a prospect, he’s going to have to prove himself after a disappointing 2011 season.
Leap Of Faith
The Indians have one of those problems that any team would love to have: too many shortstops and not enough places to play them all. They sent Lindor to Lake County and promoted Ronny Rodriguez to high Class A Carolina. They could have sent Tony Wolters to team with Lindor at Lake County after he spent the 2011 season at short-season Mahoning Valley, but instead they jumped him to Carolina. Wolters has a good approach at the plate, but the Carolina League is a stiff test for any 19-year-old.
Where Is That Guy?
The Indians' second-round pick in 2011, righthander Dillon Howard signed for $1.85 million at the deadline, too late to get started last year in an official game. The Indians wanted to see him open at Lake County, but a minor knee injury early in spring training followed by an illness got in the way. Howard, 19, will stay back in Arizona for extended spring training, then likely will report to Lake County once he's ready to throw at least 65 pitches in a start.
Time Is Running Out
When healthy, Nick Weglarz has generally shown that he can do the things that big-bodied left fielders need to do: get on base and hit for power. The problem for Weglarz is that staying healthy is not a skill he seems to have, as he has missed time with a smattering of injuries over the last several years. Knee and elbow issues limited his playing time last year and hampered him when he was on the field. He badly needs to rebound in Triple-A Columbus. Nick Hagadone took a step forward last year, but he’s now a 26-year-old reliever who needs to show he can hold down a middle-relief role in the big leagues. He’s headed back to Triple-A to open the season.
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