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Indians Top 10 Prospects

By Jim Ingraham
December 11, 2002

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Prospect Handbook
Does 10 prospects per team only whet your appetite? How does 30 sound? If you want the more of in-depth information you're finding here on three times as many players, Baseball America's 2003 Prospect Handbook is for you.

Few clubs have made such a radical midseason change as the Indians did in 2002. After starting the season under the dubious premise that they could remain a contender while rebuilding, club executives scrubbed that notion by late June and embarked on a full-blown detonation of the roster. With a series of veterans-for-prospects trades, Cleveland formally said goodbye to an era that included six American League Central titles in the previous seven years.

The Indians spent the second half of the season replenishing their minor league system and evaluating the young players they acquired in those trades. They now have more prospect depth than any franchise in the game.

The midseason deals landed five players who made 2002 Top 10 Prospects lists with their previous organization: Expos infielder Brandon Phillips and outfielder Grady Sizemore, Dodgers righthander Ricardo Rodriguez, Cardinals outfielder/first baseman Luis Garcia and Reds first baseman/outfielder Ben Broussard. Cleveland also got players whose stock rose during the season, including Expos lefthander Cliff Lee, Dodgers righthander Alberto Cruceta and lefty Lance Caraccioli, Cardinals outfielder Covelli Crisp and Athletics infielder Marshall McDougall.

That influx of talent, coupled with emerging prospects already in the system and products of a strong 2002 draft gives the Indians hope their rebuilding can be completed sooner rather than later.

With the new players comes a new manager, Eric Wedge, whose background is in player development. He served Cleveland as a minor league manager for the last six years and has worked with many of the prospects.

Expectations for 2003 will be way down, especially with the departure of Jim Thome as a free agent to the Phillies. The Indians would be content if Wedge can work several of the young players into key roles and have them show progress by the end of the season.

General manager Mark Shapiro’s administration enters its second year hoping it will be quieter and less eventful than its first. The turbulent 2002 season included the firing of manager Charlie Manuel, the death of longtime trainer Jimmy Warfield, injuries to several key players, a failed effort to retain Thome, and the acknowledgment that the club’s yearly waltz to a division title is no longer a given. It’s time to look at kids, lots and lots of kids.

Top Prospects
Of The Past Decade

1993 Manny Ramirez, of
1994 Manny Ramirez, of
1995 Jaret Wright, rhp
1996 Bartolo Colon, rhp
1997 Bartolo Colon, rhp
1998 Sean Casey, 1b
1999 Russell Branyan, 3b
2000 C.C. Sabathia, lhp
2001 C.C. Sabathia, lhp
2002 Corey Smith, 3b


Prospect Archives

1999 Top 10 Prospects
2000 Top 10 Prospects
2001 Top 10 Prospects
2002 Top 10 Prospects
• Top 10 Prospects Since 1983
• Top Prospects for all 30 teams
1. Brandon Phillips, ss/2b

Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 185. Drafted: HS–Stone Mountain, Ga., 1999 (2nd round). Signed by: Darryl Monroe (Expos).

Background: Of all the prospects the Indians reeled in with trades in 2002, Phillips was clearly the biggest trophy. Rated the Expos’ No. 1 prospect before the season, he was the marquee name in the package of prospects the Indians acquired for Bartolo Colon. It didn’t take Phillips long to establish himself as the best prospect in the Cleveland organization. After settling in at Triple-A Buffalo, Phillips flashed the five-tool ability that has always excited scouts. He earned a cameo on the big league roster in September and made several eye-popping plays at second base, his new position. He moved from shortstop because of Omar Vizquel’s presence on the big league club.

Strengths: Phillips is a premier athlete who projects as an all-star at either middle-infield postion. As a shortstop, Phillips has drawn comparisons to a young Barry Larkin or Derek Jeter. Hitting out of a Jeff Bagwell-style crouch, Phillips has the bat speed and athletic skill to be a top-of-the-order hitter. Few middle infielders offer his combination of hitting for average and power. He has average range and plus arm strength at shortstop, and those tools play even better at second base. Phillips also has a charisma about him that stamps him as a special player. His confidence and flair sometimes annoy opponents. But he also enjoys playing the game and doesn’t hide it.

Weaknesses: Phillips sometimes tries to do too much. He’ll overswing when ahead in the count. He needs to drive the ball to right-center to counter the adjustments pitchers have made to attack his holes. He’s an average runner to first base and could develop into a basestealing threat, though he’ll have to read pitchers more effectively. He’s still learning how to turn the double play as a second baseman. Most important is his weight transfer as he comes across the bag, which can lead to him short-hopping throws to first.

The Future: Phillips will get a long look for Cleveland’s second-base job, especially with incumbent Ricky Gutierrez a question mark following spinal surgery. Even if he returns to Triple-A, it won’t be long before he joins the Indians for good.

2002 Club (Class)

AVG

OBP

SLG

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

SO

SB

Harrisburg (AA)

.327

.380

.506

245

40

80

13

2

9

35

16

33

6

Ottawa (AAA)

.257

.297

.457

35

1

9

4

0

1

5

2

6

0

Buffalo (AAA)

.283

.321

.453

223

30

63

14

0

8

27

14

39

8

Cleveland

.258

.762

.419

31

5

8

3

1

0

4

3

6

0

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