Indians Prospects 2-10
Age: 24. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 185. Signed: Venezuela, 1996. Signed by: Luis Aponte.
Background: Martinez has won back-to-back batting titles and MVP awards in the high Class A Carolina and Double-A Eastern leaguesas a switch-hitting catcher. In 2002, he also led the EL in slugging percentage, on-base percentage and runs.
Strengths: Martinez is a natural hitter with tremendous strike-zone discipline and an uncanny ability to produce from either side of the plate. He rarely swings and misses. His power numbers jumped in 2002 as he got stronger. He has shown an ability to pick the pitch and count that allow him to drive the ball. Martinez skills at calling a game and blocking and receiving pitches are also major league ready.
Weaknesses: Martinez throwing needs work. Its a matter of getting his footwork and arm action aligned. He struggles to stay mechanically consistent, which led to him throwing out just two of 13 big leaguers who tried to steal on him in September.
The Future: Martinez will battle Josh Bard for a big league job. If Martinez doesnt emerge as the starter, hell begin the year in Triple-A. Hes Clevelands long-term catcher and a future all-star.
3. Cliff Lee, lhp
Age: 24. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 190. Drafted: Arkansas, 2000 (4th round). Signed by: Joe Jordan (Expos).
Background: Of the three prospects who came from Montreal in the Bartolo Colon trade, all rank in the top six on this list. Following the deal, Lee jumped from Double-A to Triple-A to the big leagues, getting rave reviews at each level.
Strengths: Lee is a rare pitcher who can win without his best stuff. And when hes on, watch out. His fastball sits at 91-93 mph, his slider has good late action, and his curveball and changeup give hitters something else to worry about. Lee is so smooth that hitters dont get a good read on his pitches until theyre halfway to the plate.
Weaknesses: Lees velocity was down to the high 80s in September, probably because his innings jumped in 2002. He just needs to adjust to the majors and appreciate the importance of every pitch.
The Future: Lee is a candidate to win one of the four openings in the rotation behind C.C. Sabathia. He, Billy Traber and Brian Tallet give Cleveland three advanced southpaws, and Lee has the most upside.
4. Jeremy Guthrie, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 195. Drafted: Stanford, 2002 (1st round). Signed by: Don Lyle.
Background: It took about four months, but the Indians signed Guthrie to a four-year, $4 million major league contract. The deal included a $3 million signing bonus, a club record. The negotiations prevented him from pitching in the minors, so he debuted in the Arizona Fall League.
Strengths: Guthrie is an advanced pitcher. His fastball is in the 92-93 mph range and will touch 95 at times, and his slider and changeup are plus pitches. He has a strong, compact body and commands all his pitches well. Hes mature beyond his years, thanks in part to a two-year Mormon mission in Spain.
Weaknesses: Guthrie faded late in 2001, his first year back from Spain, so there were some questions about his durability. But he answered those by finishing strong in 2002 and didnt miss a start in two years at Stanford. Hes 23, so theres not a lot of room for projection, but hes plenty good as is.
The Future: Guthrie likely will begin his pro career at Double-A Akron, unless the Indians decide to send him to the warmer climate of high Class A Kinston for the first month. It wont be a surprise if he reaches Cleveland by the end of 2003.
5. Travis Hafner, 1b
Age: 25. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 240. Drafted: Cowley County (Kan.) CC (31st Round). Signed by: Mike Grouse.
Background: The deal that brought Hafner to the Indians could not have worked out better for the North Dakota native, who had done all he could do with the Rangers. He signed with Texas as a draft-and-follow after helping Cowley County (Kan.) Junior College to a NJCAA national championship, and was MVP of the 1997 Juco World Series. Only injuries (including a broken wrist in 2001) and a backlog of corner infielders (starting with Rafael Palmeiro) have slowed Hafner as a pro.
Strengths: One member of the Rangers' front office directly compared him to Jim Thome (more than a month before the trade) as an on-base monster with 30-40 home run power. He always has used the whole field, and as his plate discipline has improved, he's unleashed his power by hitting his pitches and learning to pull the ball authoritatively. He's a grinder who has learned to keep his right shoulder in and hit lefthanded pitching (.351 in 94 at-bats) and knows the value of a walk.
Weaknesses: Defensively, he's not a slug, but Hafner is far from fluid. His footwork can be awkward, and he'll have to work to be adequate. Hafner also is something of a baseclogger.
The Future: Consistently blocked in the Rangers organization, Hafner's polished offensive game should fit right in with Cleveland's rebuilding efforts. The first base job for 2003 looks like his to lose.
6. Ricardo Rodriguez, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 165. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1996. Signed by: Pablo Peguero (Dodgers).
Background: Acquired from the Dodgers for Paul Shuey, Rodriguez was the Dodgers top prospect a year ago. Some scouts even rated righthander Francisco Cruceta, who also was included in the trade, ahead of him. That transaction looks like a heist in Clevelands favor.
Strengths: Rodriguez has the demeanor and talent to pitch at the front of a rotation. He loves to pitch insidehe drilled eight batters in seven big league gamesand challenge hitters. His 92-95 mph fastball has above-average sink, and his slider is a strikeout pitch.
Weaknesses: Because of his aggressiveness, Rodriguez becomes too fastball-oriented with the game on the line. He got off to a slow start in 2002, which was attributed to too many innings in winter ball.
The Future: Rodriguez is a strong candidate for the Cleveland rotation in 2003. There are four openings in the rotation, and hes the best righthander among the candidates, which works in his favor.
7. Grady Sizemore, of
Age: 20. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 205. Drafted: HSMill Creek, Wash., 2000 (3rd round). Signed by: Scott Goldby (Expos).
Background: The third player on this list who was acquired in the Bartolo Colon trade, Sizemore stepped up his offensive production after switching organizations. If the Expos hadnt given him a $2 million signing bonus as a 2000 third-round pick, hed be playing college football at Washington.
Strengths: Extremely confident, Sizemore is one of the most advanced hitters in the system. Hes an above-average runner with the ability to cover center field, and he controls the strike zone well. He proved to be a natural, Kirk Gibson-style leader at Kinston and backed up his confidence by repeatedly coming through in the clutch.
Weaknesses: Sizemores arm is his biggest weakness. He has a fringe arm for center, though his range and instincts should keep him at the position. He has yet to show the power the Indians expect will come, which may be related to his middle-of-the-field approach.
The Future: Just 20, Sizemore is one of the most exciting position players Cleveland has had in years. Hell start the 2003 season in Double-A and could be ready for the majors by mid-2004.
8. Billy Traber, lhp
Age: 23. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 205. Drafted: Loyola Marymount, 2000 (1st round). Signed by: Bob Minor (Mets).
Background: Alex Escobar was the biggest name acquired from the Mets for Roberto Alomar, but Trabers importance was reinforced when Escobar missed all of 2002 with a knee injury. While other pitching prospects were called up to Cleveland in September, Traber was not, in order to save a spot on the 40-man roster and to ease his workload.
Strengths: Pure and simple, Traber is a winner. He finished second in the minors with 17 wins. He isnt overpowering but has a variety of pitches and an unorthodox delivery. Hes a strike thrower with good life and movement on all his pitches, making it tough for hitters to make hard contact. His fastball has below-average velocity at 87-88 mph, but its movement and Trabers delivery make it a solid pitch. His curveball and splitter are also reliable.
Weaknesses: Trabers changeup is his weakest pitch, and he needs it against righthanders. The Mets discovered ligament damage in his elbow after drafting him, but he has been durable as a pro.
The Future: Yet another candidate for the Opening Day rotation, Traber should make his major league debut at some point in 2003.
9. Brian Tallet, lhp
Age: 25. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-7. Wt.: 208. Drafted: Louisiana State, 2002 (2nd round). Signed by: Rene Gayo.
Background: Tallet threw six shutout innings against Boston on Sept. 16 to win his first big league start. His performance wasnt a surprise, considering he pitched in pressure games at Louisiana State, including the championship game of the 2000 College World Series. Hes similar to Traber with more velocity and less control.
Strengths: Tallet has absolutely no fear. He throws an 89-91 mph fastball, a slider and a changeup. He commands all his offerings and on a given night, any of the three could be his No. 1 pitch. Savvy and fearless, he enjoys throwing inside. He has no problem getting righthanders out and actually has more trouble with lefties.
Weaknesses: At 6-foot-7, maintaining his mechanics can be a challenge for Tallet at times, and hes an easy mark for basestealers. Opponents succeeded on 20 of 27 steal attempts in 2002.
The Future: Tallet is in the mix for a spot in the 2003 rotation. Because Cleveland has an abundance of lefthanders, its possible his long-term role with the Indians might be in the bullpen.
10. Jason Davis, rhp
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 195. Drafted: Cleveland State (Tenn.) CC, D/F 1999 (21st round). Signed by: Mark Germann.
Background: A basketball player in junior college, Davis signed as a draft-and-follow. He won 14 games at low Class A Columbus in 2001, his first full season as a pro. He ended 2002 by pitching well in three big league appearances after starting the year in high Class A.
Strengths: Though hes 6-foot-6, Davis is the most athletic pitcher in the organization and is adept at fielding his position and controlling the running game. He also might have the best arm in the system. He works in the 93-95 mph range with a heavy fastball and will touch 98. A workhorse, he also has an above-average splitter.
Weaknesses: Davis slider needs more work, but its coming. He needs to learn to use both sides of the plate with his fastball and work inside against righthanders. As good as his stuff is, he gets hit more often than he should. A better changeup also would help him.
The Future: Unlike most of the candidates for Clevelands rotation, Davis hasnt pitched in Triple-A. Some time in Buffalo to smooth out his secondary pitches and approach might be beneficial.
Best of the Rest
The influx of talent into the Indians organization meant that worthy candidates failed to crack the top 10 list. Several of them came from the last two drafts.
Beyond Jeremy Guthrie, the Indians had two other first-rounders in 2002. Third baseman Matt Whitney and second baseman Micah Schilling, both sandwich picks, are offensive-minded players. Other picks with promise are righthander Brian Slocum (second round), who could be the next Charles Nagy, and outfielder Ben Francisco (fifth), who won the short-season New York-Penn League batting title.
Cleveland also signed Sean Smith as a draft-and-follow in May. Smith, a 16th-round pick, is one of several talented righthanders from the 2001 draft. Others include first-rounders Dan Denham and J.D. Martin, second-rounder Jake Dittler and fourth-rounder Travis Foley.
Several prospects acquired in the clubs trades are part of Clevelands future but couldnt make the top 10. Among them are righthander Francisco Cruceta (part of the Paul Shuey trade with Los Angeles), outfielder Alex Escobar (Roberto Alomar, Mets), catcher Josh Bard and outfielder Jody Gerut (Jacob Cruz, Colorado), outfielders Luis Garcia and Covelli Crisp (Chuck Finley, St. Louis), first baseman/outfielder Ben Broussard (Russell Branyan, Cincinnati) and infielder Marshall McDougall (Ricardo Rincon, Oakland).
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The Top 10 Prospects lists are based on players' projected long-term worth and on discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of Opening Day 2003.
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