Cleveland Indians: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Cleveland Indians: Scouting Reports




Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after 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 April 1, 2009.

Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
Indians Chat
Ben Badler
Pre-Order the 2009 Prospect Handbook
30 scouting reports on every team

INDIANS
LINKS
Indians' Team Page
Indians Top 10 Prospects
Last Year's Indians Top 10 Prospects
2008 Draft: Indians (Basic Database)
2008 Draft: Indians (Advanced Database)
2008 Draft Report Cards: Cleveland Indians
Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
Pre-Order the 2009 Prospect Handbook
Cleveland Indians

After the Indians nearly reached the 2007 World Series, forecasts had them contending for another American League Central title in 2008. Yet despite outscoring their opponents by 44 runs, the Indians finished 81-81. They languished in last place for much of the season until mid-August, precipitating the trade of C.C. Sabathia to the Brewers on July 7, though their 40-28 record after the all-star break was the sixth-best in baseball.

Sabathia is the only star the Indians have drafted since they made him the 20th overall selections in 1998. The club has gotten little return on its first-round and supplemental first-round choices since. The Tribe had 12 such picks from 2000-03, and among them only Jeremy Guthrie has found any big league success—and that came after the Orioles claimed him on waivers.

Sabathia's departure left Ben Francisco, Ryan Garko, Aaron Laffey and Jensen Lewis as the only homegrown draftees to make much of an impact for 2008 Indians. Former Tribe draft picks Ryan Church, Guthrie, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Luke Scott have enjoyed various degrees of success with other clubs.

Nevertheless, the Indians have found alternate ways to build a perennial AL Central contender. Asdrubal Cabrera, Franklin Gutierrez, Travis Hafner, Cliff Lee, Kelly Shoppach and Grady Sizemore all came to Cleveland as minor leaguers through trades, while Shin-Soo Choo had only two big league hits before the Tribe acquired him. Victor Martinez signed with the Indians out of Venezuela, while Fausto Carmona, Jhonny Peralta and Rafael Perez were found in the Dominican Republic.

By dealing Sabathia and Casey Blake, Cleveland continued its history of bolstering its farm system with other organizations' prospects. Catcher Carlos Santana, the prize of the Blake trade, and outfielder Matt LaPorta, the key to the Sabathia deal, immediately became the Tribe's two best prospects. Two more players in those transactions, outfielder/first baseman Michael Brantley and righthander Jonathan Meloan, also should help the big league club in the near future.

For the first time in five years, righthander Adam Miller doesn't rank No. 1 on this prospect list, but he still has as much star potential as any Indians draftee in the system. And if the 2003 first-rounder can stay healthy after pitching just 95 innings over the last two years, Miller could join Meloan in immediately upgrading a bullpen that posted the second-worst relief ERA (5.13) in the majors last season.

Another homegrown pitcher, lefty David Huff, could upgrade the rotation in 2009. They're a little further away, but two more Tribe draftees, outfielder Nick Weglarz and first baseman Beau Mills, could bolster the lineup by the end of 2010.

In an effort to reap more from the draft, Cleveland spent $7 million on its 2008 crop—up from $3.6 million the year before. The Indians doled out $1.1 million to sweet-swinging infielder Lonnie Chisenhall in the first round and far exceeded MLB's slot recommendations to land righthanders Trey Haley, Zach Putnam and Bryce Stowell, lefthander T.J. House and outfielder Tim Fedroff. They also maintained a strong international presence, paying $715,000 for Venezuelan catcher Alex Monsalve and $575,000 for Dominican shortstop Jose Ozoria.

1.  Carlos Santana, c   Born: April 8, 1986B-T: B-RHt: 5-11Wt: 188
 Signed: Domincan Republic, 2004. Signed by: Andres Lopez.
Carlos SantanaBackground: The Dodgers signed Santana out of the Dominican Republic for $75,000 in 2004, and he split time between third base and the outfield in his first two pro seasons. Los Angeles has had success converting position players into catchers, most notably Russell Martin, and they had Santana make the transition during instructional league following the 2006 season. In his first season behind the plate, he showed defensive promise but the combination of catching and the pitcher-friendly Midwest League took a huge toll on his bat. He hit just .223/.318/.370 at low Class A Great Lakes, though he had nearly as many walks (40) as strikeouts (45). This year he led the high Class A California League with a .993 OPS and won league MVP honors despite getting traded on July 26. The Dodgers wanted Casey Blake to fill a hole at third base, but they also didn't want to pick up any of the roughly $2 million in salary remaining on his contract. In return for paying Blake's remaining salary, the Indians were able to increase their return, getting Santana along with righthander John Meloan. Santana didn't slow down after switching organizations, destroying high Class A pitching for a month with Kinston. He received a late-season promotion for Double-A Akron's playoff run, though a minor groin strain kept him mostly on the bench.

Strengths: Santana has shown good strike-zone discipline ever since signing with the Dodgers. He swings aggressively at strikes and routinely squares up balls with authority, using his lower half well and getting good extension. He has a good two-strike approach and doesn't chase pitches outside the strike zone. He should hit for a high average and OBP with average power. He's more athletic than most catchers. Though he still has work to do behind the plate, Santana has good defensive tools. He moves well and has a strong arm.

Weaknesses: Most of Santana's improvement must come behind the plate, and he's still learning the nuances of catching. He sometimes lacks accuracy with his throws and erased just 23 percent of basestealers in the Cal League, though his success rate improved to 40 percent after the trade. After committing 20 passed balls in 67 games in 2007, he cut that number to 14 in 106 contests last season, but he still needs to get better. Balls down and in to his glove side can give him trouble and he must get smoother receiving balls on the outer half, as he has a tendency to get stiff-wristed at times. He's making progress blocking balls but that's another skill he's still working on. He understands English well but doesn't yet speak the language comfortably. Santana usually has a good stoke at the plate, but he can get too long with his swing and too wild with his feet at times. He's a below-average runner, though an occasional threat to steal.

The Future: Kelly Shoppach's big year means that the Indians won't have to rush Santana, who will begin 2009 on a prospect-laden Akron club. He has all the ingredients to become an all-star catcher and could reach Cleveland by the end of 2010.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Inland Empire (HiA)
.323
.431
.563
350
88
113
34
4
14
96
69
59
7
Kinston (HiA)
.352
.452
.590
105
34
37
5
1
6
19
20
24
3
Akron (AA)
.125
.125
.500
8
3
1
0
0
1
2
0
2
0
 
2.  Matt LaPorta, of   Born: Jan. 8, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 210
 Drafted: Florida, 2007 (1st round). Signed by: Charlie Aliano (Brewers).
Matt LaPortaBackground: After signing for $2 million as the seventh overall pick in the 2007 draft, LaPorta opened his first full pro season in Double-A and was named to the Futures Game before the Brewers made him the key chip they used to acquire C.C. Sabathia. Shortly afterward, he left for the Beijing Olympics.

Strengths: LaPorta's physical frame, strength and load in his swing help him generate well above-average power. He has the patience to take walks, and he also aggressively punishes mistakes. He can drive the ball out of the park to all fields when he gets his arms extended. Though he played first base at Florida, scouts have been impressed with his outfield instincts.

Weaknesses: Like a lot of power hitters, LaPorta still has some holes in his swing—in his case, high and inside, and against offspeed pitches low and away. He struggled after the trade and again in Venezuelan winter ball when pitchers fed him soft stuff in hitter's counts. Though he has some feel for the outfield, he has below-average speed and range with fringy arm strength.

The Future: Though the Indians could use his power now, LaPorta likely will being 2009 at their new Triple-A Columbus affiliate. Depending on the needs of the club, he could play either first base or left field, and he'll have an above-average bat at any position.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Huntsville (AA)
.288
.402
.576
302
56
87
23
2
20
66
45
63
2
Akron (AA)
.233
.299
.350
60
6
14
1
0
2
8
4
12
0
 
3.  Nick Weglarz, of   Born: Dec. 16, 1987B-T: L-L Ht: 6-3Wt: 245
 Drafted: HS—Stevensville, Ont., 2005 (3rd round). Signed by: Les Pajari.
Nick WeglarzBackground: After missing nearly the entire 2006 season with a broken hamate bone in his right hand, Weglarz has had two successful years in Class A ball. He was one of the Carolina League's youngest players before he joined Canada's Olympic team in August. Weglarz belted two home runs in a loss against Cuba and was Canada's best hitter despite being its second-youngest player.

Strengths: Weglarz has uncanny discipline for a player his age and size, rarely offering at pitches outside of the strike zone and showing the potential to draw 100 walks in a season. He generates excellent loft, bat speed and leverage with his swing and shows plus-plus power potential, giving him an outstanding combination of power and patience.

Weaknesses: Weglarz reduced some of his extraneous hand movement in his trigger, but his hand setup is still a work in progress. His legs help him generate his power, but he needs to consistently get the back half of his body through the ball. With his enormous size, he'll have to work to maintain his already below-average speed and to stay in left field. His range and arm are both fringy at best.

The Future: Weglarz is on the same track as Matt LaPorta, one level behind him. Weglarz will open 2009 with Double-A Akron and he could crack the major league roster by mid-2010.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Kinston (HiA)
.272
.396
.432
375
68
102
20
5
10
41
71
78
9
 
4.  Adam Miller, rhp   Born: Nov. 26, 1984B-T: R-RHt: 6-4Wt: 200
HS—McKinney, Texas, 2003 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Matt Ruebel.
Adam MillerBackground: The No. 1 prospect on this list the previous four years, Miller continues to show great promise and an inability to stay healthy. His 2008 season ended in May when he had surgery on his right middle finger, and he went to the Dominican League to make up for lost time.

Strengths: Miller's fastball is the best in the organization, a lively 93-95 mph heater that regularly touched 97 mph in his early winter-ball outings. When he's at his best, his slider is a plus-plus 86-88 mph pitch with late break, and it too looked good in the Dominican. He also uses a two-seam fastball to get groundballs. He has a relatively stress-free delivery and good command.

Weaknesses: The only thing that has kept Miller from the majors so far is his health. He strained his elbow in 2005 and had elbow and finger issues in 2007 before missing most of the 2008 season. Some scouts feel that his arm action may continue to cause him elbow problems, as he has a high back elbow. He needs to leverage his lower half more frequently in his delivery.

The Future: A starter throughout his minor league career, Miller may have to move to the bullpen for health reasons. He should compete for a big league relief role in 2009 and soon could become the dominant closer the Indians have sorely lacked in recent years.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Buffalo (AAA)
0
1
1.88
6
6
0
0
28.2
26
0
12
20
.239
 
5.  Beau Mills, 1b   Born: Aug. 15, 1986B-T: L-RHt: 6-2 Wt: 220
 Drafted: Lewis-Clark State (Idaho), 2007 (1st round). Signed by: Greg Smith.
Beau MillsBackground: After being suspended at Fresno State for academic shortcomings after his sophpmore year, Mills transferred to Lewis-Clark State (Idaho). He led the Warriors to their 15th national championship in 2007, hitting an NAIA-record 38 homers, and signed for $1.575 million as the 13th overall pick in the draft. The son of former big leaguer and Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills, he led the system with 21 homers in his first full pro season.

Strengths: Mills generates plus power to all fields with good leverage and strength. He stays balanced at the plate, has a pure swing and possesses the patience to draw walks. His arm strength improved after the Indians put him on an extensive throwing program following a shoulder impingement in 2006 that didn't require surgery.

Weaknesses: While Mills does have a good feel for hitting and for the strike zone, he's susceptible to chasing both breaking balls in the dirt and high fastballs. He needs to adjust his two-strike approach. He moved from third base to first base in 2008, but his footwork isn't clean and his actions around the bag aren't the smoothest. Mills is a below-average runner.

The Future: Mills will start 2009 in Double-A. He could compete for a big league job in 2010, though the system is heavy with sluggers who profile best at first base.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Kinston (HiA)
.293
.373
.506
482
78
141
34
3
21
90
54
105
2
 
6.  Lonnie Chisenhall, ss   Born: Oct. 4, 1986B-T: L-RHt: 6-1Wt: 200
 Drafted: Pitt (N.C.) CC, 2008 (1st round). Signed by: Bob Mayer .
Lonnie ChisenhallBackground: Rated the nation's No. 1 freshman before the 2007 season, Chisenhall looked as good as advertised until South Carolina dismissed him from the team following his arrest on charges of larceny. Chisenhall transferred to Pitt (N.C.) CC for 2008 and batted .410/.528/.765 with just eight strikeouts in 218 plate appearances before the Indians made him the 29th overall pick in June. He signed with the Indians for $1.1 million.

Strengths: Chisenhall combines an excellent feel for hitting with nice balance and a pure swing that's short and quick to the ball. His frame and stroke are geared more for line drives, but he projects to hit for average power. He has a strong arm and surprised Cleveland with how well he handled shortstop in his pro debut.

Weaknesses: Chisenhall uses the entire field well, but he could do a better job of keeping his hands inside the ball at times. His speed, range and hands don't stand out, so he likely faces a move to third base in the near future. With better defensive tools, he would profile nicely at second base, but that's probably a stretch.

The Future: He should have enough bat for the hot corner, and Chisenhall could move there in 2009. His bat is advanced enough that he could skip a level and open 2009 in high Class A, putting him on pace to reach the majors as early as 2011.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Mahoning (SS)
.290
.355
.438
276
38
80
20
3
5
45
24
32
7
 
7.  Kelvin de la Cruz, lhp   Born: Aug. 1, 1988B-T: L-LHt: 6-5Wt: 187
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2004. Signed by: Johnny Martinez.
Kelvin de la CruzBackground: When the Indians signed de la Cruz in 2004, the lanky lefty pitched at 83-84 mph and topped out at 86. His velocity has climbed steadily each year, and he finally reached full-season ball in 2008.

Strengths: De la Cruz now sits at 89-92 mph and touches 93-94 with his four-seam fastball. He's still growing and getting stronger, so he could add more velocity. His best pitch is his 75-77 mph curveball, which has two-plane depth and neutralizes lefties and righties. He also mixes in a two-seam fastball with good sink and a changeup that shows promise.

Weaknesses: De la Cruz struggles to maintain his mid- to high three-quarters arm slot, which impedes his ability to throw strikes. Better balance and separation over the rubber will allow him to repeat his release point out front. Scouts have differing opinions about his athleticism, though that may be because he's still growing into his body and coordination. He needs to throw his changeup more often and it has taken a back seat in developmental priority to fastball command.

The Future: De la Cruz again will be one of the high Class A Carolina League's youngest pitchers in 2009. How quickly he can make the necessary mechanical adjustments will dictate the speed of his ascent.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Lake County (LoA)
8
4
1.69
18
18
1
0
95.2
71
2
34
96
.207
Akron (AA)
1
0
7.20
1
1
0
0
5
4
1
3
4
.222
Kinston (HiA)
3
2
6.44
8
8
0
0
29.1
35
1
25
36
.292
 
8.  David Huff, lhp   Born: Aug. 22, 1984 B-T: L-LHt: 6-2Wt: 190
 Drafted: UCLA, 2006 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Vince Sagisi.
David HuffBackground: After signing for $950,000 as a supplemental first-rounder in 2006, Huff appeared poised to rise rapidly through the system. Instead, elbow soreness shut him down in May 2007, though he was able to avoid surgery. He bounced back in 2008, breezing through the upper levels of the minors.

Strengths: Huff is athletic and repeats his excellent delivery to pound the zone with each of his pitches, the best of which is a plus changeup. He commands both sides of the plate with his 87-92 mph fastball. He improved his slider in 2008, and it's now a reliable third pitch.

Weaknesses: Huff also has a curveball, but it's more of a show-me pitch. He won't overpower anyone with velocity, though he has more on his fastball than fellow Indians lefthanders Aaron Laffey and Jeremy Sowers. After his elbow woes, the Indians kept him on a short leash in 2008, so he still has to prove he can pitch effectively the third time through the lineup against big league hitters.

The Future: Huff will compete for a role in Cleveland's rotation during spring training. He has the potential to develop into a No. 3 or 4 starter.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Akron (AA)
5
1
1.92
11
10
1
0
65.2
44
5
14
62
.189
Buffalo (AAA)
6
4
3.01
16
16
0
0
80.2
68
8
15
81
.224
 
9.  Michael Brantley, of/1b   Born: May 15, 1987B-T: L-LHt: 6-2Wt: 180
 Drafted: HS—Fort Pierce, Fla., 2005 (7th round). Signed by: Larry Pardo (Brewers).
Michael BrantleyBackground: The son of former big leaguer Mickey Brantley, Michael ranked second in the minors in plate appearances per strikeout (17.7) in 2008. At the end of the season, the Indians selected him over infielder Taylor Green as the player to be named in the C.C. Sabathia trade.

Strengths: Brantley has outstanding barrel control and contact-hitting ability, spraying the ball to all fields. He has walked more than he has struck out in each of his four pro seasons. He has a quick bat and a fundamentally sound swing, and he was able to generate more loft in his swing in 2008 than he had shown in previous years. A good athlete, he has plus speed and good instincts on the bases.

Weaknesses: Brantley has shown very little power in his career, though at 6-foot-2 and with broad shoulders he has the potential to develop some pop. Despite his speed and feel for other aspects of the game, he has received mixed reviews in center field, where he doesn't get the best reads off the bat. His lack of power doesn't play as well in left field or at first base. His arm strength is below average.

The Future: Brantley has proven himself everywhere but Triple-A. He'll need to start driving the ball with more authority to find a regular role in the big leagues, however.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Huntsville (AA)
.319
.395
.398
420
80
134
17
2
4
40
50
27
28
 
10.  Carlos Rivero, ss   Born: May 20, 1988B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3Wt: 210
 Signed: Venezuela, 2004. Signed by: Stewart Ruiz.
Carlos RiveroBackground: Rivero signed for $100,000 as a 16-year-old in 2005, and he's still just tapping into his potential. The second-youngest regular in the Carolina League in 2008, he exploded in the final month, batting .358/.413/.587 with five of his eight homers in the season's final 28 games.

Strengths: Rivero has plus power that's evident in batting practice, though that power has yet to manifest itself in games with much frequency. As his frame continues to fill out, his power should continue to grow. He has a sound swing that generates plenty of bat speed, and he is a good athlete. Defensively, he offers soft hands and a strong arm.

Weaknesses: While Rivero has tools, the gap between his potential and his present ability is still significant. He struggles to recognize breaking pitches, and he needs to get his hands into a better load position. He has the arm for shortstop, but 16 of his 24 errors last season came on throws. He's a below-average runner with below-average lateral range, and scouts from other clubs think a move to third base might be a better fit.

The Future: If he puts everything together, some club officials believe he could become another Jhonny Peralta. Rivero will reach Double-A before he turns 21 and could join the Indians at some point in 2010.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Kinston (HiA)
.282
.342
.411
411
46
116
27
1
8
64
36
84
1

Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
Pre-Order the 2009 Prospect Handbook
30 scouting reports on every team

Photo Credits:
Bill Mitchell (Santana, Chisenhall, Brantley)
Rodger Wood (LaPorta, Huff)
Carl Kline (Weglarz, Mills, de la Cruz, Rivero)