Cleveland Indians: Top 10 Prospects Chat With Ben Badler

Cleveland Indians: Chat




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.

 Q:  Tom Emanski from Over the Rhine asks:
There are two questions like this back-to-back in the queue, and yes, it seems like every prospect in this system is either already at first base, left field or otherwise has questions about his future defensive position. The Indians were in fact in the bottom half our organizational rankings last year, checking in at No. 19, but I think they'll make a significant leap when our 2009 Handbook comes out. The top three prospects in the system stack up well with anyone's in baseball, and there is good depth after the top 10, a mixture of high-ceiling guys with minimal pro experience and some other players who won't be above-average big leaguers but will contribute in bullpen or platoon roles, which the Indians seem to leverage well.
 A: 

Ben Badler: Welcome to our internet baseball discussion.

Ben Badler: There are two questions like this back-to-back in the queue, and yes, it seems like every prospect in this system is either already at first base, left field or otherwise has questions about his future defensive position. The Indians were in fact in the bottom half our organizational rankings last year, checking in at No. 19, but I think they'll make a significant leap when our 2009 Handbook comes out. It's a little early to put a number on it, but Indians fans should be very happy with the system, which is well ahead of the rest of the farm systems in the AL Central. The top three prospects in the system stack up well with anyone's in baseball, and there is good depth after the top 10, a mixture of high-ceiling guys with minimal pro experience and some other players who won't be above-average big leaguers but will contribute in bullpen or platoon roles, which the Indians seem to leverage well.

Moderator: Something went a little loopy here with Tom's question and Ben's answer, but here was Tom's original question: The Indians have perenially been rated as one of the best farm systems and I suspect that they will be in the top 15 again this year. My question is - do they deserve to be? Mills, LaPorta, Weglarz all project as 1B/DH type of guys and the rest of the Top 10 either have injury concerns or you have to squint to see their potential. All of this does not account for Carlos Santana, a total steal from the Dodgers. What are your thoughts on the system in general?

 Q:  ben from phoenix asks:
How close was Hector Rondon to making the top ten? I know the Indians like him and are gonna put him on the 40 man roster by tomorrow. He was also a played in the futures game.
 A: 

Ben Badler: Rondon improved this year, and any 20-year-old who strikes out a batter per inning in the Carolina League and shows good command is going to get people's attention. I can see him being a useful big league starter in time, but I'm wary of right-handed pitchers without an above-average breaking ball. He's not far from the top 10.

 Q:  Nate from Richmond, RI asks:
True or false: Carlos Rivero, a year from now, is Alcides Escobar of today.
 A: 

Ben Badler: I dont' really see the comparison. Escobar is a superlative defensive shortstop, while Rivero has much more power potential.

 Q:  Ben from Ohio asks:
Did Wes Hodges have a shot at the top 10 or has his stock fallen a bit.
 A: 

Ben Badler: He was close but ended up on the periphery of the 10. It's questionable whether Hodges will stick at third base, and if he does stick there, he's probably going to be among the worst fielders at his position in the game, probably a -10 to -15 runs guy each year, and it's not like he's getting any younger or more agile. He came into the season in better condition than usual, but if he has to move to first base or if he's that far below average third base, then his value takes a huge hit.

 Q:  Elliot from Youngstown OH asks:
LaPorta's offensive struggles since the Trade don't seem to have affected his rating, well maybe dropped one spot. Isn't his inability to make contact in Venezuela a worry?
 A: 

Ben Badler: LaPorta's had a pretty full plate between the trade, the Futures Game, the Olympics and winter ball, so I'm not too worried about him not tearing the cover off the ball in Akron or Venezuela. I think he's seeing what a lot of very good minor leaguers see in the Caribbean leagues, which is pitchers who like to throw 3-1 sliders and 2-0 changeups, and that's something he's still learning to adjust to. He has some patience, he'll draw walks, but he still has to tighten his strike-zone discipline.

 Q:  John from Cincinnati, Oh asks:
What role do you see Jon Meloan filling for the Indians? Is he still viewed as a possible future closer?
 A: 

Ben Badler: I don't think the Indians see him as a closer, but he's a good bullpen arm. With his repertoire and mechanics, it was surprising to me that the Dodgers moved him into the starting rotation this past season, so I think he'll bounce back well in 2009 in a return to relief.

 Q:  Jude from Denver asks:
I must say, your faith in Miller is nothing if not persistent. At what point will his health be more of a concern than his mechanics, enough so he falls off the Top 10?
 A: 

Ben Badler: Well it's my first year doing the top 30 list for the Indians, so I'm not sure about the persistent part, but yes, a pitcher on the cusp of the big leagues with a fastball touching 97 and a nasty slider is going to rank prominently. The health and the mechanics are a concern, which is why I think he's headed for the bullpen in 2009 and could develop into a dominant relief ace pretty quickly.

 Q:  Kyle from Middletown asks:
Do you think that Lonnie Chisenahall was an overdraft considering that he projects as a third baseman with averag power? Are there lingering concerns about his character or is all of that behind him?
 A: 

Ben Badler: No, in fact I like Chisenhall quite a bit. He's not going to have 70 power, but has an excellent swing, good balance, makes frequent contact and controls the strike zone well, so he should have a very high OBP if everything continues to click for him. The "character" stuff stemming from his days at South Carolina received practically zero weight in my evaluations.

 Q:  Elliot from Youngstown OH asks:
Did Abner Abreu come close to the Top 10? Terrific power numbers for the 18-year-old in Rookie ball.
 A: 

Ben Badler: He's in the middle of the 30 and he'll probably move to the outfield. He has great bat speed and generates excellent power already with his swing and the leverage he creates, but the plate discipline is a huge red flag right now for me before I can push him any higher up the list. I think sometimes, for whatever reasons, people give too much of a free pass to Latin American hitters who have poor strike-zone judgment. But you're right, he's got plenty of tools and upside potential.

 Q:  Jason from St. Louis, MO asks:
What were the Dodgers thinking when they gave up Santana? Did they just not evaluate their own prospects properly?
 A: 

Ben Badler: They do have an outstanding young catcher in the big leagues right now, but yes, I think they gave up too much to get Casey Blake.

 Q:  Tom from Newburyport, MA asks:
I was surprised that LaPorta was not #1, given his combination of ceiling and how close he is to the majors. Does Santana get the nod because of the more difficult defensive position, despite being further away?
 A: 

Ben Badler: It was close, and it was a ranking I went back and forth on several times. LaPorta has the edge in certainty, given what he's accomplished in Double-A already and his closer proximity to the major leagues. But I went with Santana because of the huge positional advantage he has over LaPorta. Santana has the defensive tools and athleticism to stick behind the plate and the offensive tools and strike-zone discipline to be a high OBP, high slugging catcher, which has more value than a left fielder with below-average range. That's why I give Santana an edge in expected major league value.

 Q:  David from Wichita asks:
Which position, in your opinion, is the weakest in the Indians farm system?
 A: 

Ben Badler: Starting pitching, especially righthanded starting pitching. They have Rondon, and a little bit lower there are guys like Trey Haley, Zach Putnam and Bryce Stowell, but all of their righthanded pitchers are very low in the system.

 Q:  Terrance from Whittier asks:
Is it your opinion that Adam Miller no longer has the stuff to remain a starter?
 A: 

Ben Badler: No, the stuff is still there, but between his arm action, his inability to stay healthy and a fastball that will play up as a reliever, the bullpen seems to make the most sense for him.

 Q:  Jeff from Vancouver, Canada asks:
Is Jordan Brown still on the radar anywhere? All he has done in his minor league career is hit. Where does he fit into the Indians future plans or does he at all? There has to be somewhere to fit a potential batting champ into the lineup. His only drawback seems to be his lack of power.
 A: 

Ben Badler: He has, until this year. His strike-zone discipline came unglued a bit this year, and if that continues, with average power, that's not going to be of much value at first base. With his track record of hitting, I could see him bouncing back, but this season drops him quite a bit in the rankings, although on the bright side it sounds like his defensive skills improved.

 Q:  Cory from Akron asks:
Ben thanks for the chat. What are you hearing about Rob Bryson, and was he a close call for the top 10?
 A: 

Ben Badler: He would have probably been in the 11-15 range if he hadn't torn his labrum. That's going to drop him precipitously.

 Q:  Jason from Salem, OR asks:
So the next logical question regarding Adam Miller is will he be Cleveland's closer next year at some point? Seems to me that with his health issues and their need for a stopper, this seems to be the perfect fit.
 A: 

Ben Badler: It's certainly possible, but at this point in the off-season, it depends on what other pieces the Indians assemble for their 2009 bullpen. If they bring in a bullpen arm with a good track record and experience pitching in the 9th inning, then Miller probably won't be closing games. The 9th inning isn't always the most important inning in a game anyways, so having him pitch crucial high-leverage innings in the 7th and 8th innings should still be plenty valuable, even if it's someone else getting the saves.

 Q:  keith from New Jersey asks:
What Is Kelvin De La Cruz's is ceiling and do you think he is a middle of the order sp or better? Thanks
 A: 

Ben Badler: De La Cruz is just scratching the surface of what he's capable of because he's 6-foot-5 and still growing into his body. He has the potential to be an average to above-average major league starting pitcher, especially if his velocity continues to climb, but he needs to straighten out some issues with his arm slot and in turn his command. If he doesn't, then maybe he just turns into a Donald Veal type. But I'm cautiously optimistic.

 Q:  Darren from UK asks:
I like Rivero, but aren't you banking on a Jhonny Peralta type breakout in AA next year to justify the ranking?
 A: 

Ben Badler: I think the Indians are hoping that happens. There are people who saw Rivero this year and Peralta when he was in the Carolina League back in 2001 who say they are very similar players at the same phase of their careers... the tools, the plus raw power, good athleticism but not great runners and the strikeouts. Of course Peralta was 19 years old when he was with Kinston, so I wouldn't put Rivero quite in his class, but he has a similar skill set. And .282/.342/.411 from a 20-year-old shortstop playing in Kinston isn't too shabby already, but he's going to have to get better adjusting to the off-speed stuff.

 Q:  joey from petaluma, ca asks:
what does santana do to the status of the other catchers in the indians farm system? Seems like theres alot of depth there and what do you think of them particulary Torregas and Giminez.
 A: 

Ben Badler: They both seem like solid bets to be backup catchers at some point. I would probably try to sell high on Kelly Shoppach right now if I could, too.

 Q:  Adam from NYC asks:
Just how good can Weglarz be in the majors? Are we looking at another Justin Morneau part deux? How does he project offensively, at his peak?
 A: 

Ben Badler: Weglarz was a lock to be the No. 1 prospect in the system before the organization's mid-season trades, and I think he has the potential to be the best player the Indians have drafted since Sabathia. If it all comes together, he's a corner outfielder with a high OBP and outstanding power. He has excellent size to continue to grow into his power and plenty of bat speed. When Team USA played Team Canada in an exhibition series, I watched Stephen Strasburg blow mid-90s fastballs by everyone in the Canadian lineup. Then Weglarz got up there and laced a 97 mph fastball deep to the outfield. Weglarz is the kind of player that the entire scouting and player development staff can take a lot of pride in if he ever realizes his full potential, because he was a great pick in the third round, but he still has to make some adjustments to really tap into what he's capable of becoming.

 Q:  Omar Lopez from Santiago, Dominican Rep asks:
Where would you rank Santana regarding catching prospects in all milb assuming Wieters is no. 1 of course?
 A: 

Ben Badler: He's right there with Buster Posey fighting for that No. 2 spot. Jesus Montero is up there too, but there is a greater chance he ends up switching positions.

 Q:  Tom from Newburyport, MA asks:
Wow, Wes Hodges has a very good year at AA (though admittedly he needs work on defense) and he falls completely out of the Top 10? Is it just a function of how much high end talent has been added to this system in the last year? Is the Tribe a top 10 farm system this year?
 A: 

Ben Badler: I think it's both, the defense and the injection of new talent into the system. Hodges will probably end up at 11, so if you take out Santana, LaPorta and Brantley, then yeah, he's there in the top 10, although it's not like No. 10 a the magic line of any sort... it just happens to end in zero. Given that I don't have Hodges in my top 10 and he's a player who people may have expected to be there, I should probably go more in depth here, since we don't have a scouting report on him here (though we have one on him in our Eastern League Top 20). Hodges is a good hitter, squares up balls and gets good leverage in his swing. He sprays balls to all field, though most of his power is predominantly to the pull side. But he's got a lot of work to do defensively. His hands are OK, but he needs to use his legs more, as he has a tendency to stand up too tall on his throws, and his range is below-average. He's 24 years old and projects as more of a .335 OBP/.450 SLG guy for me, which is good at third base if you're an average defender, but below-average if you're not. And at first base, it's below-average. But he does have a good feel for hitting, so if he can find a way to either get better defensively and/or out-hit that hitting projection, then he'll be just fine.

 Q:  Nick from NY asks:
What are your thoughts on Michael Aubrey. Can he make it in the majors or is he quickly becoming organizational filler? Thanks.
 A: 

Ben Badler: He has a chance, but I think injuries have really taken their toll on him since his college days.

 Q:  Kyle from Middletown asks:
Do you think that Scott Lewis can claim a rotation spot coming out of spring training? What is his ceiling, #4 starter?
 A: 

Ben Badler: We have some mixed opinions internally here at BA on Lewis. Well, we have mixed opinions on almost everyone but Matt Wieters, and sometimes dramatically different opinions, but that's for another time. He'll slot into the middle of the top 30 because of his proximity to the major leagues, but I'm not certain that he'll be able to sustain the initial success he had in his big league debut. Probably a below-average but useful player in some seasons, below replacement level in others. Hard not to root for him though.

 Q:  jeff from NYC asks:
so who would you say is the number one sleeper in the Indians system?
 A: 

Ben Badler: I think "sleeper" depends so much on perception. Among guys outside the top 10, the player with the highest upside is probably Abner Abreu. I also really like TJ House, an athletic lefthander with a good delivery, a low-90s fastball and a power mid-80s breaking ball. If you're looking for someone who probably won't make the Top 30, Elvis Araujo is a big lefthander throwing 90 mph in the Dominican Summer League. He's a project, but he's worth keeping an eye on.

 Q:  DC from DC asks:
Longterm, Carlos Santana or Wilson Ramos?
 A: 

Ben Badler: I like Ramos, but I'll take Santana.

 Q:  Patrick from Akron asks:
How does Santana compare to Max Ramirez in the catcher prospect ladder? Also, where would Max Ramirez rank in the Tribe's system?
 A: 

Ben Badler: They are both good hitters, but Santana has better defensive tools and is more likely to remain at catcher because he's more athletic and agile behind the plate than Ramirez. Max would probably slot in somewhere in the middle of the top 10, probably around 5 or 6.

 Q:  Eric from PA asks:
Where does Trey Haley rank on the list? And do you think this was a good signing for Cleveland?
 A: 

Ben Badler: Middle to back of the top 30. I think some people were surprised by how much money the Indians gave him, and I'm hesitant of high school pitchers who have control and mechanical questions, but I definitely like the Indians' aggressive spending to procure talent in both the draft and internationally. Even if only one guy out of Putnam, Haley, House, Fedroff and Stowell end up becoming an average big leaguer, they'll probably be getting their money's worth, and going after the best amateur players increases their chances of developing a future star.

 Q:  Darren from UK asks:
Tony Sipp seemed to make massive strides in the 2nd half coming back from TJ surgery.... is he a top 10 talent who missed out because of his injury history or do some feel he's lost some of his stuff?
 A: 

Ben Badler: I like Sipp as a big league reliever. The injury plays an important role in his projection, but his stuff is still there and he's showing the ability to miss bats from the left side, so he should be helping the Indians bullpen pretty soon.

 Q:  Nick from NY asks:
What happend to Chuck Lofgren? Will he get his game back in order?
 A: 

Ben Badler: I was never as high on Lofgren as others were, but I also never thought he'd unravel the way he did this season. Command and mechanics have never been his two strong suits, and I think that's still continuing to bother him. If he had a 100 mph fastball in his back pocket like Daniel Bard, then I'd say he could be due for a rebound year in 2009 the way Bard came back from a poor 2007 showing, but Lofgren just doesn't have that kind of electric arm or overpowering stuff.

 Q:  John from NYC asks:
I know the Indians have a couple of interesting young arms in the lower levels - Pontius, Miller, Judy, Meyer. Did any of these guys make the top 30 and which ones do you think will have an impact at the major league level?
 A: 

Ben Badler: Pontius will definitely be in there. He's got a fastball that sits 93-94 mph, tops out at 97, and a plus curveball. If he learns to throw them for strikes with more frequency, he'll be a good weapon out of the bullpen.

 Q:  Darren from UK asks:
Hey Ben Not a question, but thought you might be interested in this article about Lofgren. http://www.indiansprospectinsider.com/2008/11/lofgren-has-lot-to-be-thankful-for.html
 A: 

Ben Badler: I did see that when it came out, and it's a good read. We obviously wish the best for Chuck, but how that affects his on-field performance, I really don't know. It's tough though, as sometimes I hear about off-field things, like a player getting his girlfriend pregnant (or someone else's girlfiend pregnant), which might happen to coincide with a second-half slump, for example. I'm not going to report that because it's really not even my business to know, but occasionally stuff like that comes into play. But 99.9% of my evaluations are based on what goes on on the field.

 Q:  Jason from St. Louis, MO asks:
I've heard some conflicting reports on Beau Mills and there appear to be some doubters out there. What's your take and what kind of hitter do you project him to be?
 A: 

Ben Badler: A good power hitter who is patient enough to draw walks but who also needs to tighten his strike-zone judgment and avoid swinging at off-speed stuff outside the strike zone when he's behind in the count. But if he makes those adjustments, he could be an above-average first baseman.

 Q:  Kelly Brosko from Kalamazoo asks:
As it's looking more and more like Sabathia won't resign with the Brewers do you think the Brewers overpayed?
 A: 

Ben Badler: Whether the Brewers re-sign Sabathia or not isn't really relevant, since he's a free agent and they would have had to pay market value for his services anyway. He got them to the playoffs, helped them generate a boatload of revenue in doing so, and he'll leave them with some nice draft picks as a parting gift.

 Q:  Robert Goldberg from Lyndhurst, NJ asks:
How about Trevor Crowe? Did he redeem himself this year?
 A: 

Ben Badler: Given that Crowe put up better numbers in Double-A and Triple-A in 2008 than he did in 2007 in Double-A, I was surprised that scouts still weren't that high on Crowe. He'll slot into the middle of the 30.

 Q:  Ben from Leland Grove asks:
Who do you see reaching the majors first - Chisenhall or Rivero?
 A: 

Ben Badler: Rivero most likely, since he'll start in Double-A, but Chisenhall is advanced enough already as a hitter that he could close the gap quickly. Chisenhall will also probably move to third base next season, so he'll be learning a new position, but a less challenging one.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
When do you see LaPorta making it to Cleveland, and is 1B the best position for him, or is he better in the OF?
 A: 

Ben Badler: I'll put the over/under at May 10, 2009.

 Q:  Darren from UK asks:
Darren from UK asks: I was just wondering how tough you found the top 10 to put together? Could a case be made that in any other year you could probably say there are about another 5-10 guys in the system who could've ranked in the 5-10 range?
 A: 

Ben Badler: In doing the list, Santana, LaPorta and Weglarz were a clear top three, it was just a matter of figuring out what order to put them in. I think Miller still has huge upside as a potential relief ace, so after he fit in at No. 4. With 5-10, you could rearrange those guys in various permutations and come up with solid arguments for where you put them. If you look at the rest of the AL Central farm systems, I think the Indians have by far the best system. The Twins have a pretty top three (which I won't give away since we haven't posted it yet, but you can probably make a good guess), as do the Royals (though my top three would be different, since I'm a big Kila Ka'aihue fan), but overall the Indians stand out with a mix of potential stars, average players and useful bullpen/platoon players, and the new layer of talent in the bottom rungs of the system thanks to aggressive spending on amateur talent will keep the talent coming through the pipeline. Indians fans should be happy.

Ben Badler: That's all for today, as it's time to hit the gym. I'll be back in a couple weeks for the A's list.