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Top Ten Prospects: Cleveland Indians
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By Chris Kline
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, 2006.
Mark Shapiro took over as Indians general manager in November 2001 and promptly dismantled a team that had won six American League Central titles in seven seasons. The big league club was aging and overpaid, while the farm system was thin.
Cleveland fans weren’t happy, but Shapiro assured them that the Indians would rebuild the right way—by developing their own talent—and set a timetable of 2005 for the club to contend again.
Let’s just say his ETA was right on schedule.
The Indians finished 2005 with 93 wins, the sixth-most in the majors and more than every other National League club except the Cardinals. Cleveland has improved from 68 to 80 to 93 victories over the last three seasons, thanks to homegrown prospects and key trades.
Shapiro’s signature deal remains shipping Bartolo Colon to the Expos in June 2002 for Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips and Lee Stevens. Sizemore and Lee are now part of a young nucleus that also includes Coco Crisp (part of a Chuck Finley trade with the Cardinals in July 2002), Travis Hafner (stolen from the Rangers in a deal for Einar Diaz in December 2002), Victor Martinez (signed out of Venezuela in 1996), Jhonny Peralta (signed out of the Dominican Republic in 1999) and C.C. Sabathia (drafted in the first round in 1998). None of that group is older than 28.
While the Indians have emerged from their rebuilding phase, the system continues to develop talent. Another wave of prospects in the upper minors is nearly ready to make an impact in Cleveland. Lefthander Jeremy Sowers, righthanders Fernando Cabrera and Fausto Carmona and first baseman/catcher Ryan Garko all could contribute to the big league club in 2006, and Brad Snyder and Franklin Gutierrez are on hand should an outfield opening arise.
Double-A Akron won the Eastern League title behind up-and-coming managerial candidate Torey Lovullo. Cleveland has had success promoting managers as well as players from within—most notably with big league skipper Eric Wedge and third-base coach Joel Skinner—and Lovullo could be the next in that line. In addition to developing players, managers and coaches, Cleveland also is grooming future general managers. Assistant GM Chris Antonetti turned down the opportunity to interview for Boston’s GM job, and farm director John Farrell’s name also surfaced in connection with the position. Assistant GM/scouting director John Mirabelli also is a future GM candidate.
Not all of the news from the minors was good. The Indians’ top
two prospects from a year ago, righthander Adam Miller and first baseman
Michael Aubrey, had serious injuries. Miller missed the first half of
2005 with an elbow strain but came back in the second half to reclaim
the No. 1 spot on this list. Aubrey had back problems that limited him
to just 28 games, and there are some fears they may be chronic.
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