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, 2008.

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Cleveland Indians

While their season ended in disappointing fashion, the Indians completed their rebuilding project by returning to the top of the American League Central. The organization had been pointing toward that goal since Mark Shapiro took over as general manager after the 2001 season, the last time Cleveland had gone to the playoffs. Shapiro's administration immediately tore down an expensive roster and began assembling younger talent.

The Indians won 93 games in 2005 and looked well on their way back, but a faulty bullpen contributed to a 78-84 finish in 2006. Their young core matured last season and showed that the step back in '06 was the anomaly.

What will linger in Cleveland fans' memories, however, is how much better it could have been. The Tribe knocked off the Yankees in the AL Division Series, then pushed the Red Sox to seven games in the AL Championship Series. The most frustrating part was that the Indians had Boston on the ropes with a 3-1 series lead with a chance to clinch at Jacobs Field. But Josh Beckett turned the tide in Game Five, starting a run of three straight wins for the Red Sox that dashed the Indians' hopes of their first World Series title since 1948.

"I'm disappointed obviously we weren't able to finish it off," manager Eric Wedge said. "I'm proud as I could be of our players. We fell short, but I think we learned a great deal in this postseason."

The good news is that the remade Indians are equipped to go on the same kind of run they enjoyed from 1995-2001, when they went to the playoffs six times in seven years. While a primary focus of Shapiro's rebuilding efforts centered around homegrown contributors such as Fausto Carmona, Victor Martinez, Jhonny Peralta and C.C. Sabathia, the pro scouting department helped build the club as much, if not more, than the amateur department.

Recognizing the talent of Grady Sizemore while he was in Class A or Travis Hafner when he was in Triple-A paid huge dividends. So did stealing Asdrubal Cabrera from the Mariners in a trade for Eduardo Perez.

After graduating several players to the big leagues, the farm system is at a crossroads. The system still has depth, but aside from oft-injured righthander Adam Miller, no true blue-chip prospects are waiting in the wings.

And aside from holdovers liked Miller, no new faces outside of Double-A first baseman Jordan Brown separated themselves from the pack in 2007. The system was wracked by injury and lack of performance last year, as lefthander Tony Sipp had Tommy John surgery, outfielder Brad Snyder went down with a broken thumb in July and the two top draft picks from 2005 (outfielders Trevor Crowe and John Drennen) were disappointments.

Double-A Akron and high Class A Kinston were again powerhouse clubs in the minor leagues, though both teams lost in the postseason. Kinston's 87 victories were the third-highest total in the minors..

The Indians had just one pick in the first three rounds of the 2007 draft, selecting slugger Beau Mills 13th overall. Two of their later-round picks have a lot of upside, as the club went over slot to sign Florida high school lefthander Chris Jones (15th round) for $350,00 and Oregon prep two-way standout Joey Mahalic (32nd round) for $123,000.

1. Adam Miller, rhp   Born: Nov. 26, 1984B-T: R-RHt: 6-4Wt: 195
Drafted: HS—McKinney, Texas, 2003 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Matt Ruebel
Adam MillerBackground: After spending 2005 rehabbing an elbow strain he suffered while long-tossing in spring training, Miller bounced back in 2006 to re-establish himself as one of the top pitching prospects in the game and led the organization in strikeouts. With little left to prove in the minors, Miller was expected to battle for a spot in the big league rotation out of spring training, but his health again faltered last season as finger and elbow woes kept him out of action for nearly two months. When he returned to Triple-A Buffalo in late August, the Tribe kept him in the bullpen to limit his innings and closely monitored his work between outings. He made just six appearances in relief for the Bison and just once lasted more than an inning. He went down to Double-A Akron along with lefthander Jeremy Sowers for the Eastern League playoffs, and allowed five runs on eight hits in just six innings. Miller went to instructional league before heading to the Arizona Fall League for the second time in three seasons, again with mixed results. While Cleveland raved about his AFL stint, several scouts were less than impressed with his secondary pitches. Miller finished with a 9.00 ERA in 13 innings, and yielded three runs while retiring just one batter in his fall league finale.

Strengths: When he's healthy, Miller has proven to be dominant with two plus pitches. His 93-97 mph fastball has natural late life and he works all four quadrants of the strike zone with it. His hard 86-88 mph slider can be devastating at times with late break and power. His slider is by far his best pitch. With the addition of a two-seamer, Miller also has a weapon to attack lefthanders and it has emerged as an out pitch over the last two seasons, boosting his groundball ratio in the process. His delivery is free and easy and his work ethic and makeup never have been questioned. After wanting to just blow his fastball by hitters early in his career, Miller has shown exceptional maturity, understanding the value of his secondary pitches.

Weaknesses: Miller struggled with the arm speed and location of his changeup in the AFL, and it always has lagged behind his other offerings. He made significant progress with his changeup in Double-A in 2006, but with the layoff and the move to the bullpen last year, he didn't get much opportunity to use it. While his mechanics are easily repeatable, Miller struggled to maintain his arm slot in the AFL. His arm dragged behind his body at times, elevating his pitches and rendering them lifeless, which made him extremely hittable. The Indians hope he can pitch out of the major league bullpen, but in order to do that he's going to need to refine his pick-off move and do a better job of controlling the running game.

The Future: Though his medical history is beginning to become worrisome, Miller will have the opportunity to begin 2008 in the Cleveland bullpen. The club still views him as a starter down the road, but he has the stuff to make an impact in a relief role now. How well he can stay healthy and further develop his changeup ultimately will determine his ceiling. Miller still has the arsenal of pitches and the makeup to be a legitimate frontline starter.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Buffalo (AAA) 5 4 4.82 19 11 1 0 65 68 4 21 68 .265
2. Chuck Lofgren, lhp   Born: Jan. 29, 1986.B-T: L-L.Ht.: 6-4.Wt.: 200.
Drafted: HS—San Mateo, Calif., 2004 (4th round).Signed by: Don Lyle.
Chuck LofgrenBackground: Several teams liked Lofgren more for his lefthanded bat than his ability on the mound in the 2004 draft, but the Indians persuading him that his future was on the mound after letting him serve as a two-way player during his pro debut. Though he wasn't nearly as dominant in 2007 as he had been in the past, Lofgren still led the system with 123 strikeouts in 146 innings.

Strengths: Lofgren adds and subtracts with his full arsenal of pitches, beginning with a fastball that ranges anywhere from 87-93 mph and tops out at 95. He added a slider in 2006 and developed it into a true out pitch last year. He also throws a spike curve in the upper 70s and an average changeup. An imposing presence on the mound, he gets downhill easily and pounds the bottom of the strike zone. The Indians love his makeup.

Weaknesses: Lofgren struggled with runners on base last year, rushing his lower half in his delivery, which threw off his command. His changeup wasn't the weapon it was during his breakout 2006 campaign when he led the minors with 17 wins, but it still has considerable upside. He needs to consistently command his fastball to maximize his effectiveness.

The Future: Lofgren likely will make a few starts in Double-A before getting his first taste of Triple-A. Projected as a No. 3 starter, he could make his big league debut later in the year.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Akron (AA) 12 7 4.37 26 26 0 0 146 153 14 68 123 .270
3. Beau Mills, 3b/1b   Born: Aug. 15, 1986.B-T: L-R.Ht.: 6-3.Wt.: 205.
Drafted: Lewis-Clark State (Idaho), 2007 (1st round). Signed by: Greg Smith.
Beau MillsBackground: After hitting 36 homers in two years at Fresno State, Mills got suspended for academic shortcomings and code-of-conduct violations in 2006. He transferred to Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) and led the Warriors to their 15th national title, hitting an NAIA-record 38 homers and driving in 123 runs. The son of Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills, Beau went 13th overall in the draft and signed for $1.575 million.

Strengths: With a leveraged, balanced swing and excellent strength, Mills generates well-above-average power to all fields. He has the bat speed and pitch recognition to hit for average. His hands and footwork are his best defensive tools, and he has enough athleticism to possibly stick at third base.

Weaknesses: Many scouts who have evaluated Mills give him no chance to stick at the hot corner, and he spent his debut alternating between there and first base. A shoulder impingement in 2006 didn't require surgery but has limited his arm strength, and the Indians have put him on an extensive stretching program. His speed is fringy at best.

The Future: The Indians will leave Mills at third when he returns to high Class A Kinston. But first base or left field appear to be his destination.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Mahoning Valley (SS) .179 .303 .250 28 5 5 2 0 0 1 3 7 0
Lake County (Lo A) .271 .333 .435 177 32 48 12 1 5 36 14 38 0
Kinston (Hi A) .275 .375 .500 40 7 11 6 0 1 5 4 8 0
4. Wes Hodges, 3b   Born: Sept. 14, 1984.B-T: R-R.Ht.: 6-1.Wt.: 205.
Drafted: Georgia Tech, 2006 (2nd round). Signed by: Jerry Jordan.
Wes HodgesBackground: Hodges always has shown a gamer mentality. He taught himself to hit lefthanded when he broke the hamate bone in his left wrist as a high school senior and hit .430. A 13th-round pick of the White Sox in 2003, he opted to attend Georgia Tech and played through a leg injury that was ultimately diagnosed as a stress fracture during his draft year. Injuries again hampered him during his pro debut in 2007, as a broken toe and hamstring injury cost him three weeks in May.

Strengths: Hodges has an easy, fluid stroke that produces line drives to all fields. His swing has good leverage and he has opposite-field power. He grades out as an average defender with soft hands and average arm strength. He worked with Kinston manager Mike Sarbaugh and infield coordinator Ted Kubiak to push off his back leg and get better extension on his throws.

Weaknesses: He has a reputation for good plate discipline, but Hodges didn't show it in 2007. He struggled to recognize breaking balls. While his throws improved, he struggled charging grounders and ranging to his right, and some question whether he can stick at third base.

The Future: Hodges will begin 2008 as the everyday third baseman in Double-A. He's a better defender than Beau Mills, but he needs to stay healthy to be the club's long-term answer at the hot corner.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Kinston (Hi A) .288 .367 .473 393 60 113 22 3 15 71 44 90 0
5. Aaron Laffey, lhp   Born: April 15, 1985.B-T: L-L.Ht.: 6-0.Wt.: 180.
Drafted: HS—Allegany, Md., 2003 (16th round). Signed by: Bob Mayer.
Aaron LaffeyBackground: Laffey fell to the 16th round in 2003 because of his commitment to Virginia Tech, but the Indians took a gamble on him and signed him for $363,000. After bouncing between the bullpen and a starting role throughout his career, he moved back to the rotation for good in 2006 and hurried to the big leagues after just 22 starts in 2007.

Strengths: A groundball machine, Laffey pounds the bottom of the strike zone with three quality pitches. His 86-89 mph sinker has outstanding downward movement and his mid-80s slider has developed into an out pitch with late break. His changeup also improved significantly.

Weaknesses: Lefthanders hit .322 with power against Laffey in the majors, which doesn't make sense because he has the platoon advantage to go with his nasty slider. The Indians think it was more a fluke than anything and aren't concerned. His velocity is below-average, but his slider and changeup help his fastball play up.

The Future: Laffey has surpassed fellow lefties Cliff Lee and Jeremy Sowers in Cleveland's plans. A future No. 3 or 4 starter, he'll compete for a rotation job this spring.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Akron (AA) 4 1 2.31 6 6 0 0 35 29 2 7 24 .225
Buffalo (AAA) 9 3 3.08 16 15 2 0 96 89 5 23 75 .243
Cleveland 4 2 4.56 9 9 0 0 49 54 2 12 25 .287
6. Nick Weglarz, of   Born: Dec. 16, 1987.B-T: L-L.Ht.: 6-3.Wt.: 215.
Drafted: HS—Stevensville, Ontario, 2005 (3rd round). Signed by: Les Pajari.
Nick WeglarzBackground: Weglarz was the first Canadian selected in the 2005 draft, going in the third round after being touted as the best power hitter his country had to offer. He struggled in his pro debut, then missed nearly all of 2006 after breaking the hamate bone in his right wrist in spring training. He bounced back last season, ranking among the low Class A South Atlantic League leaders with 23 homers and 82 RBIs.

Strengths: Weglarz is comparable to fellow Canadian slugger Justin Morneau for his size and power. Waglarz' long arms allow him to have plenty of plate coverage, and he has outstanding natural leverage and loft in his swing. He has good instincts, and he has shown the ability to shorten his stroke and use the opposite field. He's a patient hitter with advanced strike-zone discipline.

Weaknesses: Weglarz still has trouble not getting extended with his swing at times. He'll cut it off at the point of contact and not follow through consistently. He was drafted as a first baseman and played right field during his debut, but his limited arm strength and range will relegate him to left field. He's a below-average runner.

The Future: Weglarz' bat will have to carry him, and the Indians think it will. He'll begin 2008 in high Class A.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Lake County (Lo A) .276 .395 .497 439 75 121 28 0 23 82 82 129 1
Kinston (Hi A) .143 .250 .571 7 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 2 0
7. Jordan Brown, of   Born: Dec. 18, 1983.B-T: L-L.Ht.: 6-0.Wt.: 205.
Drafted: Arizona, 2005 (4th round). Signed by: Joe Graham.
Jordan BrownBackground: Often compared with Wally Joyner in college for his aggressive approach and fluid stroke from the left side, Brown has improved his stock by winning back-to-back league MVP awards in the high Class A Carolina and Double-A Eastern leagues the past two seasons. He led the Carolina League with 87 RBIs in 2006 and the Eastern League with a .333 average in 2007.

Strengths: Brown uses the whole field with a compact, line-drive swing, and he wears out the opposite field. His bat speed is just average, but it plays up because of outstanding plate discipline and pitch recognition. He has good instincts on the bases and stole 11 bases in 13 attempts last year. He's an average defender at first base with good footwork and reactions. The Indians praise his leadership skills.

Weaknesses: Brown played much of the second half of 2007 with knee problems and had minor arthroscopic surgery in September. He's a below-average runner, which is why he returned to first base after playing left field in 2006.

The Future: Brown profiles as a first baseman in the mold of Sean Casey or Lyle Overbay. With Ryan Garko's emergence in Cleveland, he'll likely spend all of 2008 in Triple-A.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Akron (AA) .333 .421 .484 483 65 161 36 2 11 76 63 56 11
8. David Huff, lhp   Born: Aug. 24, 1984.B-T: L-L.Ht.: 6-2.Wt.: 210.
Drafted: UCLA, 2006 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Vince Sagisi.
David HuffBackground: Huff attended UC Irvine, Cypress (Calif.) JC and finally UCLA before signing with the Tribe for $900,000 as a supplemental first-rounder in 2006. Coming out of the draft, the Indians compared him with Jeremy Sowers for his ability to command four pitches, but Huff may have better mound presence. His first full season was a disappointment after elbow soreness shut him down in May, but he returned for the Arizona Fall League.

Strengths: Huff's major strength is the ability to command all parts of the strike zone with a full arsenal of pitches. He can pound the bottom of the zone with an upper-80s sinker that tops out at 91 mph. The sink and depth on his changeup are well above average, and he showed a little cut slider and a deeper curveball during his AFL stint.

Weaknesses: Huff's velocity is fringy. His secondary pitches still aren't consistently effective against lefthanders, who raked him at a .314 clip in high Class A and then hit .360 against him in the AFL. His changeup can keep lefties off balance, but he can't put them away.

The Future: Huff's elbow troubles set off an alarm for the Indians, who didn't want to risk any further injury. He could return to high Class A to begin 2008, though Double-A is a more likely destination.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Kinston (Hi A) 4 2 2.72 11 11 0 0 60 57 4 15 46 .251
9. Ben Francisco, of   Born: Oct. 23, 1981.B-T: R-R.Ht.: 6-1.Wt.: 190.
Drafted: UCLA, 2002 (5th round). Signed by: Jason Smith.
Ben FranciscoBackground: Aside from a down year in 2004, when he skipped a level up to Double-A, Francisco has been one of the most consistent hitters in the system since he was drafted in 2002. His track record extends beyond pro ball, as he hit .330 in two seasons at Cypress (Calif.) JC before earning all-Pacific-10 Conference honors in each of his two years at UCLA.

Strengths: One of the best athletes in the system, Francisco drew comparisons to Torii Hunter from Triple-A International League managers for his bat speed, energy and center-field prowess. Scouts aren't completely sold on Francisco's power, but it's at least average. He's a well-above-average runner with good instincts. He has the range and arm to play all three outfield spots.

Weaknesses: Lefthanders give Francisco a tough time, and he has trouble picking up pitches against them. While he is a patient hitter, he needs to do a better job at working deeper counts. When he gets behind in the count, he seldom works out of it with positive results.

The Future: Francisco has a wide skill set of tools, but hasn't been given a full-time opportunity with Cleveland, mainly because of their deluge of outfield talent. He'll serve either as a fourth outfielder or return to Triple-A.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Buffalo (AAA) .318 .382 .496 377 60 120 27 2 12 51 36 66 22
Cleveland .274 .303 .500 62 10 17 5 0 3 12 3 19 0
10. Jensen Lewis, rhp   Born: Sept. 26, 1983.B-T: R-R.Ht.: 6-0.Wt.: 185.
Drafted: Vanderbilt, 2005 (3rd round).Signed by: Scott Barnsby.
Jensen LewisBackground: The Indians drafted Lewis twice, in the 33rd round out of high school and again in the third round out of Vanderbilt, where he was a teammate of Jeremy Sowers. Prior to 2007, Lewis was best known in the organization for his Bob Uecker impressions and his lack of a third pitch. But he broke through in his new role as a set-up man in 2007, making seven appearances for Cleveland in the playoffs.

Strengths: As a reliever, Lewis attacks hitters with a 91-93 mph sinker that he spots well. He does a good job of varying speeds, and his changeup ranks among the best in the system. It helped him limit big league lefthanders to a .244 average with no extra-base hits in 44 at-bats. He scrapped his slider in 2006 in favor of a softer, deeper curveball that's much more effective. His mechanics create some deception on the front side and are easily repeatable.

Weaknesses: Lewis can still rush with his lower half in his delivery at times. When that happens he gets under his pitches, flattening them and leaving them high in the strike zone.

The Future: Moving to the bullpen proved to be the best thing for Lewis. The Indians are counting on him to be an integral part of their relief corps in 2008.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Akron (AA) 2 0 1.85 24 0 0 1 39 27 2 13 49 .196
Buffalo (AAA) 1 0 1.38 10 0 0 1 13 5 1 4 12 .116
Cleveland 1 1 2.15 26 0 0 0 29 26 1 10 34 .234

Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
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Photo Credits: Sports On Film (Miller)
Steve Moore (Lofgren)
Roger Wood (Mills, Hodges)
Carl Kline (Weglarz, Huff)
Mike Janes (Brown, Francisco)
Rich Abel (Lewis)