Indians Top 10 Prospects Chat With Ben Badler

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.

Ben Badler: Cleveland's farm system always seems to run deep, so let's get started.

    Lloyd (Lakewood): Hi Ben, What can you tell me about T.J. House?

Ben Badler: House has a few things going for him: he's proven to be very durable (knock on wood), he's an athletic lefty with a good changeup and he does a good job of throwing strikes for his age. The concern I have with him is that I'm not sure the fastball and slider are going to be good enough for him to get big league hitters out, but he could slide into the back of Cleveland's rotation at some point.

    Ben (Leland Grove): No Kelvin de la Cruz on the list....hmm. Can you tell us about his mechanics and if he's got a legit shot at the Show?

Ben Badler: Funny you should mention his mechanics, because that really seems to be one of the main problems he's had. A couple years ago, he might have had as much upside as any pitcher in the system and he looked like he was ready for a breakout early in '09 before the elbow injury shut him down for the year. Now scouts are saying he's just not quite the same and a lot of the problems he's had stem from his inability to repeat his mechanics and stay behind the ball. The fastball fluctuates but he'll still show you three solid pitches at times, but there are a lot of adjustments he's going to have to make.

    Joe Werner (Cleveland, Oh.): Any concerns about Chisenhall's struggles against lefties this year?

Ben Badler: Not really. He stays back well, he has good balance, uses the whole field, his swing certainly isn't long and he's able to handle offspeed stuff fairly well, so I'd expect his numbers against lefties to come up next year.

    matt (LA): How would you stack Chisenhall up against a guy like Moustakas?

Ben Badler: I love Chisenhall's bat but I'd still give the edge to Moustakas. In terms of hitting mechanics, they both have excellent swings and very good bat speed, but Moustakas' power is a separator. I think Chisenhall will draw more walks and play better defense, but Moustakas has that great combination of a low strikeout rate and plus-plus raw power that makes me put him ahead of Chisenhall.

    David (Nixa, MO): Thoughts on Bryce Stowell? It sounds like his velo has made quite a jump since the Cape a few years ago.

Ben Badler: Like you said, HUGE jump in velo this year for Stowell. He had a solid fastball as a starter and would bump 95 on his best days, now he's sitting mid-90s and I've heard multiple scouts clocking him at 98 mph. He's just raw power now with his fastball/slider out of the pen, and just another reminder to never give up on a starter struggling in the minors before you move him to the bullpen to see if a guy is just better suited for a different frequency. That Columbus bullpen was pretty stacked with young guys who could contribute as soon as next season, although Stowell might be a little further away just because his control isn't where it needs to be yet.

    Joe Werner (Cleveland, Oh.): There have been speculation about LeVon Washington moving to second base: given his well below-average arm, do you think he could turn the double play well enough?

Ben Badler: I think he's an outfielder all the way, and that's how I think the Indians see him too. The Indians put him on a throwing program at instructs to gain some arm strength. At best he'll maybe have a 40 arm, but even if it's a 30, just his speed alone plays better in center field than second base if he can pick up feel for the position.

    Mike (Tampa, FL): Should we officially write off Adam Miller?

Ben Badler: Here's the thing with Miller: I would have zero expectations for him, but I wouldn't write him off completely. Not yet. He threw at instructs, touched the low-90s, but what he's gone through with the injuries in his fingers is so rare that I'm not sure anyone can give you a reliable forecast of what to expect from him.

    JAYPERS (IL): What are scouts saying about Felix Sterling, and was he on your Top 30 this year?

Ben Badler: I think he's their best Latin American pitcher who hasn't hit full-season ball yet. Two power pitches with a low-90s fastball up to 94 with a chance for maybe another tick or two down the road and a tight, solid slider. A guy who's far, far away but could develop into a solid starter with a power arm.

    MJ (Valpo): As a Twins fan, should I be worried about the Indians as a team to reckon with in the division in the next 3-5 years?!? This list looks pretty impressive, with a lot of different toolsets being brought to the table!

Ben Badler: I think 3-5 years is a realistic timetable, but they're going to have to somehow get more out of their starting pitching. At that point you'll have Santana, Chisenhall, Kipnis, LaPorta, Brantley and Weglarz coming into their prime years, with Choo and Cabrera possibly still around, so I like what they have building there. Their young pitching is solid, but the reality is that not all of Carrasco, White, Pomeranz and Knapp are going to pan out, so they're going to have to find some ways to fill holes there.

    Elliot (Youngstown OH): Not a lot of power bats for the Indians in full season leagues. Anyone in the lower minors who might develop into a power prospect (Chase Burnette? Juan Romero? Jesus Aguillar?)

Ben Badler: My favorite sleeper in the system is Luigi Rodriguez, who played in the Dominican Summer League this year. He signed as a second baseman, had some trouble there defensively and moved to center field, which is where he's probably better suited anyway because he's a plus-plus runner. He's not a big guy, but he's a very good athlete with a short, quick swing from both sides and very good plate discipline. Teams waste so much money in Latin America on these giants with huge raw power who can't hit, but it's the guys like Rodriguez (athletes with feel for hitting, like Starlin Castro or Carlos Gonzalez) who seem to pan out more often.

    Paul (C-Town): Can you enlighten me about Abner Abreu and if he's on your radar?

Ben Badler: He's on the radar because his raw power and arm strength both stick out, but my concern with him is the same as it's been for years: the approach. I know he's had to fight through the shoulder injury but really it's his plate discipline and pitch recognition skills that are holding him back.

    JAYPERS (IL): Who will draw more walks in his Major League career - Carlos Santana or Logan Morrison?

Ben Badler: I think as a catcher, Santana is likely to play fewer career games than Morrison, so I'll give Morrison the edge.

    Jordan (Boston): I see Jordan Henry was voted best plate discipline, but what can we expect from him in the future? Starter/4th OF?

Ben Badler: Probably a fourth outfielder, but to get there he still needs to get stronger. He's a 70 runner, plays great defense and rarely chases anything out of the strike zone so he gets on base at a high clip right now in the minors, but he'll have be able to drive the ball or else his plate discipline isn't going to be as much of a factor against major league pitchers because his power is well-below-average. His swing path isn't the type that's geared toward hitting home runs, but he has room on his frame to at least add some raw power and make pitchers pay when they do attack him in the zone.

    Elliot (Youngstown OH): So if the Indians lack the depth in starting pitching, they just need to deal some of their many 2nd basemen for a quality starter, right?

Ben Badler: The problem is that starting pitching is expensive, be it in major league free agency or the trade market, and the trade market for second basemen (as we've seen this week) is usually weak.

    Clooch (VT): Chun-Hsui Chen had an impressive year at the plate between A and A+ ball. What can you tell us about him? What are the reports on his defense?

Ben Badler: The development staff did a really nice job with Chen this year. He had a big leg kick in his swing, but they took that away from him in spring training and that helped him see the ball out of the pitcher's hand better and gave him better balance at the plate. The concerns with him right now from the scouts I talked to were whether the bat speed will translate at higher levels and if he can clean up his defense, because he has an average arm but his receiving can be a little stiff sometimes. He definitely took a huge step forward this year.

    DH (PA): He's no longer a prospect but, what can we reasonably expect from LaPorta? Average 1B production?

Ben Badler: I still think he turns things around. He crushed Triple-A pitching while he was there briefly, he's shown power and aptitude for hitting throughout the minor leagues and I think he could turn into a league-average first baseman this year and develop into an above-average one going forward.

    Nora (NM): Who do you think will play a better 2B - Kipnis or Dustin Ackley? Why?

Ben Badler: Strictly on defense: Kipnis. More natural feel for the position.

    Karl in Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Several years ago I remember Jason Goedart was leading the SAL in batting when I saw Lake County play. Now last year he has hit 20 homers in AAA and batted .325 in AA. He's got to make the top 30 Indian prospects for the first time this year, right?

Ben Badler: He's in the discussion. He had a big year as a 25-year-old in AA/AAA and the tools aren't going to wow anyone—bat speed is just fair, there are some holes in the swing and his glove is a question mark for scouts—but I think being healthy really helped him this year. He's battled some shoulder injuries throughout his career and I think being healthy finally helped him take that next step forward that was reflected in the numbers.

    Chuck (Ohio): Cord Phelps tore up AA,AAA, and the Arizona fall league. How close was he to the top ten, and how is he defensively at 2B?

Ben Badler: There's definitely a gap between the performance (which was outstanding) and the tools (which are just OK). He hits out of a low crouch with a low hand set-up, but he does a solid job managing the strike zone and he's able to make contact on a routine basis, just not with much power. I know there are scouts who are skeptical of whether he can duplicate his performance going forward and whether he's good enough defensively to handle second base.

    Mark (CINCY): Bo Greenwell - prospect or suspect?

Ben Badler: Needs to hit for more power, but does a bit of everything, a lot of 40-50 tools across the board with a good approach and a chance to be a fourth outfielder in the big leagues.

    Jose (Honduras): What kind of upside does Weglarz have? Can you think of an appropriate major league comp? Is his major league batting average going to be closer to his 2009 numbers (.220's) or 2010 (.280's)?

Ben Badler: I think his offensive skill set has some similarities to Nick Swisher. He's bigger than Swisher and doesn't switch-hit, but he's an extremely disciplined hitter who's still learning to tap into his raw power (Swisher never hit 20-plus homers in a minor league season until he was 23 in the PCL). I think you'll see a lot of year-to-year variance in Weglarz's average but I think most years he'll settle around .250-.270 but with a high OBP.

    Rich (NJ): Is Weglarz healthy? is he playing any winter ball as he missed a large part of 2010? Thanks,

Ben Badler: Yup, he just got started playing for Caracas in the Venezuelan League within the past week.

    Fonz (Milwaukee): Whither Hector Rondon?

Ben Badler: Nothing really new to add on Rondon from a year ago given how little he pitched. Plus fastball, flashes a solid changeup, breaking ball needs work, going to miss all of 2011 after having Tommy John surgery.

    Fonz (Milwaukee): How troubling is Alex White's low K rate? Does he have the stuff to finish hitters off?

Ben Badler: A couple things here. One is that, for about the last month of the season, the Indians made White limit the use of his splitter, which is his out pitch. He wasn't pitching exclusively fastball/slider, but he was predominantly a fastball/slider guy for the last month of the season. He wasn't a high-strikeout guy before that, but I think that change obfuscates some of his otherwise dominant numbers. White's strikeout rate isn't elite, but it's a function of his repertoire and his ability to throw almost everything with sink. He doesn't have the great breaking ball that a lot of high-strikeout pitchers have, but his fastball and his splitter have power and life, so he's going to get a lot of ground balls, weak contact and he'll miss enough bats to have an average strikeout rate.

    Kyle W. (Powell, OH): Safe to call Beau Mills a huge overdraft? What can we expect from him as a Major Leaguer?

Ben Badler: I think Mills makes the major leagues at some point for a cup of coffee, but not soon. Still takes a big uppercut, can be pull-conscious and struggle against the soft stuff. On the positive side, it sounds like he has made some strides in the field.

    Fonz (Milwaukee): He's probably limited by his role, but what sort of reviews did Rob Bryson get? When he's been healthy he's consistently put up great numbers in both the Brewers and Indians' systems.

Ben Badler: He's a bullpen guy all the way between his health record and his secondary stuff, but he gets a huge number of swings and misses with his fastball. He'll throw it 92-95 and there's some deception there too, so guys just don't seem to be able to see it out of his hand well. He'll flash an average slider sometimes and every now and then he'll show you something with the changeup, but he's mostly just been able to dominate the lower minors with a great fastball. If he can get just one of his offspeed pitches to become a reliable second pitch, he should be a solid bullpen arm if he stays healthy and maintains his velo.

    Kyle W. (Powell, OH): Does Zach Putnam contribute to the major league pen at any time in 2011? What are his strengths and weaknesses?

Ben Badler: I think he could pitch high-leverage innings for the Indians as soon as next season. Columbus had quite a few relievers who could help the Indians at some point in 2011, but Putnam probably has the best combination of stuff and polish. His stuff really seems to take on another gear in short stints: he can run his fastball up to the mid-90s with sink, his splitter is an out pitch with late tumble, he throws strikes and threw really well down the stretch, for whatever that's worth.

    Brian (Charlottesville): What do you see Packer's ceiling as? Also, what is his ETA? He is making it a habit of winning ERA titles (D-1 baseball in 08, and then again this year).

Ben Badler: Probably a 4/5 starter who could get a crack at the rotation late next year or 2012, but he's surprised so many scouts to this point that I wouldn't want to cap his ceiling. He's athletic, has great control, keep the ball on the ground and his stuff is probably better than most people think. He'll sit 88-91 with heavy sink, touch a tick or two higher and has a 50-to-60 grade changeup. His breaking stuff is a little short but he could be a steal for the Indians.

    Jim (NY): Can you give us an idea of how Cleveland's system stacks up against other teams in the division?

Ben Badler: I have it as the No. 2 system in the division behind the Royals (no shame in that though). The Twins have some huge upside at the top of their system (you'll have to wait until next week to see the list, but you can probably guess who I'm talking about) so you could make a case for them being No. 2, but I'd still go with the Indians.

    Shane (Miami): Kipnis hot playoff streak has carried over to the AFL, where he's been an extra base hit machine in the AFL. Glove aside, what kind of power/avg. numbers are we talking?

Ben Badler: I could see a steady .280-.290 hitter with 15-20 home runs. I don't think he grows into much more power but he can put a surprising charge into the ball for a guy his size.

    Robert (Secaucus, NJ): Did Kyle Blair get any top 10 consideration?

Ben Badler: I thought about him there but I'd like to see what he does in pro ball first. I think the Indians got a steal with Blair in the fourth round, though.

    John (Harrisonburg, VA): Josh Judy misses quite a few bats. Does he have a future in the Tribe bullpen?

Ben Badler: His upside isn't high but I see him as a solid middle reliever in the 7th/8th innings as soon as next season.

    Pat (Jersey): what was the main reasons for knapp and hagadone dropping on the list? I'm guessing that it was just knapp being hurt and other guys (kipnis and white) doing good this year.

Ben Badler: Knapp dropped but that was more due to the rise of White, Kipnis and Weglarz and the addition of Pomeranz moreso than anything Knapp did. We knew when we ranked him last year that he probably would pitch very little in 2010, so that wasn't a surprise. With Hagadone, he just hasn't taken the steps forward with his command and delivery and his stuff wasn't quite as powerful this year.

    Elliot (Youngstown OH): Any catchers catch your eye? Chun Chen hit very well and went to the Futures Game. Roberto Perez walks a lot and I've heard he's a solid defender. Alex Monsalve was well-regarded when signed as a teenager.

Ben Badler: Perez and Monsalve are good defensive catchers but don't have Chen's offensive skill level. Of course in Cleveland, catcher looks like it's pretty squared away until about 2016 or so.

Ben Badler: Thanks for spending your afternoon with us here at BA, I always enjoy it. Conor Glassey will be here on Friday to talk about the Tigers.