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.

Editor's Note: The Top 10 order as originally posted was incorrect. It has been edited to match the rankings as they will be in the 2010 Prospect Handbook.

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The Indians thought a few better players or even better fortune would get them to the playoffs. After all, they had scored more runs than they allowed in each of the previous five seasons, which included a pair of 90-plus win campaigns.

The 2009 season disabused them of that belief.

Cleveland tied Kansas City for last place in the American League Central with a 65-97 record, its worst mark since 1991 and a performance that ultimately cost manager Eric Wedge his job.

The Indians went outside the organization for his replacement, hiring Manny Acta, who went 158-252 (.385) while managing the Nationals for parts of the last three seasons.

Acta tried to oversee a rebuilding effort in Washington, and that's what he has on his hands in Cleveland. The 2009 Indians had a middle-of-the-road offense, but the Orioles and Nationals were the only teams in baseball that allowed more runs.

Cleveland was plagued by poor pitching from both starters and relievers, and a defense that ranked 27th in the majors in defensive efficiency.

Things look better in the farm system, where the Indians have one of the deepest collections of prospects around. Much of that talent came via the trade market, including five of their top eight prospects: catcher Carlos Santana, lefthander Nick Hagadone, righthanders Jason Knapp and Carlos Carrasco and outfielder Michael Brantley.

Those players didn't come cheaply, however, as they were parts of deals including the two Game One starters in the 2009 World Series—Cliff Lee and C.C. Sabathia—as well as three-time all-star Victor Martinez and solid veteran Casey Blake.

Smaller deals that shipped off Rafael Betancourt, Mark DeRosa and Ryan Garko during the 2009 season provided additional depth.

The Indians are developing an intriguing group of homegrown Latin American players, most notably Venezuelan righthander Hector Rondon, Dominican lefty Kelvin de la Cruz and Venezuelan shortstop Carlos Rivero.

But Cleveland was burned in Latin America last year when it found out that Dominican shortstop Jose Ozoria, who was believed to be 16 when he signed for $575,000 in 2008, was actually three years older and named Wuali Bryan.

While the Indians have built an impressive farm system, trading away big leaguers in exchange for prospects every year isn't a sustainable model for competing.

They realize they need to get more out of their drafts, especially now that they're picking fifth overall in 2010.

It's Cleveland's highest draft position since taking Paul Shuey second overall in 1992, and it will have to get more than the last time it had a top-10 choice and drafted Jeremy Sowers sixth overall in 2004.

The Indians have a strong nucleus of up-the-middle talent to build around, with Grady Sizemore in center field, Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop and Santana soon to arrive behind the plate.

In the short term, one of the Indians' most important tasks will be to improve their run prevention. The Indians don't have any defensive stalwarts on the cusp of the major leagues, but they do have Rondon and Carrasco close to helping the major league starting rotation and several potentially useful bullpen arms nearly ready to offer relief.

1.  Carlos Santana, c   Born: April 8, 1986B-T: B-RHt: 5-11Wt: 190
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2004Signed by: Andres Lopez (Dodgers)
Carlos SantanaBackground: After signing with the Dodgers for $75,000 in 2004, Santana spent his first two seasons playing third base and the outfield. He made the transition to catcher during instructional league after the 2006 season, then broke out with an MVP season in the the high Class A California League in 2008. Los Angeles traded Santana and John Meloan to the Indians that July in a deadline deal for third baseman Casey Blake, agreeing to send a higher-quality prospect if the Cleveland covered the roughly $2 million remaining on Blake's contract. Santana added another MVP trophy last season in the Double-A Eastern League, leading Akron to the championship and Baseball America's Minor League Team of the Year award. The only negative for Santana came while playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic, where he broke the hamate bone in his right hand and had surgery in early December. He should be ready by the start of spring training.

Strengths: Santana has a bat that would fit nicely at any position, making it a premium for the catcher position. He combines outstanding plate discipline, contact-hitting ability and power at the plate. Santana works the count well, showing the ability to draw walks at a high clip. He's selectively aggressive, not offering at pitches he can't handle on the edges and taking an aggressive swing at pitches in his zone. He has good balance at the plate and generally shows a short, compact swing. Though he's not a big catcher like Victor Martinez, Santana maximizes his swing from top to bottom to generate plus power from both sides of the plate. He uses a leg lift to incorporate his lower half into his swing. He has above-average bat speed and strong hands, and he gets late acceleration through the zone with his wrists. Santana is a solid defensive catcher, with an arm that gets plus grades or better, accuracy and a quick release. He threw out 30 percent of basestealers last year. His athleticism also helps his agility behind the dish.

Weaknesses: Santana's swing gets long at times and he's still learning how to keep it under control. His stride can get him caught out on his front foot, and some EL observers questioned his ability to turn on hard stuff inside. His receiving skills have made progress, though as a converted catcher he still needs additional seasoning. Santana has the physical tools to be an above-average defensive catcher, but he's still learning nuances such as game management. He understands English well, but the Indians want to see him continue to improve his communication skills to work better with pitchers. After Santana finished his season with Akron, the Indians brought him to Cleveland—not to play but to be a part of pregame meetings and sit in the stands behind home plate with their advance scouts, charting pitches and learning how to understand their reports. He's a below-average runner.

The Future: Though the Cleveland also traded for Lou Marson last year, Santana is one of baseball's elite prospects and clearly the franchise's catcher of the future. With the Indians trading Martinez to the Red Sox last July and shipping Kelly Shoppach to the Rays in December, the door is open for Santana to take over in Cleveland at some point in 2010. His injury might set back his timetable, but he likely would have started the season at Triple-A Columbus regardless. He should be the Indians' full-time catcher by 2011 and has the potential to be a perennial all-star.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Akron (AA) .290 .413 .530 428 91 124 30 2 23 97 90 83 2
2.  Lonnie Chisenhall, 3b   Born: Oct. 4, 1988B-T: L-RHt: 6-1Wt: 200
 Drafted: Pitt (N.C.) CC, 2008 (1st round)Signed by: Bob Mayer
Lonnie ChisenhallBackground: Chisenhall was the nation's top freshman coming into 2007, but South Carolina dismissed him after an arrest on charges of larceny. He emerged at Pitt (N.C.) CC in 2008, falling to the Indians at the 29th overall pick. He finished 2009 helping Double-A Akron to the Eastern League title.

Strengths: Chisenhall draws rave reviews for his low-maintenance swing. He stays calm and balanced at the plate, using a compact stroke with good bat speed and length through the zone. He has a good approach, hanging in well against lefthanders. After moving from shortstop to third base last year, Chisenhall added strength and showed surprising power. A good athlete and an average runner, he has a strong arm, good hands and body control at third with solid range to both sides.

Weaknesses: Chisenhall's power doesn't project as plus but could be solid-average. He struggled at third base initially with his footwork and throwing, though the majority of his errors came at the beginning of the year. He has a strong arm, but he had to make strides getting his feet lined up, using his lower body and keeping his arm angle up on his throws.

The Future: One of the top third base prospects in the minors, Chisenhall has the bat gives to be an above-average major leaguer. He should return to Double-A in 2010 as one of the Eastern League's youngest players.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Kinston (Hi A) .276 .346 .492 388 59 107 26 2 18 79 37 80 2
Akron (AA) .183 .238 .387 93 13 17 5 1 4 13 7 16 1
3.  Nick Hagadone, lhp   Born: Jan. 1, 1986B-T: L-LHt: 6-5Wt: 230
 Drafted: Washington, 2007 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: John Booher (Red Sox)
Nick HagadoneBackground: Hagadone made a strong recovery after having Tommy John surgery in 2008, returning to game action in June. He made 10 starts for low Class A Greenville before the Red Sox included him in the trade that sent Victor Martinez to Boston.

Strengths: Hagadone has outstanding arm strength for a lefthander, sitting at 93-94 mph with good life and touching 98. His slider is a plus pitch that flashes plus-plus with outstanding late bite. He also shows  feel for a changeup, though he primarily pitches off his fastball/slider combination. Hagadone doesn't throw with much effort and his arm works well. He gets ground balls at an above-average clip and didn't surrender a home run last year.

Weaknesses: Command, often the last thing to come back from Tommy John surgery, is still developing for Hagadone. He's athletic and able to pitch inside well, though he's still learning to repeat his delivery and still has a tendency to rush toward the plate.

The Future: The Indians plan to keep Hagadone as a starter next year in Kinston, though his longest start in 2009 lasted three innings, so he'll have to prove his durability. He has the stuff to be a frontline starter, though he might end up a power lefty reliever.

2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Greenville (Lo A) 0 2 2.52 10 10 0 0
Lake County (Lo A) 0 1 2.45 5 5 0 0
Kinston (Hi A) 0 0 5.06 2 2 0 0
4.  Jason Knapp, rhp   Born: Aug. 31, 1990B-T: R-RHt: 6-5Wt: 215
 Drafted: HS—Annandale, N.J., 2008 (2nd round)Signed by: Gene Schall (Phillies)
Jason KnappBackground: The Phillies included Knapp in the four-player package that brought Cliff Lee to Philadelphia. Knapp was on the disabled list at the time with biceps tendinitis, then he had arthroscopic surgery to remove loose bodies in his shoulder after the season.

Strengths: Knapp is a strong-bodied pitcher with an electric fastball, working at 93-95 mph with riding life and touching 98. He mixes in a sharp curve with occasional 12-to-6 break that is in and out of the zone. It flashes plus on his best days. He shows feel for a potentially average changeup.

Weaknesses: His delivery, a major concern among scouts in high school, has improved. Knapp has elevated his arm angle, which caused inconsistency with his breaking ball and caused him to leave his fastball up when his elbow would get too low, to a high three-quarters slot. Still, Knapp's delivery is awkward. He needs to repeat it better and his inverted arm action concerns some scouts, particularly for a player with a shoulder injury.

The Future: Knapp was still rehabbing as 2009 came to a close, and the Indians plan to reassess his status when he arrives at spring training. If he shows durability he has the potential to be at least a mid-rotation starter, though if his health continues to hamper him he could be a power closer instead. He should begin 2010 in Kinston.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Lakewood (Lo A) 2 7 4.01 17 17 0 0 85 63 3 39 111 .208
Lake County (Lo A) 0 0 5.40 4 4 0 0 12 10 0 8 12 .238
5.  Michael Brantley, of   Born: May 15, 1987B-T: L-LHt: 6-2Wt: 200
 Drafted: HS—Fort Pierce, Fla., 2005 (7th round)Signed by: Larry Pardo (Brewers)
Michael BrantleyBackground: The Indians picked Brantley over third baseman Taylor Green as the player to be named in the 2008 deal that sent C.C. Sabathia to Milwaukee. While Green stagnated last year in Double-A, Brantley boosted his stock and received a September callup.

Strengths: The son of former major leaguer Mickey Brantley, Michael has excellent plate discipline and plus speed from the left side with a compact swing and a good two-strike approach. He pairs his speed with good instincts on the basepaths, tying for the IL lead with 46 steals while getting caught just five times, including a perfect 33-for-33 against righthanders. Brantley improved his reads and routes to become a solid-average defender in center field with a chance to get better.

Weaknesses: Brantley has well-below-average power, though at 6-foot-2 he could develop more pop. He doesn't use his legs much in his swing, but more power could come once he learns to work his lower half into the ball, leverage the ball more consistently and learn what pitches he can drive. His arm is below-average.

The Future: Brantley won't start in center field in Cleveland as long as Grady Sizemore is around and will more likely see time in left. He could make up for his lack of power with his ability to get on base and defensive value. He could crack Cleveland's Opening Day roster.

2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Columbus (AAA)
.267 .350 .361 457
Cleveland .313 .358 .348 112 10 35 4 0 0 11 8 19 4
6.  Nick Weglarz, of   Born: Dec. 16, 1987B-T: L-LHt: 6-3Wt: 245
 Drafted: HS—Stevensville, Ont., 2005 (3rd round)Signed by: Les Pajari
Nick WeglarzBackground: After playing sparingly for Canada as one of the youngest players in the World Baseball Classic, Weglarz got off to a brutal start, going 5-for-56 with one extra-base hit in April. He tore through the Eastern League in May and June, but his numbers tailed off as a back injury took a toll, and he went on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his left shin. He went to the Arizona Fall League after the season but left early to have surgery on his shin.

Strengths: Weglarz is one of the most patient hitters in the minors and has the potential to draw 100 walks over a full season. He has a massive frame and outstanding raw power with the ability to hit the ball out to all fields. Weglarz made strides with his hitting mechanics, using his legs more and doing a better job of getting the back half of his body through the ball.

Weaknesses: Weglarz could tighten his mechanics to hit for a better average, including developing a more consistent hand trigger. While his patience is a virtue, he could be more aggressive on certain pitches in the strike zone. Weglarz's size and injuries are a concern for some scouts. His fringy arm and well-below-average speed limit him to left field.

The Future: The Indians expect Weglarz to be ready to play by the beginning of spring training. He could open 2010 in Triple-A, though at his age it's still possible that he returns to Akron for another season.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Akron (EL) .227 .377 .431 339 69 77 17 2 16 65 75 78 2
7.  Hector Rondon, rhp   Born: Feb. 26, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 180
 Signed: Venezuela, 2004Signed by: Stewart Ruiz
Hector RondonBackground: A Futures Gamer in 2008, Rondon had cruised through his first five Double-A starts when the Indians moved him to the Akron bullpen, with an eye toward helping a beleaguered bullpen in Cleveland. Rondon made just two relief appearances before the Indians nixed the experiment, sending him back into the rotation and promoting him to Triple-A in July.

Strengths: Rondon's best pitch is his fastball, a lively low-90s heater that touches 96. He commands it well to both sides of the plate and it has late life through the zone, making it a swing-and-miss pitch. His second-best pitch is his average changeup, which could be a future 55 offering on the 20-80 scale. Rondon repeats a clean delivery, and his athleticism helps him field his position well.

Weaknesses: Rondon made strides with his secondary pitches, but he'll have to prove that they're good enough to keep big league hitters off his impressive fastball. His mid-80s slider needs to catch up, as it's a fringe-average pitch that flashes average occasionally. He experienced mild right biceps soreness in June but didn't miss much time.

The Future: Rondon profiles as a potential mid-rotation starter. He will likely begin 2010 in the Columbus rotation, but should be in line for a callup at some point.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Akron (AA) 7 5 2.75 15 13 1 0 72 60 3 16 73 .227
Columbus (AAA) 4 5 4.00 12 12 0 0 74 83 8 13 64 .282
8.  Carlos Carrasco, rhp   Born: March 3, 1987B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 215
 Signed: Venezuela, 2003Signed by: Sal Agostinelli (Phillies)
Carlos CarrascoBackground: The top prospect in the Phillies organization before the 2007 and 2008 seasons, Carrasco headed to Cleveland last year in the trade that sent Cliff Lee to Philadelphia, then made his major league debut as a September callup.

Strengths: Carrasco throws a 91-94 mph fastball that touches 96. He also throws his plus changeup with good arm speed and late action. Carrasco has a big frame, solid mechanics and arm action, with a track record of durability.

Weaknesses: Carrasco's curveball comes and goes, as it's often a fringe-average pitch. He'll mix in a fringy slider that has short, harder break. He's a solid strike-thrower, but he has lapses repeating his delivery and in turn his command, often making mistakes up and over the middle of the plate. He's been hit hard with runners on base. Some believe it's a matter of wavering focus, while others say it's a mechanical issue when he pitches from the stretch, as he tends to sink on his backside. That causes him to throw from a lower slot and leaves his stuff a bit flat, but it should be correctable.

The Future: If Carrasco can refine his command, he has the stuff to be a mid-rotation starter. He could start in Cleveland's rotation this spring, and if not he'll return to Triple-A.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Lehigh Valley (AAA) 6 9 5.18 20 20 0 0 115 118 14 38 112 .262
Columbus (AAA) 5 1 3.19 6 6 0 0 42 31 3 7 36 .196
Cleveland 0 4 8.87 5 5 0 0 22 40 6 11 11 .400
9.  Alex White, rhp   Born: Aug. 29, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 200
 Drafted: North Carolina, 2009 (1st round)Signed by: Bob Mayer
Alex WhiteBackground: White passed on signing with the Dodgers as a 14th-round pick in 2006 to attend North Carolina, where he spent three years in the Tar Heels' weekend rotation and spent two years as the team's ace. White signed with the Indians for $2.25 million as the 15th overall pick in the 2009 draft.

Strengths: An excellent athlete and competitor, White throws a heavy 91-94 mph fastball with plus sink and touches 96. His out pitch is his plus splitter, a strong weapon with depth and deception to thwart lefties. White's slider has been an inconsistent pitch—some feel he got away from it in college in deference to his splitter to miss more metal bats—but it has been above-average pitch at times.

Weaknesses: White focused on his slider in instructional league, trying to get more extension out front and later break instead of letting it get long. His command wavered at times in college, and his arm action in the back—which has changed since high school, when his slider was better— is a concern for some scouts.

The Future: After initial talk of developing White as a reliever, the Indians say they plan to bring him through the system as a starter. If he can rediscover his slider he would have the pure stuff to be an above-average starter, though he could also fit in as a future closer. He will begin his pro career with high Class A Kinston.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Did Not Play—Signed Late
10.  Jason Kipnis, 2b/of   Born: April 3, 1987B-T: L-RHt: 5-10Wt: 175
 Signed: Arizona State, 2009 (2nd round)Signed by: Byron Ewing
Jason KipnisBackground: After a redshirt year and an uneven freshman campaign at Kentucky—one that ended with him kicked off the team—Kipnis transferred to Arizona State, where he became a first-team All-American. The Indians took him with the 63rd overall pick in 2009. The more intriguing development came in instructional league, where the Indians asked Kipnis to play second base.

Strengths: Kipnis has good bat speed, a quick trigger and a loose, flat swing that stays in the zone a long time. There's occasional length to his swing, but he centers the ball consistently, uses the whole field and handles lefties and righties. Kipnis showed surprising skill at second base with good hands, footwork, body control and the ability to make plays to both sides.

Weaknesses: Kipnis is a tweener as an outfielder. His average speed and fringe-average arm fit better in left field than center, and while he has surprising pop for his size, he'll likely max out at average power. While he looked good at second base in instructional league and dabbled there in college, he hasn't played the position extensively.

The Future: Kipnis will report to Cleveland's complex in Goodyear, Ariz., in January to get a head start preparing for second base, where he'll get more work in spring training. Kipnis will already be 23 at the start of the 2010 season and should start in Kinston.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Mahoning Valley (SS) .306 .388 .459 111 19 34 8 3 1 19 15 18 3

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Photo Credits: David Schofield (Santana)
Carl Kline (Chisenhall)
Ken Carr (Weglarz, Rondon)