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.

Ben Badler: This farm system is about as deep as anyone's in baseball, so let's get to it.

    Nora (C-Town): What's the skinny on Alex Perez? Top 30 worthy?

Ben Badler: The skinny is that he needs to not be so skinny any more and pack on some mass on to his lanky frame, but if he does that he could take off because he has two advanced secondary pitches. He has a plus breaking ball with power and sharp break that he can really torque out front, with feel for a potentially above-average changeup. I was there to watch Perez's worst start of the year in May when he gave up eight runs in three innings at Greensboro, but even though he got shelled it was obvious that his secondary stuff was advanced. He just needs to add weight to a.) become more durable (the shoulder injury is a concern) and b.) possibly add to his fastball, which is just a fringy pitch right now at 87-91, touching 93 on occasion. But he has hand speed, a relatively loose delivery and a projectable body to add significant mass, so if he gets stronger and learns to incorporate his lower half into his delivery more, I could see him adding a few ticks to his heater and taking off.

    Todd (Cleveland, OH): Do you see Josh Judy helping the big league pen this year? Is he more of a middle innings or late reliever in your mind?

Ben Badler: Look at what he did from July through the end of the year—he was ridiculous. Threw 24.1 innings, gave up three earned runs and had a 43-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Then he went out and dominated in the Arizona Fall League. He gets strikeouts and ground balls at an above-average clip with his 92-94 mph fastball that has some sink and a solid-average slider that could be a plus pitch. So yeah, I think he could help this year and be a very pleasant surprise, possibly in high-leverage situations.

    Steve (Chicago): Who's health/durability issues are more concerning, Hagadone's or Knapp's? And who is more likely to end up as a SP rather than a RP?

Ben Badler: Knapp, no question. Shoulders are more dangerous than elbows, and Hagadone has already come back and shown he can hit 98 mph with a nasty slider. Now he'll have to show he can back it up for more than three innings at a time, but the stuff is back. Knapp hasn't shown that yet, and with his arm action I'm going to be cautious. I think both of them end up as relievers, although Hagadone for me has the better chance at sticking as a starter.

    Campbell (Ukiah, CA): Where would you rank Lonnie Chisenhall among the other 3B prospects in the Minor Leagues? Is he ahead of a guy like Josh Bell?

Ben Badler: He's ahead of Bell. Pedro Alvarez is the only other third baseman I'd take over Chisenhall. I talked to at least a dozen people outside the organization in scouting and player development about Chisenhall and everyone raved about him.

    Elliot (Youngstown OH): So, Ben, do we expect the power to come, or merely hope the power will come for Michael Brantley?

Ben Badler: How about a bit of each? He has the size and room to fill out to gain strength and hit the ball with more authority. I don't think he's going to hit for much power next year because even the raw power isn't there quite yet. The power might not come until he's in his mid- to late-20s. Look at Ben Zobrist. He always had excellent strike-zone discipline, got on base at a high clip and was tough to strike out, but he had well below-average power and never never hit 10 home runs in a season until he turned 27. Once he gets stronger and gets his lower half more involved in his swing, the power could come, I'm just not expecting it to happen overnight.

    Jeff (Columbus, Ohio): You called the Indians farms system "deep". Care to expound on that thought with some strenghts and weaknesses?

Ben Badler: There are some teams that claim they have "depth." Mostly what that means is they have a bunch of mediocre, fringy talent in their system that EVERY team has in its farm system. Every team has a guy who throws mid-90s but can't control it. Every team has a toolsy athlete who needs to stop swinging at everything. That's not depth, that's just what everyone has. The Indians, for me, have legitimate depth in that there are players who are ranked in the 15-25 range who have a strong chance at having productive major league careers. The strength of the system is legitimate depth and two premium prospects in Carlos Santana and Lonnie Chisenhall, both of whom have star potential.

    Rich (NJ): What is your opinion of Lou Marson's maximum potential? Thanks,

Ben Badler: He'd be a top 10 guy in most systems, and you could make an argument for putting him ahead of Kipnis at 10. He doesn't have a plus tool—it's mostly 45s to 55s across the board, aside from his speed—but his strike-zone awareness is solid and should help him in his transition to the big leagues. He just doesn't hit for power because he doesn't have the raw strength or a swing conducive to generating loft, and because of the swing path I'm not sure the power will come in time. The scouting consensus seems to be that he's probably a good backup catcher, with the upside of a league-average starter.

    matt (atlanta): The Indians have gone through the motions before of trying to convert a high draft pick college OF into a second baseman. They gave up quickly with Trevor Crowe, whose major league potential in the outfield seems much like Jason Kipnis - not very. How serious are they about Kipnis at 2B? Can he stick there, and what makes him different than Crowe?

Ben Badler: The Indians were EXTREMELY excited about what Kipnis showed at second base at instructional league. They drafted him for his bat and his approach, but for me, his value is going to come from sticking at second base. But you're right: we're talking about instructs, and it's not a given that he can play the position. Ranking him in the top 10 was based on a weighted probability of him being able to handle the position.

    Elliot (Youngstown OH): Eric Berger posted excellent numbers in Kinston and Akron in his first full season. Will he be a major league starter, a middle reliever or a situational lefty?

Ben Badler: Either a back-end starter or a middle reliever, and at this point I'm leaning more toward reliever. It's an average fastball, he'll touch 93 with it and it's got some natural cut to it. The curve and the changeup have their moments, but they come and go. He's got an unusual delivery with a lot of effort and what's pretty much a straight-over-the-top arm slot. That's difficult to repeat, and it might be why his secondary stuff has been inconsistent. His athleticism bodes well for his ability to eventually corral his delivery, but I think it's always going to be something he'll have to monitor.

    Kevin (Toronto, Canada): Is Kelvin De La Cruz ready to go for spring training, and where do you see him starting off this year? Do you see him returning to his pre-injury form?

Ben Badler: One of the most disappointing prospect injuries in the minors, for me, because it looked like he was ready to take off as a prospect. The scouting report hasn't changed much from last year—he's still has the potential to be an above-average starter—but the health is a bigger concern now until we see how he fares when he returns to the mound. He threw at instructs and again at their Dominican instructs program in November. The velocity isn't fully back yet, but he was throwing all of his pitches without restrictions. He'll probably start back in Kinston when he's ready to return, but if he stays healthy he'll be at Akron at some point this year.

    Andrew (Toronto): Will Carlos Santana's injury delay his arrival in Cleveland much?

Ben Badler: Not by too much. I don't think the Indians would have started him in Cleveland on Opening Day anyway, but I still think he gets there by midseason. What it did delay is him getting additional work on his receiving skills in winter ball, and it might take him a little longer to get into the swing of things at the beginning of the year. It's not a long-term concern though.

    Rich (NJ): Can you please expound on your thoughts of Nick Weglarz? He seems to be a "Jim Thome" type with his power and patience. How serious are his recent injuries to his long term potential/performance? Thanks so much.

Ben Badler: They have a couple of things in common. One is that they both have a combination of outstanding raw power and plate discipline. The second is that they're physically similar. I don't mean that Weglarz looks like Thome did when Thome was 22, I mean they're physically similar right now, which is not a good thing for a 22-year-old prospect. Thome at the same age was a third baseman and stuck there through his mid-20s. Weglarz is already around 250 pounds, limited to playing a fringy left field and is already having back and shin problems. When Weglarz was healthy (aside from a dreadful April), he crushed the ball. When he played through injuries, he struggled. He'll have to stay healthy and iron out a few things at the plate that we mentioned in the scouting report, but his offensive upside is still considerable.

    Michael Stern (Rochester NY): Any concerns with Chisenhall's struggles in his first AA trial? Do the scouts feel he will still hit against advanced pitching? And do you see more power developing as he gets older?

Ben Badler: Not a concern. It's a small sample size, his strikeout rate was still solid and he mashed in the playoffs, for whatever that's worth. Chisenhall has one of the best swings in the minors and a solid approach at the plate, so I don't expect him to have many problems handling more advanced pitchers. The power was a bit of a surprise. I don't think he's an annual 25-plus home run guy, but he's got enough pop to hit anywhere from 15-25 homers per year, depending on who you talk to.

    Matt (Long Branch, NJ): What do you feel Delvi Cid's power potential is once he matures?

Ben Badler: He has some raw power, more from the right (his natural side) than from the left, but that doesn't project to be a big part of his game. He's at least a 70 runner, he's just really, really, really raw right now in all phases of the game, and the injury cost him some valuable development time. At this point he's a lottery ticket with a lot of swing and miss, but he's an excellent athlete.

    Jeff (Columbus, Ohio): How does the Indians international development compare to other organizations? Is there internation development program stronger than their domestic player program?

Ben Badler: I think it's above-average, and has been for a long time even through personnel turnover. Some teams can't even come up with one or two decent prospects they signed from Latin America. The Indians have Rondon, de la Cruz, Perez, Rivero, Gomez and Abreu, among others. They won't all pan out, but that's better than most teams.

    Al (Fairfax, VA): Matt McBride...AFL mirage, or breakout candidate?

Ben Badler: He was Rule 5 eligible and didn't get picked, so I think that says something. He's got quick hands, he'll turn on anyone's fastball and cover the plate pretty well, but he just doesn't have a position. From seeing him play in the AFL and talking to scouts about him, his receiving skills are a long, long ways away right now.

    Shane (Miami): Ben, enjoyed the write-ups. Chisenhall certainly had a breakout, both offensively and defensively. When you say solid-average power, what does that mean? I've read reports that he has 25+ Hr .300+ average potential. Is that accurate in your own assessment?

Ben Badler: If we're talking about 50 power, that means 15-19 home runs per year for most teams. A 60-grade power would be around 20-26 per year. Coming into the season, the consensus I gathered was that Chisenhall was probably a guy with 50 power, but after what he showed this season it could be a tick above. With his swing, ability to use the whole field and handle offspeed stuff, I can see him as a .300 hitter. The power projection on him varies from scout to scout, but I wouldn't expect 25-plus homers per year.

    Al (Fairfax, VA): How much fun will the 2010 Kinston rotation be to watch? Hagadone, Knapp and White in some order, right?

Ben Badler: I'm looking forward to making that two-hour drive as often as I can this year.

    ben (ontario,ca): what happened to beau mills? im surprised he fell all the way out of the top 10.

Ben Badler: For one, I think he just swings too much, chasing pitchers' pitches and becoming too pull-conscious. That hurt his OBP. He also starts his swing with a leg lift, and he has some inconsistencies getting his timing right with it in order to stay back. When his leg kick gets him caught with his weight out front, that takes away from his power. The raw power is there, and it shows up when he's able to stay back and leverage the ball. The tools haven't changed, it's just a matter of whether he can make the adjustments, although for a first baseman the bar is set pretty high.

    Al (Fairfax, VA): Santana or Posey?

Ben Badler: Posey. But just barely.

    George S. (Boston, MA): Where does Jeanmar Gomez fit in? Obviously he caught everyone's attention after throwing a perfect game, so I thought he might have made your top 10.

Ben Badler: He did have a tremendous season and put himself on the map for the Indians' future plans. That said, he doesn't have a true plus pitch and relies more on deception and throwing strikes. Not that those are bad attributes to have, obviously, but that skill set doesn't tend to translate well in the major leagues. He'll mix two-seamers and four-seamers, usually around 89-91. His slider made had its moments and made some strides this year but isn't a true swing-and-miss pitch, nor is his changeup, although it can have occasional split-like action. I think he'll pitch in the big leagues at some point, but I wouldn't expect him to replicate his 2009 season.

    Wes Hodges (Your Screen): Am I still in the Top 30? Your assessment of my skills?

Ben Badler: Hodges is in there, but lower than last year's No. 12 ranking. Last year was mostly a lost cause for Hodges—he just couldn't stay healthy (although that's another concern in itself, since he's had trouble staying healthy going back to his draft year). He had wrist and shoulder injuries that limited him, and when he did play he had to DH quite a bit, so I'm sure that got him out of his rhythm and comfort level. I don't think there's too much new in the Hodges' scouting report this year: he still shows feel for hitting (when healthy), but he's probably not a third baseman and the bat doesn't play as well across the diamond.

    Dan (New York): Abner Abreu performed well in the SAL at age 19 before his season was cut short by injury. Where did he fall in the top 30? Is Abreu a candidate to jump into Cleveland's top 10 next season? Thanks for the chat!

Ben Badler: He's in the back half, but like Cid he's still extremely raw and lost some valuable development time due to injury. He's a skinny guy, but man, can he hit it far. He hit one of the longest home runs I saw this year, and he's not even a big, musclebound guy. He generates tremendous whip and bat speed with his swing, so when he does make contact and leverages the ball, it goes a long, long way. He also took well to moving to right field and could be at least a solid-average right fielder. But his patience, ability to recognize offspeed pitches and make regular contact are still rudimentary at this point.

    Dr Bill (Dresden, Maine): Everyday basis...Santana in DH and Marson catching?

Ben Badler: I don't think that would maximize the roster. Santana is the long-term catcher, where his bat could be all-star caliber. Plenty of other options to put at DH.

    jerry (NYNY): Scott Barnes has always been a big favorite of mine.Whats his upside and do think he could be a callup this year? It seems this guy just keeps winning big games but does he have the stuff? I know the Giants thought he was the best 8th rd pick ever whats your feeling?

Ben Badler: He was a good eighth-round pick, but probably the upside of a No. 5, maybe No. 4 starter. He's had success in the low minors because he throws strikes, he has an above-average changeup and he's got a lot of deception because he hides the ball well throwing across his body. I'm not sure how that will play against more advanced hitters though, since his fastball is more of a fringy pitch that tops out around 92 and his breaking ball is a slurvish slider from a low 3/4 slot.

    Michael Stern (Rochester NY): What are the chances of Jordan Brown becoming an everyday first baseman in the bigs - if not with Cleveland - at least with another club? All he does is hit everywhere he goes. Does he have enough power to stay at 1B? I could see him as a Sean Casey type first baseman in the bigs. Any chance?

Ben Badler: Most scouts I've talked to see him as a useful bench player, but some of them see more upside as a potentially solid starter. His swing is fundamentally sound, he has a very good contact rate and he made a few adjustments this year that seemed to help him, using his lower half a little more (I'm sure the knee injury didn't help with that in 2008) and making a slight adjustment with his hands. He's never going to have typical first-base power and his defense is below-average, but he showed he could hit Triple-A pitching and continued to hit well in Venezuela.

    Rick Senften (Canton, Ohio): Is Hagadone a legit ace-in-the-making, or is he there because the Indians are skinny in the minor league arms department? The rotation projected for three years from now is made up of kids; how would you rate it against other future rotations BA is projecting?

Ben Badler: Hagadone's pure pitch quality is top-of-the-rotation stuff. How many lefthanders can touch the high-90s with a 60- to 70-grade slider and show feel for a changeup? There aren't many. I think there's a pretty big drop-off in the system between Chisenhall and Hagadone, but his stuff is top-shelf, and I think the changeup will get even better once he throws it more. Sure, there's concerns—the injury history, the command, whether he can hold up as a starter—but it's an electric arm.

    Warren (Texas): Who are the sleepers in the organziation that we might not have heard of, but still could impact MLB at some point? thanks for the chat!

Ben Badler: I don't see any questions in the queue about Chen Lee, but I think he could give the Indians value in a couple of years out of the bullpen. He had a great strikeout rate in Kinston and he has the stuff to match the performance. He'll sit 92-93 and touch the mid-90s with a solid slider that will flash hard downward bite but needs to get more consistent so it doesn't get side-to-side as much when he overthrows it. He hasn't been in the system long but he could move quickly.

    Felix (San Juan): Trey Haley III, top 30?

Ben Badler: Haley ended up missing the cut. At times he has two above-average pitches with his fastball and curveball, but there's a ton of effort in his delivery with a prominent head jerk at the end, which in turn makes him highly erratic in terms of his ability to get the ball over the plate. He's a good athlete and if he can slow things down and tone down the tempo of his delivery, he could elevate his status next year, but with the way he throws it's hard to bank on that happening.

    Josh (Boston): What do you think of Bryan Price? Starter or Reliever?

Ben Badler: Probably a reliever, though I'm sure the Indians will give him the opportunity to develop as a starter. Mostly a fastball/slider guy, low-90s fastball but his out pitch is the slider. The changeup is still a work-in-progress though, so he might be a better fit in the bullpen.

    matt (atlanta): It seems over the last several years the Indians farm system has always been well regarded for depth, but not so much for having players with high ceilings. Can you name any current farmhands outside your top 10 that have a high ceiling if their development matches raw potential?

Ben Badler: Kelvin de la Cruz has the potential to be an above-average major league starter, but it's a matter of staying healthy and showing that his stuff is back to the level it was before he got hurt. Carlos Rivero has yet to match tools with performance, but he's been moved through the system fairly quickly and hit much, much better in the second half. He still has to prove he can hit a pitch that breaks, but there's upside there if he can put it together.

    Kate (St. Louis): Are the Indians at all interested in Aroldis Chapman?

Ben Badler: I would be surprised if they got involved in that bidding.

    Mikell (Chicago): Where would you rank the Cleveland farm system as a whole?

Ben Badler: Probably top five. For whatever reason, there isn't one or even two farm systems that jump out to be as clearly elite the way Texas and Oakland did last year.

    Jack (Cleveland): Michael Brantley certainly doesn't profile as a typical power hitter in left field, the position it seems he's going to have to play in Cleveland. How much of a concern is that?

Ben Badler: Is it a concern? Sure. He's going to have to develop more power, but left fielders don't HAVE to be power hitters. The typical profile for a left fielder is the slow, plodding slugger, but runs are runs, and the distribution of the value a player provides from his hitting, fielding and baserunning doesn't change the value itself. It's easier to quantify offensive value than defensive value and there's a larger spread in talent among hitters than among fielding ability, so the profile is understandable, but it's not gospel. Brantley has the speed and the instincts to play a solid-average or better center field. Put that in left field and you're talking about at least a +10 defender, most likely. He's hard to strike out and has the potential to get on base at a high rate. There have been plenty of left fielders who haven't been power hitters but have had their value distributed mostly toward their ability to get on base, play above-average defense and run the bases well. Carl Crawford, Tim Raines, etc. I'm not saying Brantley's going to be anywhere NEAR the caliber of those kinds of superstar players, but him not fitting the historical profile of a left fielder isn't a huge concern for me.

    Rick (Canton, Ohio): Will Chisenhall grow into a decent/good defensive third baseman?

Ben Badler: I think he's on his way there. Some people I talked to early in the season weren't crazy about his defense, but he was just learning the position. His errors (for whatever it's worth) went down significantly in the second half, and from the scouting reports it seems to align with some adjustments he made in the field. He has plenty of arm for third base, but a lot of his errors came on throws, and it takes some getting used to for a young player learning the differences between shortstop and third base in terms of things like how to line up your feet, etc. I don't think he's going to be an above-average defender over there or win any Gold Gloves, but I would be surprised if he ever had to move off the position.

    James (Cleveland): I was wondering what the report is on Jason Donald. I know he was ranked in the Phillies system last year. Aside from his ranking, what are his strengths and weaknesses?

Ben Badler: No plus tools, but he's a solid player who right now looks like a probably backup, occasional starter in the big leagues, although with the injuries last season it's hard to get a great read on him. The swing is short and compact, not much power, average runner, might be a better fit at second base (I know we gave him best defensive infielder in the system, but I really don't think there was a better option there). He should be up at some point this season.

    Al (Fairfax, VA): Corrasco and Rondon sitting at 7/8 on the that more and indictment of their potential (despite the young age) or an indication that the players above them are that good?

Ben Badler: I think they're both solid, not spectacular prospects, although given the Indians current roster it would be a tremendous boost if they can become solid contributors this season. If either of them had a plus breaking ball, they'd be the No. 3 prospect in the organization, no question. But they don't, and it's REALLY hard to have success in the big leagues as a right-handed pitcher without a reliable breaking ball, which for me is something that is largely an innate ability. Rondon has an outstanding fastball with good life that he commands to both sides of the plate and an average changeup, but he's heavily dependent on the fastball. That's one reason I think you saw his strikeout rate dip moving from Double-A to Triple-A, where he became much more hittable. He's a good prospect with the potential to be a mid-rotation starter, though I think people generally overestimate his floor based on his minor league output.

    Brad Broughman (Lansing, MI): Carlos Carrasco looked more like a batting practice pitcher in the bigs and he is the #7 player in the Cleveland Top 10? Does that say something about the depth in their organization or was I missing something when I watched him struggle mightly pitching in Cleveland?

Ben Badler: That last answer was getting long so I'll hit on Carrasco here. The breaking ball is a concern for some scouts, but with Carrasco it's also a matter of command. He throws strikes, but he can be prone to leaving the ball up and over the plate, and if you do that with a fastball when you're behind in the count to a major league hitter, bad things usually happen. Maybe it's mental, maybe it's mechanical, but whatever it is, I think it's fixable. He still has a plus fastball and a swing-and-miss changeup and a terrific track record of staying healthy, which I think gives him the potential to be a solid major league starter if he can make those adjustments.

    John (MI): Ben, thanks for the chat. How close is former Wolverine Zach Putnam to his big league debut. As he was moved to the pen is he projected as a reliever?

Ben Badler: He was starting in short stints at the Arizona Fall League, but it seems like his most likely major league role is in the bullpen. He's another guy in the long line of useful relievers the Indians will have at their disposal from their farm system in the very near future. He's got heavy sink on a low-90s fastball and a plus splitter with late action (he'll mix a slider and a changeup in there as well) to get you a lot of ground balls and strikeouts. He doesn't walk many batters, but once he refines his command he should be in Cleveland.

Ben Badler: Thanks for all the questions, but it's time to wrap things up. Conor Glassey will be here on Friday to handle all of your Tigers-related queries.