Cleveland Indians Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Follow me on Twitter

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, 2011.

Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
Indians Chat
Ben Badler
Pre-Order the 2011 Prospect Handbook
30 scouting reports on every team

Indians' Team Page
Indians Top 10 Prospects
Last Year's Indians Top 10 Prospects
2010 Draft: Indians (Basic Database)
2010 Draft: Indians (Advanced Database)
2010 Draft Report Cards: Cleveland Indians
Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
Pre-Order the 2011 Prospect Handbook
Cleveland Indians

The highlight of the Indians' 2010 season came when top prospect Carlos Santana made his major league debut on June 11. The 24-year-old catcher hit .260/.401/.467 before his season ended in gruesome fashion Aug. 2. A home-plate collision with Ryan Kalish ended with Santana getting carted off the field and requiring surgery on his left knee.

Even when it had Santana in its lineup, Cleveland struggled. The Indians finished 69-93 on the heels of going 65-97 in 2009, their two worst back-to-back years since 1914-15. The losing on the field has coincided with an accompanying decline in attendance, and the 1.39 million fans who came out in 2010 were a record low for Jacobs Field and the team's lowest mark since 1992.

After the season, general manager Mark Shapiro moved up to team president and assistant GM Chris Antonetti took over for Shapiro, a move the club had announced in February. Major changes in how the club operates aren't expected, as Antonetti already was heavily involved in the team's decision-making process and the rest of the front office remained largely in place.

Cleveland had difficulty creating and preventing runs in 2010, ranking 26th in baseball in runs scored and 24th in runs allowed while getting few contributions from truly homegrown players. Fausto Carmona led the pitching staff, but he was signed back in 2000 out of the Dominican Republic.

Tony Sipp, a 45th-round draft-and-follow from 2004, was an effective set-up man. Trevor Crowe, a 2005 first-round pick, had the lowest OPS (.634) among regular American League outfielders. David Huff, the team's top pick (sandwich round) in 2006, had a 6.21 ERA in 15 starts.

The Indians have had more success trading for young players than signing and developing them—Chris Perez emerged as a somewhat wild but effective closer, and Carlos Carrasco came up in September and showed the potential to be a mid-rotation starter—part of the reason they have found themselves near the bottom of the American League Central the last two seasons.

Based on the on-field success of recent top picks, Cleveland's draft drought could end soon. Lonnie Chisenhall, the club's 2008 first-round pick, has become one of the game's best third-base prospects and ranks No. 1 on the Indians list. The Indians' picks from the first three rounds in 2009—righthander Alex White, second baseman Jason Kipnis and righthander Joe Gardner—all dominated in their first full seasons.

Though many of their premium choices in 2010 signed too late to play much, Baseball America rated the crop headlined by lefthander Drew Pomeranz and outfielder LeVon Washington as the best draft in the game. Cleveland spent $9.4 million on bonuses, more than all but four other teams.

While the Indians got a strong showing from White, the development of several other starters hit some speed bumps. Promising righthanders Alexander Perez and Hector Rondon had Tommy John surgery. Kelvin de la Cruz and Nick Hagadone, who missed significant time in the past with arm injuries, battled their deliveries and struggled to take the next step forward.

Their return to contention might still be a few years away, but the Indians hope the ability to develop their own draft picks will give them a more stable pipeline of talent for the big league club. That's preferable to relying on getting young talent by trading away their best big leaguers—Cliff Lee, Victor Marintez, C.C. Sabathia—as they've had to in recent years.

1.  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: After turning down the Pirates as an 11th-round pick out of high school, Chisenhall entered the 2007 season as Baseball America's top-ranked freshman in college baseball. But he didn't last long at South Carolina. That March, he and teammate Nick Fuller stole computer and television equipment from a dorm room and $3,100 in cash from an assistant coach's locker. The Gamecocks dismissed both players from the program, and in February 2008, Chisenhall received six months of probation after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges of burglary and larceny. By that point, he was attending Pitt (N.C.) CC. He batted .410 and struck out just eight times in 219 plate appearances that spring, establishing himself as one of the top hitters available in the 2008 draft. The Indians drafted him 29th overall and signed him for $1.1 million. They may have had more insight into his makeup than most teams, as assistant general manager John Mirabelli was a former roommate and pitching coach for Ray Tanner, Chisenhall's coach at South Carolina. A shortstop in college, Chisenhall stayed there in his first pro summer but slid over to third base in 2009, when he helped Double-A Akron win the Eastern League championship by batting .467 in the postseason. He played through a right shoulder strain early last season at Akron, and was hitting just .261/.325/.315 with no home runs when he went on the disabled list on May 12. He returned two weeks later, then hit .284/.359/.493 with 17 homers in his final 90 games.

Scouting Report: Chisenhall is one of the best pure hitters in the minors. He has a simple lefthanded swing that's easy for him to repeat and allows him to stay inside the baseball. He has good bat speed, routinely makes sweet-spot contact and can drive the ball to all fields. He's a balanced hitter with good rhythm, and his bat path creates a nice swing plane, so there aren't many holes in his stroke. Chisenhall also has solid power and projects to hit 20-25 homers per season. While it wasn't a weakness in the past, he made strides improving his strike-zone discipline in 2010. Chisenhall isn't a standout defender but scouts don't seem to have much concern about his ability to remain at third base. He's an average fielder who has the hands and footwork to handle the position. Though he's a below-average runner, his range and agility are both solid. He's still refining the consistency and accuracy of his throws but does possess solid-average arm strength. He's also still learning some of the nuances of third base, such as improving his pre-pitch setup to be able to react to the ball better off the bat.

The Future: Chisenhall will open 2011 in Triple-A Columbus, where he should be one of the International League's most productive hitters. He projects as an above-average regular in the big leagues and should take over the starting job in Cleveland by the start of the 2012 season. The Indians entered the offseason with Jayson Nix as their best option at the hot corner, so they could summon Chisenhall before the end of 2011.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Akron (AA) .278 .351 .450 460 81 128 22 3 17 84 46 77 3
2.  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: The 15th overall pick in the 2009 draft, White signed with the Indians for a slightly over-slot $2.25 million. He made his pro debut in 2010 at high Class A Kinston, near his hometown of Greenville, N.C., and quickly progressed to Double-A.

Scouting Report: White's velocity fluctuated throughout his first pro season, but he generally sat at 87-92 mph with his two-seam fastball and topped out at 95 mph. His two-seamer has plus sink and he throws it for strikes. When White gets to a two-strike count, he uses his plus splitter to put away both lefties and righties. His main point of emphasis in 2010 was his slider, which showed promise in high school and early in his college career. He'll flash a solid-average slider and is working on mechanical adjustments to stay on top of the pitch and repeat his release more consistently. He's a quality athlete.

The Future: When the Indians drafted White, they thought he might be a future reliever, but the plan now is to continue to develop him as a starter. The hope is that he can become at least a No. 3 starter, and he has the potential to be more than that. He should begin 2011 in Triple-A and could push for a big league promotion in the second half.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Kinston (Hi A) 2 3 2.86 8 8 0 0 44 32 4 19 41 .204
Akron (AA) 8 7 2.28 18 17 0 0 107 91 8 27 76 .226
3.  Jason Kipnis, 2b   Born: April 3, 1987B-T: L-RHt: 5-10Wt: 180
 Drafted: Arizona State, 2009 (2nd round)Signed by: Byron Ewing
Jason KipnisBackground: Kipnis was named Pacific-10 Conference player of the year and signed for $575,000 as a second-round pick in 2009. He had a strong pro debut as an outfielder, then moved to second base in instructional league. He made the transition surprisingly smoothly, tearing through two levels and joining Columbus for the playoffs.

Scouting Report: Kipnis is an advanced, aggressive hitter who takes advantage of mistakes with a simple, balanced stroke. His swing can get big, but he usually stays inside the ball, employs the whole field and hangs in well against lefties. Despite his size, he generates average power with strong hands and forearms. He's an average runner with good baserunning instincts. Though he's still learning how to play second, Kipnis doesn't look like a converted outfielder. He's athletic, has good range and reads ground balls well. He has a fringy arm and lacks classic infield actions, but his feet are quick and his hands are solid. His lack of experience still shows with his double-play pivots and positioning on relays.

The Future: The Indians have youngsters Luis Valbuena and Jason Donald at second base in the majors, but neither has Kipnis' offensive potential. He'll likely return to Triple-A to start 2011 but could end the season in Cleveland.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Kinston (Hi A) .300 .387 .478 203 33 61 12 3 6 31 24 46 2
Akron (AA) .311 .385 .502 315 63 98 20 5 10 43 31 61 7
4.  Drew Pomeranz, lhp   Born: Nov. 22, 1988B-T: R-LHt: 6-5Wt: 230
 Drafted: Mississippi 2010 (1st round)Signed by: Chuck Bartlett
Drew PomeranzBackground: The younger brother of Cardinals 2003 third-round pick Stu Pomeranz, Drew almost signed with the Rangers out of high school as a 12th-rounder in 2007. He set the career strikeout record at Mississippi and was the 2010 Southeastern Conference pitcher of the year despite having to deal with a mild pectoral strain in May. He recovered to become the first college pitcher drafted in 2010, going No. 5 overall and signing for $2.65 million at the Aug. 16 deadline.

Scouting Report: Pomeranz has two plus pitches in his fastball and curveball. His fastball sits in the low 90s and touches 95 mph. It has good life and the deception in his delivery makes it tough to track the ball out of his hand. His breaking ball is even more devastating, a knuckle-curve with hard 12-to-6 action. Pomeranz dominated college lineups when he threw his curve for strikes, though he still must to corral his control after walking 4.4 batters per nine innings as a junior. He has flashed a solid-average changeup at times and will need to use it more as a pro.

The Future: Pomeranz could follow the path of 2009 first-rounder Alex White, debuting in high Class A with the chance for a quick promotion to Double-A. He could be in Cleveland by 2012, profiling as a frontline starter if he improves his changeup, control and command.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Did Not Play—Signed Late
5.  Nick Weglarz, of   Born: Dec. 16, 1987B-T: L-LHt: 6-3Wt: 240
 Drafted: HS—Stevenson, Ont., 2005 (3rd round) Signed by: Les Pajari
Nick WeglarzBackground: After devoting part of 2008 to the Olympics and part of 2009 to the World Baseball Classic, Weglarz committed the entire 2010 season to the Indians. He reached Triple-A in late May, but in July a sprained right thumb ended his season.

Scouting Report: Weglarz is a very patient hitter with outstanding pitch recognition. He's still learning to be aggressive against pitches in the zone in order to better tap into his above-average raw power. There's some effort to his swing but he doesn't chase pitches out of the zone. Weglarz's bat will have to carry him, as his defense in left field is adequate at best. He's a well below-average runner with a fringy arm and substandard range. Staying healthy has been a problem for Weglarz, who missed time with a broken hand (2006) and a stress fracture in his left shin (2009).

The Future: Weglarz has the potential to slot into the middle of the order and produce a high OBP with power, though he'll have to work on his defense to make sure he doesn't give back too many runs in the field. He'll report to major league spring training but will likely end up starting the year in Columbus, though he should make his big league debut at some point in 2011.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Akron (AA) .285 .387 .511 137 21 39 10 0 7 27 22 26 1
Columbus (AAA) .286 .392 .497 175 30 50 17 1 6 20 28 43 2
6.  Jason Knapp, rhp   Born: Aug. 31, 1990B-T: R-RHt: 6-5Wt: 235
 Drafted: HS—Annandale, N.J., 2008 (2nd round)Signed by: Gene Schall (Phillies)
Jason KnappBackground: The Phillies drafted Knapp in the second round in 2008, then sent him to the Indians with three other prospects to acquire Cliff Lee in 2009. While the other players in the deal—Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald and Lou Marson—already have reached Cleveland, Knapp offers the greatest upside. He also comes with considerable risk, as he had arthroscopic surgery to remove loose bodies in his shoulder after the 2009 season and missed much of 2010.

Scouting Report: When healthy, Knapp has a knockout fastball that can sit in the mid-90s and reach 98. If his curveball is working, he's extremely difficult to hit. His curve can be a swing-and-miss pitch, though at times he overthrows it and doesn't stay on top of it. His changeup needs further development as well. Though Knapp has made strides with his mechanics since high school, he still is learning to repeat his delivery and keep his massive frame back over the rubber. He has effort in his high three-quarters delivery.

The Future: Knapp probably will start 2011 in high Class A, with the Indians monitoring his innings to try to keep him healthy. If he proves to be more durable, Knapp could pitch in the front of a big league rotation. If not, his power repertoire could make him a closer.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
AZL Indians (R) 0 2 1.46 5 5 0 0 12 5 0 4 18 .119
Lake County (Lo A) 1 0 3.94 4 4 0 0 16 12 0 8 29 .207
7.  LeVon Washington, of   Born: July 26, 1991B-T: L-RHt: 5-11Wt: 170
 Drafted: Chipola (Fla.) JC, 2010 (2nd round)Signed by: Chuck Bartlett
LeVon WashingtonBackground: One of the fastest runners and best athletes in the 2009 high school draft class, Washington went 30th overall to the Rays. He didn't sign and failed to qualify academically at Florida, ending up at Chipola (Fla.) JC. Many scouts still didn't know what to make of Washington, but the Indians drafted him 55th overall and gave him $1.2 million.

Scouting Report: Washington has everything he needs to hit for a high average. He sees the ball well, recognizes spin and has a good idea of the strike zone. He has quick hands and good bat speed, routinely barreling balls. He could hit 15-20 homers per season once he's physically mature, though some scouts question his power. The Indians consider Washington a 70 runner on the 20-80 scale, but he seems to have lost a step since 2009 and his game speed seems slower than his stopwatch times. While he has the raw speed to play center field, he needs to improve his reads and has a well below-average arm.

The Future: The Indians went after athletes in the 2010 draft, none with more upside than Washington. He has drawn Carl Crawford comparisons and might have the highest ceiling of anyone in the organization, though he's far from reaching it. He could spend his first full season at low Class A Lake County.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
AZL Indians (R) .444 .583 .444 9 0 4 0 0 0 3 3 1 1
8.  Tony Wolters, ss   Born: June 9, 1992B-T: L-RHt: 5-10Wt: 165
 Drafted: HS—Vista, Calif., 2010 (3rd round)Signed by: Jason Smith
Tony WoltersBackground: Wolters had an accomplished amateur career, winning MVP honors at the 2009 Aflac All-American Game as a Southern California high school standout. He lasted 87 picks in the 2010 draft, then turned down a San Diego commitment to sign in August for $1.35 million, the highest bonus of any third-round pick.

Scouting Report: Wolters has an intriguing combination of athleticism and feel for the game. He's an instinctive player on both sides of the ball, showing a polished approach at the plate with the patience to work counts. He has an unusual hitting style, using a wide stance and holding his hands low before launching an uppercut swing, at times releasing his top hand too quickly. He has the offensive upside to hit at the top of the order, spraying liners to all fields with the potential for 10-15 homers per season. A fringe-average runner, Wolters has the tools to play up the middle. Though he's fluid in the field and has quick hands and a strong arm, some scouts believe his range might be better suited for second.

The Future: Ticketed to open 2011 in low Class A, Wolters is advanced for a high school player but still years away from Cleveland. The Indians have no plans to move him off shortstop and believe he can remain there in the long run.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
AZL Indians (R) .211 .286 .211 19 2 4 0 0 0 3 2 5 2
9.  Joe Gardner, rhp   Born: May 18, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-4Wt: 220
 Drafted: UC Santa Barbara, 2009Signed by: Vince Sagisi
Joe GardnerBackground: The co-MVP of the Alaskan Baseball League in 2008, Gardner transferred from Ohlone (Calif.) JC to UC Santa Barbara for his junior season. He signed quickly for $363,000 as a third-round pick in 2009, but a ribcage injury prevented him from making his pro debut until 2010.

Scouting Report: Though he's not quite as tall, Gardner draws some comparisons to Justin Masterson, Cleveland's No. 2 starter. Both are loose, long-levered righthanders who attack hitters with quality sinkers from a low three-quarters arm slot. Gardner's sinker sits at 89-92 mph and touches 94, allowing him to post a 3.1 groundout/airout ratio last season. He leans heavily on his two-seamer, which has so much life that he has problems locating it at times. Though he can dominate a lineup with his fastball, Gardner needs to improve his secondary pitches. His low arm slot makes it tough to maintain a consistent slider, which is average at its best. He needs a better changeup to combat lefthanders.

The Future: Gardner has the potential to be a mid-rotation starter if he can develop a reliable slider and changeup. If not, his ability to get groundout would have value out of the bullpen. He should open 2011 in Double-A.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Lake County (Lo A) 1 0 3.24 6 6 0 0 25 17 2 11 38 .185
Kinston (Hi A) 12 6 2.65 22 22 0 0 122 85 4 51 104 .199
10.  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 flashed electric stuff for the Red Sox but missed almost the entire 2008 season after Tommy John surgery. He returned in 2009, then went to Cleveland in the midseason trade for Victor Martinez. Hagadone missed two weeks in 2010 with a shoulder strain and moved to the bullpen in late July, a move the Indians had planned prior to the season to manage his workload.

Scouting Report: Hagadone's fastball touched 98 mph in 2009, but his stuff wasn't quite as nasty last season. His fastball sat in the low 90s and topped out at 96. His slider is inconsistent but can be a putaway pitch. He also shows some feel for a changeup but operated from behind in the count so frequently in 2010 that he didn't use it often. Hagadone struggled to repeat his mechanics and averaged 6.6 walks per nine innings. While he's a good athlete, his arm action and the effort in his delivery concern some scouts. He went as many as five innings in just three of his starts, so he still has to prove his durability.

The Future: The Indians still plan to send Hagadone back to the rotation in 2011, possibly in Double-A. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him quickly transitioned to the bullpen, a role many scouts believe best suits him.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Kinston (Hi A) 1 3 2.39 10 10 0 0 38 28 2 29 45 .206
Akron (AA) 2 2 4.50 19 7 0 1 48 44 5 34 44 .242

Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
Pre-Order the 2011 Prospect Handbook
30 scouting reports on every team

Photo Credits: