2012 Cleveland Indians Prospects Chat With Ben Badler

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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.

Ben Badler: Welcome. Let's begin.

    Carlos (Cleveland, OH): How many of your top 10 are worthy of making BA's top 100? thanks

Ben Badler: Lindor's the only one. Howard's intriguing and there are some useful relievers close to helping the big league club, but Lindor is the only Top 100 guy.

    Grant (NYC): Between Ronny Rodriguez and Jorge Martinez, who came closer to your top 10? Thanks for the chat.

Ben Badler: Rodriguez is the better prospect. His arm strength, speed and raw power are all there, but there's still a lot of rawness to his game that kept him from ranking any higher.

    Adam (New York): Is Weglarz still in your top 30, and assuming he can stay healthy, what's his ceiling?

Ben Badler: He's there, and it's just hard to know what to make of him at this point, especially after last year. The injury history is significant and it's a liability going forward. His batting eye is still outstanding and he has the raw power to put it together, but there's still a lot of uphill in the swing that he's going to have to try to tighten up. I wouldn't be surprised to see a bounceback year from him in 2012.

    Elliot (Youngstown OH): With a Top 10 dominated by not-very-young middle relief candidates, I have to assume the Indians' farm system will rank down among the bottom of the 30 teams. Is this the worst system in baseball?

Ben Badler: I'd go back and read the White Sox list we just put out. That's the the worst system in the game. There are guys who are in that top 10 who might not even crack the Indians' Top 30.

    bk (hong kong): Elvis Araujo had a nice comeback. What's his 75th percentile ceiling? and aside from staying healthy what would you like to see him work on the most this year?

Ben Badler: There's enough upside to be a power lefthanded starter, which was his projection when I first wrote about him 3-4 years ago, but that's really a perfect world scenario. Like you said, the main thing with him is staying healthy, which he just hasn't been able to do until last year, which was a significant step forward for him. Beyond health, he's just raw. Both of his secondary pitches need work, and he needs to be able to repeat his mechanics better. The slider is ahead of the changeup right now, so if he can tighten that up, stay healthy enough to get more repetition to control his delivery and his arm slot better, I think the most realistic upside is a power lefty reliever.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Had he remained, would Pomeranz have unseated Lindor for the top spot on your list? Your thoughts on that trade as a whole?

Ben Badler: Pomeranz would have been No. 1 if he were still with Cleveland. I think it's hard to assess the trade without really knowing what happened with Ubaldo Jimenez last year. His velocity was down, his mechanics were significantly altered from previous years to the point where it looked like he was trying to compensate for some type of physical issue, and even his pitch selection at times got bizarre. All that said, he still has a pretty team-friendly contract and I think the Indians sold high on Alex White. Giving up Pomeranz could come back to hurt them in the future, but I'm very curious to see if Jimenez returns to form this year.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Ben, what were the reports on Felix Sterling's command last season, and was this what kept him from the top 10 this year? Thanks.

Ben Badler: Raw. He's like a lot of young players who overthrow, which hurts their command, especially young international players who sometimes are groomed more for the radar gun than to get outs in games. Good velocity up to 96, flashes a good changeup, but still plenty of rawness there.

    Grant (NYC): Could you rank these SS for us in terms of ceiling - Lindor, Machado and Profar? Thanks.

Ben Badler: Profar, Machado, Lindor. Not a knock on Lindor, but those other two are pretty elite company.

    Laura (Cleveland): How much potential is there in Jason Knapp at this point?

Ben Badler: Hard for anyone to assess when he doesn't pitch. Given his health history and the concern I've heard from scouts about his arm action, I think the bullpen is his future, but he has to come back and show the stuff is still there first to get there.

    Frank (Chicago): What can you tell us about RHP Jake Sisco? Thanks Ben.

Ben Badler: He didn't make the Top 10 but I could see him getting in there next year. Big, physical frame, sits in the low-90s with heavy life and a pair of average breaking balls with his curveball and slider. Didn't have much success in the Arizona League but he's a good athlete who should be able to make adjustments.

    Elliot (Youngstown OH): Your projected 2015 lineup shows a lot of the same not-very-successful names as the Indians fielded in 2011: LaPorta, Brantley and Sizemore. Obviously that reflects a dearth of corner talent in the farm system. On the other hand, Cleveland has a good collection of young middle infielders. What's the chance Jason Kipnis will return to the outfield or move over to first base

Ben Badler: It's funny, because it wasn't long ago that the farm system was heavier on corner guys who were supposed to be the future like LaPorta, Weglarz, Beau Mills and Wes Hodges and light on up-the-middle guys. But I don't see Kipnis moving. He's become a solid defensive second baseman, which he and the Indians deserve a tremendous amount of credit for.

    Harry (Brighton Beach, NY): How far down the list did Levon Washington fall this year? What does he need to work on most?

Ben Badler: He slid pretty far, but he's still in the Top 30. He's athletic, he runs well, his hands are quick, but he had a lot of trouble at the plate getting his mechanics consistent. I get into it more in the Prospect Handbook, but the setup at the plate he was using changed throughout the year, and I think that's still something he's trying to get comfortable with.

    Jasen (FLL): From his scouting report, Howard sounds more destined for the bullpen however he's young. What makes him have frontline potential?

Ben Badler: Frontline starter is probably a rosy projection, because I agree, there's definitely some risk there. His two-seamer has heavy, wicked sink though, and if he can command it, I think there's enough there to say there's mid-rotation potential.

    Elliot (Youngstown OH): Could you offer any candidates for surprise breakthroughs in 2012?

Ben Badler: Jordan Smith is worth keeping an eye on. Easy swing, great rhythm and timing at the plate, advanced approach and good size even though the power isn't there.

    Dan (Lansing): What is Luigi Rodriguez ultimate up side?

Ben Badler: Don't think we know yet, which I don't mean as a cop out, but I don't like putting limits on teenage Latin American prospects. But he's a guy with premium speed and a track record of hitting, even though there's some rawness in his swing. Power's never going to be a big part of his game, but I think he can be a good enough hitter to be at least an average big leaguer, maybe more.

    JC (VT): Chun-Hsiu Chen seems to put up good numbers along with reports of improving defense but he never pops up on any prospect lists. What is your take on him?

Ben Badler: He had a solid year offensively, although the jump in his strikeouts is a concern and I think part of that is a reflection of scouts' concerns about his bat speed. He has a decent idea of what he's doing at the plate and has solid power for a catcher, but there are a lot of scouts who just don't buy him as a catcher. The receiving is improving, but it's still far from where it needs to be to catch at the big league level, and if he's a backup, that's a role where a lot of managers like a defensive-oriented guy, so it's tough to see a big league role for him until his blocking and receiving take several steps forward.

    JD (AZ): Ben wondering your take on Mike Rayl? Also is he in the top 30. Thanks

Ben Badler: Very impressive year. Not a power guy by any means but I think he learned to get his lower half into his delivery a bit better and saw his velocity jump a tick, with some reports of 92s on the radar gun and a fastball around average. I don't think there's a plus pitch in his repertoire, but his curveball is solid, he repeats his mechanics and throws a ton of strikes, so there's some back-end starter potential there with a chance to move quickly.

    Bernie Kosar (Cleveland): Had Jason Kipnis retained prospect status, I assume he would be #1 here?

Ben Badler: That's where I'd put him.

    Dan (lansing): Was Ronnie Rodriguez close to the top 10? 5 tool SS a fair assessment?

Ben Badler: Five tools might bit a little rich, but he's definitely one of the toolsiest guys in the system. The arm is a 70, speed and power are both above-average, but the bat and the glove are both raw. All the defensive tools are there for him to be a quality defensive shortstop, but he's a young guy who's still prone to a lot of mistakes. Right now the biggest concern I hear from scouts with him is at the plate, where he needs to be much more disciplined and iron out some things with his hitting mechanics. The tools are there, but he's still pretty raw.

    Matt (Wickliffe, OH): Did Beau Mills' performance restore any kind of prospect sheen to him, or is basically a future 4A player at this point?

Ben Badler: Most likely he's a good Triple-A hitter, with an occasional cup of coffee in the big leagues. Didn't talk to any scouts who saw enough bat to be an everyday major leaguer.

    Elliot (Youngstown OH): Is Bryce Stowell still a serious prospect, or did his reduced velocity and undisclosed reason for a leave of absence diminish his status?

Ben Badler: A little bit of each. I had reports of him touching 100 mph in 2010, but last year the highest I heard on him was 95, which is more in line with what he had done prior to 2010. There's middle relief potential here if he can stay healthy and learn to throw more strikes.

    Jim (Cleveland): The Indians system is not what it once was, but there are a number of interesting young players in the lower levels (Felix Sterling, Elvis Araujo, Ronny Rodriguez, Jorge Martinez, Robel Garcia, etc.) who did not make your top 10. Instead you went with some older, lower upside prospects such as McAllister, Barnes, Putnam, etc. Was this a conscious decision? Do you not like the youngsters, or do you think they need to prove themselves a little more before being worthy of a top 10 ranking?

Ben Badler: There's something to like with all those guys, but the risk-reward profile just wasn't as palatable compared to guys like Hagadone or Lee who don't have huge ceilings but are fairly certain to have major league value right away. With some of the younger guys like Lindor, Howard, Luigi Rodriguez and Tony Wolters, the risk factors aren't quite as high (though they're still up there) compared to guys like Sterling, Araujo, et. al. who have greater question marks. I could absolutely see a guy like Araujo jumping into the Top 10 next year, but there has to be a little more development and less risk for some of those guys to make the jump.

    John W. (Washington, D.C.): What's the estimated arrival time for Lindor in the bigs?

Ben Badler: He just turned 18 a couple months ago, so not any time soon. Probably around 4-5 years away.

    Trevor (Roanoke, VA): Ben - Thanks for the chat. In terms of the '15 lineup, how concerned are the Indians with Chisenhall's strikeout rate? Do you expect him to be league average or better offensively?

Ben Badler: I don't think they expect elite contact rates out of him, but he was 22 and only had a few months of experience above Double-A before he got to the big leagues. He has a compact swing, good bat path and a track record of hitting in the minors, so I think he'll be able to make adjustments at be at least an average big league hitter, probably more.

    Jonny (San Jose): Any chance Kyle Bellows develops into a big leaguer? Seems like he struggles at the plate but I've heard his glove is big league ready. Thanks for the chat!

Ben Badler: Very good defender but he's got to show a little more juice in the bat to get a big league role.

    PT (IBC): Ben, The Indians have a lot of young Latin players in short season ball. Ronny Rodriguez, Leonardo Castillo, Jorge Martinez, Felix Sterling, Elvis Araujo to name a few... Which, if any of them could breakout and who has the highest ceiling?

Ben Badler: I touched on a few of those guys above, but if you want a young Latin name to watch from the Indians, keep an eye on Dorssys Paulino. Not under the radar by any means, given that the Indians gave him $1.1 million out of the Dominican Republic last year on July 2, but he had one of the better bats among Dominican amateur infielders last year. I don't think he's going to play shortstop, but he could be an offensive-oriented second baseman or third baseman down the road.

    Ben (Leland Grove): The Indians are one of the teams interested in Yoenis Cespedes. What are the chances they can land him?

Ben Badler: I would be very surprised if that happened.

    Chris H (Boston, MA): Hi - the scouting report seems underwhelming for Tony Wolters. Below average power and perhaps slightly above average speed? Looks like he may end up as some type of utility player down the road?

Ben Badler: It's possible, although I'd like to see what he does this year further removed from the hamate injury, which probably cut into his power. That's never going to be a big part of his game, but if he can play up the middle and be a 10-12 HR guy, he has the contact and on-base skills where you can see upside as an everyday guy.

    Elliot (Youngstown OH): No questions on Aguillar, or just none posted yet? Indians sure could use a RH power bat at a corner spot, or even as DH. What are his chances to develop into a big leaguer?

Ben Badler: There are still questions there, but Aguilar was definitely one of the most pleasant surprises in the system last year. I don't want to put much stock into AFL or Venezuelan League performances, but what he did in both leagues was definitely a positive sign that he might be able to hit more advanced pitching. That's really the question on Aguilar, because he has huge power, but scouts do have questions about the swing and the plate discipline. I wouldn't project him as a starting first baseman at the big league level yet, but he helped his stock and changed some opinions as much as anyone in the system.

Ben Badler: Thanks for spending the afternoon with me here at BA. We had to shuffle some things around, so Phil Rogers will be here Tuesday to tackle all of your White Sox questions. I'll be back next week for the Tigers chat.