2013 Cleveland Indians Top 10 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.

Ben Badler: You know it's a busy time of year at BA when my neck starts getting sore from talking to scouts on the phone all day. Let's get started.

    Keith (Manchester, CT): Thanks Ben. Just how high is Dorssys Paulino's offensive ceiling, and does your gut tell you he eventually moves to 2B or to 3B?

Ben Badler: It's a potentially elite bat, someone who should hit either at the top or the middle of the lineup. The question is the power ceiling, but there really aren't any major red flags with him offensively, other than him just being so young and far away from the big leagues. All the ingredients you want to see in a young hitter, be it bat speed, swing path, pitch recognition, strike-zone discipline, that's all there. I'd be shocked if he stays at shortstop though. I'd probably lean toward him moving to third base, but that's probably going to depend on how his body develops or possibly what the Indians need more by the time he gets to the upper levels. But yeah, I'm a huge Dorssys Paulino fan.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Can you give us the skinny on Dillon Howard's struggles in the AZL? Are you optimistic about him? Finally, did he place in the 11-20 range?

Ben Badler: He came into spring training out of shape and just wasn't prepared to handle what was ahead of him. Then he had some knee and elbow issues that didn't help, his velocity dipped into the 80s and the sinker stopped sinking. Obviously you can see the results of that formula from what happened to him this season. I can't say I'm optimistic about him, but I wouldn't write him off just based on this year, even if his stock dropped like a ton of bricks.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Are Lindor and Paulino the only guys likely to make the top 100, or does Naquin have a shot as well? I'm assuming Allen won't.

Ben Badler: Those are the only guys I'd rank in the Top 100. Naquin has a chance to be there next year and I do like Allen as a quality arm at the back of the bullpen who has a chance to be a closer, but Lindor and Paulino are the only Top 100 guys for me.

    Elliot (Youngstown OH): Last season the Indians had two players rated at least "55" while the Royals had 16. How many Tribe prospects this year will be 55 or above? I'm guessing 3 at most.

Ben Badler: Wow, I hadn't gone back and tracked the data like that from last year's BA Grades, but that sounds about right. They'll have more than two guys with 55s or better realistic ceiling grades, but I think you're still going to be able to count the number on one hand by the time we send the Prospect Handbook to press.

    Paul (Cleveland): What is Lars Anderson's prospect status as of now? Did it improve any with the trade from Boston?

Ben Badler: I'd be pleasantly surprised if he contributed more than a cup of coffee in the big leagues.

    bob (atl): hi, thanks for the chat. how does paulino compare with another young SS adalberto mondesi?

Ben Badler: I like Paulino more, but I'll give the Royals credit because Mondesi surprised quite a few people. The way one guy put it to me, he didn't understand why the heck the Royals would send a 16-year-old kid like Mondesi to the Pioneer League; then he saw him play and understood why. Mondesi isn't really a toolsy guy, but he has good game awareness and a much better chance to stick as a true shortstop than Paulino does. But Paulino's bat is on another level. I liked Ronald Guzman, Victor Sanchez and Roberto Osuna a lot when they signed last year and still do, but Paulino's looking like the best prospect so far from the 2011 international signing class.

    Kelly (St. Cloud, MN): What did evaluators have to say about Elvis Araujo's time in the MWL?

Ben Badler: Big time arm strength from the left side, usually 90-94 mph but can jump up higher. The durability, pitchability and secondary stuff are all pointing toward a relief role, but I think it's something he can be effective with. Put him in short stints and you probably have a guy who's sitting in the mid-90s from the left side with a slider that could be an average pitch; there's a spot for a guy like that in a big league bullpen.

    Elliot (Youngstown OH): Does anyone in the farm system project as a high end starter? The Indians are producing an awful lot of 4th and 5th starters but that doesn't make a winning franchise.

Ben Badler: Not that I see, and I agree. They've really struggled for a decade now to produce frontline or even mid-rotation starters from either the draft or their international signings, and it's a big reason why their starting rotation this year was such a disaster. I'll have more on that in a story that should run online soon.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Between Jorge Martinez and Anthony Santander, who were evaluators more bullish on in terms of tools and ceiling? Thanks, Ben.

Ben Badler: Definitely Santander. I heard rumbling last year that they might push Santander to the Arizona League, and when they actually did it I thought he'd be in way over his head. Obviously that wasn't the case at all and the performance was very strong, but it's not really a conventional stroke and he does tend to overswing, so he still has further to go than the pure numbers might suggest. Martinez will show you some tools in flashes, but there doesn't seem to be much confidence that he'll hit once he gets out of rookie ball.

    Elliot (Youngstown OH): Do Trey Haley or Shawn Armstrong project as solid relievers?

Ben Badler: That's their upside, although in very different ways. Haley has plenty of power in his arm, regularly hits the high-90s, but he fights his delivery and that causes him to lose the strike zone and give away too many free baserunners. Armstrong doesn't throw quite as hard but he's anywhere from 90-95 and it sneaks up on hitters because he gets great extension. He's another guy who need to be in the strike zone a lot more often, but the stuff is absolutely there to stick around in middle relief.

    Simon (Scotland): How far was Giovanny Urshela from making the list? Has he restored his status a bit after last season?

Ben Badler: Wouldn't say he's close to the Top 10, but he's definitely in the 30. Nothing to complain about defensively. Rocket arm, great hands, instincts, range—you name it, he's got it, at least in the field. The hand-eye coordination shows up in the batter's box too, but he's like a lot of young hitters where that ability to put the bat to the ball is a gift and a curse because he expands the strike zone or offers at pitches on the black that he needs to learn to take instead of tapping for weak contact. The power started to come on this year, which was encouraging, but the approach still needs major work. If he can become a more selective hitter, boom, you've got something very interesting, but that's a big (and not uncommon) "if."

    Return of J-Mac (Harvard Yard): What happened to Chun Chen? Is there any chance he returns to being a catcher?

Ben Badler: He hit well in the lower minors, but we've always ranked him relatively conservatively because of the concern that he'd have to move off catcher. They tried, but I don't think it's an option going forward for him, which really drops his stock.

    Elliot (Youngstown OH): Indians rated a solid 29th last year in BA's assessment of farm systems. The White Sox who were 30th were called much improved by Phil Rogers on Monday. Have the Indians now reached the bottom?

Ben Badler: Well I'm writing up the Angels farm system right now, so I can pretty confidently say the Indians are not No. 30. I like Kaleb Cowart, but he might be the No. 3 guy if he were in the Indians farm system, and the Angels system is not exactly beaming with depth right now either.

    Frank (Chicago): About how far did Tony Wolters' stock drop since this time last year?

Ben Badler: Well his first half was ugly, but if you look at his second-half numbers, he finished the season strong, and I think we have to remember that the Indians had him skip a level to jump to the Carolina League. His at-bat management improved a lot as the season went on and he did show more power as he got further removed from the hamate injury, so maybe there's a chance he's an offensive-oriented second baseman, but even then I think you're projecting a fair amount the bat to see an everyday player.

    Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Is pitcher, and fellow Delawarean, Rob Bryson still a prospect that gets to be included in the top 30 of the Prospect Handbook?

Ben Badler: He can miss bats, but the combination of health concerns of control problems make for a pretty high risk factor for a guy who's ceiling is fairly limited as a middle reliever. There's something there, but it's going to take a lot of things to go right for him to stick.

    Elliot (Youngstown OH): Speaking of Secondbasemen: Jose Ramirez had a very productive half season with Lake County. And Tony Wolters recovered from a very poor start to finish strong at Carolina. Do you see much upside in their future?

Ben Badler: Just hit on Wolters, but I do like Ramirez as a sleeper. He's an outstanding runner, he's a solid defender at second base and he's hit everywhere he's been, including this winter in the Dominican Republic, albeit in an obviously small sample size down there. It's hard to find scouts who really warm up to him though, in no small part (pun not really intended) because he's, maybe, 5-9. There's not much power there and the physical projection is minimal, so there's concerns how that's going to project as he moves up.

    Rich (Central NJ): What's the over/under on Nick Weglarz cutting down on his strikouts, staying healthy and making it to the big leagues where his OBP & power could be useful? Thanks,

Ben Badler: Well he's a minor league free agent now. The power and the patience are there, but the uppercut stroke and lack of any defensive profile really work against him.

    Shane (Akron, OH): Paulino's skillset reminds me a lot of another converted Indian SS, Brandon Phillips. Is that a fair assessment of what kind of upside he would have at 2B?

Ben Badler: I think Paulino is the best infield prospect the Indians have had in their system since Phillips, but they're different types of players. If anything, Paulino might have the more advanced bat and more advanced approach than Phillips did, especially at the same age, so there's more potential for Paulino to hit for a higher batting average and get on base more than Phillips does. On the other hand, Paulino runs pretty well, but he's not as athletic or as gifted defensively as Phillips.

    Karl (Cleveland): What can you tell us about RHP Cody Anderson? It looks like he had a decent year and is a pretty big guy. Was he close to making this list? What can we expect out of him? THanks for the chat!

Ben Badler: Big, strong-framed pitcher, but also a conversion guy so the Indians kept the leash on him pretty tight this year. He gets really good angle on his fastball and he'll bump it as high as 96, but he's got to come up with a more reliable secondary weapon to miss more bats as he moves up. He's taken to pitching full-time fairly quickly though and has a pretty good feel for hitting his spots already.

    Morrie (NJ): Could you give us some insight on Luis Lugo? Thanks, Mr. Badler.

Ben Badler: It's a lot of projection you're banking on with Lugo. He could throw in the mid-90s one day, but he doesn't yet, so you're hoping he fills out that big frame and more velocity comes. He's got a better chance to start than a guy like Araujo, but there's still a lot of rawness to his game.

    Pete (North Coast of Ohio): Hey Ben, The Indians brass tell us there is talent at our lower levels of the organization. Is there any truth behind this or is it just what teams say when it's obvious there is no talent at the higher levels and the younger players can't be adequately evaluated yet, good or bad?

Ben Badler: Your instinct is sharp. Any time you have a farm system that is ranked near the bottom of the pack, I think if you looked back historically, you'll find in most cases the organization will tell you they have talent in the lower levels of the farm system. There's some truth to that with the Indians; Lindor and Paulino are legit and potential stars, and you have Naquin just coming into the system as a first-round pick. But beyond them, I wouldn't say they have any more talent in the lower levels of the system than most organizations. It's not like organizations like the Rangers or Blue Jays are lacking lower level talent either, and they probably have just as much if not more there.

    Simon (Scotland): Before this season, I'd seen Jesus Aguilar described as a mistake hitter or a AAAA guy. Would you now see more than that being possible?

Ben Badler: Putting him in the Top 10 is probably an aggressive ranking (and I doubt he'd be in there for the majority of systems around baseball), but he is making strides as a hitter. There's still a good chance that he is just a mistake hitter who tops out at Triple-A, but he took enough steps forward both at the plate and in the field to show some scouts there might be more there than they initially thought a couple years ago.

    Rich (Oakland): Ronny Rodriguez #8??? Thought he was much better than that. Why did I think that?

Ben Badler: Well the raw arm strength, raw speed and raw power are all checked off on the positive side of the ledger. The problem is everything about his game has to be preceded by the word "raw." It's a really strange development path, between the time he spent moving from the US to the Dominican Republic before he signed, then jumping straight to the Midwest League in his first year, so I think that needs to be taken into account, but there's just a lot of rough edges to his game to be able to comfortably project him as an everyday guy in the big leagues. The Indians internally might have him graded out higher, but there's quite a bit of concern from scouts outside the organization about whether Rodriguez has the ability to put it all together.

    Ryan (Portland, OR): Kieran Lovegrove ... is he cracking the top 30 and what's your outlook on him? Thanks!

Ben Badler: He's in there. I think we overuse the word "inconsistent" in baseball when really we just mean something like "needs to better" or "not good," but it really does apply to Lovegrove. Sometimes he's in the high-80s with the fastball, sometimes he's sitting in the 90s. Sometimes it changes game to game, sometimes it's even inning to inning. Some guys see a sharp slider, others are seeing a slurvy breaking ball. A lot of it's probably because of his mechanics, but there's definitely something there if he can get those issues ironed out.

Ben Badler: Thanks for all the questions, and a happy birthday to Francisco Lindor, which puts us on a two-org streak for naming a player his team's No. 1 prospect on his birthday, although I have a suspicion that's going to end on Friday when we release our Tigers Top 10 list.