Sign Up! Join our newsletters, get a FREE e-Edition
Sizemore was considered the third-best prospect in the trade that brought him from Montreal to Cleveland for Bartolo Colon in mid-2002. Since switching organizations, Sizemore has eclipsed infielder Brandon Phillips and lefty Cliff Lee, who came with him from the Expos, and established that he has a higher ceiling than anyone in the system. A high school quarterback who signed a letter of intent with Washington after being recruited by several other Pacific-10 Conference schools, Sizemore gave up football to sign for $2 million. He's a high-energy, intense competitor who draws comparisons to other football-to-baseball converts such as Kirk Gibson. Sizemore looks like he made the right decision. In 2003, he led Indians minor leaguers in runs and hits, topped the Double-A Eastern League in triples and was named MVP of the Futures Game. He hit .412 as Akron won the EL playoffs, then batted third for Team USA at the Olympic qualifying tournament in November. It has been a long time since a player with this many tools has emerged from the Indians system. Sizemore has the full package, the potential to be a marquee player, and is as close to being an untouchable as the Indians have in their minor league system. He uses the entire field and controls the strike zone well, projecting as a .300 hitter in the majors. His power is coming quicker than expected, as he stroked 13 homers last year after totaling six in his first three seasons. There's a lot more to come, as he was an EL all-star at the tender age of 20. Sizemore's speed and center-field range are well-above-average. He's quick out of the batter's box and has tremendous baserunning instincts. He's still learning the art of basestealing but should become at least a 20-20 player as he matures. Along with all his physical skills, Sizemore also has off-the-charts makeup. He's an aggressive, blue-collar player with a tremendous desire to succeed. There are few flaws in Sizemore's overall game. His arm grades as a 35 on the 20-80 scouting scale, though it's playable in center field. He compensates by getting to balls and unloading them quickly. Sizemore's walk rate declined in 2003, though it was still respectable. That seems to be the tradeoff, at least at first, for the increase in power. After succeeding on just 57 percent of his steal attempts the last two years, he must improve his reads and jumps. Sizemore isn't far from being major league-ready at age 21. With a surplus of young outfielders on the major league roster, the Indians have no need to push him and he'll start 2004 as the center fielder in Triple-A Buffalo. He should make his big league debut at some point during the season.
After signing a major league contract worth a guaranteed $4 million (including a $3 million bonus) in October 2002, Guthrie reached Triple-A in his first season as a professional. The last Indians pitcher to advance that high in his introduction to pro ball was another Stanford product, Steve Dunning, who went straight to the majors in 1970. Guthrie easily dominated the Eastern League but got hit hard in the Triple-A International League, though he impressed observers at both stops. He has command of four pitches, starting with a 90-93 mph fastball that touches 95. His slider and changeup have the potential to be plus pitches, and he also throws a curveball. He also fields his position well. Intelligent and coachable, he's a great competitor with a strong work ethic. Like many inexperienced pitchers, Guthrie tends to rely too much on his fastball when he gets into trouble. He didn't locate his pitches as well in Triple-A as he had in Double-A. IL hitters got ahead in the count and pounced on his mistakes. The Indians hoped Guthrie would compete for a spot in the major league rotation in spring training. The choppy waters he experienced at Buffalo last year mean he'll start the season back there this year instead, though he still could reach Cleveland during the 2004 season.
Nobody in the organization made more dramatic progress in 2003 than Carmona, who emerged as a breakout candidate last spring. He tied for the minor league high in wins and led the low Class A South Atlantic League in ERA. The Indians could have promoted him but wanted to ease his transition to the United States as a teenager. Carmona threw a higher percentage of strikes than any pitcher in the organization last year. He has uncanny control of his 92-95 mph fastball, which he drives downhill in the zone, making it difficult for hitters to lift the ball. His athleticism allows him to repeat his delivery efficiently. His changeup is an advanced pitch. Carmona needs to further develop his slider, which will dictate how quickly he moves. He pitches to contact by design, but has good enough control to pitch out of the zone more often and draw more swings and misses. Carmona profiles as at least a quality No. 3 starter. He'll start the year at high Class A Kinston and could reach Double-A by midseason.
Dittler is a product of national prep power Green Valley High, which also produced first-round picks Chad Hermansen (1995) and Mike Nannini (1998). The Indians took three pitchers ahead of Dittler in the first round of the 2001 draft, but he has surpassed Dan Denham, Alan Horne (who didn't sign) and J.D. Martin as a prospect. Dittler went just 6-13, 4.19 over his first two seasons before breaking out last year. Dittler relies on a sinking, boring fastball that sits at 90-94 mph. Physical maturity has allows him to sustain his arm slot, giving his fastball consistent velocity and action in the zone. He also throws a hard curveball. Dittler's control improved noticeably in 2003. His strong build and confidence are reminiscent of Curt Schilling. Dittler needs to improve the consistency and rotation of his curve, and also must refine his changeup. He must be able to throw his secondary pitches for strikes so hitters don't sit on his fastball. Dittler will start the 2004 season in Double-A. He needs at least a year and a half in the upper minors before he's ready for Cleveland.
After being used almost exclusively as a starter in his first 31⁄2 years in the organization, Cabrera moved to the bullpen in late June last year. He finished the season as Akron's closer, converting his last five regular-season save opportunities and turning in three scoreless outings in the playoffs. Cabrera throws an overpowering 92-96 mph fastball and a splitter that's an effective No. 2 pitch. His stuff and his temperament are well suited for a late-inning role, and he also had success as a starter. His fastball command improved in 2003. Cabrera needs to make hitters more aware of his splitter, which would make his fastball more effective. His slider and changeup lag behind his main two pitches, though he won't need them as much in relief. He must improve his fielding and ability to control the running game after giving up 27 steals in 31 attempts (87 percent) last year. Cabrera will begin 2004 in Triple-A. He'll reach Cleveland after he shows command of more than his fastball. The Indians don't have an obvious closer on their current roster, and Cabrera could fill that role in time.
Aubrey was a two-way star when BA named him Freshman of the Year in 2001, but he eventually settled in as strictly a first baseman. Among college players in the 2003 draft, scouts considered only No. 2 overall pick Rickie Weeks a better pure hitter than Aubrey. He projected to go as high as No. 6, but Aubrey went 11th and signed for $2.01 million. An advanced hitter, Aubrey was as good as advertised in his pro debut. He makes outstanding contact, has good plate discipline and projects as a .300 hitter with 35 doubles and 15-20 homers in the majors. He has solid-average speed and Gold Glove potential at first base. He threw 90-92 mph off the mound as a Tulane freshman and has a good arm for his position. Though he sometimes gets tied up on inside fastballs, Aubrey should be able to adjust. He gets pull-conscious at times, leading to an uppercut swing, and needs to a better job of identifying pitches he can drive. He doesn't have much experience facing quality lefthanders and hit .250 against southpaws in his debut. Aubrey won't need much time in the minors. He'll begin 2004 in high Class A and should reach Double-A in the second half.
Cooper was part of a vaunted 1999 senior class at Moses Lake (Wash.) High, along with outfielder B.J. Garbe (first round, Twins) and catcher Ryan Doumit (second, Pirates). Cooper turned down the Phillies as a second- rounder to attend Stanford, where he was also a backup punter. He led Tribe farmhands with a .542 slugging percentage in his first full season. Cooper could move fast. He has big league power and is a more complete hitter than he was at Stanford, where injuries and an uppercut swing held him back. He's gaining a better understanding of the strike zone and using the whole field, and now projects as a .280 hitter with 30 homers annually. He has average speed and plays with tremendous intensity. At times, Cooper can get pull-conscious and his stroke can get long. He hurt his shoulder in college and his arm strength hasn't come back, limiting him to left field. He has improved as an outfielder but can get better. The Indians have several lefthanded-hitting outfielders in the majors, so they won't rush Cooper. He'll head to Double- A in 2004.
After growing up as an Indians fan in Bellevue, Ohio, Snyder was thrilled when his local team drafted him. His career was threatened by an auto accident after his freshman year at Ball State, but he made a full recovery. He was the 2003 Mid-American Conference player of the year and the fourth first-round pick in Ball State history. Snyder has all-around tools. He's a patient hitter with a quick bat and the ability to turn on pitches. When he extends his arms, he can drive the ball out of any part of the park. He's an average runner but covers enough ground to play center field. His arm is average as well. Snyder stuck out 82 times in 62 games and will have to make better contact. He has a slight loop in his swing that he'll have to iron out, and he'll have to adapt to quality breaking stuff. His reads on the basepaths and in center field also need work. A right fielder at Ball State, Snyder will enhance his value as a pro if he can stay in center. The Indians plan on keeping him there, and he'll spend 2004 in Class A.
The Indians used eight first-round picks on pitchers in the previous six years. Seven of those arms came from the high school ranks, including Miller, who surged into the first round with a strong finish last spring. Though a sore shoulder and strict pitch counts limited him in his pro debut, he still ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Appalachian League. Miller is mature for a high schooler and has a projectable power pitcher's frame. Some scouts have compared him to two-time Cy Young Award winner Bret Saberhagen. Miller throws strikes with a heavy, boring 90-95 mph fastball. He also has a plus slider that has touched 87 mph. Miller didn't need his changeup in high school, so the development of that pitch has lagged. At 6-foot-5 he needs to work on keeping his mechanics together and consistently repeating his delivery. His shoulder isn't a long-term concern but still raised a red flag. Miller was at his best by instructional league last fall, showing no signs of shoulder trouble. He'll move into the rotation at low Class A Lake County this year.
A supplemental first-round pick in 2002, Whitney was so impressive in his pro debut that the Indians invoked Manny Ramirez' name when discussing his offensive potential. But last February, Whitney broke his left leg in a freak accident playing basketball while in minor league camp. He required two separate surgeries and missed the entire season. Whitney has middle-of-the-lineup talent. He has a sweet swing that generates power to all fields. The ball jumps off his bat and has tremendous carry. He quickly made adjustments to pro pitching and wood bats. He's athletic for his size and has made a nice transition to third base after playing mostly first base and the outfield in high school. First and foremost, Whitney needs to get 100 percent healthy. His arm is solid for the hot corner, though he tended to push his throws in 2002. He's a below-average runner but not a baseclogger. Whitney's rehab program continued through the offseason, and the Indians hope he'll be ready to resume full activity by the start of spring training. He may start the year in extended spring training with a target of getting to low Class A in May.
After taking Pesco as a 25th-round draft-and-follow in 2002, the Indians watched him blossom into a potential first-rounder as a Cosumnes River sophomore last spring. They signed him in May for $1.1 million, and he finished second to teammate Rafael Perez in the Appalachian League ERA race in his pro debut. A big, strong righthander who has been compared to Jason Davis, Pesco throws a 91-94 mph fastball on a good downward plane. He also has a 12-to-6 power curveball and slider, yet his best pitch may be his changeup. He's durable and has good command within the strike zone. Cleveland has made minor adjustments to Pesco's mechanics, and he needs to maintain his lengthened stride. He also must learn how to attack hitters, and the weapons to do so are there. Pesco should be a draft-and-follow signing in the tradition of Jason Davis in 2000 and Sean Smith in 2002. He will join Adam Miller in anchoring what should be another powerhouse rotation at Lake County in 2004.
The first Japanese-born player signed by the Indians, Tadano's past created a stir in the midst of his professional debut last year. While at Rikkyo University in 2000, he and several of his teammates participated in a pornographic video that contained homosexual acts. Japanese teams ignored him in their 2002 draft after he was projected as an early first-round pick, and a couple of U.S. clubs interested in signing him backed off after learning of the video. The Indians excused the incident as a youthful mistake and took a chance on Tadano for the bargain price of $67,000. He certainly looks like a bargain so far. By all accounts, he fit in well with teammates at all three of his minor league stops in 2003. Tadano has numerous strengths, beginning with two plus secondary pitches, a slider and splitter. His fastball sits at 88-91 mph. He has been compared to countryman Shigetoshi Hasegawa, but with better command of his secondary pitches. Very durable, Tadano wants the ball every day and has a work ethic that's off the charts. His quick times to the plate make it difficult for baserunners to get good jumps against him, and just two tried to steal on him last summer. Tadano needs to improve his approach to lefthanders. He's also getting acclimated to the U.S. culture and spent part of the offseason in an English class in Tokyo. He'll compete for a big league bullpen job in spring training, and the Indians tried to defuse controversy about his past by making him available to the press in the offseason. The story will probably never go away, but it should become a footnote as Tadano makes a name with his ability.
Even as a premium high school prospect, Smith's talent was universally acknowledged but no one spoke about him in glowing terms. The trend has continued in his professional career. While Smith clearly has good tools, the Indians are still waiting for him to have a breakthrough season. A first-round pick in 2000 who was considered the organization's top prospect two years later, Smith has seen his stock drop since. He has above-average bat speed and strength, but hasn't translated his raw power into homers. He did cut down on his strikeouts in 2003, but he's still a guess hitter who can be fooled easily. Smith also has a plus arm but is a defensive liability at the hot corner. Poor footwork and uncertain hands have led to him leading his league's third baseman in errors in each of his four pro seasons. He made 44 miscues last year to lead Eastern League third basemen, a year after leading Carolina League third basemen with 34 errors. Smith is an average runner with good instincts on the bases. He worked hard in the Arizona Fall League after the season but still showed the same weaknesses. Smith will return to Double-A in 2004, repeating a level for the first time in his career.
Cruceta was more of an unknown than Ricardo Rodriguez when they were acquired from the Dodgers for Paul Shuey in July 2002, though he had started to emerge in the spring of 2002 with a strong spring training performance and a no-hitter in April for low Class A South Georgia. Rodriguez since has been traded for Ryan Ludwick, while Cruceta has a bright future with the Indians. He led Eastern League pitchers in strikeouts and complete games last year, while finishing second in wins, third in innings and fourth in ERA. Cruceta relies on a 92-93 mph sinker, a solid-average to plus slider and a changeup. He struggles at times with the command of his fastball, particularly early in games. He needs to trust his stuff more and throw strikes more frequently. His ability to do so will determine whether his future role will be as a starter or reliever. He'll begin 2004 in the Triple-A rotation.
A long, lanky lefty, Perez has produced eye-popping numbers in his two seasons with the Indians. He was known as Hanlet Ramirez when he helped his Indians squad to the 2002 championship in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League. He was named Appalachian League pitcher of the year in his U.S. debut last year, leading the league in wins and ERA while ranking second in innings and fifth in strikeouts. He already throws an 89-91 mph, and has a projectable frame that should be able to add velocity. His fastball is effective because it tails away late from righthanders. His slider is tough on lefthanders, and he also throws a complementary changeup. His tremendous control of his pitches and emotions could allow him to move quickly through the minors, and because he usually pitches ahead in the count it makes his otherwise average offerings more effective. He mixes his pitches well and keeps hitters off balance. Perez needs to get stronger and prove he can handle the rigors of starting over a full season. Cleveland will give him the chance to do that this year in high Class A, skipping him a level because they have to determine whether he merits a 40-man roster spot after the season.
An overachiever signed as a nondrafted free agent, Stanford has been a consistent winner wherever he's pitched. He has gone 3-0, 0.75 for Team USA in international competitions after the 2001 and 2003 seasons, pitching 12 innings in the unsuccessful effort at the Olympic qualifying tournament in November, and would have been a prime candidate for the 2004 Olympics had the United States qualified. Stanford has a great feel for pitching and has met the challenge every time he has moved up a level. His fastball ranges between 87- 90 mph, but that's enough velocity for him because he has a good changeup that he'll throw in any count. He's working on tightening his slider to give it late action and keep righthanders honest. Stanford won't overpower hitters yet he believes in his stuff. He pitched effectively in a swing role for Cleveland in the second half of 2003, shutting out the Blue Jays for six innings to earn his first big league win. He'll go to spring training with a chance to win the No. 5 starter's job.
Signed at age 16 out of Honduras, Gomez has made impressive strides in full-season ball over the last two years. His size, strength and mix of pitches are all positive attributes. Gomez whips his fastball at 89-90 mph with a quick arm. He also has a plus breaking ball with slurvy action, as well as a changeup. He tends to get too emotional at times, which prevents him from maintaining his delivery. Gomez is very intelligent--fluent in three languages--but a worrier, dwelling on things he can't control rather than concentrating on that which he can. He's inconsistent with his breaking ball at this point. Gomez has added 30 pounds since he signed, and at 6-foot-5 he has the frame to handle more, which could mean additional velocity. He's poised for a breakout campaign but needs to prove he can handle the rigors of a complete season. Last year, he didn't pitch after July 14 because of a strained ligament in his left middle finger. He'll move a step up to Double-A in 2004.
The ace of Louisiana State's 2000 College World Series championship team, Tallet won 15 games and started the CWS title game against Stanford. The Tigers won with a late rally, so Tallet didn't figure into the decision. He rushed through the minors and reached Cleveland in little more than two years after signing. However, he blew out his elbow shortly after being demoted to Triple-A for the third time last year. He had Tommy John surgery that is expected to knock him out for all of 2004. When healthy, Tallet goes after hitters with a solid-average repertoire. He throws an 89-92 mph fastball with good sinking action, a slider and changeup. When he returns to the mound, his next challenge will be to improve the command of his fastball and add strength. The 6-foot-7 Tallet has such a long, levered body that his delivery tends to get out of whack, and he has trouble maintaining his arm slot. He faces a full year of rehabilitation.
Panther ranked third among national junior college hitters with a .479 average as a two-way star at Muscatine Community College in 2002. Yet he was a relative unknown until he stood out at a predraft showcase. Based on his first full season, he looks like a 15th-round steal. Panther is an all-around outfielder who resembles a young Steve Finley. He's a line-drive hitter with gap power and plus speed. He needs to get stronger, which would help boost his home run totals. If he reaches his ceiling, he could be a 20-20 player. Panther's arm is another asset. He played mainly right field last year but may also have the range for center, where he saw some brief action. He'll get more time in center field this year in high Class A.
Of all the pitching prospects the Indians signed out of the 2001 draft, none can match Foley's 25 victories in pro ball (J.D. Martin has 24.). He has a solid-average fastball that sits at 90 mph and tops out at 93. He has made major improvements to his changeup, which is now a plus pitch. His third offering is a tight, late-breaking slider that has replaced a slow curveball. Foley's build isn't very projectable, so it would help if he could regain the 1-2 mph of velocity that he lost in 2003. He's also working on refining his changeup and developing more command of his slider. He needs a better breaking ball to remain a starter, and otherwise faces a future as a middle reliever. Foley will pitch in the Double-A rotation this year.
Denham was the top pick in Cleveland's pitching-rich 2001 draft class, signing for what was then a club-record $1.86 million bonus. His brother Jason, who also attends Deer Valley High, is an outfielder who attended the Area Code Games last summer and will be eligible for the 2004 draft. While Dan's development has been slow, the Indians remain high on him. His only extended success came when he repeated low Class A last year, and he tailed off following a promotion. He went 3-0, 1.49 in his final six starts for Kinston. When he first signed, Denham tended to overthrow, but he has settled down and learned to pitch at 90- 93 mph with his fastball. He's durable and competitive. His reworked delivery is strong and compact, though it can get mechanical and lacks deception. Denham did a better job of throwing strikes last year, but still needs to refine his curveball, slider and changeup. He also can improve at locating his fastball on both sides of the plate. Denham will return to high Class A to start 2004.
Martin got off to a faster start than any of the pitchers in the Tribe's 2001 draft, including Dan Denham and Travis Foley, by posting a 1.38 ERA in his pro debut and winning 14 games in his first full season. But he also had the most disappointing 2003 season of that group because he was shut down in late July with a strained elbow ligament. The good news was that Martin avoided surgery and should be fine after an offseason of rest and rehabilitation. His strong suits are his command and feel for changing speeds. His 87-89 mph fastball isn't overpowering, but he locates it well and does the same with his overhand curveball, slider and changeup. Lean and wiry, he has room on his frame to add velocity, but that hasn't happened for him. Durability and stamina always have been issues for Martin, who has worked hard to add eight pounds to his frame since signing. Expected to be 100 percent by the start of spring training, Martin will rejoin fellow 2001 first-rounder Dan Denham in the high Class A rotation.
Laffey's father is a former teammate of Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone. He didn't give up an earned run in 44 innings as a high school senior, but he plummeted in the draft when his agent told area scouts that he'd have to go in the top 75 picks to sign. He had a commitment to Virginia Tech, and some scouts said his style was reminiscent of former Tech lefty Joe Saunders, a first-round pick of the Angels in 2002. The Indians took a flier on Laffey in the 16th round, and when fourth-round choice Ben Harrison insisted on first-round money, they used the money earmarked for Harrison to sign Laffey for $363,000. He responded with a dominating debut at Rookie-level Burlington, where he averaged 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings and held opponents to a .183 average--both better numbers than more celebrated teammates Adam Miller, Rafael Perez and Nick Pesco. Laffey has a well-above-average slider. Though he's just 6 feet tall, he's able to pitch down in the zone with his 86-88 mph fastball because it has good sink. He throws strikes and has good command within the zone. He's a good athlete who played shortstop when he wasn't pitching for his high school team, and he was a standout for his high school basketball team. He controls the running game by keeping basestealers off balance with varied looks. Laffey's build doesn't leave room for much projection. He relied too heavily on baffling Appalachian League hitters with his slider. He'll have to use his fastball more and develop his changeup at higher levels. He'll pitch in low Class A this year.
Omar Vizquel isn't the only slick-fielding Venzuelan shortstop in the organization. Ochoa, who broke into pro ball as a third baseman, is the best defensive infielder in the system. Like many young shortstops, his glove is way ahead of his bat. His range, hands and arm are all major league-quality right now, but he needs to avoid mental lapses. Sound fundamentally, he can make acrobatic plays as well as routine ones. Ochoa has 55 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale and has been a basestealing threat in the lower minors. The huge question surrounding him is how much offense he'll be able to provide. Ochoa is slim and lacks strength. He offers next to no power--he's still looking for his first homer as a pro--so he's going to have to learn how to get on base. He shows some aptitude for working counts and handling the bat, but pitchers have been able to overpower him. While his defense is so exceptional that he won't have to be a force offensively, he's going to have to hit more to have a career like Indians reserve John McDonald's. Hampered by hamstring problems in 2003, Ochoa should spend the full year in high Class A.
The Indians took catchers with consecutive early-round picks in the 2003 draft, and they're opposite players. Third-rounder Ryan Garko is an offensive player who has to improve behind the plate, while Herrera is a classic catch-and-throw guy who'll have to prove he can hit. Herrera's unquestioned strength is his ability to handle pitchers and call a game. He had to adjust to wood bats, learning to call more fastballs and trying to induce contract rather than trying to fool hitters with breaking pitches. Herrera has polished receiving skills and his arm has bounced back after he had arthroscopic shoulder surgery in 2002. He erased just 20 percent of basestealers in college and 17 percent in pro ball last year, but should improve on those marks in the future. As a hitter, Herrera needs to focus on staying patient and making consistent contact. He projects as a .250-.260 hitter with gap power but few homers. He's a below-average runner but quicker than most catchers. Cleveland promoted Herrera ahead of Garko last summer, but they may have to split the catching duties in low Class A this year.
Slocum took his offseason conditioning program into his own hands following the 2002 season, and the results were not what he or the Indians wanted. He added 12 pounds of muscle but also restricted his range of motion. That caused a loss of velocity and eventually shoulder inflammation that got him shut down in mid-August. Slocum didn't need surgery, but it was the third straight year he was hampered by physical ailments. He had a sore shoulder in 2001 and biceps tendinitis in 2002. When healthy, Slocum features a low-90s fastball, a solid changeup and an improving slider. He throws strikes and keeps the ball down in the zone. During instructional league, he was put on a program designed to trim some of his bulk. He regained flexibility, arm speed and velocity. A slimmer Slocum will return to high Class A this year.
Following a pair of nice seasons in the short-season Dominican Summer League, Hiraldo made a successful U.S. debut in 2003, finishing it off with four scoreless innings in the South Atlantic League playoffs. Though he isn't tall, Hiraldo has a quick arm, which allows him to generate a 90-93 mph fastball, and is athletic, which allows him to repeat his delivery well and have good command. He also has a solid changeup and flashes a good slider at times. When he doesn't stay on top of his slider, it flattens out on him. Hiraldo has a fearlessness about him that was evident even while he was acclimating himself to a new culture. He'll probably spend the entire 2004 season in low Class A.
Wallace played little baseball in three years at Vanderbilt, collecting just 125 at-bats in three years. His most notable baseball memory may have been striking out to end Mark Prior's first college game, a 2-1 loss to Belmont (Tenn.). Wallace accomplished more on the gridirion, where he started six games at quarterback as a freshman. The Indians spotted Wallace playing summer ball in Alaska and signed him as a nondrafted free agent. He has emerged as a sturdy, dependable catcher with significant upside. Wallace's leadership skills, which helped him as a quarterback, have translated on the diamond. He excels at calling games and handling pitchers. His receiving and throwing are solid-average and can get better. He threw out 30 percent of basestealers in 2003. Wallace is progressing as a hitter. He can drive balls into the gaps and draws a fair share of walks. He needs to do a better job of plate coverage, particularly on the outer half of the plate, in order to cut down on his strikeouts. Because Wallace is 24, Cleveland would like to start moving him more quickly. He'll begin this year in high Class A but is a candidate for promotion to Double-A as soon as he starts to hit more consistently.
After winning the short-season New York-Penn League batting title with a .349 average in 2002, Francisco missed the first two months of last season. He broke the hamate bone in his left wrist during spring training and required surgery. Once he returned, he continued to show all the tools he flashed in his pro debut. Francisco is a natural hitter with doubles power. He employs a pure swing with a direct path to the ball. He uses the entire field and shows potential as a leadoff hitter. Francisco is aggressive at the plate, but he's not a free swinger. He's an above-average runner who possesses good instincts and reads pitchers well. Defensively, Francisco is still a little unrefined and has fringy arm strength. He doesn't profile well in any of the three outfield slots because he lacks the arm for right, the range for center and the power for left. He'll split time in left and center this year, when he could skip a level and go to Double-A.
Just like Nick Pesco a year after him, Smith received $1.1 million from the Indians as a draft-and-follow. His fastball hit 94 mph at Sac City before he signed, but he hasn't shown as much velocity while working regularly in a pro rotation. Smith's heater now sits at 88-91 mph, but its effective because he mixes it with a 12-6 curveball and a fading changeup. He also throws a slider. Smith is at his best when he keeps his fastball down in the zone. That's tough to do when he lapses into overthrowing. His delivery is solid, but he needs better command. Though Smith isn't as far along as Cleveland expected he would be, he'll still compete for a spot in the high Class A rotation.
In order to access this exclusive content you must have a Baseball America Account.
Login or sign up