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Miller came into 2005 off a strong first full season, which he finished by not allowing an earned run in 14 innings and touching 101 mph with his explosive fastball during the high Class A Carolina League playoffs. There were whispers during spring training that he could reach Cleveland in 2005 after starting the year at Double-A Akron, paying quick dividends on the 2003 supplemental first-round pick received for the loss of Jim Thome to free agency. But those ambitious plans were put on hold two weeks into spring training when Miller was shut down with a strained ligament in his elbow after long-tossing. He didn't require surgery but lost nearly three months of development time. Miller sat out for three weeks before throwing bullpen sessions in extended spring training. He joined short-season Mahoning Valley at the end of June and was greeted rudely by opposing hitters, who touched him for a .405 average. He never gained confidence in his secondary pitches and continued to struggle after moving up to high Class A Kinston. He pitched better in the Arizona Fall League than his 5.68 ERA would indicate. When he's healthy, Miller has all the components of a frontline major league starter. Garnering comparisons to Kevin Brown and Bret Saberhagen, he features a heavy 92-97 mph fastball with great life and armside movement. Though he sat at 91-93 mph for much of 2005, his velocity increased as the season wore on. He complements his fastball with a hard-biting, 87-88 mph slider than can dominate lefties and righties alike. His changeup showed significant improvement when he used it. He has an advanced feel for pitching, combining those instincts with power stuff and moxie. Managers and scouts rave about his makeup. The health of Miller's elbow is a major concern, but he stayed healthy and didn't experience any further problems after his three-month layoff. His mechanics are usually free and easy, so they shouldn't cause him difficulty in the future. Miller's problems on the mound last year can be traced to his secondary pitches. While his slider still had its usual velocity, he lacked the command he showed with the pitch in 2004. He lacked confidence in his changeup, so hitters sat on his fastball. His ability to locate his slider and changeup improved late in the season. With all the time off, Miller developed a hitch in his delivery, dropping his lead arm. That caused him to lower his arm angle, affecting his leverage and deception, but he smoothed out the problem toward the end of the year. Though he earns points for his poise and his work ethic, Miller did get frustrated at times when things didn't go his way. Miller isn't quite on the same path he was a year ago, when he was regarded as one of the premier pitching prospects in the game. But he still has a huge ceiling and might not be much more than a season away from joining the Indians. They say he's 100 percent healthy and ready for a full season in 2006. Barring any setbacks, he'll head to Double-A to start the year and could take off from there.
Growing up, Sowers was more into chess than sports, and that may be the best metaphor for his approach to pitching--a strategic match of wits. A two-time first-round pick who turned down the Reds out of high school before signing for $2.475 million as the sixth pick in 2004, he finished his first pro season in Triple-A Buffalo. The Indians gave him their Bob Feller Award as their minor league pitcher of the year. Sowers doesn't overpower hitters with his 88-92 mph fastball, so he relies on his intelligence to gain an edge to keep them guessing. He locates his fastball to all four quadrants of the strike zone, and shows excellent command of both his short slider and his changeup. He scrapped his curveball in favor of the slider, which features a more cutter-like action. Though Sowers locates his changeup well, it lacks depth at times and his arm speed is inconsistent. He needs to do a better job of repeating his arm slot with his slider, as he tends to arch his back, throwing off its overall effectiveness and late bite. Several Tribe officials felt Sowers could have won in the big leagues last year, and they view him as a future 15-20 game winner in the mold of John Tudor. Sowers probably will return to Triple-A to begin 2006, but he could be the first starter Cleveland summons from the minors.
Snyder has come a long way since a car accident sidetracked his career during his freshman year at Ball State. He rebounded to become the Mid- American Conference player of the year and a first-round pick in 2003, but then missed spring training in 2004 with an eye infection that set back his development. He found his stride in Double-A last year, helping Akron win the Eastern League championship. Snyder has drawn comparisons to Paul O'Neill and Fred Lynn for his wide base of tools. He has the sweetest swing and the best power in the organization, with plus bat speed that produces easy pop to all fields. He's an above-average runner with good instincts on the bases. While he has the speed and range to play center field, his tools are best suited for right. He has average arm strength that plays up thanks to his accuracy and instincts. Snyder's lack of strike-zone discipline hampers him at the plate. He fanned 158 times last year, and big league pitchers could exploit his tendency to swing and miss. He struggles with breaking balls down and away, and he's still learning how to stay back and drive balls consistently. Snyder will head back to Double-A to further hone his approach and tighten up his zone. He should earn a Triple-A promotion by midseason.
Carmona has won 40 games in his three full seasons, tying for the minor league lead with 17 victories in 2003. He struggled in Double-A in both 2004 and 2005, but he recovered to pitch well in Triple-A last year. Carmona enjoyed increased velocity in Triple-A, jumping up to 93-94 mph while topping out at 96. His high-80s slider can be nasty when he commands it, and his deceptive changeup with late action gives him a third plus pitch. Command always has been his forte, as he likes to pound the zone with heavy sinkers and values groundballs as much as strikeouts. Carmona still doesn't miss a lot of bats and probably never will. But someone with his stuff shouldn't be nearly as hittable as he has been in the upper minors. He needs to become more consistent with his mechanics. The Indians envision him developing along the lines of Jake Westbrook. Carmona has the necessary pitches to become a frontline starter, but he still has plenty of development remaining before he's ready. He'll probably spend at least another half-season in Triple-A, as Jeremy Sowers is in line for the first callup.
Garko's bat never has been in question. But after he went undrafted following his junior year at Stanford, Garko dropped 15 pounds to address concerns over his lack of mobility behind the plate. His stock soared and he earned All-America honors as a senior, and he hit his way to the big leagues little more than two years after turning pro. Garko is short to the ball with an efficient stroke, allowing him to adjust to pitches in any location. He uses the whole field and shows above-average power. His makeup and leadership skills are among the best in the system. The only thing holding Garko back is his defensive deficiencies. The Indians committed to getting him as much work as possible behind the plate in 2005 but have since wavered, realizing backup Josh Bard is a much better defender than Garko ever will be. Though his actions at first base have gotten better, he's still mechanical at times and adequate at best. He's a liability on the basepaths. Garko worked exclusively at first base in the Arizona Fall League. He could push for incumbent Ben Broussard's first-base job in 2006 if he can prove himself serviceable defensively.
After hitting 24 homers in a breakout 2003 season, Gutierrez has totaled just 17 longballs in the Indians system since coming over from the Dodgers in the Milton Bradley trade in April 2004. Nagging injuries have been the problem. He had minor elbow surgery in 2004, and he sprained a knee in April and dislocated his left middle finger in June last year. Gutierrez generates tremendous bat speed and crushes inside pitches, and he also shows the ability to take balls the other way through improved pitch recognition. He moved back in the box and raised his hands slightly to improve his load at the plate and did well once he adjusted to the changes. Indians officials consider him the best defensive outfielder in the system, with above-average speed and range to play center and a plus arm. Gutierrez still has a tendency to expand his strike zone, and his lack of discipline has some scouts thinking that his ceiling is nothing more than becoming Juan Encarnacion. If he hadn't lost so much development time during the last two years, Gutierrez might be knocking on the door to Cleveland. He could make the Indians as a fourth outfielder in spring training. But he has yet to prove himself in Triple-A and needs regular at-bats, so he likely will start the year in Buffalo.
The Indians had a poor draft in 1999, as their top pick (second-rounder Will Hartley) never made it out of Rookie ball and just one player signed in the first 20 rounds made it past Double-A. That exception is Cabrera, who reached Double-A as a starter but has been groomed as a late-inning reliever since mid-2003. He has been impressive in late-season callups the last two years. Cabrera operates with two plus pitches, a lively 92-96 mph fastball and a hard, diving splitter. His fastball command has improved since his days as a starter, and he pitches effectively to both sides of the plate. He has both the stuff and the demeanor to close. Cabrera's slider and changeup aren't nearly as effective as his other two offerings. When he stays on top of his slider and doesn't slow down his arm speed with his changeup, both pitches grade out as major league average. He rarely concerns himself with holding runners close to first base. There's no question that Cabrera is Cleveland's closer of the future. The Indians will ease him into the role, however, after re-signing all-star Bob Wickman to finish games in 2006. Cabrera will help set up Wickman this season.
A natural athlete with good bloodlines, Crowe is a former junior national racquetball champion and his father David was a professional golfer. Crowe earned All-America honors last spring by hitting .403 and leading NCAA Division I with 15 triples (the second-most in D-I history) and 49 extra-base hits. He went 14th overall in the 2005 draft--the highest- selected University of Arizona player since Eddie Leon went ninth in 1965--and signed for $1.695 million. A switch-hitter with quick hands, Crowe is a slightly better hitter from the left side while displaying more power from the right. He has a history of hitting with wood bats with Team USA and in the Cape Cod League. He makes quick adjustments and has the ability to center the ball and use the whole field. The Indians grade his speed as above-average and believe he can handle the defensive responsibilities of center field. Crowe can be undisciplined at times at the plate and lacks raw power. Some scouts question whether he had the quickness to play center, and his arm is below average. He had trouble staying out of the training room in his pro debut, with an abdominal strain and a freak injury when he was hit in the thumb by a line drive while running the bases. Though he finished 2005 in Double-A, Crowe likely will start in high Class A this year. He's quite similar to Cleveland's current left fielder, Coco Crisp.
Head projected as more of a pitcher coming out of high school and starred as a two-way player at Mississippi. He set the Rebels career saves record with 26, and his 165 RBIs were three shy of another school mark. He entered 2005 projected as an early first-round pick, but dropped to the Indians in the second round because of concerns about his power ceiling. He signed for $605,000 and hit six homers in his first 10 pro games. Head has the strength to hit balls out of the park, generating most of his pop with his lower half. He destroys inside pitches and his long arms enable him to cover the outer half. If he maintains a consistent approach, he can hit for average with 20-30 homers annually. He's a solid defender at first base, with soft hands and good range. Head's upper body isn't great, but he should fill out with more conditioning. He needs to tighten up his strike zone and identify breaking balls better. He also tends to get a little long in his swing and becomes too pull-conscious at times. He's a below-average runner. By jumping Head to high Class A after 10 pro games, the Indians displayed their faith in his advanced bat. He could return there to start 2006 or move up to Double-A if Michael Aubrey isn't healthy.
Aubrey jumped to Double-A in 2004 after just 98 games as a pro. But a hamstring injury that July sidelined him for five weeks, and he played just one game after May 9 last year after he hurt his back. The injury could be chronic, as back problems also ended his career as a pitcher at Tulane. Aubrey's quick hands allow him to control the barrel of the bat, and he drives balls into the gaps with regularity. He recognizes pitches well and rarely swings and misses. He's a premium defender with good footwork around the bag, soft hands and a plus arm for a first baseman. There's some question about how much power Aubrey will hit for in the majors. He profiles as a gap hitter with occasional pop, and he needs to improve at turning on inside fastballs. After the back injury, he had trouble getting his front foot down without feeling any pain as he went into the turn in his swing. His speed is below-average, though he's not a baseclogger. Aubrey has the highest ceiling of any corner infielder in the system. His health will have a huge role in whether he reaches it. He'll probably return to Double-A in 2006.
Lofgren comes from a strong line of athletes at Serra High that includes Barry Bonds, Jim Fregosi, Gregg Jefferies and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Lofgren was a standout two-way player in high school, and most clubs liked his bat better than his arm. The Indians were in the minority, and after putting a clause in his $650,000 bonus contract that said he could DH in his 2004 debut, they have him focused solely on pitching now. Lofgren has power stuff, beginning with a heavy 93-94 mph fastball that peaks at 96. His changeup has developed into an effective weapon. He just needs to find a reliable breaking ball to become a quality starter. Lofgren throws a curveball, but it's inconsistent and he struggles to command it. He may scrap the curve and try a slider in 2006. An aggressive competitor, he has adjusted his mechanics to get more leverage and downhill plane to the plate. He has the stuff, makeup and savvy to move quickly. He'll begin 2005 in high Class A.
Drennen was one of the most coveted high school hitters in the 2005 draft. He's a product of San Diego's Rancho Bernardo High, which has produced more premium prospects than any other prep program in the nation over the last decade. Scouts says Drennen resembles former Bronco Danny Putnam, who went to Stanford and was drafted 36th overall by Oakland in 2004. Both Drennen (who went 33rd overall last June and signed for $1 million) and Putnam have compact builds, powerful bats and gamer makeup. Though he isn't physically imposing, Drennen is strong and the ball jumps off his bat. He has plus bat speed with good extension through his swing. He's still pull-conscious against righthanders, though he will use the entire field against lefties. He's a slightly above-average runner and gets good jumps in the outfield, but his arm is well-below-average. The Indians will keep him primarily in center field until he plays himself out of the position, but he'll probably wind up in left field. He recovered from a slow start in his pro debut at Rookie-level Burlington to hit .306 with four homers in August. He'll spend his first full season at low Class A Lake County.
After winning a Rookie-level Dominican Summer League title in 2002 and Rookie-level Appalachian League pitcher-of-the-year honors in 2003, the lefthander formerly known as Hanlet Ramirez experienced a rough introduction to full-season ball in 2004. As he grew acclimated to the culture and more familiar with hitters in the States, Perez came into his own last season, helping pitch Akron to the Eastern League crown. He has electric stuff, including a 92-94 mph fastball with outstanding late life. He battled command problems with his fastball early in his career, simply because it has so much natural movement. As he fills out his lanky frame, his velocity should increase. Perez' slider grades out as the best in the system and features exceptional bite. His changeup improved in 2005, though it's not very reliable and thus he still profiles as a reliever. As he adds more mass to his lanky frame, his velocity is likely to increase. A breakout candidate, he'll start 2006 back in Double-A.
Sipp plummeted to the 45th round of the 2004 draft after his agent scared off teams with excessive bonus demands, but area scout Tim Moore persuaded the Indians that Sipp was worth following over the summer. He performed well in the Cape Cod League and earned a $130,000 bonus, and he has overmatched hitters in pro ball. He moved from the rotation into the bullpen after a mid-2005 promotion to high Class A and flourished. Sipp spent his college career as a two-way player and didn't focus on pitching before last year, but the lack of innings hasn't deterred his development. He creates excellent deception in his delivery with outstanding extension, and his 89-93 mph fastball explodes on hitters. His fastball has late, tailing action. His slider has emerged as a plus pitch, and he also has made strides with his changeup. If he were willing to trust it more, he would have the repertoire to start again. The Indians want to move him quickly as a reliever, and will start him in Double-A this year and could promote him to Triple-A for the second half.
Brown has been involved in two high-profile trades. The first sent him from the Braves to the Dodgers as part of a package for Gary Sheffield in January 2002. When Milton Bradley wore out his welcome with Cleveland, Los Angeles acquired Bradley in exchange for Brown and Franklin Gutierrez in April 2004. Brown was a top prospect in the Dodgers system before missing almost the entire 2003 season with elbow problems. He also sat out 2000 recovering from Tommy John surgery, though he has been healthy since joining the Indians. Brown moved to the bullpen last year, where his effortless 92-97 mph fastball and power slider work well and he no longer has to worry about honing his changeup. While there were concerns about Brown's mental toughness, he was much more aggressive coming out of the bullpen. He struggled with his delivery early in 2005 until Buffalo pitching coach Ken Rowe helped him stay more upright so he can just drop and drive toward home plate. The results were encouraging as he posted a 1.43 ERA and allowed just 12 hits in his final 31 innings. Brown's maximum velocity comes on high fastballs, and he sometimes took that to the extreme, getting too far underneath the ball. He'll be in the mix for a spot in the big league bullpen, but might need further seasoning in Triple-A.
The Indians aren't afraid to spend on draft-and-follows. They gave Sean Smith $1.1 million in 2002, the same year they drafted Pesco in the 25th round. He got the same amount a year later and has established himself as one of the top righthanders in the system. Pesco struggled with his command through the first half of 2005 and his velocity varied throughout the year, forcing him to learn how to compete without his best stuff. He usually pitches at 90-94 mph, though his fastball dipped into the upper 80s at times. His changeup, the best in the system, has deceptive downward movement. His slider became an effective weapon as he added more tilt and increased power to the pitch. Consistency is his greatest challenge, and he still needs to improve his stamina. Pesco will move up a level to Double- A, where he'll anchor the staff with his close friend and top prospect Adam Miller.
When the Indians drafted Bunkelman out of Itasca (Minn.) Community College, he was a relatively unknown commodity with a raw power arm. Even he was caught off guard when the Indians selected him in 2004's sixth round, but he was so impressive in predraft workouts that they felt they couldn't wait any longer. A star wide receiver at Chippewa Falls (Wis.) High, he was limited to just two games on the gridiron at Itasca because of a foot injury. While he's still raw on the mound, Bunkelman has made impressive strides and could move quickly. He's equipped with a heavy 95 mph fastball and complements it with a wipeout slider. His slider command has improved to the point where he'll use it in any count. His changeup lags behind his other two offerings and will determine whether he winds up as a starter or reliever. For now, he's the most physical starter in the system. Scouts compare his lower half to that of Mark Prior, as Bunkelman has strong legs and huge calves. He repeats his delivery and has great balance and good deception. He'll begin the season in high Class A.
The Indians had four picks before the second round of the 2001 draft and spent the first three on pitchers. Dan Denham has been inconsistent and Alan Horne didn't sign, and while Martin has been the best thus far, elbow problems have delayed his progress. He went 24-9 in his first two-plus seasons before being shut down in July 2003 with a strained ligament. He avoided surgery at that point and finished strong in 2004, only to further hurt his elbow and require Tommy John surgery last July. Martin's arsenal improved significantly over the last two years. He throws two- and four-seam fastballs, a cutter, a changeup and a curveball that has ranked as the best in the system for a while. As good as his true 12-6 curveball is, his cutter has developed into his best weapon. Lean and wiry, Martin could add more velocity to his 89-91 mph fastball if he can add more weight on his frame. Durability and stamina always have clouded Martin's projection, and those concerns were only magnified after surgery. After his rehabilitation, he'll begin the season in extended spring training and is scheduled to join Mahoning Valley when camp breaks in June.
The Tribe first drafted Lewis out of high school in the 33rd round in 2002, but the righthander opted for Vanderbilt, where he emerged as a third-rounder three years later. After signing for $375,000, he saw his fastball velocity improve during his pro debut. Despite pitching 152 innings between the spring and summer, he still was strong at the end, throwing in the low 90s more consistently than ever while at Mahoning Valley. Whether the quicker fastball is a better fastball is debatable, because he tends to get better life when he works in the high 80s. Much like former Commodores teammate Jeremy Sowers, Lewis is an extremely savvy pitcher. He can add and subtract velocity from his fastball, and he commands it with precision. His best secondary pitch is his changeup, with good sink and the same easy arm action as his fastball. His slider still needs work. It's short and has late bite, but not enough depth. He does a very good job of throwing strikes and locating his pitches, but he must remember not to rush his delivery, which causes him to leave the ball up in the zone. He's athletic and profiles as a third or fourth starter. One Indians official called him the quiet Sowers' nemesis because Lewis has a gregarious personality--his dream job outside of baseball is cooking alongside Emeril Lagasse or being a big league play-by-play announcer. He's ticketed for low Class A to begin 2006, and he has the polish to advance quickly.
Mujica's pro career got off to an inauspicious start when he strained his elbow during his 2002 debut in the Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer League. He didn't miss much time, however, and he took off last year when the Indians made him a full-time closer. He led the system with 24 regular-season saves and recorded four more in the Eastern League playoffs. Mujica brings power stuff with a 93-94 mph fastball and an 86-87 mph slider. He goes right after hitters, and the Indians rave about his fearlessness and short memory. His control is remarkable, as he issued just seven walks in 60 innings last season. He needs to be more effective against lefthanders, who hit .309 against him in Double-A, and coming up with an offspeed pitch might do the trick. Mujica will have a chance to close in Triple-A this year, putting him on the doorstep to Cleveland, an unlikely scenario just two years back.
Denham was the first of four Indians first-rounders in 2001, signing for a $1.86 million bonus. Cleveland also signed Denham's younger brother Jason as an outfielder in the 13th round of the 2004 draft. Dan's development path has been frustrating at times, but he shows enough for scouts and club officials to maintain high expectations for his future. On his way up the ladder, Denham has needed to repeat each full-season level along the way. He had a tendency to overthrow early in his pro career, but he has good body control and a clean, compact delivery now. His fastball typically is clocked in the low 90s and peaked at 94 last season. Improving his cut fastball once again has elevated his prospect status. He still lacks deception, however, which was one of the main problems in Triple-A. With the addition of his cutter, Denham's arsenal of an above-average fastball, average curveball and slider is that much more dangerous. His changeup isn't effective, which could mean he'll wind up in the bullpen. He'll head back to Buffalo for 2006.
Cooper was part of one of the most heralded prep lineups in recent memory, as Moses Lake (Wash.) High produced three picks in the first two rounds of the 1999 draft. Outfielder B.J. Garbe went fifth overall to the Twins and hasn't lived up to his billing, while catcher Ryan Doumit went to the Pirates in the second round and reached the majors in 2005. Cooper, who went four picks after Doumit to the Phillies, opted to attend Stanford but never got untracked in college as he was plagued by injuries. He's coming off his best professional season, setting career highs with 25 homers and a system-best 100 RBIs. He worked out in the offseason with Paul Konerko, who showed him a better way to load his hands into his swing. Cooper still struggles to make contract and may never hit for much of an average, but the Indians hope to utilize his power in some role. He needs to implement a more patient approach and do a better job of picking out pitches he can drive. Though he's a good athlete who was a backup punter on Stanford's football team, Cooper is a below-average left fielder. He hasn't thrown well since hurting his shoulder in college, and his route-running is suspect. With the depth of outfielders in the system, Cooper faces a make-or-break 2006.
The Indians have been successful mining the University of Nevada for talent. Kouzmanoff, who transferred from Arkansas-Little Rock after his junior year, hopes to follow former Tribe prospect Ryan Church to the big leagues. Cleveland farmhands Chris Gimenez and Joe Inglett also hail from Nevada. Kouzmanoff doesn't have one tool that stands out. He's a throwback of sorts who makes all the routine plays at third base and religiously breaks down his swing searching for ways to improve. He's more upright at the plate than ever, maximizing the use of his lower half and making consistent hard, line-drive contact to all fields. He's a below-average runner who's an average defender at best, so his bat will have to carry him. In part because he signed as a college senior, Kouzmanoff has played just seven games above Class A despite being 24. He lost two months of development time last year when a back injury caused him to be shut down in June and July. The injury can be traced to his stint in the Arizona Fall League in 2004, when he fell into a dugout chasing a foul ball. His back bothered him throughout spring training and sapped much of his ability to drive the ball. He should be healthy to start this season in Double-A.
Another early-round pitching pick from the 2001 draft, Dittler jumped ahead of first-rounders J.D. Martin and Dan Denham by 2003, but two mediocre seasons in Double-A later have him heading in the wrong direction. The most frustrating part is that he still shows quality stuff. He has a heavy fastball that sits in the low 90s and has been clocked as high as 95 mph. His curveball is a plus pitch at times and his changeup gives him a decent third pitch. Dittler doesn't have trouble finding the strike zone, but he has been hittable because his command isn't as good as his control. He can lose the release point on his curveball, which results in vulnerable pitches up in the strike zone. Though Dittler led the system in innings last year, his stamina became an issue by midseason. He lost too much weight and lost velocity on his fastball, though he bounced back by the end of the year through a stringent conditioning program. He'll get his first taste of Triple-A this season.
Though he's a pitcher, Hoyman is one of the best natural athletes in the system. He was a standout soccer player at Cocoa (Fla.) High, and he also punted for the football team before an opponent broke the femur in his right leg trying to block one of his kicks. The injury stunted the growth plates in his right leg, leaving it shorter than his left leg and leading to back problems while he was at Florida. Hoyman, who now wears inserts in his right shoe, was a second-round pick in 2004, making him the highest Gator selected since Brad Wilkerson was a first-rounder in 1998. Hoyman has pitched very well as a pro, but he has worked just 61 innings because he strained an elbow ligament and was shut down last May. He works consistently down in the zone with a sinking 89-92 mph fastball. While he topped out at 95 in college, he hadn't approached that number prior to his injury. Hoyman also throws a slurvy breaking ball and a deceptive changeup. He works fast and holds runners well. He pitched in instructional league after his elbow inflammation subsided and should be fully healthy for 2006. He has shown enough to advance to high Class A.
Cleveland's 2005 Lou Boudreau Award winner as its minor league player of the year, Mulhern established his bona fides as a power hitter long ago. He led national juco hitters with 28 homers at Trinidad State (Colo.) CC in 2000, then set a South Alabama career mark with 43 longballs in three seasons. He hit just 12 homers in his first 162 pro games before exploding for 32 in 2005. He made some adjustments to his swing last year--he's not nearly as long or pull-happy as he was in college--and they paid off. He's now more focused on hitting to the middle of the field and driving balls. He made adjustments to get his hands inside pitches better, generating more backspin and carry. Mulhern has decent strike-zone discipline. His only setback last year came when he was hit in the face with a pitch in May, causing him to miss four weeks. There's some concern on pitchers tying him up on inside fastballs, but like Kevin Kouzmanoff, Mulhern is obsessive about breaking down film of his swing. Drafted as an outfielder, he's far from a finished product at first base, though he has improved there. He took advantage of Michael Aubrey being out of the Akron lineup in 2005, and Mulhern could win the first-base job in Triple-A this spring.
The first Canadian high school player drafted in 2005, Weglarz went in the third round and signed for $435,000. Scouts said he was the best power hitter Canada has produced since the Braves made Scott Thorman a first-round pick in 2000. However, Weglarz' profile more closely resembles that of another Canadian, Justin Morneau, for the size and raw power in his bat. Weglarz left Burlington before the season ended to play for Canada's junior national team, helping it win a bronze medal at the Pan-Am Junior Championships in Mexico. He has long arms and solid bat speed with good leverage. The Tribe worked to make fundamental adjustments in his swing in instructional league, getting his hands further back to get maximum effort from his swing, which he tended to cut off through the zone. Weglarz' bat will have to carry him. He's a below-average runner and was drafted as a first baseman, though he spent his pro debut in right field. His range and arm weren't bad but may not be enough to stick there for the long term. Weglarz is considered a bit of a project, but at 17 he was the youngest player in the Appalachian League last summer. He'll probably start 2006 in extended spring before joining Mahoning Valley in June.
Lewis' commitment to Ohio State scared teams off him in the 2001 draft, though the Angels took a flier on him in the 33rd round and made a run at him. As a Buckeyes sophomore, he struck out 16 and 20 in consecutive starts and looked like a sure first-rounder for 2004. He blew out his elbow late that spring, however, and needed Tommy John surgery. Lewis was back on the mound 11 months after the operation, and the Indians saw enough to take him in 2004's third round and sign him for $460,000. While he showed signs of regaining his pre-injury form in his pro debut--topping out at 92 mph and showing good secondary pitches--Lewis took a step back in 2005. Cleveland handled him carefully and kept him on tight pitch counts at Mahoning Valley, but he came down with tightness in his bicep after just three outings and missed six weeks. He totaled just 16 innings for the summer. Lewis has a clean, effortless delivery and has a very deceptive release point. He's added depth and power to his slurvy breaking ball, which has morphed from a plus curveball in college to a faster pitch with 11-to-5 break. He needs to work on his changeup, which is fringe-average at best. Lewis will pitch in low Class A this year as the Indians hope he can have a completely healthy season.
Whitney was one of three Indians picks before the second round of the 2002 draft. While righthander Jeremy Guthrie and second baseman Micah Schilling have been extreme disappointments, it's too early to put Whitney in the same category even though he hasn't gotten past low Class A. He broke his left leg while playing basketball at spring training in 2003, which cost him the entire season and limited him to DH duties in 2004. The break required two surgeries, and his development has been circuitous ever since. He returned to low Class A last season, where he played third base extensively for the first time in three years. He has a solid approach at the plate, producing power to all fields. He showed the same explosiveness and fluid, rhythmic approach as he did as an amateur after building up strength in his lower half again. He has plus arm strength and good actions at the hot corner, and scouts rated him as a solid-average defender in 2005. While most of his draft class has passed him by, Whitney will make his long-awaited high Class A debut this season.
The Indians took Smith's older brother Corey with the 26th overall pick in the 2000 draft. Corey ranked No. 1 on this list in 2002 but stalled and was traded to the Padres for another disappointing first-round pick, Jake Gautreau, in February 2005. Carlton had much less fanfare as an amateur, going in the 21st round in 2004 and signing as a draft-and-follow after spending a year at Okaloosa-Walton (Fla.) CC. There were significant questions about his older brother's makeup, but there are no such issues with Carlton's aptitude and willingness to respond to instruction. Smith throws two- and four-seam fastballs, usually sitting in the low 90s and topping out at 93 mph. While he locates his fastball well on the right side of the plate, he's not as effective pitching to the other corner. His late-breaking slider has the potential to be an above-average pitch with good depth and sharpness, and he's also developing a changeup. His mechanics are clean, though he still has somewhat of an upright finish and needs to work on his balance and separation to get the most out of his delivery. Smith had surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee near the end of his debut but will be ready for spring training. He likely will spend 2006 at Mahoning Valley.