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After spending 2005 rehabbing an elbow strain, Miller bounced back in 2006 to re-establish himself as one of the top pitching prospects in the game. But his health again faltered last season, as finger and elbow woes kept him out of action for nearly two months. When he returned to Triple-A Buffalo, the Tribe kept him in the bullpen to limit his innings and closely monitored his work between outings. He went down to Double-A Akron for the Eastern League playoffs, and allowed five runs on eight hits in just six innings. Miller went to instructional league before heading to the Arizona Fall League for the second time in three seasons, again with mixed results. While Cleveland raved about his AFL stint, several scouts were less than impressed with his secondary pitches and Miller finished with a 9.00 ERA in 13 innings. When he's healthy, Miller has proven to be dominant with two plus pitches. His 93-97 mph fastball has natural late life and he works all four quadrants of the strike zone with it. His hard 86-88 mph slider can be devastating at times with late break and power. His slider is by far his best pitch. With the addition of a two-seamer, Miller also has a weapon to attack lefthanders and it has emerged as an out pitch over the last two seasons, boosting his groundball ratio in the process. His delivery is free and easy and his work ethic and makeup never have been questioned. After wanting to just blow his fastball by hitters early in his career, Miller has shown exceptional maturity, understanding the value of his secondary pitches. Miller struggled with the arm speed and location of his changeup in the AFL, and it always has lagged behind his other offerings. He made significant progress with his changeup in Double-A in 2006, but with the layoff and the move to the bullpen last year, he didn't get much opportunity to use it. While his mechanics are easily repeatable, Miller struggled to maintain his arm slot in the AFL. His arm dragged behind his body at times, elevating his pitches and leaving them lifeless, which made him extremely hittable. The Indians hope he can pitch out of the major league bullpen, but in order to do that, he's going to need to refine his pickoff move and do a better job of controlling the running game. Though his medical history is beginning to become somewhat worrisome, Miller will have the opportunity to begin 2008 in the Cleveland bullpen. The club still views him as a starter down the road, but he has the stuff to make an impact in a relief role now. How well he can stay healthy and further develop his changeup ultimately will determine his ceiling. Miller still has the arsenal of pitches and the makeup to be a legitimate frontline starter.
Several teams liked Lofgren more for his lefthanded bat than his ability on the mound in the 2004 draft, but the Indians persuaded him that his future was on the mound after letting him serve as a two-way player during his pro debut. Though he wasn't nearly as dominant in 2007 as he had been in the past, Lofgren still led the system with 123 strikeouts in 146 innings and ranked second with 12 wins. Lofgren adds and subtracts with his full arsenal of pitches, beginning with a fastball that ranges anywhere from 87-93 mph and tops out at 95. He added a slider in 2006 and developed it into a true out pitch last year. He also throws a spike curveball in the upper 70s and a changeup that grades out as average. An imposing presence on the mound, he gets downhill easily and pounds the bottom of the strike zone. He kept his composure when things went poorly, and the Tribe loves his makeup. Lofgren struggled with runners on base last year, rushing his lower half in his delivery, which threw off his command. His changeup wasn't the weapon it was during his breakout campaign in 2006 when he led the minors with 17 wins, but it still has considerable upside. He needs to consistently command his fastball to maximize his effectiveness. Lofgren likely will make a few starts in Double-A before getting his first taste of Triple-A. Projected as a No. 3 starter, he could make his big league debut later in the year.
After hitting 36 homers in two years at Fresno State, Mills got suspended for academic shortcomings and code-of-conduct violations in 2006. He decided to transfer to NAIA power Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) after playing for Warriors coach Ed Cheff in the Alaska League, which Mills led with seven homers and 33 RBIs. Mills led Lewis- Clark State to its 15th national title, hitting an NAIA-record 38 homers and driving in 123 runs. The son of former big leaguer and current Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills, Beau went 13th overall in the draft and signed for $1.575 million. With a leveraged, balanced swing and excellent strength, Mills generates well above-average power to all fields. He has the bat speed and pitch recognition to hit for average as well. His hands and his footwork are his best defensive tools, and he has enough athleticism and work ethic to have a chance to become an adequate third baseman. Many scouts who have evaluated Mills give him no chance to stick at the hot corner, and he spent his debut alternating between there and first base. A shoulder impingment in 2006 didn't require surgery but has limited his arm strength, and the Indians have put him on an extensive throwing program. He's going to strike out, but his offensive production will be well worth it. His speed is fringy at best. His arm strength improved during instructional league, so the Tribe will leave Mills at third base when he returns to high Class A Kinston. But first base or possibly left field appears to be his ultimate destination.
Hodges always has shown a gamer mentality. When he broke the hamate bone in his left wrist as a high school senior, he taught himself to bat lefthanded and hit .430. A 13th-round pick of the White Sox in 2003, he opted to attend Georgia Tech and played through a leg injury that was ultimately diagnosed as a stress fracture during his draft year. Injuries again hampered him during his pro debut in 2007, as a broken toe and hamstring injury cost him three weeks in May. Hodges has an easy, fluid stroke that produces line drives to all fields. His swing has good leverage and he has opposite-field power. He grades out as an average defender with soft hands and average arm strength. He worked with Kinston manager Mike Sarbaugh and infield coordinator Ted Kubiak to push off his back leg and get better extension on his throws. He has a reputation for good plate discipline, but Hodges didn't show it in 2007. He struggled to recognize breaking balls, especially against righthanders. While his throws improved, he struggled charging grounders and ranging to his right, and some in the organization question whether he can stick at third base. Hodges will begin 2008 as the everyday third baseman in Double-A. He's a better defender than Beau Mills, but he needs to stay healthy to be the club's long-term answer at the hot corner.
Laffey fell to the 16th round in the 2003 draft because of his commitment to Virginia Tech, but the Indians took a gamble on him and signed him for $363,000. After bouncing between the bullpen and a starting role throughout his career, he moved back to the rotation for good in 2006 and hurried to the big leagues after just 22 starts in 2007. Laffey wound up winning four of his nine starts in the majors. A groundball machine, Laffey pounds the bottom of the strike zone with three quality pitches. His 86-89 mph sinker has outstanding downward movement and his mid- 80s slider has developed into an out pitch with late break. His changeup also improved significantly in 2007, with much better fade and command to both sides of the plate. Lefthanders hit .322 with power against Laffey in the majors, which doesn't make sense because he has the platoon advantage to go with his nasty slider. The Indians think it was more a fluke than anything and aren't concerned. His velocity is below average, but his slider and changeup help his fastball play up. Laffey has surpassed fellow lefties Cliff Lee and Jeremy Sowers in Cleveland's plans. A future No. 3 or 4 starter, he'll compete for a rotation job this spring.
Weglarz was the first Canadian selected in the 2005 draft, going in the third round after being touted as the best power hitter his country had to offer. He struggled in his pro debut, then missed nearly all of 2006 after breaking the hamate bone in his right wrist in spring training. He bounced back last season, ranking among the low Class A South Atlantic League leaders with 23 homers and 82 RBIs as a 19-year-old. Weglarz is comparable to fellow Canadian slugger Justin Morneau for his size and power. Weglarz' long arms allow him to have plenty of plate coverage and he has outstanding natural leverage and loft in his swing. He has good instincts, and he has shown the ability to shorten his stroke and use the opposite field. He's a patient hitter with advanced strike-zone discipline. Weglarz still has trouble getting extended with his swing at times. He'll cut it off at the point of contact and not follow through consistently. He was drafted as a first baseman and played right field during his debut, but his limited arm strength and range will relegate him to left field. He's a below-average runner. Weglarz' bat will have to carry him, and the Tribe thinks it will. He'll begin 2008 in high Class A.
Often compared to Wally Joyner in college for his aggressive approach and fluid stroke from the left side, Brown has improved his stock by winning back-to-back league MVP awards in the high Class A Carolina and the Eastern leagues the past two seasons. He led the CL with 87 RBIs in 2006 and the EL with a .333 batting average in 2007. Brown uses the whole field with a compact, line-drive swing and he wears out the opposite field. His bat speed is just average, but it plays up because of outstanding plate discipline and pitch recognition. He has good instincts on the bases and stole 11 bases in 13 attempts last year. He's an average defender at first base with good footwork and reactions. The Indians praise his leadership skills. Brown played much of the second half of 2007 with knee problems and had minor arthroscopic surgery in September. He's a below-average runner, which is why he returned to first base after playing left field in 2006. Brown profiles as a first baseman in the mold of Sean Casey or Lyle Overbay. With Ryan Garko's emergence in Cleveland, he'll likely play all of 2008 in Triple-A.
Huff attended UC Irvine, Cypress (Calif.) JC and finally UCLA before signing with the Tribe for $900,000 as a supplemental first-rounder in 2006. Coming out of the draft, the Indians compared him to Jeremy Sowers for his ability to command four pitches, but Huff may have better mound presence. His first full season was a disappointment after elbow soreness shut him down in May, but he returned for the Arizona Fall League. Huff's major strength is the ability to command all parts of the strike zone with a full arsenal of pitches. He can pound the bottom of the zone with an upper-80s sinker that tops out at 91 mph. The sink and depth on his changeup are well above average, and he showed a little cut slider and a deeper curveball during his AFL stint. Huff's velocity is fringy. His secondary pitches still aren't consistently effective against lefthanders, who raked him at a .314 clip in high Class A and then hit .360 against him in the AFL. His changeup can keep lefties off balance, but he can't put them away. Huff's elbow troubles set off an alarm for the Indians, who didn't want to risk any further injury. He could return to high Class A to begin 2008, though Double-A is a more likely destination.
Aside from a down year in 2004, when he skipped a level up to Double-A, Francisco has been one of the most consistent hitters in the system since he was drafted in 2002. His track record extends beyond pro ball, as he hit .330 in two seasons at Cypress (Calif.) JC before earning all-Pacific-10 Conference honors in each of his two years at UCLA. One of the best athletes in the system, Francisco drew comparisons to Torii Hunter from Triple-A International League managers for his bat speed, energy and defensive prowess. Scouts aren't completely sold on Francisco's power, but it's at least average. He's a well above-average runner with good instincts on the bases. He has the range and arm to play all three outfield spots. Lefthanders give Francisco a tough time, and he has trouble picking up pitches against them. While he is a patient hitter, he needs to do a better job at working deeper counts. When he gets behind in the count, he seldom works out of it with positive results. Francisco has a wide skill set of tools, but hasn't been given a full-time opportunity with Cleveland, mainly due to their deluge of outfield talent. He'll provide an insurance policy as a fourth outfielder or return to Triple-A again to wait in the wings.
The Indians drafted Lewis twice, in the 33rd round out of high school and again in the third round out of Vanderbilt, where he was a teammate of Jeremy Sowers. Prior to 2007, Lewis was as well known in the organization for his Bob Uecker impressions and his lack of a third pitch as anything. But he broke through in his new role as a setup man in 2007, making seven appearances for Cleveland in the playoffs. As a reliever, Lewis attacks hitters with a 91-93 mph sinker that he spots well. He does a good job of varying speeds, and his changeup ranks among the best in the system. It helped him limit big league lefthanders to a .244 average with no extra-base hits in 44 at-bats. He scrapped his slider in 2006 in favor of a softer, deeper curveball that's much more effective. His mechanics create some deception on the front side and are easily repeatable. Lewis can still rush with his lower half in his delivery at times. When that happens he gets under his pitches, flattening them out and leaving them high in the strike zone. Moving to the bullpen proved to be the best thing for Lewis. The Indians are counting on him to once again be an integral part of their relief corps in 2008.
The Indians were active on the Pacific Rim in 2006 and made a bigger splash in 2007, when they signed Kobayashi in November for $6 million over two years. A nine-year veteran in Japan, Kobayashi left the Chiba Lotte Marines with 227 career saves, after notching more than 20 saves in each of the last seven seasons. Kobayashi throws three pitches for strikes, and unlike a lot of Japanese pitchers, his 90-94 mph fastball has good life in the zone. His slider could be his best pitch with short late action, power and bite. Kobayashi uses his forkball to finish off hitters, but will throw it in any count. The Indians plan on using him as a sixth- or seventh-inning reliever, but Kobayashi also provides insurance if Lewis or veteran closer Joe Borowski falters. He has plenty of big game experience and Tribe officials rave about his poise and mound presence.
A two-way player at Meridian (Miss.) JC and at Clemson, Sipp had a modest season as a college junior, and the Indians took a flier on him in the 45th round in 2004 and then signed him for $130,000 after a strong showing in the Cape Cod League. Sipp was moving through the system quickly and was considered for a major league bullpen spot ahead of lefthander Rafael Perez last spring before breaking down and needing Tommy John surgery. When he's right, Sipp is a funky, deceptive late-inning reliever with the ability to attack lefthanders and righthanders. His 89-93 mph fastball is a swing-and-miss pitch, and he mixes in an above-average slider and plus changeup. Sipp relied on his changeup too much at times before he got hurt, and needs to focus on fastball command. He'll be out of action until at least June, and even if his stuff returns, he likely won't factor into the major league club's needs until 2009. Nevertheless, Cleveland protected him on its 40-man roster in November.
After Victor Martinez graduated to the big leagues in 2002, the Indians had trouble developing catching depth in their system. They addressed the shortage in 2006, drafting McBride and trading for Kelly Shoppach and Max Ramirez (whom they later included in a deal for Kenny Lofton last year). Cleveland loves the leverage and loft in McBride's swing. He makes consistent hard contact and his strike-zone discipline and pitch recognition are both assets. He's a natural leader who runs a pitching staff well. He's more athletic and runs better than most catchers. One of the organization's hardest workers, he arrived at the Tribe's complex at 6 a.m. every morning during spring training to work on his core strength. Though McBride has solid-average arm strength, he threw out just 14 percent of basestealers last season. He also struggled with his receiving skills, committing 16 passed balls. Then he had minor surgery on his throwing shoulder during the offseason. He should be ready for spring training. There's no talk of moving him from behind the plate just yet, and Cleveland's logjam at first base would make it tough to find a spot for McBride. The tools are there, and he'll be challenged to improve defensively in high Class A this season.
Jordan Brown was considered the second-best prospect the Indians signed out of Arizona in 2005, but after Crowe endured an ill-advised move to second base at the end of 2006 and an atrocious first half last year, Brown appears to have a higher ceiling than his college teammate. Crowe's numbers were on par or better than Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury's when both were in the Carolina League in 2006, but after being promoted to Double-A and being asked to move to the infield, all facets of Crowe's game fell apart. Crowe spent the bulk of last spring in major league camp and had an outside chance of making the roster. When he was instead sent to Double-A, he lacked confidence, began swinging at bad breaking balls out of the zone and took his struggles with him to the field. Crowe eventually put things together and hit .318 over the season's final two months. He had a lot more hand movement in his approach than he ever had, but quieted things down significantly by midseason. There are a lot of questions about Crowe's ceiling. While scouts projected average power for him coming out of college, he seems likely to fall short of that now, and he won't play center field in Cleveland anytime soon. A strained chest muscle cut Crowe's Arizona Fall League stint short but isn't a long-term concern. He will likely move up to Triple-A, but a return trip to Double-A might be in order.
Jones fully expected to attend South Florida this past fall, but the Indians selected him in the 15th round. They decided to go over slot to sign him for $350,000 after seeing him extensively last summer with the Midland (Ohio) Redskins, an elite travel team. Several members of the organization like Jones better than big league lefty Aaron Laffey at the same stage of their development for his ability to pitch to the bottom of the strike zone and roll up ground balls. Pitching from a three-quarters arm slot, Jones' fastball has good natural life, currently sitting at 88-92 mph, and he projects to add velocity as he fills out physically. The life and action on his fastball through the zone is above-average as well. His two other pitches lag behind his fastball at this point, but he's shown the ability to spin a slurvy breaking ball and a good feel for his changeup. Jones will likely make his full-season debut at low Class A Lake County this season and profiles as a power lefty reliever, though like Laffey, the Indians will give him every opportunity to start.
After recovering from Tommy John surgery in college and biceps tendinitis that plagued him his first two seasons as a pro, Lewis maximized his 60-75 pitch counts in 2006 and led the minors in ERA. He took the next step last season, working nearly as many innings in 2007 as his first three years combined. A command/control deceptive lefthander, Lewis' fastball sits at 86-90 mph when he's at his best, and his changeup improved in depth and fade over the course of the season. He needs to command both pitches better with his modest velocity. His only plus pitch since college was always a 12-to-6 curveball, but Lewis lost confidence in the pitch last year after he lacked command of it early in the season. He's learning a slider to help deepen his repertoire. His delivery is simple and easy to repeat, but he still throws across his body at times. Lewis still projects as a No. 4 or No. 5 starter, and the Indians see last season as a major step in the right direction. But Lewis will need to prove he's durable based on his medical history. Added to the 40-man roster during the offseason, he'll start in the Triple-A rotation in 2008.
Taiwan's top amateur pitcher in 2006, the Indians signed Tseng for $300,000. He'd spent the summer of 2005 pitching in the summer collegiate Alaska League, where he ranked as that league's No. 4 prospect. The Indians expressed their concern with Tseng's workload by the national team in last year's Intercontinental Cup, and assistant GM John Mirabelli closely monitored Tseng's outings again during Taiwan's appearances in the '07 World Cup and Olympic Qualifier, and he was used less aggressively this time around. While Tseng had a solid debut during the first half of last year, he wore down over the course of the year and posted a 5.21 ERA in August. Tseng works in the low 90s with an explosive fastball, and is very aggressive on the mound. He has good command of the fastball and slider, but his best pitch is his split-finger fastball. The pitch features tight, down spiral and he commands it to both sides of the plate, giving him a weapon against lefties and righties. His delivery is simple and compact and he creates good natural deception. Tseng profiles as a solid No. 3 starter, but he'll have to hold up for a full season in 2008, which he'll begin in Double-A.
Several clubs passed on Rivero as a 16-year-old in 2005 when the Indians signed him for $100,000. That could wind up being a bargain-basement price if Rivero's performance matches his tools. For his size, Rivero still shows good hands, range and a plus arm at short, though as he continues to fill into his body, he might have to move to third base. Rivero has big raw power and hitting ability to go with his defensive tools. His bat speed is above-average and he features an easy, fluid stroke. Rivero's ceiling will ultimately be determined by his offensive approach. Plate discipline is the first and foremost concern, as Rivero struggles to recognize breaking balls. But overall discipline and his maturity will also play a large role. Several front-office personnel and managers around the South Atlantic League dropped points from Rivero's game because he's too flashy and appears lackadaisical at times. He'll head to high Class A for 2008, where he's sure to see a steady diet of offspeed stuff.
In college Stevens outpitched his more celebrated teammate (and Mariners fifth-rounder) Stephen Kahn before the 2005 draft, going 6-7, 3.97 with 76 strikeouts in 100 innings. After a year and a half in the Reds system, Stevens was the player to be named in the Brandon Phillips deal, coming over in June 2006. Stevens finished the year in Double-A and moved on briefly to the Arizona Fall League before pitching for Team USA in the World Cup. He got the save for the Americans as they beat Cuba to win the gold medal. Stevens creates good down angle and deception on his 92-94 mph fastball, touching 95. He's adept at missing bats with his fastball, elevating it and hitting his spots while maintaining velocity. He also features a power mid- 80s curveball that has tremendous depth at times, though it lacks consistency. He also throws a changeup and has toyed with a cutter. Stevens had trouble maintaining his composure at times on the mound, but normally has good presence and poise. He'll start in Triple-A, but several scouts who saw Stevens in 2007 think he has the stuff to pitch in the majors now.
Considered one of the top shortstops available in the 2006 draft, Rodriguez's stock plummeted during his junior season at Rice due to a nagging elbow injury. When he returned to the Owls, he lost his position to Brian Friday (the Pirates' 2007 third-round pick) and finished the season at third base. Area scouts in Texas were skeptical of Rodriguez's quickness and range at shortstop, but the Indians left him there during his first full season and he made 32 errors, tied for most in the Carolina League. Consistency was Rodriguez' biggest difficulty defensively, as he'd make a highlight-reel play look easy, then struggle with average ground balls. Offensively, a huge month of August--which included 10 homers in 117 at-bats as well as a game with nine RBIs on Aug. 2--boosted his overall numbers. He tied for third in the CL in homers, ranked fourth in RBIs and first in runs, and was the league's only 20-homers, 20-steals man. Rodriguez has surprising strength and gets a lot of leverage out of his compact swing. He showed above-average power, mostly to the pull side at Kinston, but organization officials praised him during the season for starting to use the whole field. He's a tick below average runner. His arm strength is also above-average and should allow him to move to third as a pro if he can't handle shortstop. He'll open 2008 as an everyday shortstop in Double-A.
One of the top lefties on the last-ever draft-and-follow market last spring, Miller returned to Blinn (Texas) JC for his sophomore season after the Indians drafted him in the 36th round. After he went 9-0, 2.05 and ranked among the national juco leaders with 115 strikeouts in 92 innings, Cleveland anted up $450,000 to keep him from re-entering the 2007 draft. Miller, who turned down an Arkansas scholarship to go pro, has very good stuff for a lefthander. He goes after hitters with a 91-93 mph fastball and a hard 78-81 mph breaking ball. He's still somewhat raw and needs to work on things such as not tipping off his marginal changeup by slowing down his arm speed. While he throws strikes, he needs to locate his pitches better in the strike zone. He's not very big, and after fading late in his pro debut, he'll need to get stronger before his first full season. He'll open 2008 in low Class A.
Chronic back problems caused Aubrey to drop almost completely off the prospect radar in 2006, when he was limited to just 54 at-bats. The injuries extend into Aubrey's college career at Tulane, where he was a standout two-way player and the 2001 Freshman of the Year. However, back problems forced him off the mound in college, and Aubrey went down in May 2005 with what was diagnosed as a stress fracture in his back, and has been rehabbing the injury ever since. After getting just 250 at-bats during the 2007 regular season, Aubrey reported to the Arizona Fall League, where he boosted his stock significantly, hitting five homers while showing his usual outstanding plate discipline. His performance earned him a spot on the 40-man roster. When he's healthy, Aubrey is the best natural hitter in the system with plus bat speed, quick hands and uncanny bat control. He's also the best first baseman in the organization, ranking as a premium defender with Gold Glove potential. As has been his story, his ceiling is extremely high, but his health will have the final say if he reaches it. A healthy Aubrey will challenge for a role in Triple-A this year, and the Indians would settle for getting him 500 at-bats at any level.
Drennen was one of the most highly touted high school hitters in the 2005 draft, and he made national headlines during his first full pro season when he homered off a rehabbing Roger Clemens in 2006. Since then, however, Drennen stalled out in high Class A and hasn't been able to get untracked. He has good strength for an undersized hitter and produces above-average raw power. His other tools all grade out as average. Drennen fell in love with his power too much the past two seasons and stopped shortening his stroke to use the whole field to his advantage. He started pulling everything as a result, and his swing became too long. Drennen had no chance against lefthanders in 2007, hitting .153/.240/.241, and must improve in that area to become a big league regular. Managers in the Carolina League in 2007 also thought he'd lost some of his bat speed, though Tribe officials disagree with that assessment. They want Drennen to develop his power naturally, and he'll have another opportunity to do that when he starts 2008 in Kinston for a repeat performance.
A versatile performer at Virginia Tech who played infield and outfield as well as catcher, Toregas has emerged as a prospect since switching positions and becoming a full-time catcher. The Indians added him to their 40-man roster in November. He became the complete package behind the plate in 2006 and took another step forward last year, continuing to hone his game-calling skills and maintain some offensive upside. A contact hitter with good plate discipline, Toregas hits line drives to all fields, showing surprising power as well. He reads pitches well and can turn on inside fastballs, though he can get too pull-happy at times. Toregas' gregarious demeanor can sometimes rub pitchers the wrong way, but he's a natural leader who handles a staff well. Toregas has the best catch-and-throw skills in the system, and threw out 51 percent of basestealers last year, tops in the Eastern League. He possesses well-above-average arm strength, posting 1.85 pop times consistently. Though the organization is split on how much upside Toregas has, he's at least a solid backup in the majors. He'll likely spend all of 2008 in Triple-A.
Snyder's brother Ben, a lefthander who followed him at Ball State, ranks as the Giants' No. 21 prospect. Brad has better tools, is in a deeper organization and is considered a better prospect, but his younger brother out-performed him in 2007. In 2006, the Indians experimented with Snyder, batting him in the leadoff spot at Akron to push him to work deeper counts and improve his two-strike approach. Snyder still ranked 10th in the minors in strikeouts that season, and he hasn't improved much since moving back down the lineup. He was on pace to top his career-high 158 strikeouts before a broken thumb put him out of action at the end of July. Still, the Indians believe in Snyder's wide tool set. He runs extremely well for his size, has plus bat speed, above-average power and outstanding arm strength that profile him as an everyday right-field candidate. His lack of ability to control the strike zone is particularly acute against lefthanders--he struck out in 32 of 79 at-bats against them in 2007, batting just .203. His propensity for striking out likely means Snyder will never hit for much of an average, and it seems as though the Tribe is willing to live with the whiffs. The more contact he makes, though, the more his power comes into play. He did return late in the year in the Arizona Fall League, replacing Trevor Crowe after his injury. The Indians chose to keep Snyder on the 40-man roster this winter over outfielder Brian Barton, and are hopeful Snyder can turn it around.
One of the most intelligent players in the organization, Herrmann is also one of its greatest success stories. After struggling with elbow tendinitis in college, Herrmann was passed over in the 2005 draft and eventually signed for $35,000 with the Indians after they saw him in the Hawaii Collegiate Baseball League. The Tribe also agreed to pay Herrmann's final two semesters at Harvard, and he graduated last spring with an economics degree. He also kept a diary of his first year in pro ball on the website of Harvard's student newspaper, The Crimson. He's proved a quick study on the field as well, though he has work to do. After revamping his delivery in 2006 with the help of Lake County pitching coach Ruben Niebla, Herrmann made major strides in the Carolina League. Herrmann features a low-90s power sinker, slurvy breaking ball and changeup. His changeup was his best weapon to both work ahead in counts and put hitters away. He struggled to maintain his arm slot at times and his pitches elevated, which led to 15 home runs allowed. Herrmann has tackled each challenge thrown his way since he signed, and will begin 2008 in the Double-A rotation.
Courted more for his football background as an amateur, Nash was pursued by major college football programs such as Southern California, Michigan and Kansas State to play tight end. But a foot injury affected his football future and draft status in baseball as he fell to the 22nd round in 2005, when the Angels picked him as a draft-and-follow. He didn't sign, and the Indians drafted him the next year in the 24th round, after an all-conference season as a freshman that included nine home runs in 136 at-bats at Johnson County (Mo.) CC. Nash is one of the better athletes in the system and has above-average raw power to all fields. His swing can get a little long and he becomes too pull-conscious at times, but he held his own with wood in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. He's somewhat raw defensively, but infield coordinator Ted Kubiak worked extensively on his hands and footwork around the bag, and Nash made improvements. His arm strength is just average, but his bat should be enough to carry him. Nash will move to low Class A in 2008.
The highlight of Rondon's first full season came on July 3 when he combined with Neil Wagner on a no-hitter against Delmarva. Signed out of Venezuela in 2004, Rondon has a wiry frame with a lively 90-93 mph fastball. He has a loose, easy delivery and his projectable body could add more velocity. He pounds the zone aggressively and has good mound presence. His curveball grades as average, and he can get around on it at times. He has decent feel for a changeup, but it's definitely his third-best pitch. His arm speed isn't quite where it needs to be, as he'll slow it down too much and miss his spots as a result. Despite having good life to his arm, Rondon doesn't miss a lot of bats. That should change in time as his breaking ball develops. Rondon will start 2008 in the high Class A rotation.
Santos looked more like organizational fodder as a starter over his first three seasons before the Indians moved him to the bullpen in high Class A in 2006. Santos always had a penchant for missing bats, and when he moved to a relief role his stuff played up in shorter stints. Santos worked in his native Hawaii during the Hawaii Winter Baseball season in each of the last two years, which has only added to his profile. His fastball sits anywhere from 87-91, topping out at 92 with good deception in his delivery. He also features a short slider, but his changeup is his best pitch, grading out as plus at times with depth and fade. Like Sipp, Santos' changeup gives him a weapon to attack both lefthanders and righthanders, and he's shown the ability to extend into multiple-inning stints. He had some success starting at Double-A and could fill a fifth-starter role, but he's been better in relief. Freshly added to the 40-man roster, he could be in Cleveland as a long reliever before the end of the 2008 season if the need arises.
One of the most publicized prep baseball players in Oregon history, Mahalic led Wilson High to the state title in 2006 and was named the 6-A player of the year in 2007. A three-sport prep standout, Mahalic also played football, which his father Drew did at Notre Dame and for four seasons in the NFL, and basketball. He quit football to focus on baseball prior to his senior year, and quit basketball after his freshman season after achieving his goal of dunking in a game. The athletic Mahalic already features three average pitches with a 88-91 sinking fastball, hard slider and a changeup. Mahalic had signed a commitment to play at Oregon State under head coach Pat Casey, who said he could have come in and seen consistent playing time as a middle reliever for the two-time defending national champion Beavers in 2008. Instead, Mahalic signed as a 32nd-rounder for $123,000 and wound up pitching in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. The Indians raved about him during instructional league for his makeup and advanced feel to pitch. He'll likely start off 2008 in extended spring before heading to short-season Mahoning Valley.
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