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The Dodgers signed Santana out of the Dominican Republic for $75,000 in 2004, and he split time between third base and the outfield in his first two pro seasons. Los Angeles has had success converting position players into catchers, most notably Russell Martin, and they had Santana make the transition during instructional league following the 2006 season. In his first season catching, Santana hit just .223/.318/.370 at low Class A Great Lakes, though he had nearly as many walks (40) as strikeouts (45). In 2008 he led the high Class A California League with a .993 OPS and won league MVP honors despite getting traded on July 26. The Dodgers wanted Casey Blake to fill a hole at third base, but they also didn't want to pick up any of the roughly $2 million remaining on his contract. In return for paying Blake's remaining salary, the Indians were able to increase their return, getting Santana along with righthander Jon Meloan. Santana didn't slow down after switching organizations, destroying high Class A pitching for a month with Kinston. He received a late-season promotion for Double-A Akron's playoff run, though a minor groin strain kept him mostly on the bench. Santana has shown good strike-zone discipline ever since signing with the Dodgers. He swings aggressively at strikes and routinely squares up balls with authority, using his lower half well and getting good extension. He has a good two-strike approach and doesn't chase pitches outside the strike zone. He should hit for a high average and OBP with average power. He's more athletic than most catchers. Though he still has work to do behind the plate, Santana has good defensive tools. He moves well and has a strong arm. Most of Santana's improvement must come behind the plate, and he's still learning the nuances of catching. He sometimes lacks accuracy with his throws and erased 27 percent of basestealers. After committing 20 passed balls in 67 games in 2007, he cut that number to 14 in 106 contests last season, but he still needs to get better. He also led Cal League catchers with 16 errors in 80 games. Balls down and in to his glove side can give him trouble and he must get smoother receiving balls on the outer half, as he tends to get stiff-wristed at times. He's making progress blocking balls but that's another skill he's still working on. He understands English well but doesn't yet speak the language comfortably. Santana usually has a good stoke at the plate, but he can get too long with his swing and too wild with his feet at times. He's a below-average runner, though an occasional threat to steal. Kelly Shoppach's big year means that the Indians won't have to rush Santana, who will begin 2009 on a prospect-laden Akron club. He has all the ingredients to become an all-star catcher and could reach Cleveland by the end of 2010.
After signing for $2 million as the seventh overall pick in the 2007 draft, LaPorta opened his first full pro season in Double-A and was named to the Futures Game before the Brewers made him the key chip they used to acquire C.C. Sabathia. Shortly afterward, he left for the Beijing Olympics.LaPorta's physical frame, strength and load in his swing help him generate well above-average power. He has the patience to take walks, and he also aggressively punishes mistakes. He can drive the ball out of the park to all fields when he gets his arms extended. Though he played first base at Florida, scouts have been impressed with his outfield instincts.Like a lot of power hitters, LaPorta still has some holes in his swing--in his case, high and inside, and against offspeed pitches low and away. He struggled after the trade and again in Venezuelan winter ball when pitchers fed him soft stuff in hitter's counts. Though he has some feel for the outfield, he has below-average speed and range with fringy arm strength. Though the Indians could use his power now, LaPorta likely will begin 2009 at their new Triple-A Columbus affiliate. Depending on the needs of the club, he could play either first base or left field, and he'll have an above-average bat at any position.
After missing nearly the entire 2006 season with a broken hamate bone in his right hand, Weglarz has had two successful years in Class A ball. He was one of the Carolina League's youngest players before he joined Canada's Olympic team in August. Weglarz belted two home runs in a loss against Cuba and was Canada's best hitter despite being its second-youngest player.Weglarz has uncanny discipline for a player his age and size, rarely offering at pitches outside of the strike zone and showing the potential to draw 100 walks in a season. He generates excellent loft, bat speed and leverage with his swing and shows plus-plus power potential, giving him an outstanding combination of power and patience. Weglarz reduced some of his extraneous hand movement in his trigger, but his hand setup is still a work in progress. His legs help him generate his power, but he needs to consistently get the back half of his body through the ball. With his enormous size, he'll have to work to maintain his already below-average speed and to stay in left field. His range and arm are both fringy at best. Weglarz is on the same track as Matt LaPorta, one level behind him. Weglarz will open 2009 with Double-A Akron and he could crack the major league roster by mid-2010.
The No. 1 prospect on this list the previous four years, Miller continues to show great promise and an inability to stay healthy. His 2008 season ended in May when he had surgery on his right middle finger, and he went to the Dominican League to make up for lost time. Miller's fastball is the best in the organization, a lively 93-95 mph heater that regularly touched 97 mph in his early winter-ball outings. When he's at his best, his slider is a plus-plus 86-88 mph pitch with late break, and it too looked good in the Dominican. He also uses a two-seam fastball to get groundballs. He has a relatively stress-free delivery and good command. The only thing that has kept Miller from the majors so far is his health. He strained his elbow in 2005 and had elbow and finger issues in 2007 before missing most of the 2008 season. Some scouts feel that his arm action may continue to cause him elbow problems, as he has a high back elbow. He needs to leverage his lower half more frequently in his delivery. A starter throughout his minor league career, Miller may have to move to the bullpen for health reasons. He should compete for a big league relief role in 2009 and soon could become the dominant closer the Indians have sorely lacked in recent years.
After being suspended at Fresno State for academic shortcomings after his sophmore year, Mills transferred to Lewis-Clark State (Idaho). He led the Warriors to their 15th national championship in 2007, hitting an NAIA-record 38 homers, and signed for $1.575 million as the 13th overall pick in the draft. The son of former big leaguer and Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills, he led the system with 21 homers in his first full pro season. Mills generates plus power to all fields with good leverage and strength. He stays balanced at the plate, has a pure swing and possesses the patience to draw walks. His arm strength improved after the Indians put him on an extensive throwing program following a shoulder impingement in 2006 that didn't require surgery. While Mills does have a good feel for hitting and for the strike zone, he's susceptible to chasing both breaking balls in the dirt and high fastballs. He needs to adjust his two-strike approach. He moved from third base to first base in 2008, but his footwork isn't clean and his actions around the bag aren't the smoothest. Mills is a below-average runner. Mills will start 2009 in Double-A. He could compete for a big league job in 2010, though the system is heavy with sluggers who profile best at first base.
Rated the nation's No. 1 freshman before the 2007 season, Chisenhall looked as good as advertised until South Carolina dismissed him from the team following his arrest on charges of larceny. Chisenhall transferred to Pitt (N.C.) CC for 2008 and batted .410/.528/.765 with just eight strikeouts in 218 plate appearances before the Indians made him the 29th overall pick in June. He signed with the Indians for $1.1 million. Chisenhall combines an excellent feel for hitting with nice balance and a pure swing that's short and quick to the ball. His frame and stroke are geared more for line drives, but he projects to hit for average power. He has a strong arm and surprised Cleveland with how well he handled shortstop in his pro debut. Chisenhall uses the entire field well, but he could do a better job of keeping his hands inside the ball at times. His speed, range and hands don't stand out, so he likely faces a move to third base in the near future. With better defensive tools, he would profile nicely at second base, but that's probably a stretch. He should have enough bat for the hot corner, and Chisenhall could move there in 2009. His bat is advanced enough that he could skip a level and open 2009 in high Class A, putting him on pace to reach the majors as early as 2011.
When the Indians signed de la Cruz in 2004, the lanky lefty pitched at 83-84 mph and topped out at 86. His velocity has climbed steadily each year, and he finally reached full-season ball in 2008. De la Cruz now sits at 89-92 mph and touches 93-94 with his four-seam fastball. He's still growing and getting stronger, so he could add more velocity. His best pitch is his 75-77 mph curveball, which has two-plane depth and neutralizes lefties and righties. He also mixes in a two-seam fastball with good sink and a changeup that shows promise. De la Cruz struggles to maintain his mid- to high three-quarters arm slot, which impedes his ability to throw strikes. Better balance and separation over the rubber will allow him to repeat his release point out front. Scouts have differing opinions about his athleticism, though that may be because he's still growing into his body and coordination. He needs to throw his changeup more often and it has taken a back seat in developmental priority to fastball command. De la Cruz again will be one of the high Class A Carolina League's youngest pitchers in 2009. How quickly he can make the necessary mechanical adjustments will dictate the speed of his ascent.
After signing for $950,000 as a supplemental first-rounder in 2006, Huff appeared poised to rise rapidly through the system. Instead, elbow soreness shut him down in May 2007, though he was able to avoid surgery. He bounced back in 2008, breezing through the upper levels of the minors. Huff is athletic and repeats his excellent delivery to pound the zone with each of his pitches, the best of which is a plus changeup. He commands both sides of the plate with his 87-92 mph fastball. He improved his slider in 2008, and it's now a reliable third pitch. Huff also has a curveball, but it's more of a show-me pitch. He won't overpower anyone with velocity, though he has more on his fastball than fellow Indians lefthanders Aaron Laffey and Jeremy Sowers. After his elbow woes, the Indians kept him on a short leash in 2008, so he still has to prove he can pitch effectively the third time through the lineup against big league hitters. Huff will compete for a role in Cleveland's rotation during spring training. He has the potential to develop into a No. 3 or 4 starter.
The son of former big leaguer Mickey Brantley, Michael ranked second in the minors in plate appearances per strikeout (17.7) in 2008. At the end of the season, the Indians selected him over infielder Taylor Green as the player to be named in the C.C. Sabathia trade. Brantley has outstanding barrel control and contact-hitting ability, spraying the ball to all fields. He has walked more than he has struck out in each of his four pro seasons. He has a quick bat and a fundamentally sound swing, and he was able to generate more loft in his swing in 2008 than he had shown in previous years. A good athlete, he has plus speed and good instincts on the bases. Brantley has shown very little power in his career, though at 6-foot-2 and with broad shoulders he has the potential to develop some pop. Despite his speed and feel for other aspects of the game, he has received mixed reviews in center field, where he doesn't get the best reads off the bat. His lack of power doesn't play as well in left field or at first base. His arm strength is below average. Brantley has proven himself everywhere but Triple-A. He'll need to start driving the ball with more authority to find a regular role in the big leagues, however.
The Indians played a small part in a three-team, 12-player trade at the Winter Meetings, sending Franklin Gutierrez to the Mariners and receiving Joe Smith from the Mets and Valbuena from Seattle. Valbuena made strides after a difficult 2007 season in Double-A by returning there, raising his OBP by 70 points and increasing his power output. He earned a promotion to Triple-A at the end of June, and then played regularly for the Mariners in September, pushing Jose Lopez to first base. With a line-drive stroke and a knack for making contact, Valbuena is geared to hit for average with occasional power to the gaps. On the flip side, he has just enough juice to get himself in trouble when he gets pull-happy. He stands out with his bat speed, contact-hitting skills and for his ability to work the count. Valbuena always has handled the bat well and shown a good eye at the plate, but his recent defensive improvement has raised his chances of playing regularly in the majors. While his speed is average at best, he shows good range to both sides and has a strong arm at second base. He turns the double-play pivot quickly and efficiently. Valbuena is ready for an expanded big league role and has a higher offensive ceiling than Cleveland's 2008 starter, Asdrubal Cabrera.
Rivero signed for $100,000 as a 16-year-old in 2005, and he's still just tapping into his potential. The secondyoungest regular in the Carolina League in 2008, he exploded in the final month, batting .358/.413/.587 with five of his eight homers in the season's final 28 games. Rivero has plus power that's evident in batting practice, though that power has yet to manifest itself in games with much frequency. As his frame continues to fill out, his power should continue to grow. He has a sound swing that generates plenty of bat speed, and he is a good athlete. Defensively, he offers soft hands and a strong arm. While Rivero has tools, the gap between his potential and his present ability is still significant. He struggles to recognize breaking pitches, and he needs to get his hands into a better load position. He has the arm for shortstop, but 16 of his 24 errors last season came on throws. He's a below-average runner with below-average lateral range, and scouts from other clubs think a move to third base might be a better fit. If he puts everything together, some club officials believe he could become another Jhonny Peralta. Rivero will reach Double-A before he turns 21 and could join the Indians at some point in 2010.
After battling injuries the previous two years--a stress fracture in his leg in his draft year in 2006, then a broken toe and a strained hamstring during his pro debut in 2007--Hodges came into last season in better physical condition and put together a strong first half in Double-A, earning a spot in the Futures Game and the Eastern League all-star game. He has good barrel awareness, spraying the ball and hitting for power to all fields. He has a natural feel for hitting, so much so that he taught himself to hit lefthanded after breaking a bone in his hand during his senior year of high school--and batted .430. Hodges' hands work well at the plate, and he maximizes his strength by getting good leverage in his swing. Most of his value is tied up in his bat, as he's a below-average runner and scouts question whether he can remain at third base. His hands are decent, but he lacks first-step quickness and agility and his footwork gets him into trouble. He committed 28 errors in 125 games at third base with Akron, then eight more in 22 Arizona Fall League games. Hodges has average arm strength, but he doesn't get his body into his throws and doesn't use his legs properly. The Indians have had a revolving door at third base in recent years, and Hodges may be able to put an end to that after spending some time in Triple-A.
Despite being one of the youngest pitchers in the Carolina League last year, Rondon was also one of its best. He pitched in the Futures Game and led all Indians farmhands with 145 strikeouts. He works mostly off a lively fastball that he commands well to both sides of the plate. His heater ranges from 89-94 mph with running life, occasionally touching 95. His changeup is an average to plus pitch that could be consistently above average with more work. His breaking ball improved during the season but is still a work in progress. The pitch went from a high-70s slurve to a low-80s true slider more often as he learned to stay behind the ball more rather than getting around on it. Working from a low- to mid-three-quarters arm slot with a loose, easy delivery, Rondon improved his ability to locate his pitches down in the zone as the season progressed. After being added to the 40-man roster in November, he should continue his ascent in Double-A this year.
House struck out 20 batters in a game as a high school junior and carried over that success into a dominant senior season in 2008. Most teams viewed House as a likely candidate to attend Tulane, and his high price tag dropped him all the way to the 16th round. The Indians, who were as aggressive as any team in the draft, signed him for $750,000, the equivalent of second-round money. A good athlete who was a member of his high school's state champion swim team in 2006, he has a smooth, fluid delivery and draws physical comparisons to Mike Hampton. House throws a lively low-90s fastball with sink and a mid-80s power breaking ball. He also throws a changeup, but it needs more work. Despite his youth, House already has a good feel for pitching. Though he has yet to make his pro debut, Cleveland might be tempted to expose him to low Class A at some point in 2009.
Crowe was the first college outfielder drafted in 2004, but his career hasn't progressed as well as those of former Pacific-10 Conference rivals Jacoby Ellsbury and Travis Buck, who were taken after him. Selected 14th overall, Crowe hit a wall after getting promoted to Akron and being asked to try to become a second baseman in late 2006. He finally put his offensive game back together in 2008, succeeding his his third try at Double-A and making his way to Triple-A despite battling nagging injuries that affected his swing. He earned a spot on the 40-man roster with his performance. Crowe is an excellent athlete with good strike-zone discipline, but scouts question whether he'll ever hit for enough average or power to become a big league starter. While he has above-average speed, he's not the most instinctive center fielder and has a fringy arm. That makes him more of a left fielder--especially with Grady Sizemore in Cleveland--but his power is less than ideal for that position. The Indians have an uncertain left field situation, so Crowe could get an opportunity in the near future after opening 2009 in Triple-A.
The Indians signed Abreu in October 2006 for $75,000, a fraction of the $550,000 that his brother, outfielder Esdras Abreu, received from the Rangers last summer. Abner began his pro career shuttling around the infield in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in 2007, then focused on third base in his U.S. debut last year. He led the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in homers (11), extra-base hits (31) and slugging (.538). A good athlete, Abreu uses his legs well in his swing and generates easy power to all fields with plus bat speed and strong hands. He's still growing into his frame and could develop even more pop as he matures physically. Abreu's strike-zone discipline and pitch recognition are rudimentary. He's prone to chasing breaking balls outside the zone and doesn't show much patience. Abreu's defense at third base is rough. His hands and actions aren't ideal for the hot corner, and 12 of his 18 errors in 49 games last year came on misplays rather than throws. He does have a strong arm and his future could be in right field. The Indians tried him in the outfield during instructional league. They won't give up on him as a third baseman in 2009, when he could push for a shot at low Class A.
A two-way player for Meridian (Miss.) JC and Clemson, Sipp slipped to the 45th round of the 2004 draft after a lackluster junior season. He rebounded with a promising summer in the Cape Cod League, and Cleveland signed him for $130,000. He moved to the bullpen midway through his first full pro season and was in line for a shot at the big league bullpen in 2007, but instead he hurt his elbow and succumbed to Tommy John surgery. Despite the injury, the Indians protected Sipp on the 40-man roster, and his comeback has been promising. Sipp returned to game action last June and was at his strongest in the season's final month, allowing one run in his final 16 innings. His fastball velocity returned to 89-93 mph, and batters continued to have trouble picking up the ball out of his hand thanks to the deception in his delivery. His slider and changeup are both above-average pitches at times. Like most players returning from Tommy John surgery, Sipp's command wasn't at its sharpest in his first year back, particularly with his secondary pitches. He'll open 2009 in Triple-A and should get an opportunity to pitch in Cleveland this year if he can stay healthy.
Meloan went 27-2 as a starter in his last two seasons at Arizona, then spent most of his pro career as a reliever as he climbed quickly through the Dodgers system. Los Angeles put him back in the rotation last year at Triple-A, but he struggled and his control suffered. The Dodgers dealt him with catcher Carlos Santana to acquire Casey Blake in July, after which the Indians moved Meloan back to the bullpen. He's more ideally suited for relief because of his repertoire and the effort in his delivery. His fastball sat at 88-91 mph when he was a starter and jumped back to 92-95 when he returned to the bullpen. His heater flashes armside run and sink. His out pitch is a hard breaking ball. He also has a changeup and a cutter, but he works primarily with two pitches in relief. Meloan aggressively goes after hitters and has the makeup to pitch in the late innings. The Indians had one of the worst bullpens in the majors in 2008, and he has the stuff and opportunity to help upgrade the unit.
One year after drafting Stevens, the Reds shipped him to the Indians as the player to be named in the Brandon Phillips trade in 2006. Stevens began his tenure with the Indians as a starter before moving to the bullpen in 2007. The new role agreed with him, as he has averaged 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings during the last two seasons and pitched for Team USA at the World Cup in 2007 and the Olympics in 2008. He earned the save in the gold-medal game at the World Cup. Stevens has a high back elbow in his delivery, which creates deception. His four-seam fastball usually ranges from 90-94 mph and touches 95. He's aggressive with his fastball and uses it frequently, mixing in a mid-70s curveball and a cutter as well. His control wasn't as sharp last season, and once he irons it out he should get the opportunity to work out of the Cleveland bullpen. He profiles as a setup man in the big leagues and claimed a spot on the 40-man roster in November.
Haley was the Texas Class 2A 2008 player of the year after starring as a pitcher and an outfielder. The Indians made him the first high schooler drafted from the state in June, nabbing him in the second round and 76th overall. They lured him away from a strong commitment to Rice with a $1.25 million bonus, more money than they gave to first-rounder Lonnie Chisenhall. Haley generated buzz early in the spring by touching 94 mph, but when crosscheckers and scouts flocked to see him, he usually worked at 91-92 in the first inning before dropping down to 88-89 later in games. He flashes a power curveball with two-plane break that's a plus pitch at times but is inconsistent. His changeup also shows promise as well. Haley has an athletic, projectable frame, and with his size he gets good downward angle toward home plate. He struggles to repeat his mechanics, which impedes his command. He also has a tendency to overthrow with effort and a head-jerk in his delivery. Of the players that the Indians went over slot recommendations to sign in 2008, Haley offers the highest upside.
The Indians have taken things slowly with Lewis, who had Tommy John surgery as an Ohio State sophomore and battled biceps tendinitis in his first two pro seasons. He didn't reach Double-A until his fourth year in pro ball and started 2008 in extended spring training recovering from a strained left lat muscle. He returned to Akron in June, then received a promotion to Triple-A in August after not allowing more than one earned run in seven consecutive starts. Lewis made his major league debut on Sept. 10, throwing eight shutout innings of three-hit ball against the Orioles. He blanked the Twins for six innings in his next outing and wound up winning all four of his big league starts. Lewis succeeds with his secondary pitches and his refusal to issue walks. His curveball is an above-average pitch that comes in anywhere from 72-78 mph, while his 75-78 mph changeup is a solid-average to plus offering. His fastball velocity is below average, sitting at 85-88 mph and touching 89. The deception in Lewis' delivery and his ability to mix his pitch sequences keeps hitters off balance. The Indians sent him to the Dominican Winter League to give him more innings and will let him challenge for a spot in the big league rotation during spring training.
Another of Cleveland's over-slot signees from the 2008 draft, Putnam received $600,000 as a fifth-rounder. He flashed a first-round arm at times at Michigan, but he was inconsistent with his secondary pitches and sent out mixed vibes about his signability, which is why he was available with the 171st overall pick. Putnam throws a 91-92 mph fastball with heavy sink, and the pitch peaks at 95 with riding life. His splitter is a plus pitch at times and his slider can reach the mid-80s. He also has a changeup and a curveball, though the curve is mostly a show-me pitch. He pulled double duty as a DH for the Wolverines, and its possible that his stuff could improve and get more consistent now that he's a full-time pitcher. Despite his deep repertoire, Putnam may wind up as a reliever. His secondary pitches aren't always reliable, and the consensus among scouts is that he'd be most effective pitching primarily with his sinker. A thick, full-bodied pitcher, Putnam doesn't use his legs enough in his mechanics and tends to power through his delivery. If the Indians use him out of the bullpen, he could move quickly and get a taste of Double-A in his first full pro season.
Fedroff became North Carolina's starting right fielder as a freshman and helped the Tar Heels reach the College World Series twice in two years. He batted .404 and led the Heels with 12 homers and a .642 slugging percentage as a draft-eligible sophomore in 2008, then signed for $725,000 (the second-highest bonus in the seventh round last year) shortly before the Aug. 15 deadline. Fedroff isn't imposing physically, but he has good strength, particularly in his forearms and wrists. He drives balls to the gaps with occasional home run power. His plate discipline is solid and he has a nice, compact lefty swing, but he needs to quiet his approach, stay on the ball longer and use his legs better. Despite his stocky build, Fedroff is a good athlete with above-average speed. He broke into pro ball as a center fielder, though his defense elicits mixed reviews and his arm strength is fringy. He might be better suited to play on a corner, though he'd have to develop more power to be a regular there. Fedroff should reach high Class A at some point during his first full pro season.
Phelps was a late bloomer at Stanford, where he played sparingly as a freshman and didn't hit a homer until his junior year in 2008, when he clocked 13. The power surge elevated his prospect status, and he signed for $327,000 as a third-round pick. Phelps doesn't have flashy tools, but he's a savvy player who approaches each at-bat with a good plan at the plate. He has a strong frame, an upright stance and a line-drive swing, though he needs to reduce the load with his hands. He's a switch-hitter whose stroke tends to get a little longer from the right side. He has fringe-average speed but runs the bases well. At second base, Phelps' arm strength, range, hands and ability to turn the double play are all solid. He's big for a second baseman, but he's a steady fielder with the athleticism to stay in the middle infield. He has good instincts in almost all phases of the game, which help his tools play up. The Indians aren't afraid to challenge Phelps, who could start his first full season in high Class A.
After winning MVP awards in the Carolina and Eastern leagues during his first two full pro seasons, Brown couldn't replicate that success in Triple-A in 2008. The Indians think he might have been pressing because he was so close to the majors, and he deviated from his normally disciplined approach and chased more pitches outside of the strike zone. Brown is at his best when he uses a short swing, works counts and sprays line drives to all fields. His average bat speed isn't conducive to hitting for power and he has less pop than most big league first basemen. He may have been trying too hard to hit homers so he could earn his first callup to Cleveland. He still made consistent contact, but he didn't square up as many balls and his stroke got long at times. Brown is a below-average runner, and an attempt to play him in left field in 2006 didn't work out well. His defense at first base did improve last year, as he continued to show good hands and reactions while improving his footwork. Brown needs to get back to his patient approach in Triple-A this year.
Abner Abreu wasn't the only promising prospect to make his pro debut on the Indians' 2007 Dominican Summer League club. Cid, a fellow Dominican, showed the ability to hit for average and get on base, and continued to demonstrate those skills when he came Stateside in 2008. A lanky, wiry athlete, Cid is the fastest runner in the organization. He has the plus-plus speed to be a quality basestealer and center fielder, but he's still raw in those phases of the game. Though he slugged just .323 last season, he has good bat speed and some projectable power. Cid is an aggressive player in all aspects of the game, though he does show some discipline at the plate. He crashed into a wall in August, injuring the Lisfranc joint in his right foot and requiring surgery. He should be healthy for spring training, but he's still years away from being big league ready.
Undrafted out of high school, where he also played water polo, Stowell began his college career at Pepperdine. He pitched sparingly as a freshman before ranking as the No. 1 prospect in the Central Illinois Collegiate League that summer. Stowell opted to transfer to UC Irvine, but had to sit out a year because the Waves wouldn't grant him his release. Despite a solid 2008 season, he lasted 22 rounds in the draft because teams worried about his signability as a draft-eligible sophomore. After he earned all-star honors in the Cape Cod League, the Indians signed him just before the Aug. 15 deadline for $725,000. Stowell has a relatively fluid delivery and throws a fastball that sits at 89-91 mph and peaks at 93 mph. His hard slider is his No. 2 pitch, and he also throws a changeup. He showed improved command of both secondary pitches last summer, and Cape observers also thought he exuded more confidence in his second stint in the league. Stowell will need to continue to develop his changeup to remain a starter. He'll make his pro debut with one of Cleveland's Class A affiliates in 2009.
Tomlin was a two-way player at Angelina (Texas) JC in 2005--as was Clay Buchholz--when the Padres drafted him in the 11th round, but he transferred to Texas Tech rather than turning pro. He has had success as both a starter and reliever and served in both roles in 2008. Tomlin doesn't overpower hitters, but he pounds the strike zone and had the best K-BB ratio (109-16) among Carolina Leaguers with 100 innings last season. He mixes his pitches and his locations, keeping hitters off balance with four useable offerings. He locates his 88-91 mph fastball to both sides of the plate. He has two breaking balls, the best of which is a 12-to-6 curveball. He also throws a slider that doesn't have much depth but has cutter-like action. He'll throw his 75-78 mph changeup in any count. Tomlin is a good athlete who repeats his delivery well. At times he shortens his stride, which leads him to pitch more uphill and flattens out his stuff. Ticketed for Double-A, Tomlin can become a No. 4 or 5 starter if everything clicks.
After touching 96 mph and striking out 65 in 39 innings as a sophomore reliever at Minnesota, Gaub entered 2006 as the top draft prospect in the Upper Midwest. His stock dropped, however, when he had trouble bouncing back from arthroscopic shoulder surgery. Gaub's fastball dropped to 81-84 mph and his curveball lost its bite, so he plummeted to the 21st round. After the Indians invested $155,000 in him, he had more shoulder surgery and pitched just four innings in 2007 before breaking out last season. He ranked second among low Class A South Atlantic League relievers by averaging 14.1 strikeouts per nine innings. Gaub did touch 94 mph, but his fastball sat around 90 and he got swings and misses thanks to the deception in his delivery. He threw from a more overhand arm slot with the Golden Gophers, but he has since lowered his arm angle and ditched his curve in favor of a slider, which improved throughout the season. Gaub needs to repeat his new delivery more frequently and issue fewer walks. He'll advance to high Class A and try to prove he can sustain his success without the high-octane stuff he showed in college.
The Indians were aggressive not only in the draft but also on the international market in 2008. Cleveland signed two of the top Latin American 16-year-olds during the international signing period, nabbing Ozoria for $575,000 and Venezuelan catcher Alex Monsalve for $715,000. Though Monsalve received more money, Ozoria's bat speed and feel for hitting make him a better prospect at this point. He isn't very physical, which will limit his power projection, and he has a stiff arm bar at times in his swing. He currently has below-average speed, though with his youth, athleticism and light body type, he could develop into an average to plus runner. Ozoria's defense at shortstop draws good reviews from scouts, who praised his solid actions, quick lateral movement and hands. He's far away from the big leagues, but with the lack of quality middle infielders in the system, Ozoria already is one of the Indians' best shortstop prospects. Name Note: Signed as Jose Ozoria