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Cleveland Indians Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams

By Jim Ingraham

1. Corey Smith, 3b

Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 205. Drafted: HS–Piscataway, N.J., 2000 (1st round). Signed by: Jim Stevenson.

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Indians Top Prospects

1992 Kenny Lofton, of
1993 Manny Ramirez, of
1994 Manny Ramirez, of
1995 Jaret Wright, rhp
1996 Bartolo Colon, rhp
1997 Bartolo Colon, rhp
1998 Sean Casey, 1b
1999 Russell Branyan, 3b
2000 C.C. Sabathia, lhp
2001 C.C. Sabathia, lhp

Background: The Indians traditionally have avoided drafting high school infielders in the first round, doing so just twice in the last 20 years. They took Mark Lewis in 1988 and Smith in 2000. The muscular Smith was a shortstop in high school, but the Indians wasted no time in moving him to third base, where they feel his size and power potential make him a more natural fit. In Smith’s two years as a pro, the transition to third base has gone much better offensively than defensively. Club officials downplay his stuggles with the glove, partly because his upside with the bat is so vast.

Strengths: Smith gets rave reviews for his makeup and work ethic. He is, plain and simple, a baseball player. A throwback. He loves the game and works extremely hard to improve his weaknesses. He’s intelligent and has tremendous athletic ability as well as an aptitude for learning. He has excellent bat speed that should produce even more power than he already has shown. Smith has yet to hit for a high average but that may come as well. He seems to rise to the occasion offensively and is a very tough out with men on base. Despite his obvious physical gifts, his biggest strength may be his passion. He’s a potential franchise cornerstone once he reaches the big leagues.

Weaknesses: Smith needs to work on his strike-zone discipline, but the most obvious flaw in his game is his defense. In 187 games as a pro, he has made 77 errors–45 at low Class A Columbus in 2001–most of them on poor throws. Smith has arm strength but lacks consistent mechanics. He made major strides in that area during instructional league. He tends to try to do too much defensively, which also has contributed to his third-base difficulties. Except for the errors, the position switch has gone better than expected. His speed is below average but he’s not a baseclogger.

The Future: Until Cleveland got Alex Escobar in the Roberto Alomar trade, Smith was by far the organization’s best position-player prospect and he still ranks as No. 1. He won’t be rushed despite the lack of bats ahead of him. At age 20, he’ll open at high Class A Kinston. He probably won’t arrive in the big leagues before late 2004.

Columbus (A).2605005913026518853714910

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