The Cleveland Indians have an intriguing system with some high-ceiling talent mixed in with some “safer” prospects. The system definitely boasts more depth on the hitting side than the pitching side. The front office has done a nice job of utilizing the draft, trade market and international free agency to build a solid farm system.
The Year in Review: Just 20, Lindor spent time at both High-A and Double-A in 2013. A teenager at the time, he showed a strong approach at the plate and hit more than .300 with excellent contact rates (He walked more than he struck out) and 25 steals in 27 attempts. He also played eye-catching defense at shortstop.
The Scouting Report: In an era where Top 100 prospect lists are dominated by pitchers and shortstops, Lindor is one of the Top 5 middle infielders in the game. His strength is defense where he shines for his athleticism, range, arm, and hands. At the plate, he projects to develop into an above-average, if not plus, hitter capable of producing a high average because he uses the whole field and makes outstanding contact. He’s also a smart runner with good speed and can steal 20+ bases in a full season.
The Year Ahead: Lindor spent the majority of 2013 in High-A ball and appeared in just 21 games in Double-A. As a result, he’ll likely return to the level to begin the ’14 season but may not be there for long. He could see the Majors before the end of the year.
The Career Outlook: The slick-fielding shortstop has a chance to develop into a threat on both sides of the ball.
The Year in Review: The fifth overall selection in the 2013 amateur draft, Frazier had an outstanding pro debut in Rookie ball. He just missed hitting .300 and posted an OPS of .868. He showed good pop but struck out 61 times in 44 games. Frazier tired a bit late in the season after a long year.
The Scouting Report: Frazier has a chance to be a special player thanks to his bat. His above-average bat speed produces plus power and the ball jumps off his bat, but it remains to be seen how much contact he’ll make due to his aggressive approach. He also needs to improve his pitch recognition and handling of breaking balls. Defensively, he’s played center field but is expected to end up at an outfield corner unless he adds additional polish.
The Year Ahead: Frazier should move up to full-season ball in 2014 where he’ll look to continue to polish his rough edges — such as lowering his strikeout rate — to an already impressive package of skills.
The Career Outlook: The young player is brimming with talent and could develop into an impact player in the outfield with above-average power potential.
The Year in Review: A 14th round pick from 2011, Anderson spent his second season in A-ball last year and did an outstanding job of keeping runners off the bases. He allowed just 105 hits and 31 walks in 123.1 innings of work. He earned a late-season promotion to Double-A but uncharacteristically struggled with both his command and control.
The Scouting Report: A former reliever, Anderson has pretty much quieted any critics that opposed his future as a starter. The right-hander has above-average command and control, which helps his four-pitch repertoire play up. His fastball works in the low-to-mid 90s and his slider is his second-best offering. His curveball also has potential but his changeup is a distant third pitch.
The Year Ahead: Anderson will no doubt return to Double-A in 2014. He’ll look to produce consistent command at that level while also working down in the zone for improved ground-ball rates.
The Career Outlook: Anderson shows the potential to develop into a mid-rotation starter capable of chewing up innings.
The Year in Review: It was a disappointing year for Bauer — his first in the Indians system — and his prospect value diminish significantly. Considered nearly MLB ready coming into the year, he ended up making 22 starts in Triple-A and just four appearances in the Majors. Bauer’s command and control deserted him as he tinkered with his delivery and he walked 73 batters in 121.1 minor league innings.
The Scouting Report: Say what you will about his makeup/maturity but Bauer is a cerebral pitcher who sometimes over thinks things on the mound. He has solid stuff with a low-to-mid-90s fastball, a plus curveball and an above-average changeup. He also mixes in the odd slider. Unfortunately, he struggles with his fastball command, which hinders the effectiveness of his secondary stuff. Bauer also needs to get back to inducing more ground ball outs by working down in the zone consistently.
The Year Ahead: Bauer has a shot at opening the season in the Indians’ starting rotation but he’ll have to come out strong with the likes of Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco having a leg up on him.
The Career Outlook: Bauer’s career could go one of two ways at this point. He could either burn out as a perennially-disappointing hurler or he could stop tinkering and over-thinking things and let his natural ability guide him to success as a No. 2 or 3 starter.
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The Year in Review: Just 20 years old for most of 2013, Ramirez spent the entire year in the minors at the Double-A level and was a surprise addition to the big league roster late in the season. He also had a strong showing in the Dominican Winter League.
The Scouting Report: Ramirez is a pesky player. The switch-hitter is a high-energy athlete who squeezes out every ounce of talent. He rarely strikes out and makes excellent contact to all fields but he also rarely walks. He’ll never have more than fringe-average power for a second baseman but he also has above-average speed and should be capable of nabbing 20+ bases in the Majors.
The Year Ahead: Ramirez faces a tough task in unseating second base incumbent Jason Kipnis. As a result, he’ll likely spend most of 2014 in Triple-A unless an injury crops up or he settles in as a regularly-used back-up capable of playing both second base and shortstop.
The Career Outlook: Ramirez could develop into an average or better second baseman but he currently faces a significant roadblock in Cleveland. He could also end up as an above-average utility player.
The Year in Review: Naquin opened 2013 in High-A ball and spent the majority of the year there. He posted a so-so .769 OPS in 108 games. It was enough to earn him a late promotion to Double-A where he struggled during his 18-game trial. He regained some momentum in the Arizona Fall League where he hit .339 with an .817 OPS.
The Scouting Report: Naquin continues to improve his defense in center field, which is key to his future development because he lacks the power for a corner outfield spot. He has good speed, solid range and a strong arm in the outfield. Offensively, he utilizes the whole field but strikes out too much for his modest power output and needs to improve his contact rate and pitch recognition. He has enough base running acumen to produce double-digit steal totals.
The Year Ahead: Naquin will return to Double-A in 2014 where he’ll look to post more impressive results. If he has a strong season he could see big league action by the end of the year given the lack of big league outfield depth.
The Career Outlook: With a lack of roadblocks in the Majors, Naquin is well positioned to eventually have a strong shot to settle in as a future regular for the Indians but he may never be more than an average offensive player.
The Year in Review: Wolters’ conversion to catcher was a success in 2013 as he improved by leaps and bounds throughout the season. He didn’t produce much power (.353 slugging percentage) but he controlled the strike zone well with 41 walks and just 58 strikeouts. He also appeared in 14 games in the Arizona Fall League but struggled and may have been worn down after a long first full season behind the dish.
The Scouting Report: The move from middle infielder to catcher has reinvigorated Wolters’ career. He’s shown flashes of developing into an above-average backstop, although he still needs to add polish to his receiving, game calling and blocking. At the plate, he doesn’t possess much power, and likely never will, but he understands his strengths and weaknesses and makes good contact. Wolters could hit for a solid average as he continues to mature and gain consistency.
The Year Ahead: After two years in High-A ball, Wolters will move up to Double-A where he’ll need to continue to make adjustments to further his development path — both offensively and defensively.
The Career Outlook: Wolters has a chance to develop into a very good everyday catcher at the big league level and his left-handed stroke makes him all the more valuable.
The Year in Review: Mejia, 18, had a strong debut season at the plate and hit more than .300 with good pop. He was a little too aggressive at the plate but kept the strikeouts to a minimum. He struggled on defense but is still young and learning the nuances of the position. Mejia was potent against southpaws from the right side of the plate with a 1.208 OPS (in a small sample size).
The Scouting Report: Tony Wolters has some competition for catcher-of-the-future in Cleveland. Mejia had a solid debut campaign in 2013 as a switch-hitting catcher in rookie ball. He hit more than .300 while showing the ability to make good contact with excellent pop. On the downside, he has an overly-aggressive approach that could get him into trouble as he moves up the ladder. Defensively, he’s like a young Carlos Santana in that he’s still very raw behind the plate and needs to focus on his receiving, blocking, game calling and throwing mechanics.
The Year Ahead: Spring training will likely determine whether Mejia opens the year in extended spring training or full-season ball. The key will be for him to continue improving behind the plate.
The Career Outlook: If he can play well enough to even be a fringe-average defender then Mejia could be a perennial all-star as a catcher. With that said, there are a lot of hurdles to clear with such little pro experience to date.
The Year in Review: Paulino struggled mightily in the first half of 2013 but began to turn things around in June — although even his second half numbers were far from eye-popping. Despite his struggles, he kept his strikeout rate at a reasonable level given his age and experience level.
The Scouting Report: Paulino, who just recently turned 19, has been pushed aggressively through the Indians system but showed the ability to make adjustments in 2013, which bodes well for his future development. He has good bat speed with solid gap pop but his aggressive nature hinders his ability to consistently hit for average. Defensively, he can handle shortstop with solid actions and an average arm, but he’ll likely be an above-average fielder at second base.
The Year Ahead: Unless he comes out completely flat in the spring, Paulino likely showed enough in 2013 to earn a bump up to High-A ball — although he may spend the entire season at that level.
The Career Outlook: Paulino is by no means a sure thing but he has the potential to develop into an average or better player in the middle infield.
The Year in Review: Playing as a 21 year old in Double-A, Rodriguez struggled with his aggressive approach (17 walks in 116 games) and posted a .667 OPS and a disappointing .291 on-base percentage. He later received some inconsistent playing time in the Dominican Winter League.
The Scouting Report: A raw but athletic infielder, Rodriguez plays all out in the field and at the plate, which leads to very low walk rates. He has average or better pop but needs to become more consistent in his approach if he’s going to hit for a solid average in the Majors. He’s been much more potent against left-handed pitchers than right-handers in his career. Rodriguez has played both shortstop and second base in the minors but moved to the keystone in deference to Lindor — but not because he couldn’t handle the challenging position.
The Year Ahead: Rodriguez could probably use a little more polish at the Double-A level but he’ll have to contend with Francisco Lindor for playing time at shortstop and Joe Wendle at second base. With a strong spring, though, he could end up in Triple-A.
The Career Outlook: Rodriguez’s future in the Indians system is looking murky at best due to the abundance of middle infield talent. His value isn’t that high right now, though, which could hinder his value on the trade market.
The Next Five:
11. Joe Wendle, 2B: Four of the club’s Top 15 prospects were acquired via the 2012 amateur draft and Wendle was the last of that group to be selected — in the sixth round. Signed for just $10,000 out of a small Division II school, the second baseman isn’t flashy but he has a solid approach on both sides of the ball. He makes above-average contact and actually showed surprising power in 2013 while spending time both in High-A ball and in the Arizona Fall League.
12. C.C. Lee, RHP: Taiwanese-born Lee rebounded well in 2013 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and missing most of the 2012 season. The right-handed reliever made his MLB debut last year and has a good shot at spending much of the year in the big leagues in 2014. His fastball has good pop while sitting in the low 90s and his slider is a chase-pitch when he’s commanding it.
13. Mitch Brown, RHP: Brown’s first full season was a disappointment but not a huge surprise considering he comes from a cold weather state (Minnesota) and has limited pitching experienced compared to those from warmer states such as California, Arizona or Florida. When he’s on, the right-hander has a low-90s fastball and induces a high number of ground balls. He’ll likely give Low-A ball another shot in 2014 after posting an 11.49 ERA there during a five-start stint.
14. Dylan Baker, RHP: A starter in his first full season, Baker’s future likely lies in the bullpen due to the effort in his delivery, lack of reliable secondary offerings and so-so command. He walked 62 batters in 143.2 innings in Low-A ball last year but was extremely durable. When he’s going well, he shows a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a developing slider. He also does a nice job of inducing ground balls and allowed just three home runs in 2013.
15. Carlos Moncrief, OF: Moncrief began his pro career as a pitcher but his athleticism became too hard to ignore and he eventually shifted to an everyday player in the outfield. Understandably, he’s still raw but he’s moved methodically through the system and spent the 2013 season in Double-A where he showed an improved contact rate, good patience and developing power. His arm is a true weapon in the outfield.