A Minor Review of 2009: Cleveland

Prospect ranking season is just around the corner. In anticipation of that, we present an intro series looking at some of the players who deserve mentioning but probably will not be appearing on their teams’ Top 10 lists. The popular series is back for a second year.

Cleveland Indians

The Graduate: David Huff, LHP
A 2006 supplemental first round pick, Huff’s first MLB season was a bit of a letdown. The left-hander allowed 159 hits in 128.1 innings of work and gave up his fair share of homers (1.12 HR/9). His walk rate was good at 2.88 BB/9 but his strikeout rate was just 4.56 K/9. Huff has a good slider (1.16 wSL/C) but he had trouble setting up hitters for it due to a poor fastball (-0.97 wFB/C). The 25-year-old will have to show some improvements in 2010 if he’s going to hold off a wave of fresh arms moving quickly through the minors.

The Riser: T.J. McFarland, LHP
The Indians organization has a couple of intriguing left-handed pitchers named T.J. in the system. McFarland is not quite the prospect that T.J. House is… yet. However, the former had an encouraging first full season in the minors in ’09. McFarland allowed 128 hits in 120.2 innings of work, but he did a nice job of keeping the ball in the park (0.45 HR/9) due to a solid ground-ball rate at 53.6%. His walk rate was OK at 3.13 BB/9, but his strikeout rate was a little low at 6.34 K/9. McFarland has a solid repertoire: 87-92 mph fastball, slider, changeup.

The Tumbler: Nick Weglarz, OF
It’s been said that Weglarz’ bat will have to carry him to the Majors because he’s not much of a fielder – or an athlete. The 21-year-old was moving through the system just fine until ’09 when he reached double-A and hit just .227/.377/.431 in 339 at-bats. The left-handed hitter held his own against southpaws in ’09, but he struggled to hit right-handers, with a line of .210/.363/.388. Those numbers definitely won’t cut it for a LF/1B/DH type. On the plus side, Weglarz had a walk rate of 18.1% and an ISO of .204. His BABIP of .249 screams “Fluke season!”

The ’10 Sleeper: Eric Berger, LHP
Berger was an astute pick-up out of the University of Arizona in the eighth round of the ’08 draft. The southpaw has posted solid pro numbers and he reached double-A in just his first full season. Berger isn’t flashy but he has a solid repertoire that includes an 88-93 mph fastball, curveball and changeup. He does a nice job of keeping the ball in the park despite modest ground-ball rates. The southpaw will need to tighten up his control after posting a walk rate of 4.28 BB/9 in double-A and 3.67 BB/9 in high-A.

Bonus: Hector Rondon, RHP
I jumped on the Rondon bandwagon pretty quickly, and the Venezuelan native was listed as the Indians sleeper for 2009 in the ’08 review series. The right-handed pitcher followed up his breakout ’08 campaign by ending ’09 in triple-A. He has excellent control for a 21-year-old, and he’s maintained solid strikeout rates throughout his career. Rondon allowed a few too many hits in triple-A (83 in 74.1 innings). He could be in Cleveland, if needed, by mid-2010.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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Did I read that right? Are you supposing Weglarz and Rondon won’t make the Indians’ top 10 list?

Huff’s got a future as a long reliever. Guys with his skillset that don’t get ground balls don’t make very good starters, and the Indians will have some very nice arms in the high minors next year.