Cleveland Indians: Top 10 Prospects

General Manager: Mark Shapiro
Farm Director: Ross Atkins
Scouting Director: Brad Grant

FanGraphs’ Top 10 Prospects:
(2009 Draft Picks/International Signees Not Included)

The Indians system is clearly a cut above (most of) the rest, thanks mainly to solid trades as opposed to key draft choices; of the Top 10 prospects, six came from other organizations. The club also added two of its Top 10 picks via international signings, which has been a strength of the organization over the past few years. If the club can tighten up its drafting (and continue to move away from the college-heavy emphasis), the club will hopefully sustain its minor-league depth for years to come.

1. Carlos Santana, C, Double-A
DOB: April 1986 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2004 non-drafted international free agent (Venezuela – Dodgers)
MLB ETA: Mid-2010 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 2

An absolute steal from the Dodgers, Santana currently has a shot at the No. 1 catching gig in Cleveland in 2010 now that both Victor Martinez and Kelly Shoppach have been sent elsewhere within the past six months. However, Santana spent the ’09 season in double-A and has yet to play at the MLB level, so the club might be better off by signing a veteran like Rod Barajas to split the catching chores with Wyatt Toregas and/or Lou Marson. Neither Toregas nor Marson is a threat to Santana long term. The former Dodgers prospect had a nice offensive season in double-A by hitting .290/.413/.530 in 428 at-bats. Santana has consistently shown a good eye at the plate with double-digit walk rates for the past four seasons and it reached 17.4% in ’09 (1.08 BB/K rate, as well). His ISO of .241 shows that he has a lot of power, as well. After driving in 115 runs in ’08, Santana followed that up with 97 in ’09. Because he’s on base so much, he’s also scored 179 runs in the past two seasons, even with his legs starting to show some signs of slowing down thanks to the rigors of the position. Defensively, Santana is a convert to the position (2007) and he’ll likely never win a gold glove, but he threw out a reasonable number of base runners in ’09 at 30%. He should be an all-star with the bat.

2. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, Double-A
DOB: October 1988 Bats: L Throws: R
Signed: 2008 1st round – Pitt Community College
MLB ETA: Late-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

Chisenhall followed up his solid debut season with a nice sophomore effort in high-A. He hit .276/.346/.492 with an ISO of .216 in 388 at-bats. His walk rate was OK at 8.7% and his strikeout rate of 20.6% was reasonable considering his power production. Chisenhall also showed a knack for driving in runs with 79 RBI in 99 games (.965 OSP with men on, .652 with the bases empty). The third baseman also received a late-season promotion to double-A, where he hit .183/.238/.387 in 93 at-bats. Overall on the season, the left-handed hitting Chisenhall batted just .243/.332/.393 against southpaws, so he has some work to do in that area. He should head back to the same level in 2010. Although fellow prospect Wes Hodges is a little further ahead, Chisenhall is the favorite to fill the hot corner for the long term.

3. Nick Hagadone, LHP, High-A
DOB: January 1986 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2007 supplemental 1st round – University of Washington (Boston)
MLB ETA: Mid-2011 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 91-94 mph fastball, plus slider, change-up

A former first-round pick of Boston, Hagadone’s career has been slowed by Tommy John surgery in ’08. The southpaw got back on track in ’09 but he was kept on a strict pitch count, which limited his total innings to just 45.0 on the year. The good news: just 26 hits, no homers allowed, and a strikeout rate at about 11.00 K/9. The bad news: A walk rate that was all over the place. Obviously, the good out-weighs the bad and some control problems are to be expected when young pitchers come back from surgery and long layoffs. If Hagadone can maintain his solid velocity and crazy ground-ball rates (57.8% career), then he should be a stud. The big, unanswered question is: Will he be a No. 2 starter or a late-game reliever?

4. Hector Rondon, RHP, Triple-A
DOB: February 1988 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2004 non-drafted international free agent (Venezuela)
MLB ETA: Mid-2010 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 3
Repertoire: 89-93 mph fastball, curveball, change-up

The first of Cleveland’s homegrown Top 10 prospects, Rondon just keeps getting better and better. Although he doesn’t have electric stuff, Rondon is a much more well-rounded pitcher than a lot of 21-year-old hurlers. The right-hander rose out of obscurity in ’07 with an outstanding ’08 season in high-A. He followed that up by pitching in both double-A and triple-A this past season. At the junior level, Rondon allowed just 60 hits in 72.0 innings of work, while posting a 2.51 FIP. He continued to display above-average control with a walk rate of 2.00 and he posted his highest strikeout rate of his career at 9.13 K/9. Upon his promotion to triple-A, Rondon showed similarly-good control but he struggled with the home run ball a little bit and gave up eight in 74.1 innings (0.97 HR/9). His K/BB rate remained solid at 4.92. With 83 hits allowed, he may have thrown strikes to a fault. One thing to watch out for: His ground-ball rate has diminished with each move up the ladder, to a dangerous rate of 33.9% in triple-A.

5. Carlos Carrasco, RHP, Triple-A
DOB: March 1987 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2003 non-drafted international free agent (Venezuela – Philadelphia)
MLB ETA: Early-2010 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 1
Repertoire: 89-93 mph fastball, curveball, change-up

Despite being 22, it seems like Carrasco has been around awhile, having reached double-A as a 20 year old. Although he has a nice fastball, the right-hander has been an enigma due to his modest results in the minors. As such, it was not a huge surprise to see him dealt to the Indians, with Philly’s patience having run out. In his former organization, Carrasco pitched 114.2 innings in triple-A in ’09 and allowed 118 hits, but showed solid control with a walk rate of 2.98. He had troubles with the long-ball and allowed 14 homers (1.10 HR/9). The Venezuelan threw better after coming over to pitch for Cleveland’s triple-A squad, but he then tanked when given his first taste of big-league action. Carrasco posted a 7.08 FIP and allowed 40 hits in 22.1 innings of work. With a line-drive rate of 27.0%, he wasn’t fooling anyone with his fastball/change-up approach, as both pitches had negative value. If everything clicks, Carrasco has No. 2 starter potential; more likely than not, though, he’ll be a Miguel Batista type of frustrating pitcher.

6. Jason Knapp, RHP, Low-A
DOB: August 1990 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2008 2nd round – New Jersey HS (Philadelphia)
MLB ETA: Mid-2013 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 91-94 mph fastball, slider, change-up

Knapp has a big arm, but he also comes complete with injury question marks. A shoulder injury derailed his fantastic low-A ball season, but Cleveland thought enough of him to take the DL-ed pitcher in the Cliff Lee trade. The right-hander was in his first full pro season and was pumping in high-90s fastballs early in the season. He posted a strikeout rate of 11.71 K/9 in 85.1 innings for Philadelphia’s low-A team. He showed some problems with the walk, as he had a walk rate of 4.11 BB/9. As with most young fire-ballers, Knapp gets a lot of fly-ball outs, and his ground-ball rate was a measly 35.6%. Once traded, he made just four starts thanks to the shoulder issue. He is expected to be healthy for the beginning of 2010, but shoulders can be a dangerous area. If everything clicks, he has an outside chance of being a No. 1 starter.

7. T.J. House, LHP, Low-A
DOB: September 1989 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2008 16th round – Mississippi HS
MLB ETA: Early-2013 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 88-93 mph fastball, curveball, change-up

Another homegrown talent, House was an over-slot signee during the ’08 draft. The pitcher has a solid repertoire and the advantage of being left-handed. Pitching in low-A ball in ’09, he allowed just 127 hits in 134.1 innings of work. He showed solid command for his experience level at 3.28 BB/9 and his strikeout rate was good too, at 7.30 K/9. His ground-ball rate of 46.3% was respectable, and he kept the homers to a minimum (0.54 HR/9). He’s still a long way from reaching the Majors, but House had an encouraging debut and he could settle into the mid-to-late part of the Indians rotation within a few years.

8. Michael Brantley, OF, Triple-A
DOB: May 1987 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2005 7th round – Florida HS (Milwaukee)
MLB ETA: Mid-2010 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 2

A personal favorite for a few years now, Brantley does what every plus base runner should do: He gets on base. With double-digit walk rates over the past four seasons, the left-handed hitting outfielder posted a walk rate of 11.4% in triple-A, as well as a BB/k rate of 1.23. Just 22, he’s likely ready for at least a fourth-outfielder role in Cleveland. Overall, he hit .267/.350/.361 in 457 at-bats at triple-A. He was hurt by low .288 BABIP. Brantley has almost no power and posted an ISO rate of .094 in ’09. But that’s OK. His job is to get on base, move up, and score runs. He stole 46 bases in 51 attempts, and could certainly provide a spark to the Indians’ base running attack. Brantley’s less-than-stellar defense, as well as his .645 OPS vs southpaws, drag down his overall value.

9. Alexander Perez, RHP, High-A
DOB: July 1989 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2007 non-drafted international free agent
MLB ETA: late-2011 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 88-93 mph fastball, curveball, change-up

Like Rondon and Jeanmar Gomez, Perez popped out of nowhere to become a solid pitching prospect. The right-hander had a solid ’09 season and split the year between low-A and high-A. At the lower level, Perez allowed just 69 hits in 83.0 innings of work. He showed good control with a walk rate of 2.60 BB/9 and he also missed some bats with a strikeout rate of 8.24 K/9. He did give up a few too many homers (0.98 HR/9). In high-A, Perez made eight appearances and allowed 32 hits in 31.1 innings. Both his walk and strikeout rates were similar to his low-A levels, but his BABIP increased by .076. He allowed just one homer at the senior level and showed all-around solid ground-ball numbers in ’09 at 48.9%.

10. Scott Barnes, LHP, Double-A
DOB: September 1987 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2008 8th round – St. John’s University
MLB ETA: Late-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 87-91 mph fastball, curveball, change-up

Barnes is probably higher on this list than on most Indians Top 10 prospect charts, but he’s a solid left-handed pitcher with average stuff. Obtained from the Giants organization, he slipped a bit after moving up to double-A with Cleveland. Barnes had trouble locating his pitches and gave up seven homers in just 31.2 innings (1.99 HR/9). Even so, he still showed OK control with a walk rate below 3.98 BB/9 and a solid strikeout rate at 8.24 K/9, as he’s helped by the deception in his throwing motion. In high-A for San Francisco, Barnes – who is just 22 – allowed 82 hits in 98.0 innings and posted a strikeout rate of 9.09 K/9. Prior to the trade, Barnes’ ground-ball rate was about already modest at 42% and it was cut almost in half after the trade. He’ll get another shot at double-A in 2010; I’m confident he’ll make the necessary adjustments to succeed.

Up Next: The Chicago Cubs

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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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Carlos also plays a kick-butt guitar.