Cleveland Indians Top 15 Prospects (2012-13)

The Indians system doesn’t have a ton of depth but both Francisco Lindor and Trevor Bauer offer high ceilings. The club also has some really intriguing sleepers such as Danny Salazar and Anthony Santander. The organization has done an outstanding job of finding value in the Latin market.


#1 Francisco Lindor (SS)

18 567 126 24 6 61 78 28 .257 .352 .355 .328

Lindor is one of the more well-rounded offensive prospects in the game. He has plus makeup, which helps his tools play up. He’s a four-tool player whose only questionable tool is his power, which will likely top out around 15 in a full year.  The switch-hitter also walked almost as much as he struck out in 2012. When I asked a contact to tell me what Lindor does well at the plate, he mentioned the prospect’s consistent middle-of-the-field approach from both sides of the plate. 

“He has above averaged bat-to-ball ability, strike zone awareness and developing discipline,” the contact added.  Lindor, 19, handles breaking balls extremely well for a young player and his willingness to use the whole field and ability to make consistent contact both suggest he’ll eventually hit for a very good batting average. 

Lindor has average speed — if not a tad better — and his defense is outstanding, thanks to his range, arm, hands and instincts. I asked another talent evaluator to contact on the young shortstop’s defense. “His glove is very special. He has instincts and natural abilities that can’t be taught. He has Omar-Vizquel-type abilities with the glove. He has plus arm strength to make any play from shortstop,” the talent evalutaor said. “He just has to continue to learn the pace of the game and his pre-pitch positioning but he really doesn’t have any true weakness in the field.”

After a respectable season in low-A ball, the Puerto Rico native will move up to high-A ball and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him break out and reach double-A in the second half of the year. He has the potential to develop into a corner-stone-type player.


#2 Trevor Bauer (P)

21 4 4 16.1 9.37 7.16 45.5 % 6.06 5.18 0.0

Unlike Francisco Lindor and his plus make-up, Bauer finds himself in a Cleveland Indians uniform because of questions surrounding his maturity. Traded in a three-player deal between Cleveland, Arizona and Cincinnati, the former first round draft pick (third overall in 2011) will look to realize his immense potential with a fresh start. Cleveland could end up with a real steal if he realizes his true value.

Bauer’s repertoire includes a mid-90s fastball and plus curveball. He also mixes in a slider, splitter and changeup. He needs to learn that there are benefits to working in the lower half of the strike zone. Both his command and control need polish. Bauer, 22, reached the majors in his first full season, but he should open 2013 back in triple-A. He could be one of the first players recalled in the event of an injury. With some polish and added maturity, Bauer has the ceiling of a No. 2 starter.


#3 Dorssys Paulino (SS)

17 250 77 19 7 18 45 11 .333 .380 .558 .419

As if Francisco Lindor wasn’t enough, Cleveland also boasts a second high-ceiling shortstop prospect. Just 18 and a step behind his fellow shortstop prospect, Paulino hit extremely well in short-season ball in 2012 and likely earned an assignment to full-season ball for the coming season.

Paulino has a quick batting stroke and a good eye, both of which help him hit for average despite his inexperience. He even outstanding gap power that could eventually develop into some over-the-fence pop. A contact I spoke to referred to the prospect’s offensive approach as, “an aggressive power threat with a natural swing and gap-to-gap approach.” 

In the field, Paulino is inconsistent but he has athleticism, a solid arm and good range. He still has a number of rough edges that need to be sanded down and he makes youthful mistakes but I like his potential at the position. With Lindor in the system, though, shortstop is probably not a legitimate option for the Dominican Republic native.


#4 Tyler Naquin (OF)

21 161 37 11 0 17 26 4 .270 .379 .380 .366

Naquin was one of the best pure hitters available in the 2012 amateur draft. He uses the whole field and does possess some good gap power. There are some tweaks that could be made to his hitting mechanics, though, that could help him generate more pop. He has good speed although stealing bases has not been a huge part of his game (outside of his junior year of college).

I asked a contact what attracted the organization to him as a first round draft pick. “His plus hit-ability and advance feel to barrel the baseball,” he said. “Plus arm strength. Plus runner. [Naquin is] a baseball player with an instinctual feel for the game. He has tools to profile as an everyday center field.” 

I asked the contact to expand upon his opinion of the outfield prospect’s defense because of questions about his ability to stick in center field. “His defense has been solid so far in pro ball.  He grew up as a center-fielder and moved in college. His routes and jumps continued to improve during the summer and we see no reason why he can’t be at least an average center-fielder. We don’t have any concerns about him staying in center field.”

As mentioned above, Naquin, 22, has a very strong arm so a relocation to right field may not be such a bad thing if he can develop a little more over-the-fence pop. He’ll likely move up high-A ball to begin his first full pro season and, if all goes well, he could reach the majors in short order.


#5 Luigi Rodriguez (OF)

19 521 123 21 11 50 133 24 .266 .336 .404 .338

Rodriguez, 20, played in full-season ball in 2012 as a teenager and held his own. He struck out way too much for someone with modest power, but he should see his K-rate decrease with added experience. Rodriguez’s game is built around his plus speed, although he still needs to polish his running game.

In the field, he projects as an average-or-better center-fielder but he’s still learning the nuances of the position after turning pro as a middle infielder. Rodriguez will move up to high-A ball in 2013 and should spend the entire year at that level. He could develop into a solid big league regular with a MLB ETA of 2015.


#6 Mitch Brown (P)

18 8 8 27.2 20 3 8.46 3.25 3.58 3.81

One of my favorite prep pitchers from the 2012 amateur draft, Brown was selected by the Indians in the second round. He made eight starts in rookie ball after turning pro and showed off his polished approach on the mound. Brown, 18, has low-90s fastball that touches the mid-90s and he has a potentially plus-curveball and a cutter that could also be an above-average offering. His changeup has potential. Brown has an easy delivery that includes some deception, which helps his stuff play up. 

He also has a chance to develop into an innings-eater thanks to his solid athleticism and strong build. A contact I spoke with said the propsect’s maturity should also help him succeed. “He is a really great person who is very advanced for his age. Has a chance to be a front of the rotation starter,” he said. “I think he just needs to continue to advance with his command of his fastball and gain consistency to his pitches.” A Minnesota native, it’s impressive that the cold-weather prospect is as advanced as he is at this point. He could open 2013 in low-A ball and has the ceiling of a No. 3 starter.


#7 Danny Salazar (P)

22 22 22 87.2 71 4 7.80 2.77 2.36 2.98

A major pop-up prospect in 2012, Salazar returned from Tommy John surgery with a vengeance. He can dial his four-seam fastball up into the upper-90s and has touched triple-digits. His slider has plus potential but the missed time has hindered its development. His third pitch is a changeup that is quite promising. Both his command and control show potential to be average or better.

Salazar’s durability remains in question and he’s managed to pitch more than 100 innings just once in six pro seasons. If he cannot hold up to a starter’s workload then he could make a dominating shut-down reliever capable of pitching in high-leverage situations. He should return to double-A to open the 2013 season but should see triple-A. If he holds up, Salazar has a chance to develop into a No. 2 starter thanks to his diverse repertoire.


#8 Ronny Rodriguez (SS)

20 553 136 23 19 21 105 13 .261 .295 .441 .327

A third talented shortstop in the system who’s actually a step ahead of Francisco Lindor (and two ahead of Dorssys Paulino), Rodriguez is a toolsy middle infielder with surprising power. Unfortunately, the rest of his game is quite raw and he’s overly aggressive at the plate, which led to just 18 walks in 454 at-bats in 2012. Rodriguez, 20, doesn’t steal a ton of bases but he has above-average speed, which helps him in the field.

He has above-average range and a strong arm but he makes a lot of youthful mistakes in the field. He probably won’t be able to hold off Lindor at shortstop so third base or second base could be his eventual home if he develops into an everyday player. It’s possible that his approach at the plate will force him into a long-term bench role. He’ll face a stiff challenge when he graduates from A-ball and moves up to double-A in 2013.


#9 Tony Wolters (2B/SS)

20 537 126 30 8 36 104 5 .260 .320 .404 .327

An above-slot signee as a 2010 third rounder, Wolters reached high-A ball in 2012 and showed some pop as an offensive-minded second baseman. He has a decent amount of gap power but he’s overly aggressive at the plate and needs to improve his two-strike approach. The left-handed hitter holds his own against southpaws.

In the field, Wolters shows a strong arm but lacks first-step quickness, which limits his range at shortstop and makes him a more promising second baseman. He could easily play shortstop in a back-up role, though. If he can’t trim the strikeouts, Wolters could end up as a utility player. A 2013 assignment to double-A will be a stiff challenge.


#10 Cody Allen (P)

23 27 0 29.0 8.38 4.66 38.6 % 3.72 3.68 0.2

A starter in college, Allen immediately took the bullpen when he turned pro and his fastball velocity jumped into the mid-to-upper 90s. He also flashes a potentially-plus curveball (at times referred to as a slider). His command definitely needs his polish and his control took a hit when he reached the majors.

The 23rd round draft pick from 2011 has already exceeded all expectations after playing at four different levels in 2012. The organization previously drafted Allen in 2010 and made a big push to sign him out of a Florida junior college but he committed to play for High Point in North Carolina in an effort to continue rebuilding his value after Tommy John surgery. 

A contact I spoke to suggested moving out of a heavily-scouted area to a smaller school — along with his injury history — may have caused Allen to slip through the cracks. “I am surprised by the speed he has made it to the big leagues but not by his success. Our scouts have always liked his ability,” he explained.

Allen has the ceiling of a high-leverage reliever who could eventually lay claim to the Indians’ closer’s role. For now, though, he’ll likely settle in as an eighth-inning guy despite his relative inexperience. The contact I spoke with agreed that the young pitcher had potential as a high-leverage reliever “He has a 7* fastball now up to 96 and a plus power curveball. He is fearless and throws strikes. He comes right at hitters and isn’t afraid to challenge them.”

*The 20-80 scout scale is often simplified to 2-8.


#11 Jesus Aguilar (1B)

22 514 123 31 15 58 115 0 .280 .372 .461 .374

The Venezuelan first baseman has impressive raw power from the right side of the plate, even though he went deep just 15 times in 2012. He’s so strong that he doesn’t have to pull the ball to put it out of the park. Aguilar has hit for average throughout his pro career but he needs to get better against breaking balls and be quicker to the ball if he’s going to produce a good batting average at higher levels.

The first baseman’s value is tied solely to his bat. He’s a below-average runner and lacks range at first base. Aguilar does have decent arm strength and good hands. He’ll return to the double-A level to open the 2013 season but could move quickly — and possibly see time in the majors this year — if he finds early success.


#12 Jose Ramirez (2B)

19 326 102 15 3 25 26 17 .354 .404 .465 .395

The 20-year-old second baseman stands just 5’9” and will never produce power but he’s also has a .342 career average in his first two pro seasons. Ramirez does an outstanding job of making contact and above-average bat speed could allow him to rack up a solid number of doubles. I asked a contact what allows Ramirez to hit for a consistently high average and he stated, “Confidence in his hands, outstanding bat-to-ball ability and instincts for the game. He  understands how a pitcher will attack him at a very early stage in his career.”

The switch-hitting Ramirez has plus speed but his base running is still somewhat raw and needs polish. He has the potential to develop into an above-average fielder with good actions, solid range and a decent arm. After a strong showing in low-A and a strong showing in the Dominican Winter League, Ramirez should move up to high-A ball in 2013 and could see double-A before the year is out. The talent evaluator I spoke with said his success against better competition in the DWL has shown that his lack of size will not be an issue as he moves up the ladder.


#13 Kieran Lovegrove (P)

17 8 7 21.0 28 1 7.71 3.86 6.00 3.53

Lovegrove is a highly-projectable hurler with a strong pitcher’s frame who needs some tweaks to his delivery to realize his full potential. If his command can improve, he has a chance to develop into a No. 3 starter. His repertoire includes an 87-93 mph fastball, a slider with plus potential and changeup that is a work in progress. Lovegrove, 18, struggled during his first taste of pro ball but was not overwhelmed. 

A contact I spoke with said Lovegrove needs to continue to add strength to his frame, learn to repeat his delivery, and become more consistent with his control/command. “We like his delivery components, he just needs to get more consistent in repeating them, which should come with some added core strength gains,” he said. Lovegrove will open 2013 in extended spring training before an assignment to a short-season club in June. You have to dream on Lovegrove but he’s an intriguing talent.


#14 Scott Barnes (P)

24 16 0 19.0 7.58 3.32 36.4 % 4.26 3.67 0.1

Barnes doesn’t have the highest ceiling but he’s left-handed and continues to exceed expectations. Moved into the bullpen at triple-A in 2012, the southpaw made his MLB debut and held his own. The role fits him well because his delivery has some effort to it and his fastball plays up and works in the low-to-mid 90s. He also has a very good slider and throws an occasional changeup.

Barnes, 25, has a decent shot at breaking camp with the big league club with the ability to fill a number of roles, including loogy, long-man and spot starter. The contact I spoke to about Barnes, though, feels the rookie will thrive in the bullpen. “His deceptive delivery will play up in shorter stints,” he explained.


#15 Anthony Santander (OF)

17 176 47 15 4 13 37 6 .305 .381 .494 .398

It’s not often that a Latin teenager makes his pro debut in North America and hits more than .300 but that’s just what Santander did in 2012. Despite his strong debut, the switch-hitter is still extremely raw — both as a hitter and a fielder. He flashes at least average power potential with the ability to hit for a strong batting average but he’s too aggressive at times.

Santander played mostly left field during his debut and he could develop into an average or better corner outfielder. If his power fails to develop, though, he’ll likely end up as a fourth outfielder with one plus tool (his hit tool). Santander could move up to low-A ball with a strong spring but he could probably benefit from another stint in extended spring training.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

33 Responses to “Cleveland Indians Top 15 Prospects (2012-13)”

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  1. Forrest Gumption says:

    Such a strong system, the Indians are going to be a beast this year and beyond. Plus add whoever they get for Asdrubal and maybe Kipnis if Paulino and Lindor are anything as advertised.

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    • Nelson Santovenia says:

      Ready to trade away Kipnis already? Daaaamn that was quick!

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      • Adam says:

        Not happening. If Kipnis has a strong year in 2013 I bet they’ll sign him to an extension similar to what they did with Santana last year.

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    • LaLoosh says:

      Asdrubal’s value is probably at its peak but Lindor prob needs another year of marinating unfortunately bc one could def see a good match with the Cards.

      Aside from that, I assume you’re kidding about the strength of the Tribe’s system…

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    • Pirates Hurdles says:

      Not even close to being “strong”, BA ranks them 24th (before Bauer) and behind the top 3 there is very little impact. Mid pack at best, the collapse of the Indians system has directly resulted in their MLB issues of late. Losing Rene Gayo hurt their Latin program for a while, but it looks like its improving.

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      • Nathaniel says:

        Only a casual fan would rate the Indians farm system as strong. We severely lack depth at too many positions to even be considered above average.

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      • chuck says:

        depends on how you view it Pirates, if you notice that most of baseball Americas top 100 prospects come from the draft years of 2009-2012 and some from 2008 then look at what Cleveland has done with those draft years, Chisenhall in 08, Kipnis and White in 09, Pomeranz in 2010 Cody Allen in 2011. If those players were still in minors as many of baseball americas top 100 prospects, how would the Tribe farm system be viewed?

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      • RotoSaurus says:

        It’s definitely not strong. However, the draft is the problem… the Indians have been BY FAR the worst drafting team in baseball. Just about every top prospect they’ve had in the past decade has come via trade/International signing with Kipnis and Lindor being the exceptions (we’ll see how Chisenhall and last year’s draft picks fare this season before judging them). Paulino, Salazar, Santander, Ramirez, Aguilar, and both Rodriguezes were all international signings.

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    • RotoSaurus says:

      Jose Ramirez is the future starting 2B… they WAY underrate him here. He’s actually a top 5 prospect. Paulino is likely headed for 3B/DH and Kipnis would likely move to LF or DH when Ramirez is ready to take over

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  2. Tanner John 22 says:

    Indians are the dark horse in the Central IMO. If they can hang with the Tigers through AS break & Bauer figures it out to give them a late season boost, they could be dangerous. They should beat up on the rest of the division outside of Det & could even have an outside shot at a wild card spot. Outside of Bauer though, no reinforcements on the way anytime soon. At least as a Twins fan I can dream on their prospects in another lost season.

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  3. Adam says:

    Pretty much universally agreed upon that Lindor, Bauer and Paulino make up the top 3 in one order or another…and 4-10 could go one of a million different ways.

    Interested in your take on Dillon Howard, D’Vone McClure, LeVon Washington, and Dylan Baker. Indians are very high on all 4. They went way over slot on Howard, McClure and Washington.

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    • RotoSaurus says:

      It’s a big year for Howard, McClure, and Washington as all are very talented but have not shown anything in the minors thus far

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      • Phil says:

        What are you talking about?

        McClure has been in the organization for like 6 months. He has ooodles of time to develop.

        Howard and Washington can’t stay healthy but McClure shouldn’t be mentioned with those two.

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  4. gareth says:

    They need to parlay that 2b and ss depth into an elite defensive catcher, a slugging first baseman, a toolsy outfielder and some live arms. Not asking too much, right?

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    • andrew says:

      Really? Don’t they already have pretty much all of those pieces? Santana isn’t elite defensively but he’s their catcher right? Swisher at 1B and they have three toolsy OFs right? Every team could always use more pitching but I hope they get more than a “live arm” if they trade Lindor for example.

      Am I missing something? It seems like that list is almost exactly the pieces they don’t need to me.

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    • Skoodog says:

      They need to parlay A-Cab into some pitching prospects. ALL we need now are pitching. There’s a dearth of slugger 1Bs in the top prospects right now so it makes more sense to keep working the FA market for pitching until we get a decent starting rotation out of our system.

      1. Bauer
      2. Ubaldo <– first need to replace
      3. Masterson
      4. Brett Myers <– second need to replace

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    • RotoSaurus says:

      Wrong. We need starting pitching, starting pitching, and then even more starting pitching. Masterson and McAllister are the only 2 starters we have who should be in a major league rotation… and they should be #3-5 starters, not #1-2 starters

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  5. Dirck says:

    This list drives home the point that trading one year of Choo for Bauer was a great deal for the Indians . The team is desparate for pitching and outside of Bauer has no one in the system who looks like more than a long shot to be even mediocre .

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    • RotoSaurus says:

      Oh that deal was phenomenal… considering there’s 0 chance we re-sign a Boras client, I don’t think anyone could dispute that. We even got Brian Shaw in the deal too (not to mention Stubbs and Albers)

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  6. UrbanShocker56 says:

    Not to quibble with Marc’s excellent analysis, but if Bauer has a heater in the mid 90s, a plus curve, and a workable slider, splitter and change, why does he only have “the ceiling of a No. 2 starter.” Is there no chance he can develop into a No. 1 starter? And if there is a non-trivial chance, isn’t that his ceiling?

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  7. Aaron Steindler says:

    I am a true Indians fan, but I can’t stand when other Cleveland fans pretend that we’re going to be this great team every year. We got a bunch of mediocre veterans who are probably past their prime and did not have great WAR to begin with. Bourn, Reynolds, and Stubbs strike out way too much. Santana is an uncertainty. Kipnis might be good. Chisenhall might be good. Given recent history, AC will probably be traded for some crappy, sore-arm pitcher(like Carrasco or Ubaldo). And we still have no pitching. We’re projected to win about 79 games. Whoop dee doo.

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    • Ryan says:

      If being a “true” Indians fan means being so pessimistic I’m glad I’m not a “true” Indians fan.

      The Indians have struggled since the ’07 playoff run, but this is the most excited I’ve been about a Indians team going into a season since ’08. There are legit concerns but every team has legit concerns. I don’t expect them to win the AL Central, but this team as constructed should be a winning team this season.I’ll take the “mediocre veterans who are probably past their prime” over the likes of Kotchman, Duncan, Damon, and whoever was DH the 65% of the time Hafner was injured.

      No this isn’t a world series contender, but with Francona instead of Wedge or Acta these guys should be in the playoff picture all year. 79 wins would be a disappointment.

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  8. Ryan says:

    While the system is below average right now, it has the potential to be top 10 going into next year. 18 year old Dorrsys Paulino has a chance to be a top 40-50 prospect next year. 19 year old Francisco Lindor will be a top 5-10. A lot of people thought Naquin was an overdraft, but he was a very good hitter in college. As a CF his perceived lack of pop isn’t as big of a weakness.

    The Indians could see some significant growth with their pitching prospects. I expect Bauer to get enough innings to no longer be considered a prospect, but there are arms behind him that have potential to strengthen the system with good performances this summer.

    I’m optimistic about HS arms Mitch Brown and Kieran Lovegrove adjusting well to full-season ball. Dillon Howard has disappointed so far, but he was a highly regarded HS arm in the 2011 draft. In addition to these guys the Indians have the #5 pick in the upcoming draft and should have one of Stanek, Appel, or Manaea available.

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    • RotoSaurus says:

      yes, if everything goes right this year we could have a good system… that is a HUGE if. I’d bank on the Indians’ system remaining subpar for at least the next 2 years

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  9. Marcus Tullius Cicero says:

    I sure hope that’s not a 15 on the 20-80 scouting scale for Lindor’s power. What would that be comparable to? Rick Ankiel’s control? John Rocker’s tolerance? Carl Pavano’s durability?

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  10. russ says:

    What’s the word on Cord Phelps? 4-A player for life or does have a chance to do anything in the majors this year?

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  11. fly eli and tony plush says:

    “You have to dream on Lovegrove”

    That’s the best phrase I’ve ever read in a prospect writeup. Maybe I never left 5th grade?

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