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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.