The Cleveland Indians organization has been busy this off-season with the acquisition of former Cubs infielder Mark DeRosa, as well as serving as the third team in the Seattle-New York (NL) trade of J.J. Putz. Prior to those moves, though, the club added four players to the 40-man roster (Five really, but Jeff Stevens was one of the players used to acquire DeRosa). The organization added right-hander Hector Rondon, outfielder Trevor Crowe, and catchers Carlos Santana and Chris Gimenez.
Rondon, 20, is on the fast-track to Cleveland. Prior to the 2008 season, his name was not even mentioned amongst the club’s top prospects. He just made Baseball America’s Top 30 Prospects List for the organization last year, coming in at No. 28. The 2009 handbook is not out yet, but you can bet Rondon is going to be listed a lot higher this season. In 145 High-A innings, the right-hander allowed just 130 hits and posted rates of 2.61 BB/9 and 9.00 K/9. He also allowed just 12 home runs (0.74 HR/9). His repertoire includes an 89-93 mph fastball, a developing curveball and a change-up. Rondon will be 21 when the 2009 season begins and he will also be in Double-A, not far from a Major League call-up.
Crowe has had an up-and-down minor league career and was considered one of Cleveland’s top prospects after the 2006 season. After stealing 45 bases that season, the 14th overall pick in the 2005 draft stole just 18 in 2008 while battling injuries. He also has not developed much in-game power and his batting average has fluctuated: .329 in High-A ball in 2006, .234 in Double-A in 2006, .259 in Double-A in 2007, .323 in Double-A in 2008, and .274 in Triple-A in 2008. With Grady Sizemore in center-field for Cleveland, Crowe’s only shot at playing everyday is at a corner spot and he lacks the offensive potential for such a position.
Santana was obtained last season from the Dodgers in the Casey Blake trade and instantly became Cleveland’s catcher of the future. He could eventually force Victor Martinez to first base full-time and Kelly Shoppach back to the second string catcher’s role. In 2008, split between High-A and Double-A, he hit more than 20 home runs, batted above .300 and walked more than he struck out. Did I mention he scored 125 runs and drove in 117? At this point the switch-hitter’s offensive game is pretty solid but he needs to focus on his defence behind the dish, having begun his career in the outfield and at third base.
Gimenez has the lowest ceiling of the bunch. The now 26-year-old began the 2008 season in Double-A and hit .339/.489/.537 with an ISO of .198 in 177 at-bats. He then moved up to Triple-A and hit .272/.349/.374 with an ISO of .103 in 195 at-bats. Gimenez also posted rates of 10.6 BB% and 30.8 K% at Triple-A. His true value comes from his versatility. Along with catching, he can also play at third base, first base and in the outfield.