Top 10 Prospects: The Cleveland Indians

The Cleveland Indians
2010 MLB Record: 69-93 (fourth place, AL Central)
Minor League Power Ranking: 12th (out of 30)
Click for: Last Year’s Top 10 Prospect List

The Prospects

1. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B
Acquired: 2008 1st round (North Carolina JC)
Pro Experience: 3 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: AA
Opening Day Age: 22
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.5

Notes: I personally see Chisenhall as more of a solid regular contributor at the hot corner than a true star. He had a nice double-A season in 2010 by hitting .278/.351/.450 in 460 at-bats. His power has been respectable throughout his minor league career. He posted a .216 ISO rate in high-A in ’09 but it slipped to .172 in ’10. Chisenhall does a nice job of hitting with pop while making solid contact and his strikeout rate was below 20% at double-A. He has an upright stance and takes just a short stride. Chisenhall’s swing is simple and repeatable. I don’t see impact bat speed – it’s still a tick above average – and there is a little upper cut to his swing. I don’t foresee Chisenhall making a significant contribution at the big league level in 2011 but he could be ready to step in as the starter at the beginning of 2012.

2. Alex White, RHP
Acquired: 2009 1st round (U of North Carolina)
Pro Experience: 1 season
2010 MiLB Level: A+/AA
Opening Day Age: 22
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.5

Notes: White and Kyle Gibson (Minnesota) may be forever linked because they were the Top 2 college starters in the 2009 draft after Stephen Strasburg, but the latter of the pair has a slightly higher ceiling. White, though, still has the potential to be a solid No. 2 or 3 starter at the MLB level if he can sharpen his command. In just his first pro season, the right-hander had a nice year – first in high-A and then in double-A. White’s control improved as the year progressed, with a dip from 3.89 to 2.25 BB/9. His above-average ground-ball rates jumped from 52 to 57%. It wasn’t all good news, though. White posted a strikeout rate of 8.39 K/9 in high-A but it then dropped to 6.42 K/9 at the upper level. His repertoire includes a low-90s fastball, slider and splitter. I’m not crazy about White’s arm action and he looks unbalanced on the mound at times. He also seems to put a lot of pressure on his upper body and shoulder in his delivery with little use of his legs and lower half.

3. Jason Kipnis, 2B
Acquired: 2009 2nd round (Arizona State U)
Pro Experience: 2 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A+/AA
Opening Day Age: 24
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0

Notes: Originally an outfielder, Kipnis made the unusual move to second base but it’s been a successful conversion. After beginning the year in high-A ball, the infielder also saw time in both double-A and the Arizona Fall League, where he cemented his prospect status with a wOBA of .411 in 19 games. During the regular season in double-A, he hit .311/.385/.502 in 315 at-bats. Kipnis showed good pop with an ISO rate of .190 (mostly gap-type power right now) and he showed a willingness to take pitches and walks. Kipnis hit more than .300 for the season, but he was also aided by high BABIPs (.359 in A+ and .361 in AA). He has a quiet stance at the plate but I’d like to see a little more barrel control. He also has a tendency to upper-cut the ball at times and needs to stay within himself. He has some work to do on defense but I can see him being at least average at the MLB level.

4. Drew Pomeranz, LHP
Acquired: 2010 1st round (U of Mississippi)
Pro Experience: None
2010 MiLB Level: None
Opening Day Age: 22
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0

Notes: Pomeranz was one of my favorite college arms in the 2010 draft and it should have come as no surprise that the Indians organization felt the same way, with it’s history of drafting advanced college arms. This lefty has the potential to develop into a No. 2 starter but should settle into the three-hole, at worst. Fear not, though; Pomeranz is no Jeremy Sowers or David Huff. His repertoire includes a moving fastball that can touch 95 mph and he also flashes a plus curveball and a solid changeup. Unlike Sowers and Huff, though, Pomeranz’ command and control are not as advanced. His delivery has lots of moving parts and he has good deception as he keeps the ball behind his back for a long time. As a result, his heater really gets in on the hitters in a hurry. He didn’t pitch in the regular season after signing his first pro contract, but the southpaw should open the 2011 season in high-A.

5. Nick Weglarz, OF
Acquired: 2005 3rd round (Ontario, CAN HS)
Pro Experience: 6 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: AA/AAA
Opening Day Age: 23
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0

Notes: My fellow Ontarian Weglarz re-found his prospect footing in 2010 with a solid – albeit injury-interrupted – season split between double-A and triple-A. He has an excellent eye at the plate and his 13.4% walk rate in 2010 was his lowest rate in four seasons. His power output was also impressive with an ISO rate of .211 at triple-A, but his strikeout rate sat at 24.6 K%. He looks comfortable and confident at the plate. Weglarz watches every pitch into the catcher’s mitt (unless he’s hitting it, of course). He generates his good power with raw strength and quick hips. He takes little to no stride. Weglarz is all bat and his defense in the outfield will likely never be better than average. He could eventually end up at first base or DH. He should be ready for the Majors by mid-2011.

6. Joe Gardner, RHP
Acquired: 2009 3rd round (UC Santa Barbara)
Pro Experience: 2 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A-/A+
Opening Day Age: 22
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5

Notes: I’m a big fan of ground-ball pitchers, so naturally I am firmly on the Gardner bandwagon. He has a big, strong frame and gets an excellent downhill plane on his pitches. After a dominating start in low-A, the right-hander quickly moved up to high-A where he posted a ground-ball rate of 67% in 122.1 innings. His overall success came from a .246 BABIP so we have to be a little cautious with getting too excited over his success in ’10. Gardner’s strikeout rate was OK, but nothing special, at 7.65 K/9. His command and control is also inconsistent (3.75 BB/9). Gardner’s repertoire consists of both two- and four-seam fastballs, a slider, and a changeup. The heaters are his best pitches – his four-seamer can scrape the mid-90s but the two-seamer is his bread-and-butter; his secondary stuff needs more work. Gardner throws with a sidearm (or low-three-quarter delivery) and some times holds onto his breaking ball too long.

7. Jason Knapp, RHP
Acquired: 2008 2nd round (New Jersey HS)
Pro Experience: 3 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: R/A-
Opening Day Age: 20
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.5

Notes: Knapp has one of the biggest arms in the system but he also has one of the longer medical records. He was acquired from the Phillies organization during the ’09 Cliff Lee trade but pitched just 28.1 innings in 2010 (thanks to shoulder problems). Knapp is a two-pitch pitcher right now and could eventually find himself facing high-leverage situations in the back of a big league bullpen. His fastball ranges from 93-97 mph and he flashes a plus – but inconsistent – curveball. Much of the time, he allows his shoulder to fly open on the breaking ball. He’s working to develop a changeup, but the missed time has not helped. Knapp does a nice job of staying tall over the rubber and has good balance. He definitely has the potential to improve his command/control.

8. Cord Phelps, 2B
Acquired: 2008 3rd round (Stanford U)
Pro Experience: 3 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: AA/AAA
Opening Day Age: 24
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.0

Notes: Phelps faces a roadblock to his MLB dreams in the form of fellow Top 10 prospect Jason Kipnis. But the Stanford grad could end up in a utility role or as trade bait. Despite that reality, Phelps actually out-performed Kipnis in the Arizona Fall League (although not by that much) with a .451 wOBA. During the regular season, he split the year between double-A and triple-A. He hit well at double-A but his power showed up at the higher level when he posted a career-high ISO rate of .189; he still projects to have gap power, though, at the MLB level. Phelps does a solid job of getting on base (8.8 BB%) and he also kept his strikeout rate in check despite the added pop (16.0 K%). I’d like to see him stay taller (straighter) through his trunk, which could help him with inside pitches. His stance also has a tendency to get “noisy.” I was pleasantly surprised with Phelps’ bat speed and load.

9. Levon Washington, OF
Acquired: 2010 2nd round (Florida JC)
Pro Experience: 1 season
2010 MiLB Level: Rookie
Opening Day Age: 19
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5

Notes: I’m going to temper my enthusiasm for Washington until I see him play a full season in the minors. A first round draft pick out of high school, he declined to sign with the Rays and was set to go to the University of Florida before failing to qualify academically. That move allowed him to re-enter the draft one year later after attending junior college. Although he was drafted by the Indians in the second round, he received $1.2 million. Washington’s best tool is his speed. He has the potential to steal 40 bases in a MLB season. He takes a long stride at the plate and he sometimes looks off-balance, which hurts his ability to drive the ball with authority. Washington does show a nice line-drive swing. Defensively, he has good range but doesn’t get the best reads on fly balls so he could end up in left field.

10. Nick Hagadone, LHP
Acquired: 2007 supplemental 1st round (U of Washington)
Pro Experience: 4 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A+/AA
Opening Day Age: 25
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.0

Notes: Hagadone has a lot of potential but injuries have hampered his rise through the minors. The Tommy John survivor pitched a career-high 86.2 innings in ’10. There has been some thought that the lefty may be best-suited for work out of the bullpen. Hagadone has also posted excellent strikeout numbers (8.14 K/9 at double-A was the first time he didn’t post rates of 10.00+ K/9). Historically, he produces outstanding ground-ball rates but he was slightly below average in 2010, which is hopefully not a sign of things to come. Hagadone’s control is below average (6.29 BB/9), which is another reason why he might fit better in the bullpen. His repertoire hasn’t been quite as sharp since he came back from surgery, but his heater still sits 90-95 mph. He also has a slider and changeup; both pitches show potential but are inconsistent. Hagadone has a high three-quarter delivery that he has smoothed out over time.




Print This Post



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


27 Responses to “Top 10 Prospects: The Cleveland Indians”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. jackweiland says:
    FanGraphs Supporting Member

    Any thoughts on Kipnis’ ability to break camp with the big club?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Matty Brown says:

    Didn’t know you were Canadian Marc. I live in the mostly ignored province of New Brunswick, it’s great to see Canadians involved in my baseball literature.

    I love your Prospect analysis, they are one of my absolute favorite parts of this site.

    Can’t wait to see the Jays rankings now that we possibly have a Top-5 system. (I hope/think)

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • jackweiland says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      Top 5? Blue Jays? Lemme guess, you’re a Leafs fan too …

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Matty Brown says:

        I actually despise Hockey and especially hate the Leafs.

        they could be 5th, other sites have been ranking them highly in top 100 lists. maybe they are 6th or 7th.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Matty Brown says:

        just because I am bitter about being questioned, I am coming back to this comment after The Hardball Times and ESPN have the Jays 4th and BP have them high and another site that I can’t recall right now has them in the Top 5 as well. In yo Face.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Lewis says:

        Yes, top 5.

        Get a clue.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. david schau says:

    Word is that Kipnis will likely stay in AAA until around mid-season when we might see a firesale mode set in with the Indians. Wonder if Sizemore would be part of that expected firesale

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • JR says:

      Not thinking firesale. They’ve unloaded just about everyone that fits the MO, and Sizemore’s a longshot to be moved.

      As for the rankings, a bit surprised to see Knapp at 7, think he’s #4 at worst, and probably has the highest ceiling of anybody in the system.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Steve says:

      Firesale? Who would the Indians be selling off to make room for Kipnis? Why would Sizemore be moved? Chisenhall, Kipnis and White are expected to contribute later this year as not only are they the 3 top prospects in the system, they fill the 3 biggest holes for the Indians right now.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • jswede says:

      where did you get that “word”? silly to make things up.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • genemullett says:

      There will be no firesale.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. John Franco says:

    Man if I’m an Indians fan this doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy. Their top 4 prospects are Casey Blake, Jake Westbrook, Freddy Sanchez and Andy Pettitte?

    (Sort of being facetious, but it takes an awful lot of 4-win players to win without some 6 and 7 win players)

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Stairmaster Jenkins says:

      Well, I think the Casey Blake-Lonnie Chisenhall comparison is reasonable, but Chisenhall has a better approach at the plate. I wouldn’t get too wrapped up in the projected WAR stuff, but to each his own. I am among the camp that thinks Chisenhall doesn’t have an ultra high ceiling but I think he’s at least a Blake/Kevin Kouzmanoff type in a macro sense. Maybe Mike Lowell would be his high end comparable?

      I like Alex White better than most I think. I actually believe he still holds #2 starter-esque upside & has a pretty safe floor as a perennial 175 IP or so guy. His ceiling is higher than the prime of Jake Westbrook’s career to me. I agree with Mr. Hulet that Drew Pomeranz has great tools & am anxious to see him debut. He profiles as a hard throwing, lefty ace if he fulfills his extreme potential. As for Jason Knapp, I’d be surprised if he wasn’t eventually a reliever, especially at this point.

      Good list. I’m a little less high on Jason Kipnis than some, but he’d still be in my Top 10 list. I feel like former Husky P Nick Hagadone might rebound some in 2011 & overtake Knapp in the estimation of the organization & am surprised that Kyle Blair isn’t included, but solid job altogether.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Stairmaster Jenkins says:

        What the hey, this would be my Top 10:

        1- Alex White
        2- Lonnie Chisenhall
        3- Drew Pomeranz (could/should rise to top in ’11 probably)
        4 – Jason Kipnis
        5 – Kyle Blair
        6 – Jason Knapp (on talent)
        7 – Nick Weglarz
        8 – Nick Hagadone
        9 – LeVon Washington
        10- Chun Hsiu Chen

        Pretty similar.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • JR says:

      Well lets throw em on a team with Shin Soo Choo and Carlos Santana and see what happens

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Max says:

      How many 6 or 7 win players are out there? You think they just grow on trees?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Steve says:

      That is some mighty fine cherry picking. Though I don’t see what the issue is with getting those pitchers. But the hitters? You’re going to chose two guys who had one flash in the pan years that they couldn’t sustain? What if I said the Indians had a couple Ian Kinslers? Doesn’t that sound a whole lot better?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • genemullett says:

      I’m OK with this. No one expected the Tribe to be leading the league in Run Differential at this point either, so estimations, like some seals, get clubbed.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. Statement says:

    Might I humbly suggest doing one of these lists for the Blue Jays.

    Thanks.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Jim says:

      Yeah, I’m sure the Blue Jays’ review/profile is coming soon. We’re going from worst to best minor league system if I’m not mistaken, and right now we’re at #12(according to the header above, at least).

      So, 11 more systems to go. :)

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. Bascinator says:

    Any chance these top 10 lists for 2011 can be placed in one location? It’s nice to see the top 10 lists for specific teams, but a comparison of Estimated Peak WAR between top 10 lists for different teams would be very interesting to see.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. Marc Hulet says:

    I believe David is working to get a link to all the Top 10s on the main page… hopefully coming soon.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. Erik P says:

    marc, not sure what you mean by hitters showing an upper cut. in both chisenhall and kipnis you mention they have an upper cut. to me, it seems as though you see this as a bad thing. i believe that to be an incorrect observation. a slight upper cut is a good thing for a baseball swing. just ask ted williams. in his book on hitting he explains that a slight uppercut is best, because a pitched ball does not come in on a straight line. im interested to see what your thoughts are on the upper cut.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. Marc Hulet says:

    For sure the upper cut can be a good thing in a swing as long as it doesn’t get too carried away… it’s less important in Kipnis’ swing than Chisenhall’s… as Kipnis is more of a line-drive power guy. The more level his swing, the better… as the bat will be in the hitting zone longer, giving him a better chance to hit for average/make contact. For Chisenhall, the upper cut obviously helps him generate some of his power/loft, which is key for his positional value.

    Ideally, a nice level swing can generate power from strong wrists/quick hip/bat speed.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. Yakuzafro says:

    I apologize if this is a subject that’s been brought up before, but how relevant is BABIP for a hitter in the minor leagues? At the major league level there is presumed to be an equal enough level of talent that certain BABIPs are seen as unsustainable (particularly very high for hitters and very low for pitchers).

    However, in the minor leagues, the talent gap has to be exceptionally wider, does it not? Top prospects face off against pitchers that may never see any level above AA ball, the prototypical “organizational filler.”

    With a wider talent gap, would one not expect to find the exceptionally talented group hitting the ball harder and further than their less talented counterparts? Is the difference between Lonnie Chisenhall and the 7th place hitter for his AA team any less than the difference between Joe Mauer and Jason Kubel?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. Marc Hulet says:

    With BABIP, though, if you see a player that has an out-of-characeter seasons where he suddenly hits .340 after four seasons of .250 you can often tie that back to a high (unsustainable) BABIP, unless it’s a true breakout. Really, the stat is the piece of a puzzle that we should always consider but you definitely don’t walk to make too many assumptions on it by itself.

    Or, if you have a catcher with a consistent .340+ BABIP… I don’t buy that’s going to continue in the Majors, because they’re not going beat out enough infield singles to sustain those numbers.It would suggest that he’s being helped by playing against poor defenses or poor infield quality.

    Basically I see it as a stat that cautions you about getting too excited about a high batting average, or too disappointed by a low average.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Yakuzafro says:

      I can certainly see that.

      However, to drop the BABIP/luck factor on a minor leaguer who is both considered a top prospect and has a fairly small sample size seems slightly rash.

      We would not expect him to continue with that BABIP level in the majors, and if that is the point of citing minor league BABIP I suppose I can understand. However, it seems to be being used to dampen even minor league performance, which I think is a but unjust. Should we also regress high school BABIP, where he also likely posted abnormally high numbers compared to the major league average?

      I just don’t know that BABIP tells us very much about individual hitters at that age and at that level. BABIP in the minors seems far more useful for pitching prospects, particularly ground ballers (as you and other writers have astutely pointed out), who are subject to the whim of varying defenses.

      Vote -1 Vote +1