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Top 10 Prospects: The Cleveland Indians

Posted By Marc Hulet On February 8, 2011 @ 10:00 am In Minor Leagues | 27 Comments

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.


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