The Diff is your weekly Wednesday WFNY look into the amazing world of sports statistics. For a complete log of articles, click this link. Last week’s topic was reader-recommended, as I looked into some key differences with the 2013 Indians. Now, it’s back to prospect talk.
As much as I love talking about the Indians and their increasingly annoying major league team, my original writing passion was in minor league baseball. That’s why last year I had my regular WFNY Wednesday Wahoos feature. Every week, it broke down the ongoings of the top prospects and some other players of note. Here in 2013, I’ve been a bit more irregular with these breakdowns, debuting a hybrid approach in The Diff back on June 5. So again today, here are your latest updates on Cleveland baseball prospects as we approach the MLB All-Star Game and trade deadline.
Top 10 organizational prospects
For context on this aggregate ranking, visit my WFNY article from early March.
All stats below are as of games played on Monday, July 8.
1. Francisco Lindor, A+ Carolina, SS, 11/14/93
Season stats: .309/.377/.417 in 80 games with 1 HR, 27 RBI, 34 BB, 38 K, 19 SB, 16 E
Recent stretch (June 22nd): .350/.394/.483 in 14 games with 0 HR, 4 RBI, 5 BB, 9 K, 1 SB
Just on Monday, Lindor was re-ranked by Baseball America as the No. 5 prospect in baseball. Other publications have had similarly rave reviews of the young shortstop as the season has progressed. He’s posting notably better offensive numbers than last season with A Lake County and remains sensationally young for High-A. He’s clearly Cleveland’s best prospect.
2. Trevor Bauer, AAA Columbus and MLB Cleveland, RHP, 1/17/1991
AAA stats: 4-2 record, 4.06 ERA, 14 starts, 77.2 IP, 76 H, 41 BB, 72 K
MLB stats: 1-2 record, 5.29 ERA, 4 starts, 17.0 IP, 15 H, 16 BB, 11 K
Recent stretch (July 3rd): 1-0 record, 3.46 ERA, 2 starts, 13.0 IP, 17 H, 5 BB, 5 K
The enigmatic Bauer has had back-to-back quality starts in Columbus, which is more than fans have seen in Cleveland thus far in his few MLB outings. It says something that the Indians are picking Danny Salazar instead of Bauer for Thursday’s spot start: What exactly, I’m not sure. Bauer’s the more prized prospect, but still just needs more seasoning with his control in the more friendly confines of the minors.
3. Dorssys Paulino, A Lake County, SS, 11/21/1994
Season stats: .241/.290/.350 in 74 games with 3 HR, 28 RBI, 18 BB, 48 K, 8 SB, 30 E
Recent stretch (May 15th): .278/.308/.449 in 45 games with 3 HR, 22 RBI, 7 BB, 25 K, 7 SB
The system’s consensus No. 3 prospect after the Big Two, Paulino had a disastrous offensive start to the season in the Midwest League. He’s still very young for this level (a la Lindor), but now is starting to pick up his game, especially in the slugging department. The main concern I have: Clearly, shortstop is not his long-term position as his 30 (!!) errors are by far the most in the league.
4. Tyler Naquin, A+ Carolina, CF, 4/24/1991
Season stats: .298/.364/.452 in 80 games with 6 HR, 33 RBI, 31 BB, 82 K, 9 SB, 4 E
Recent stretch (June 22nd): .213/.294/.344 in 14 games with 0 HR, 4 RBI, 7 BB, 14 K
Have I told you before how I’m not a huge fan of Naquin’s long-term potential? Well yes, especially since he’s 22 and appears to be struggling in his first full season. His slugging numbers aren’t bad, he’s starting to show a bit more patience of late, but altogether the product isn’t too great. These are a huge next few months for him. He might get a shot to show his stuff in Double-A before 2013 ends.
5. Mitch Brown, Rookie Arizona and A Lake County, RHP, 4/13/1994
Rookie Stats: 0-2 record, 9.00 ERA, 4 starts, 15.0 IP, 24 H, 7 BB, 14 K
A Stats: 1-1 record, 11.49 ERA, 5 starts, 15.2 IP, 21 H, 11 BB, 18 K
The team’s No. 2 selection in 2012 had a pleasant performance in the Arizona League last season. This year? Not so much, nor in his brief early-season games in the Midwest League. He didn’t pitch anywhere from May 1st to June 20th, conceivably working on his control again. Fortunately, Brown remains quite young and was highly touted coming out of high school. But things aren’t pretty so far.
6. Tony Wolters, A+ Carolina, C/DH, 6/9/1992
Season stats: .265/.335/.370 in 43 games with 3 HR, 19 RBI, 18 BB, 34 K, 3 SB, 2 E
Recent stretch (June 8th): .318/.392/.470 in 17 games with 2 HR, 10 RBI, 8 BB, 10 K, 1 SB
The converted middle infielder who missed a month earlier this year on the disabled list has been playing much better of late. This was seen as a rebuilding season for Wolters, per FanGraphs, as he re-learned the catching position. If his hitting numbers can remain as solid as they were in 2012 and of late, he’ll remain a solid prospect to watch going forward at an even rarer defensive position.
7. Ronny Rodriguez, AA Akron, 2B/SS, 4/17/1992
Season stats: .292/.312/.431 in 73 games with 4 HR, 37 RBI, 9 BB, 46 K, 9 SB, 14 E
Recent stretch (May 22nd): .373/.394/.552 in 31 games with 2 HR, 22 RBI, 6 BB, 19 K, 4 SB
Rodriguez was one of the hottest hitters in the minors before a 10-day sit with a sore hamstring at the end of June. Jim Pete at IBI had a good article on Sunday about the changes at the plate that the Dominican prospect has made this season. The question that will follow Rodriguez for the rest of his Indians career, however, is where he’ll fit with Lindor’s place atop the organization’s future priority list.
8. Luigi Rodriguez, A Lake County and A+ Carolina, LF/CF, 11/13/1992
A+ Stats: .283/.383/.398 in 34 games with 0 HR, 11 RBI, 18 BB, 36 K, 3 SB, 3 E
A Stats: .263/.345/.329 in 22 games with 1 HR, 9 RBI, 10 BB, 25 K, 5 SB, 1 E
Recent stretch (May 17th): .321/.455/.415 in 17 games with 0 HR, 6 RBI, 13 BB, 16 K, 2 SB
The other Rodriguez has only played seven games since June, conceivably still battling the same left shoulder issue. He had been having a breakthrough season, earning the quick promotion to A+ Carolina at the end of April. He was even displaying improved patience of late and could have as much upside of any player in the system with his hitting and speed.
9. Danny Salazar, AA Akron and AAA Columbus, RHP, 1/11/1990
AAA Stats: 3-2 record, 10 starts, 3.40 ERA, 42.1 IP, 34 H, 13 BB, 49 K
AA Stats: 2-3 record, 7 starts, 2.67 ERA, 33.2 IP, 27 H, 10 BB, 51 K
Recent stretch (June 26th): 2-0 record, 3 starts, 0.00 ERA, 13.0 IP, 4 H, 4 BB, 11 K
Nobody has lifted their prospect standing more this year than the hard-throwing Salazar. I wrote about his fantastic start in May, shortly after he was promoted to Triple-A Columbus. After a brief 10-day rest in mid-May, he’s been limited since, not exceeding 78 pitches in his last four outings. But if Akron Aeros media relations director Adam Liberman’s optimistic tweet holds true, he could be a savior in Cleveland starting with his MLB debut tomorrow night against the Toronto Blue Jays.
10. Jose Ramirez, AA Akron, 2B/SS, 9/17/1992
Season stats: .271/.333/.354 in 80 games with 3 HR, 29 RBI, 33 BB, 28 K, 33 SB, 12 E
Recent stretch (June 29th): .404/.440/.532 in 10 games with 0 HR, 4 RBI, 3 BB, 3 K, 10 SB
Last year’s sabermetic sensation, Ramirez is a singles-dominant speed demon in the middle infield. He has an astonishing seven (!!) multi-hit performances in his last 10 contests, along with 10 more steals. He’s been playing more shortstop over the past month with Ronny Rodriguez’s health issues. Ramirez also is a K/BB machine, which is incredibly impressive for his young age.
Assorted other hitter prospects
Cord Phelps, AAA Columbus and MLB Cleveland, 2B, 1/23/1987
AAA Stats: .267/.333/.443 in 65 games with 9 HR, 46 RBI, 27 BB, 49 K, 4 SB, 4 E
MLB Stats: .000/.000/.000 in 4 games with 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 BB, 2 K, 0 SB, 1 E
Recent stretch (June 23rd): .182/.269/.182 in 7 games with 0 HR, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 4 K, 1 SB
Phelps was moved to the DL last week with a sprained right wrist. Doesn’t it seem like he’s been around forever now? He’s only 26 and was the team’s No. 3 pick in 2008. But he certainly feels doomed to a career as a backup infielder, as his 363-game AAA career might suggest.
Carlos Moncrief, AA Akron, RF, 11/3/1988
Season stats: .298/.372/.479 in 84 games with 11 HR, 50 RBI, 38 BB, 73 K, 9 SB, 4 E
Recent stretch (May 29th): .364/.434/.607 in 36 games with 6 HR, 31 RBI, 17 BB, 28 K, 6 SB
This big-bodied converted pitcher also has had a huge season for his prospect standing. Moncrief’s impressive 12 assists show he still has an arm, but the bat has been the real difference-maker for the Aeros. Could be a late bloomer and can showcase multiple tools at high levels.
Jesus Aguilar, AA Akron, 1B, 6/30/1990
Season stats: .266/.349/.406 in 83 games with 8 HR, 68 RBI, 40 BB, 71 K, 0 SB, 13 E
Recent stretch (June 5th): .294/.391/.462 in 31 games with 2 HR, 26 RBI, 17 BB, 24 K, 0 SB
Your regular reminder that RBI is not a very useful long-term statistic. Aguilar, who’s been at least decent of late, used to be a top-10 prospect, but isn’t such a rare slugger. In fact, his teammate Moncrief now might have the best pure power among non-redheaded Indians prospects.
Jerrud Sabourin, A+ Carolina, 1B, 11/2/1989
Season stats: .297/.386/.390 in 72 games with 3 HR, 31 RBI, 37 BB, 38 K, 0 SB, 7 E
Recent stretch (June 24th): .213/.321/.277 in 13 games with 0 HR, 3 RBI, 6 BB, 9 K, 0 SB
Sabourin’s not a true prospect and doesn’t have any power. But just like he showed in A Lake County last season, he can be a very effective hitter. His patience is very advanced for his level, just like Lindor and Ramirez. I think he could have a long career, but might not reach the majors.
Joe Wendle, A+ Carolina, 2B, 4/26/1990
Season stats: .330/.404/.608 in 56 games with 11 HR, 40 RBI, 22 BB, 34 K, 6 SB, 10 E
Recent stretch (June 12th): .386/.439/.739 in 22 games with 6 HR, 20 RBI, 5 BB, 14 K, 5 SB
When drafted in 2012’s sixth round, Wendle was pinpointed as a newfound “value pick”, an easy sign designed to save Cleveland’s top-10 round slot money. But he’s provided more than just system depth, hitting very well just like last year in A Lake County. He’s a guy you just have to root for.
D’Vone McClure, Rookie Arizona, LF, 1/22/1994
Season stats: .185/.254/.259 in 13 games with 0 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 22 K, 1 SB, 1 E
Labeled as a project uber-athlete, the Indians nabbed McClure in the 2012 fourth round. He’s only played out in Arizona so far with mixed success. Fortunately, he’s only a few months older than Frazier so he still has oodles of upside long-term.
Clint Frazier, Rookie Arizona, CF, 9/6/1994
Season stats: .389/.419/.694 in 10 games with 1 HR, 12 RBI, 3 BB, 11 K, 0 SB, 0 E
I said the Indians needed to hit a home run with this year’s No. 5 pick, and they shot for the stars with this redheaded Georgian prep star. He’s had a sensationally hot start out in Arizona. I’d slot him as the organization’s No. 4 prospect, just behind Paulino but way ahead of Naquin.
Assorted other pitcher prospects
C.C. Lee, A Lake County and AA Akron and AAA Columbus, RHP, 10/21/1986
AAA Stats: 0-0 record, 5 games, 1.59 ERA, 5.2 IP, 2 H, 3 BB, 12 K
AA Stats: 0-0 record, 8 games, 3.38 ERA, 8.0 IP, 3 H, 4 BB, 9 K
A Stats: 0-0 record, 2 games, 0.00 ERA, 2.0 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 4 K
My two favorite Eastern League relievers of all time: Tim Collins and Chen-Chang Lee. The Taiwanese reliever is on the comeback trail from Tommy John surgery and finally just returned to Columbus. He has a career 11.5 K/9 ratio in 164.2 IP in AA and AAA.
Blake Wood, Four Teams incl. AAA Columbus, RHP, 8/8/1985
AAA Stats: 0-0 record, 2 games, 0.00 ERA, 2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 BB, 4 K
AA Stats: 0-0 record, 7 games, 4.50 ERA, 6.0 IP, 8 H, 5 BB, 6 K
A Stats: 0-0 record, 3 games, 0.00 ERA, 2.2 IP, 1 H, 3 BB, 3 K
SS Stats: 0-0 record, 1 game, 0.00 ERA, 1.0 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 0 K
Per Tony Lastoria at IBI, the Indians must make a decision this week on Wood’s future. A former decent Kansas City reliever also recovering from Tommy John surgery, his rehab has been paused multiple times so far. But his 30-day rehab limit is approaching soon as he’s on the team’s 40-man roster.
T.J. House, AA Akron and AAA Columbus, LHP, 9/29/1989
AAA Stats: 1-9 record, 13 starts, 5.86 ERA, 73.2 IP, 90 H, 36 BB, 50 K
AA Stats: 2-1 record, 4 starts, 3.22 ERA, 22.1 IP, 20 H, 3 BB, 27 K
Recent stretch (June 28th): 0-2 record, 2 starts, 9.35 ERA, 8.2 IP, 17 H, 6 BB, 2 K
While he didn’t make an appearance in his brief MLB stay last month, House remains on the Indians options. He bucked a recent slide with a really solid 6-inning shutout performance on Tuesday night. His control is the key for his future and he still has upside at only 23 years old.
Matt Packer, AA Akron, LHP, 8/28/1987
Season stats: 8-5 record, 18 games, 2.55 ERA, 102.1 IP, 111 H, 31 BB, 76 K
Recent stretch (May 18th): 7-0 record, 10 games, 1.48 ERA, 61.0 IP, 53 H, 14 BB, 54 K
An aggressive over-sign in the 32nd round in 2009 out of the University of Virginia, Packer quickly shot up to Akron in 2010. Old for his level, he’s finally found his groove with the Aeros in his dominating current 10-start stretch. His stuff isn’t that electric, but when his command is on, he’s very solid.
Jordan Cooper, A+ Carolina and AA Akron, RHP, 5/10/1989
AA Stats: 4-4 record, 16 games, 3.31 ERA, 68.0 IP, 52 H, 31 BB, 53 K
A+ Stats: 1-2 record, 4 starts, 2.19 ERA, 24.2 IP, 16 H, 7 BB, 17 K
Recent stretch (June 8th): 3-2 record, 6 starts, 1.89 ERA, 38.0 IP, 21 H, 18 BB, 25 K
The team’s No. 9 pick in 2010, he earned his promotion to Double-A in late April. He had a brief stint in the bullpen last month, but has returned to the rotation with a vengeance. His K/BB ratios are not ideal with the Aeros, but his command was much better with the Mudcats.
Cody Anderson, A+ Carolina, RHP, 9/14/1990
Season stats: 7-3 record, 17 starts, 2.55 ERA, 88.1 IP, 75 H, 24 BB, 83 K
Recent stretch (June 11th): 2-0 record, 5 starts, 1.61 ERA, 22.1 IP, 14 H, 7 BB, 21 K
Let’s try this a third time: I’ll keep shouting Cody Anderson’s name from the prospect rooftops if I have to. He’s my third favorite Cody (behind my girlfriend and Cody Allen) and having the best year of any full-season start in the Indians system. He deserves a shot in Double-A by the end of the year.
Kieran Lovegrove, Rookie Arizona, RHP, 7/28/1994
Season stats: 1-0 record, 3 starts, 1.93 ERA, 14.0 IP, 12 H, 4 BB, 15 K
Another one of Cleveland’s high-upside draft picks last year, Lovegrove has pitched exclusively in Arizona thus far. The results are much more promising this season, so it’s possible he moves into the fold of top-15 prospect contention for 2014. His future could tilt the scales for the system’s pitching.
The final word
While it’s notable to recognize the All-Star caliber performances of many of the Indians fringe prospects in 2013, what really matters are the key players. As I wrote last time, the Cleveland system was still not very well regarded entering this season, with several outlets remarking how they have some high-end potential, but need more guys to step up outside of the Big Two.
Somewhat, that has happened thus far this season with the decent-to-good snapshots of production I featured above. Yet, there still is disappointment all around, especially in reference to some of the recent high-end pitching draft picks (looking at you, Dillon Howard) and other mid-tier prospects (such as Aguilar or recently-released 2012 13th round pick Tyler Booth). Overall, I don’t think the Indians system has made quite the leap many had hoped for, but instead still is deservingly in the 16-20ish range of minor league systems.
Which leads me to this final point for today: Who are some of the key trade-eligible prospects to watch over the next three weeks of MLB rumors? As Scott wrote yesterday, the Indians front office might need to make a move sooner rather than later to stay in playoff contention. The pitching especially has been rather inconsistent and suspect of late. So who are guys I’d be eyeing if I were a rival front office executive? Here are six for starters.
Dorssys Paulino — Only 18 years old in the Midwest League, he’s knocking on the door of top-100 prospect standing. So why is he potentially expendable? Because of No. 1 prospect Francisco Lindor, of course. Conceivably, because of Ronny Rodriguez and Jose Ramirez too. But Paulino could be the prospect anchor of some semi-major move.
Ronny Rodriguez — Why does RonRod stick out to me? Because of his skill set and positional scarcity. He’s much more solidly built at 6-foot, 170 than his middle infield partner Ramirez, making him maybe more well-liked prospect-wise. He has the potential to keep adding more power to his frame. If his current health issues check out, he’d be a nice B-ish prospect.
Danny Salazar — Could Thursday’s debut simply be an audition? Salazar probably isn’t ready to contribute full-time at the MLB level, but could be eased into a role for 2014. At only 23, his best-case scenario upside mirrors his 2013 Double-A production: 51 strikeouts in 33.2 innings. Woah.
Enosil Tejeda, Bryce Stowell or Austin Adams — When teams make deadline trades, they look for high-upside players that could contribute at any position or any level. These three Akron relievers have had monster strikeout seasons (Tejeda 50 in 37.0 innings; Stowell 48 in 35.0 innings; Adams 46 in 33.0 innings), yet come with a variety of baggage situations. A player like these three or a Cody Anderson would serve as a decent complementary prospect for a deal.
Sleepers: Scott Barnes, Nick Hagadone or Juan Diaz — Remember these guys? *Distant sighs and nods* Well, in a trade, they represent valuable commodities of potential MLB lefty relievers and a backup infielder. They’ve all hit a near wall in their production, currently doing just OK at the Triple-A level. But they’d again be high-upside complementary pick-ups that a certain team could require.
So yeah, what the Indians system lacks in a rock solid collection of high-end minor league talent, they partially make up in a mixture of high-upside, high-risk players. While a 2013 trade isn’t likely to hinge on either of Lindor or Bauer, the players above could be some of the key pieces moved to help the Indians with their hybrid approach of winning now and not mortgaging the future. I’ll especially be intrigued to see how it affects the impending 2014 prospect rankings.