The deal is done. After much speculation and trade rumors and conflicting reports galore, the Indians have officially traded lefty Cliff Lee to the Philadelphia Phillies. Along with Ben Francisco, Lee will work with the defending World Champions in a crucial playoff setting for the rest of the season while the Indians have added four more prospects to their system. All of this adds to what was supposed to be an already tense day in the system with the organizational debuts of Scott Barnes in Kinston and Connor Graham in Akron.
So let’s see here… the Indians have traded away the defending AL Cy Young winner (and an MLB outfielder) to the defending World Series Champions for four minor leaguers. Say what you want to say about ever trading Cy Young winners in two straight seasons, but it is intriguing to see what this does to Cleveland’s minor league system. General Manager Mark Shapiro has received a ton of criticism over the past year plus, but this trade is in line with several others he has made for young minor leaguers with MLB-potential. The players the Indians received in this trade were not the same prospects other team’s were looking for in the Phillies organization, so I was just curious to investigate again and see what we have here:
RHP Jason Knapp – 6″5′, 225-lbs, turns 19 on August 31st
Second-round (#71 overall) in the 2008 June Draft
Arguably considered the center-piece of this trade, Knapp was the last person added to the deal from the initial reports we heard this morning. A right-hander who is currently pitching in the South Atlantic League, Knapp is a special minor league prospect mostly because of his success compared to his age. It has widely been considered common baseball knowledge to relate statistics in minor league levels to the age of the players, and that is how you can see the long-term value of a guy like Knapp. In the real world, Knapp would be as young as some people just now graduating from high school. In the baseball world here in 2009, he has already made 23 starts plus been in a MLB organization for over a year. He is the farthest away from contributing in Cleveland of any prospect acquired by the Indians thus far during this trading season.
2008 with GCL Phillies: 3-1 with 2.61 ERA in 7 starts (6 games)
2009 with mid-A Lakewood: 2-7 with 4.01 ERA in 17 starts
According to a report, Knapp was placed on the disabled list July 16th. For a prospect at his age, unless this injury is incredibly serious and requires surgery of some kind, then this has no major influence on his impact in the organization. The 10th rated prospect in Philadelphia’s system entering this year, he also supposedly hit 97 mph on the radar in a New Jersey state playoff game last season before entering the draft and passing up on an opportunity at North Carolina. He has gotten good reports on a hard slider and a changeup, while his physicality and arm strength absolutely makes scouts drool. Some people has mentioned him eventually becoming a top closer in the big leagues, but that decision is still probably two years away. He will more likely than not finish this season with Lake County (if healthy), compete for a job in Kinston and hopefully make some appearances in Akron by the end of next season at age 20.
RHP Carlos Carrasco – 6″3′, 178-lbs, turned 22 on March 17th
Signed out of Barquisimeto, Venezuela by the Phillies in 2003
A player that reports have indicated was on the trade block for a while now, Carrasco ends up in a perfect situation for a 22-year-old pitcher with his potential: Cleveland. He will enter into the Columbus Clippers rotation with limited immediate pressure to work his way up into the Major League rotation. The 2nd rated prospect entering the year in the Phillies organization, Carrasco has noticeably struggled in his transition on the mound in Triple-A. Entering an organization now that is out of the playoff race in 2009, and still no World Series threat in 2010, Carrasco has the ability to blossom into a future under-the-table star. His age will help him just like Knapp, and it is impressive that a guy this young already has 696.1 innings of experience in the minor leagues. Pairing him up with compatriot Hector Rondon in Columbus can only be a good thing for competition, as he should be eventually expected to enter either as a starter or reliever in Cleveland late next season.
2007 with adv-A Clearwater: 6-4 with 2.84 ERA in 12 starts
2007 with AA Reading: 6-4 with 4.86 ERA in 14 starts (13 games)
2008 with AA Reading: 7-7 with 4.32 ERA in 20 starts (19 games)
2008 with AAA Lehigh Valley: 2-2 with 1.72 ERA in 6 starts
2009 with AAA Lehigh Valley: 6-9 with 5.18 ERA in 20 starts
The numbers this season are definitely a reason for concern about Carrasco, but then there is the patience required with accelerating an international prospect like him. He was grooving in 2007 with Clearwater, but then struggled in two stints with Reading and has thus far with Lehigh Valley as well in 2009. His fastball sits around 91-94 mph and he has a plus changeup and an average consistent curveball. Despite the batting numbers against him this season (9.3 hits per nine innings), he still has racked up 112 strikeouts against only 38 walks in 114.2 innings pitched. Without pressure in Cleveland, I definitely do expect him to produce soon. Pavano will arguably not be around later this season, and Carrasco should soon find his way into a Major League starting role.
SS Jason Donald – 6″1′, 190-lbs, turns 25 on September 5th
Third-round (#97 overall) in the 2006 June Draft
Older than the rest of this quartet, Donald helps to insure a forgotten need in the Cleveland Indians minor league system: middle infield depth. Sure fans will point out that the current roster of middle infielders in Cleveland are young and should be the core for many years to come, but what about in the minors right now? DP can attest to the fact that 2B/SS situation has been sticky in Columbus this season, and this Arizona product will fit perfectly into the mold along with Barfield, playing everyday. He was one of the top rated prospects for Team USA last season along with then Eastern League rival Matt LaPorta, and was an All-Star for the Reading Phillies in a career season as well in 2008. His MLB future is probably the most questionable of this four because of his age and the quality of middle infielders in Cleveland alone, but count me in as not surprised that the Indians did something to help out the team in a system-way.
2007 with mid-A Lakewood: 51 GP, .310 avg, 4 HR, 30 RBI
2007 with adv-A Clearwater: 83 GP, .300 avg, 8 HR, 41 RBI
2008 with AA Reading: 91 GP, .307 avg, 14 HR, 54 RBI
2009 with AA Reading: 9 GP, .231 avg, 0 HR, 1 RBI
2009 with AAA Lehigh Valley: 51 GP, .236 avg, 1 HR, 16 RBI
Once again, the numbers are down here in Triple-A this season. Does this mean it is the end of the road for Donald? Not necessarily at all because a lot of his value in the Indians organization will come from just being in Columbus for the rest of this season and the beginning of next year as we see right now. Baseball America stated that in the long-term his future MLB role will probably be as a super-utility infielder with the potential to play third, short and second. Once Jamey Carroll leaves within the next year or so, that role should be Donald’s for the taking. He has shown some pop at times, but at age 25 his development has probably stunted for the most part. Certainly will have the potential to play in the bigs, but won’t be a stud like the other guys in this deal.
C Lou Marson – 6″1′, 195-lbs, turned 23 on June 26
Fourth-round (#122 overall) in the 2004 June Draft
Another All-Star for Reading last season, Marson’s name probably creates the most question marks out of any of the prospects added to this deal. A catcher? A catcher when we have Victor? A catcher when we have Santana? How about Shoppach, Gimenez and Toregas? Well Marson is insurance for everything right now as the future past 2010 of both Shoppach and Martinez has already been questioned. Santana is at least one year away from starting everyday at the Major League level, and with the rarity of hitting catchers, I can’t imagine any other organization complaining about adding a #3 prospect like Marson with his potential. He should slide in immediately as the everyday starting catcher for Columbus, and should certainly compete next season as the day-to-day catcher for Cleveland if his numbers if improve, giving Martinez more work at first base.
2007 with adv-A Clearwater: 111 GP, .288 avg, 7 HR, 63 RBI
2008 with AA Reading: 94 GP, .314 avg, 5 HR, 46 RBI
2009 with AAA Lehigh Valley: 63 GP, .294 avg, 1 HR, 24 RBI
This Arizona HS catcher had an awesome season last year for Reading, just like Donald, but also had the experience of being with Philadelphia when they won the World Series crown. He made his MLB debut in the final game of the regular season in 08, hitting a home run before servicing as the emergency bullpen catcher throughout the playoffs. Baseball America stated that he was supposed to become the regular catcher for the Phillies rather soon and as quickly as this season, but his hitting certainly could make him an MLB regular anywhere. Down the road, I think that Marson will stick around until it is time to have Santana there everyday. Martinez will probably be gone sometime soon along with Shoppach, and thus Marson is a guy who will have value in Columbus and above for many years to come no matter what.