As Andrew wrote the other day, expectations are mild at best for the 2010 Cleveland Indians. Therefore, with the team in yet another rebuilding stage and strategizing for a run at contention no earlier than 2011, it is time to start looking at the top prospects in the organization.
For many years now, the Akron Aeros have been one of the most successful franchises in minor league baseball and the team will start to see many of these prospects flow up the system. Along with these prospects, the many trades made last July and the fairly successful draft class from the past couple of years, there is no doubt that the Tribe’s system is loaded.
This post will serve as a reminder of where to expect the top prospects in the entire organization, as ranked by Baseball America last month. Hopefully we can see some of these guys contribute to the team with hopes of a more successful team in 2011:
10. 2B/OF Jason Kipinis – Cleveland’s second round draft pick in June 2009 out of Arizona State, Kipnis should be one of the few positional prospects worth watching in the system. As seen by the acquisition of Brian Bixler and Mark Grudzielanek over the winter, this organization has very few infield prospects. If positioned there for the rest of his playing days, Kipnis should have a straight shot at contending for a MLB job within just a few years. 2010 Outlook: Kinston with outside shot of Akron
9. RHP Alex White – The big deal from last year’s draft out of North Carolina, White should be a joy to watch develop through the system. A hard throwing right hander and a first-round pick with good potential to actually be worth his value, White will still have the option to emerge in the big leagues as a reliever. Fans want him up in Cleveland as soon as possible but you will probably have to wait at least a year for this kid. 2010 Outlook: Kinston then Akron by August
8. RHP Carlos Carrasco – A much different type of prospect than the two recent draft picks, Carrasco remains on this board because of his relative youth and potential in the higher rankings of the system. He should continue to get plenty of opportunities in this organization as long as pitching is at a premium. He will get a chance this season yet again, but will probably start in the minors again. 2010 Outlook: Columbus then Cleveland by June
7. RHP Hector Rondon – Comparing Carrasco to Rondon and how they are used in the system this season will show a lot about the organization’s mindset. Rondon is two years younger with only a few months of Triple-A experience and that means he is lower in the pecking order right now. Carrasco should get a chance first but Rondon will be there to pick up the pieces by next spring. 2010 Outlook: Columbus then Cleveland by September
6. OF Nick Weglarz – The batting average doesn’t show it from last season, but Weglarz can be a force when healthy in the middle of a lineup. This 22-year-old Canadian is lighting up the stat sheet in spring training this year, and hopefully that will lead the way for an entirely healthy season. He still has plenty of potential as a power hitting left fielder. 2010 Outlook: Akron then Columbus by August
5. OF Michael Brantley – The only prospect on this list who I believe will start the season with the Indians, Brantley has played his way into contention with an awesome spring. The combination of him and LaPorta should be the center pieces of a youth revolution coming up through the Indians system and to punish him by sending him to Columbus would send the wrong message. Keep up the development by freeing at bats for both him and LaPorta in Cleveland this season. 2010 Outlook: Cleveland all year
4. RHP Jason Knapp – Acquired in the Cliff Lee trade last July, Knapp pitched several weeks for Lake County before his season ended with surgery. I have yet to see an update since January on his health in his recovery, but there is no reason to think that he should advance very far in the system just yet. The only teenager on this list, he has plenty of time to develop into the star the organization thought they landed from Philly. 2010 Outlook: Lake County and Kinston all year
3. LHP Nick Hagadone – Coming off Tommy John surgery a year ago, Hagadone was limited in his many starts in Single-A last year. He would routinely only go a few innings on his start dates to make sure he would be 100% this season. By all indications he is fully recovered and he should explode through the system. If converted to a reliever, he could break camp with the Tribe next year since he is much older than his soon-to-be teammate Knapp. 2010 Outlook: Kinston then Akron by June
2. 3B Lonnie Chisenhall – There is no doubt in my mind that the arrival of Chisenhall in Akron last August sparked the team for their third title in seven years in the Eastern League. He is a left-handed hitting spark with loads of potential as scouts continue to drool over his swing. He represents the future of that position in the organization and he should have a chance to compete for the Cleveland job in 2011. 2010 Outlook: Akron then Columbus by August
1. C Carlos Santana – The top guy in the system for the second season in a row, Santana lived up to all of the lofty expectations in Akron last year. He broke franchise records for walks, runs batted in and OPS while winning the EL MVP, his second minor league MVP in as many years. With no major blocks to his path to Cleveland, he should be on the fast-track to Progressive Field from day one this season. 2010 Outlook: Columbus then Cleveland by August