Over the past few years, the Indians have made several trades to stock-pile on young pitchers in their minor league system. Among the notable fan favorites no longer in the red and blue are Victor Martinez, C.C. Sabathia, Casey Blake, Mark DeRosa, Cliff Lee, Rafael Betancourt and others.
But in the meantime, these young pitchers have continued developing up and down the Cleveland organization. From Lake County down to Kinston and back up to Akron and Columbus, these new pitchers have helped the entire Player Development System ranked second overall with 154 total wins this season.
Last year around the trade deadline, I wrote several extended features previewing the various pieces joining the Indians and their farm teams. Now with the majority of these trades over 10 months ago, it is time to re-hash how all of these prospects are doing and map out their hopeful and eventual road to playing in Cleveland.
Featured below are seven pitchers currently playing in Kinston or above that have a shot at contending for a spot on a Cleveland roster by the end of the 2011 season.
Among the players not featured here, RHP Jason Knapp (Cliff Lee trade) is recovering from shoulder surgery and is expected to begin his season soon with Class A Kinston while RHP Yohan Pino (Carl Pavano trade) is doing well in a starting role with the Clippers.
Without any further ado, let’s start with the top pitching prospect acquired from last July’s trade of with the Philadelphia Phillies:
RHP Carlos Carrasco – 6″3′, 221-lbs, turned 23 on March 17th
Signed out of Venezuela by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2003
Acquired for Cliff Lee by Indians on July 29, 2009
Carrasco had a rough stretch with Cleveland at the end of last season, but remains a decent prospect because of his youth and experience level at the top classes of the minor leagues. Doubting the long-term future of players like Jake Westbrook in the Indians rotation, he should be an option very soon because of his decent strikeout-to-walk numbers in his Columbus career.
2009 with Columbus: 5-1, 3.19 ERA, six starts, 42.1 IP, 31 H, 7 BB, 36 K
2009 with Cleveland: 0-4, 8.87 ERA, five starts, 22.1 IP, 40 H, 11 BB, 11 K
2010 with Columbus: 5-3, 4.22 ERA, 12 starts, 74.2 IP, 74 H, 25 BB, 63 K
There are not too many 23-year-old minor league pitchers that have logged 800 career innings pitched. Carrasco has done exactly that through the past seven years as a highly touted prospect in the Philadelphia and Cleveland organizations. He entered last season as the second-best prospect in the Phillies system and was ranked seven prior to this year by the fine folks at Baseball America. The batting average and ERA numbers have been an issue since he was acquired, but because of his youth, should be in the rotation for the long-term by the end of this season.
RHP Jess Todd – 5″11′, 210-lbs, turned 24 on April 20th
2nd-rd. (#82) pick by the St. Louis Cardinals in June 2007 Draft
Acquired for Mark DeRosa by Indians on June 28, 2009
Acquired alongside Chris Perez in the deal with the Cardinals last June, he is featured among these prospects because he has spent the vast majority of his career in this organization with the Clippers. He did appear in 19 unspectacular games for the Indians last season but is now doing fairly well in the Columbus bullpen yet again.
2009 with Columbus: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 3 games, 4.0 IP,1 H, 0 BB, 7 K
2009 with Cleveland: 0-1, 7.40 ERA, 19 games, 20.2 IP, 31 H, 7 BB, 18 K
2010 with Columbus: 2-2, 3.45 ERA, 24 games, 28.2 IP, 29 H, 11 BB, 30 K
He was the player to be named later in the DeRosa trade last June but certainly was not a forgotten name among minor league fans last season. Todd ranked among the MiLB leaders in saves with the Memphis at the time, and impressively has only been playing professionally for a few full seasons. Just like Carrasco and many others on this list, time is on his side when it comes to beating out some of the more veteran guys currently on the Indians staff. He doesn’t have the physical tools to dominate anybody and won’t anytime soon, but this guy should be a keeper as a middle reliever for years to come.
LHP Nick Hagadone – 6′5″, 230-lbs, turned 24 on January 1st
1st-rd. (#55) pick by the Boston Red Sox in June 2007 Draft
Acquired for Victor Martinez by Indians on July 31, 2009
The pitcher with the biggest upside of this class and possibly in the entire Indians organization is Hagadone. He was the centerpiece of the Victor Martinez trade last July with the Red Sox where many fans were disappointed with the overall deal (Hagadone, Justin Masterson and Bryan Price). In the end however, this gigantic first-round pick has all of the physical tools necessary and is just starting to be unleashed.
2009 with Lake County: 0-1, 2.45 ERA, 5 starts, 14.2 IP, 8 H, 5 BB, 21 K
2009 with Kinston: 0-0, 5.06 ERA, 2 starts, 5.1 IP, 5 H, 5 BB, 6 K
2010 with Kinston: 1-3, 2.39 ERA, 10 starts, 37.2 IP, 28 H, 29 BB, 45 K
2010 with Akron: 1-0, 4.26 ERA, 3 starts, 12.2 IP, 10 H, 9 BB, 12 K
Hagadone had Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery back in 2008 when he was playing in the Boston organization, and that is why he has only averaged about three or four innings per start in the Cleveland system. He was promoted to Akron two weeks ago and as of his previous start, was able to stretch up to 89 pitches for the game. Usual starter Paolo Espino is serving as his piggy back and although Hagadone has had issue with his control (led the Carolina League in walks before his promotion), he should be all clear to be successful with Akron for the rest of the season. Watch out for this one as he could be starring in Cleveland within the next 12 months.
RHP Bryan Price – 6′4″, 210-lbs, turns 24 on Nov. 13th
1st-rd. (#45) pick by the Boston Red Sox in June 2008 Draft
Acquired for Victor Martinez by Indians on July 31, 2009
The other piece of the puzzle from the Martinez trade, this Rice University product is a tall right-hander who could be a potential bullpen cog for the Indians. He is a converted starter who is in his first stint as a reliever for Akron, but doing relatively well based on his strikeout and walk numbers. The hits and the ERA will eventually go down, but it is definitely promising to see a young pitcher in just his second full professional season doing so well with the transition to a new pitching role. Price has upside over a potential reliever like Jess Todd because of his above-average stature, and he still could be something really special out of the pen.
2009 with Kinston: 2-4, 4.95 ERA, 7 starts, 36.1 IP, 38 H, 10 BB, 30 K
2010 with Akron: 1-2, 4.32 ERA, 15 games, 25.0 IP, 28 H, 5 BB, 30 K
As a college product with a long background in starting, Price is a little behind the curve in terms of a short route to the big leagues. He will certainly need to spend a decent amount more time in Akron this season as well as Columbus to start next year, but he should be a guy to keep an eye on. There was not much love for the Martinez trade when it happened, but it certainly could surprise by the time everything is all said and these pitchers start to move up faster. Masterson certainly should be on the Indians roster for a while, whether as a starter or reliever, Hagadone could be a future ace of the staff while Price definitely will be a serviceable major league pitcher at worst.
LHP Scott Barnes – 6’4″, 185-lbs, turns 23 on Sep. 5th
8th-rd. (#237) pick by the SF Giants in June 2008 Draft
Acquired for Ryan Garko by Indians on July 27, 2009
Switching things up a little bit from the reliever mold back to another left-handed starter in Scott Barnes. He is a tall and lanky St. John’s University product who was acquired alone for Ryan Garko last July. At the time of the trade, he had some of the best numbers in the hitting-crazy California League and continued to do fairly well with the Class A Kinston Indians. Upon his subsequent promotion to Akron however, Barnes has fallen upon some inconsistencies in posting some numbers way off what he previously had for the Giants.
2009 with Kinston: 0-0, 2.13 ERA, 3 starts, 12.2 IP, 14 H, 6 BB, 10 K
2009 with Akron: 2-2, 5.68 ERA, 6 starts, 31.2 IP, 35 H, 14 BB, 29 K
2010 with Akron: 2-5, 6.16 ERA, 11 starts, 49.2 IP, 47 H, 24 BB, 55 K
Nobody can be too thrilled about a 4-7 record in Double-A and 82 hits allowed in 81.1 innings pitched, but there are certain things you can be impressed about. First of all, Barnes is only 22 years old, which puts him as the second youngest player on this entire list and nearly two full years younger than the top lefty prospect in the organization in Hagadone. Barnes also is the only Aero this season to win a weekly award from the Eastern League following his second five-inning no-hit start of the season on May 14th. In his last outing against New Hampshire last week, Barnes recorded a team-high 10 strikeouts in seven shutout innings. He has the potential to be an above average starter in the higher levels based on these results but still will probably be with Akron for the immediate future.
RHP Connor Graham – 6″7′, 235-lbs, turns 24 on Dec. 30th
5th-rd. (#162) pick by the Colorado Rockies in June 2007 Draft
Acquired for Rafael Betancourt by Indians on July 23, 2009
This Bowling Green, Ohio native sparked up a lot of interest when he was acquired alone for Rafael Betancourt from the Rockies last June. After posting mighty impressive numbers with the Modesto Nuts in the California League, he was instantly promoted to Double-A when he came to the Indians organization. As a starter last season, he struggled with his control but still managed to strike out 39 hitters in 38.1 innings pitched. He was a starter again to start this season, but after a brief stint on the disabled list has revitalized his prospect status with an impressive 0.56 ERA as a reliever.
2009 with Akron: 1-3, 4.93 ERA, 8 gms (7 starts), 38.1 IP, 40 H, 25 BB, 39 K
2010 with Akron: 2-2, 3.60 ERA, 14 gms (4 starts), 35.0 IP, 39 H, 23 BB, 19 K
Each of his last 10 contests for the Aeros has been out of the bullpen and that is a role many projected to be the best fit for the humongous right-hander. At 6’7″, he is of a stature never really experienced in the Indians organization in a long time and that might be a reason for his slow transition to the pen. He was also just drafted only three years ago out of Miami University (OH) and now is just starting to get into his groove in Double-A. He only has seven strikeouts against seven walks in his 16 innings pitched as a reliever, but many believe that he has the potential to increase his strikeout totals soon and be in the Columbus pen by the end of the season. If that occurs, he has an outside shot at competing for a spot in Cleveland next year and could continue to develop as an intimidating reliever for many years to come.
RHP Rob Bryson – 6’1″, 200-lbs, turns 23 on December 11th
31st-rd. (#932 ) pick by the Milwaukee Brewers in June 2006 Draft
Acquired for C.C. Sabathia by Indians on July 7, 2008
Finally, let’s mention a prospect acquired nearly two years ago but still has pitched about the same amount as a player like Bryan Price in the Indians system. This is Rob Bryson, the forgotten fourth player acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers alongside Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley and the now-departed Zach Jackson. Bryson missed the vast majority of the last year and a half with shoulder injuries that were discovered shortly after the trade from Milwaukee. He is just now healthy and posting ridiculous numbers for Class A Kinston.
2008 with Lake County: 0-1, 2.19 ERA, 7 games, 12.1 IP, 6 H, 6 BB, 11 K
2009 with AZL Indians: 0-0, 12.00 ERA, 3 games, 3.0 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 5 K
2010 with Lake County: 4-0, 4.05 ERA, 8 games, 13.1 IP, 13 H, 2 BB, 21 K
2010 with Kinston: 2-1, 2.65 ERA, 10 games, 17.0 IP, 5 H, 8 BB, 32 K
There is definitely a possibility that you will see Bryson in the bullpen for Akron by the end of this season. His numbers from this year are just that good: 53 strikeouts, 18 hits and only 10 walks in 30.1 innings pitched. From a development perspective, that’s about all you can ask out of a 22-year-old reliever in his first full sting pitching in an entirely new organization. He had only been with Lake County for a few weeks before the injury and then only participated in three games for the Arizona League team last season. I’m very intrigued to see him continue to well throughout the system and I expect more attention coming his way when he finally receives the promotion to Double-A.
(Photo of Mark Shapiro via Marvin Fong/The Plain Dealer. Head shots above via the Columbus Clippers, the Akron Aeros, the Kinston Indians and the Lake County Captains.)