The Diff is your weekly Wednesday WFNY look into the amazing world of sports statistics. Amazingly, this is already the 20th one I’ve written here at the site. For a complete log of articles, click this link. Last week, The Diff looked deep into the stats of Nerlens Noel as the likely No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. This week, it’s back to my roots: Cleveland Indians prospect talk.
During most of the 2012 baseball season, I wrote a regular feature called the “WFNY Wednesday Wahoos“. Pre-The Diff, this was my weekly adventure into the stats and prospects world, where I could share updates and anecdotal ideas about the Cleveland Indians system. It’s been a long time since I did one of those, so as a special blast from the past, I’m dedicating this week’s The Diff to a similar construct as those old Wahoos. Hope you enjoy. All statistics below are current as of games played on Monday, June 3.
1. Francisco Lindor, A+ Carolina, SS, 11/14/93
Season stats: .299/.367/.417 in 54 games with 1 HR, 19 RBI, 23 BB, 27 K, 13 SB, 11 E
Recent stretch: .217/.302/.293 in 23 games with 0 HR, 6 RBI, 12 BB, 13 K, 5 SB, 7 E
The insanely young Lindor remains an excellent prospect: Recall that ESPN’s Keith Law had him at No. 7 overall pre-2013. But I worry Lindor’s overall upside is limited. He’s more like a slightly-better hitting, slightly-worse fielding Elvis Andrus prototype, not a Bryce Harper/Mike Trout instant-MVP candidate. But again, best-case scenario has him arriving in Cleveland in September 2014.
Bauer has been about as described thus far: He struggles often with control and trying to be too perfect, as he said after one of his three Cleveland spot-starts. These last three starts for Columbus have been quite rough. Ideally, the still very young Bauer could stay with Columbus throughout their 2013 season, then return to the bigs full-time in ’14.
3. Dorssys Paulino, A Lake County, SS, 11/21/1994
Season stats: .228/.287/.287 in 47 games with 0 HR, 17 RBI, 14 BB, 33 K, 7 SB, 23 E
Recent stretch: .284/.319/.433 in 17 games with 0 HR, 11 RBI, 3 BB, 10 K, 5 SB, 11 E
The newcomer to the top of the rankings, Paulino got off to an incredibly slow start for the Captains. But he’s exactly one week younger than Lindor was in the Midwest League last season and now is heating up — yet the fielding has been ugly. The other question: Was his power last season (.558 slug in 58 games) a bit flukey? It appears so thus far.
4. Tyler Naquin, A+ Carolina, CF, 4/24/1991
Season stats: .317/.376/.478 in 54 games with 4 HR, 21 RBI, 18 BB, 54 K, 5 SB, 3 E
Recent stretch: .373/.434/.547 in 17 games with 1 HR, 6 RBI, 7 BB, 18 K, 0 SB, 2 E
I’ve repeatedly stated my apathy toward last year’s Naquin pick at No. 15. The Indians touted him as a fast-track player and I guess his recent hot streak means he could be in contention for a Cleveland spot by September ’14. But Naquin still seems more like a 10-homer and 30-double guy to me, at best. His high strikeouts also are worrisome.
5. Mitch Brown, A Lake County, RHP, 4/13/1994
Season stats: 1-1 record, 11.49 ERA, 5 starts, 15.2 IP, 21 H, 11 BB, 18 K
Brown was last year’s 2nd round pick. He appeared in just eight games last season in rookie ball and hasn’t pitched since May 1st this year. The good: Brown just recently turned 19 and has plenty of time on his hand. The bad: He’s going to have to start pitching eventually. Likely, the Indians are tinkering with his delivery quite a bit.
6. Tony Wolters, A+ Carolina, C/DH, 6/9/1992
Season stats: .238/.313/.321 in 23 games with 1 HR, 8 RBI, 10 BB, 21 K, 2 SB, 0 E
It was a big hubbub this offseason when the undersized, 2011 3rd-rounder Wolters — who posted a .311/.358/.514 55-game finish as a middle infielder last season for Carolina — was re-converted to catcher. Huh? The Indians lacked catching depth, they said. Wolters has been back-and-forth with playing time in 2013, likely still re-figuring out the kinks behind the plate.
7. Ronny Rodriguez, AA Akron, 2B/SS, 4/17/1992
Season stats: .260/.280/.397 in 53 games with 4 HR, 25 RBI, 5 BB, 33 K, 5 SB, 11 E
Recent stretch: .385/.407/.596 in 13 games with 2 HR, 11 RBI, 2 BB, 7 K, 0 SB, 4 E
Riddle me this: Why does the organization’s No. 7 prospect usually bat seventh or eighth in the Akron lineup? His rare walks might be one answer, but it’s still odd. Rodriguez had been scorching hot of late, but went 0-for-6 Tuesday in his first start in the two-hole. Watch to see if his slugging can keep ticking up, as it was .452 in Carolina last season.
8. Luigi Rodriguez, A+ Carolina, LF/CF, 11/13/1992
Season stats: .278/.364/.379 in 49 games with 1 HR, 19 RBI, 23 BB, 55 K, 7 SB, 2 E
Recent stretch .361/.477/.500 in 11 games with 0 HR, 5 RBI, 8 BB, 11 K, 1 SB, 0 E
The other Rodriguez had a better start to 2013, where he began again in Lake County until receiving the promotion at the end of April. He’s been even better in Carolina, but needs to cut down on the strikeouts. Rodriguez still has a lot of upside remaining, yet it’s also odd to see he’s been caught in 6/13 steal attempts thus far.
9. Danny Salazar, AAA Columbus, RHP, 1/11/1990
Season stats: 2-4 record, 10 starts, 2.51 ERA, 46.2 IP, 35 H, 16 BB, 64 K
Recent stretch: 0-1 record, 3 starts, 2.08 ERA, 13.0 IP, 8 H, 6 BB, 13 K
I wrote an extended article about Salazar’s prospect status last month. Notably since then, he was shut down for 13 days after making his first start in Columbus. Via the numbers above, you can tell how dominant his strikeout numbers were early in ’13 for Akron. Best-case scenario, he could be a relief option in September, or maybe he’d be shut down early.
10. Jose Ramirez, AA Akron, 2B, 9/17/1992
Season stats: .264/.329/.333 in 48 games with 2 HR, 15 RBI, 20 BB, 20 K, 19 SB, 8 E
Recent stretch: .307/.366/.413 in 17 games with 1 HR, 5 RBI, 7 BB, 6 K, 4 SB, 1 E
Ramirez jumped onto the scene last season with his super-sabemetric season — batting .354/.403/.462 for Lake County, then skipping High-A entirely. Ramirez got off to a slow offensive start, but was tearing up the base paths. He’s very undersized for a usual top-10 prospect. But his K/BB ratio remains very advanced for such a young player in Double-A.
Assorted other pitcher prospects
T.J. House, AAA Columbus, LHP, 9/29/1989
Season stats: 3-5 record, 12 starts, 4.91 ERA, 69.2 IP, 74 H, 23 BB, 62 K
Recent stretch: 0-2 record, 3 starts, 6.50 ERA, 18.0 IP, 22 H, 8 BB, 13 K
House, who was added the the team’s 40-man roster this offseason, was a 16th-round pick in 2008. He received his first-ever promotion to Triple-A in late April after striking out 18 over his final 11.2 IP with the Aeros. He’s struggled recently, but as a lefty with some upside, he’s a guy to watch.
The team’s 5th-rounder in 2009 shot up prospect rankings after an awesome season in ’11 as a Double-A starter, then underwent Tommy John surgery. He’s since been converted to a reliever, where his dominant strikeout numbers can have more potential. But he turns 27 soon, so the prospect clock is ticking.
The Indians are chock-full of relief prospects and Tejeda has been the most impressive of the bunch in ’13. The Dominican received his first-ever promotion to Double-A in mid-May after an awesome start with Carolina. He began ’12 in short-season, so he’s still relatively inexperienced.
Jose Flores, AA Akron, RHP, 6/4/1989
Season stats: 4-1 record, 5 saves, 23 games, 1.65 ERA, 27.1 IP, 23 H, 8 BB, 34 K
Recent stretch: 1-1 record, 1 save, 6 games, 4.05 ERA, 6.2 IP, 10 H, 1 BB, 11 K
This big Venezuelan saved 15 games with a 2.37 ERA for Carolina last season before receiving the late call-up to Double-A. He had a rough 2011 in High-A, but now is re-establishing his standing as a solid, if just unspectacular, back-end option.
Anderson, Cleveland’s 14th-rounder in 2011, might finally be knocking on the door of legit prospect standing. He had a 3.20 ERA in 98.1 IP with Lake County last season too. Among the 470 minor leagues with 45.0 IP in 2013, his 3.80 K/BB ratio ranks T-68th. Very solid production again.
C.C. Lee, A Lake County, RHP, 10/21/1986
Season stats: 0-0 record, 0 games, 0.00 ERA, 2.0 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 4 K
Lee was a top-10 prospect pre-2012, then underwent Tommy John surgery. He’s on the comeback trail but is slowly getting back with Single-A Lake County. The high-profiled Taiwanese reliever import had 189 K’s in 151.0 IP from 2010 through early 2012 for Akron/Columbus until his injury, which is why the Indians protected him on the 40-man.
Jake Sisco, A Lake County, RHP, 12/9/1991
Season stats: 2-4 record, 10 games (9 starts), 3.27 ERA, 52.1 IP, 44 H, 19 BB, 36 K
Recent stretch: 2-2 record, 4 starts, 4.38 ERA, 24.2 IP, 23 H, 9 BB, 22 K
Sisco is one of the many, many young but unproven pitching arms in the Indians system. He was a 3rd-round pick in 2011. He’s big and was projected to have a strikeout punch, yet is only starting to show it in his last four outings. He’s likely to stay all year with the Captains.
Two other high-end right-handed pitching prospects, Kieran Lovegrove and Dillon Howard, have yet to pitch in a game this season.
Assorted other hitter prospects
Lonnie Chisenhall, AAA Columbus, 3B, 10/4/1988
Season stats: .275/.331/.481 in 42 games with 8 HR, 25 RBI, 9 BB, 36 K, 1 SB, 11 E
Recent stretch: .438/.509/.792 in 12 games with 4 HR, 12 RBI, 4 BB, 10 K, 0 SB, 6 E
Chisenhall has been as hot as possible in the last two weeks for the Clippers. Heck, he even homered Tuesday night with 4 RBI along with his first 3-walk game in almost two years (7/30/11 for Cleveland). This is exactly what the MLB team wanted out of him, although he’s only much worse versus lefties and the defensive problems are odd.
Chun Chen, AAA Columbus, 1B/DH, 11/1/1988
Season stats: .304/.388/.500 in 53 games with 8 HR, 34 RBI, 26 BB, 59 K, 8 SB, 2 E
Recent stretch: .158/.220/.263 in 11 games with 1 HR, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 14 K, 0 SB, 1 E
Might Chen be re-playing himself into prospect consideration? I’d still lean toward no, especially with the evidence of his last two weeks and his K numbers. The Taiwanese slugger somehow stole 8 bases quickly for Akron and received the call-up in mid-May. The former catcher is still kind of position-less.
Jesus Aguilar, AA Akron, 1B, 6/30/1990
Season stats: .247/.323/.374 in 51 games with 6 HR, 41 RBI, 23 BB, 45 K, 0 SB, 10 E
Recent stretch: .226/.297/.368 in 34 games with 5 HR, 19 RBI, 14 BB, 28 K, 0 SB, 4 E
Remember when Aguilar was the best slugging prospect in the Indians system? He might only be considered that by default now. The Venezuelan turns only 23 later this month, but he’s regressed since a .506 slugging mark in 126 combined games in 2011.
LeVon Washington, A Lake County, CF/LF, 7/26/1991
Season stats: .351/.468/.532 in 22 games with 0 HR, 9 RBI, 17 BB, 15 K, 9 SB, 1 E
#WashTime is back. After undergoing hip surgery last season, only playing 13 games total, Cleveland’s 2010 2nd-rounder is back with the Captains. He also played there in 2011 so he should move quickly to at least High-A this season. He’s uber-athletic and has very high upside.
Another high-end position player prospect, D’Vone McClure, has yet to appear in a game this season.
The final word
Before the season started, here are what three different outlets wrote about the Indians organizational talent in their team prospect rankings:
“With Francisco Lindor and Dorssys Paulino, they have some of the best shortstop depth of any organization in baseball right now. They could be primed for a big leap if any of the young pitching they’ve drafted the past two years comes through in 2013.”
“It’s a weird system because it features a lot of talent, including two of the top 30 prospects in the game, but the majority of that talent has yet to take the step forward in status, so the overall grade suffers as a result.”
“I thought this system could take a big step forward but it didn’t really happen. Strengths: Trevor Bauer and some lively arms behind him. Middle infield depth beginning with Francisco Lindor and Dorssys Paulino. Weaknesses: uninspired performances from young tools players at the lower levels, but there is still time for those guys to come around. The Indians remain an organization that could take a big leap forward in ‘13.”
These reviews remain in line with what we’ve seen thus far in 2013 from the top Indians prospects. Outside of Lindor’s on-point production, there’s mostly been a lot of let-downs compared to possible expectations. The system lacks significant star power although it has a lot of intriguing young talent. But we’ve seen relatively little from those players just yet.
One of my biggest concerns going forward is the organization’s track record of success with developing young pitchers. I sent out a tweet earlier today about the 16 pitchers that Cleveland has drafted in the first 10 rounds since 2010. Of them, one didn’t sign, three haven’t pitched so far in 2013 and only three that remain in the Indians organization1 have reached the Double-A level with mixed results. That seems awful concerning.
We’ll need to see more from these players listed above if the Indians are going to make a jump into the top half of organizational prospect rankings for 2014. We’ll also need to see a strong drafting performance starting tomorrow — with hopefully high upside being the story of the day.
The team’s 1st-rounder in 2010, Drew Pomeranz, has by far the most impressive numbers of the bunch, but of course he’s in Colorado’s Triple-A level now. [↩]
Jacob Rosen is a long-time contributor to WaitingForNextYear. He's also a writer online at SportsAnalyticsBlog and Nylon Calculus . An Akron native, Jacob is a current MBA student at the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. You can follow him on Twitter @WFNYJacob or e-mail him at udjrosen(at)gmail(dot)com.