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, I shared five statistical thoughts about the Tribe’s outlook. Now, I’m catching up on prospects.
This edition is my third installment of my monthly Indians prospect update within The Diff. Back in June, the theme was looking at preseason prospect rankings and the common themes. Then in July, I shared a trade deadline update, looking at potentially useful prospect pieces. Today, I wrote about a grand total of 48 prospects to share the context of their 2013 prospect movement – up, stagnant or down. Stats below are as of games completed on Sunday, Aug. 11, or Monday, Aug. 12.
1. Francisco Lindor, A+ Carolina and AA Akron, SS, 11/14/93
Season stats: .304/.382/.409 in 103 games with 2 HR, 34 RBI, 49 BB, 46 K, 25 SB, 22 E
Recent stretch (July 26th): .175/.250/.200 in 10 games with 0 HR, 1 RBI, 4 BB, 6 K, 0 SB
The new top-five prospect in all of baseball got off to a sensational start after his All-Star break promotion to Double-A. His first 10 games with the Aeros: .441/.578/.647 with 10 walks against just one strikeout. He has cooled off since then, but hasn’t played since last Tuesday. At just 19, his upside might be creeping up even more.
He was a consensus top-20 preseason prospect in baseball each of the past two years. Now? Not so much. Yes, his ERA actually ain’t that bad since he returned back to Columbus, but an even BB/K ratio in a seven-start stretch? That’s not impressive one bit. Begrudgingly, his most likely outlook might be as a No. 4-5 starter. Still early. But yuck.
3. Dorssys Paulino, A Lake County, SS, 11/21/1994
Season Stats: .239/.297/.339 in 102 games with 4 HR, 38 RBI, 28 BB, 76 K, 10 SB, 36 E
Recent stretch (May 15th): .261/.310/.395 in 73 games with 4 HR, 32 RBI, 17 BB, 53 K, 9 SB
After an awful start, Paulino has been fairly consistent over the last three months. Because of his age, he still should be viewed quite favorably offensively. The defense? That’s practically inexcusable. It’s been a constant problem all season. With Lindor likely to be entrenched at that position, no harm in trying out Paulino at third this winter.
4. Tyler Naquin, A+ Carolina, CF, 4/24/1991
Season stats: .280/.347/.430 in 106 games with 9 HR, 42 RBI, 40 BB, 112 K, 14 SB, 4 E
Recent stretch (June 22nd): .219/.294/.355 in 40 games with 3 HR, 13 RBI, 16 BB, 44 K
The low-ceiling Texas A&M product picked at No. 15 last season hasn’t had a bad season for the Mudcats after skipping A-ball. But he’s been pretty cool offensively over the last six weeks. The much-hoped-for slugging numbers are solid, but 22.9% strikeout rate is pretty high for a leadoff hitter. A big season next year in Double-A. Naquin will get his first taste of elevated action in Akron after being promoted Wedenesday morning.
5. Mitch Brown, Rookie Arizona and A Lake County, RHP, 4/13/1994
Season stats: 3-4 record, 6.64 ERA, 15 games, 61.0 IP, 68 H, 36 BB, 58 K
Recent stretch (July 15th): 2-1 record, 3.07 ERA, 29.1 IP, 23 H, 18 BB, 26 K
The beauty of 19-year-old second-round pitchers: Any production they provide is usually just dandy. Brown has pitched better of late after an awful early-season stretch in the Midwest League. He then took off six weeks before returning to the Arizona League. He’s another risky flier to keep an eye on for the 2013 season, hopefully with the Captains.
6. Tony Wolters, A+ Carolina, C, 6/9/1992
Season stats: .279/.354/.358 in 62 games with 3 HR, 25 RBI, 26 BB, 47 K, 3 SB, 2 E
Recent stretch (June 8th): .316/.395/.398 in 36 games with 2 HR, 16 RBI, 16 BB, 23 K, 1 SB
Offensively, yes, Wolters’ production is just as valuable at catcher as it is as a utility infielder. The slugging drop is curious though, as he has just 4.6% XBH/PA, a drop from 8.6% last year. He’s thrown out an impressive 30% of 54 base-stealers this season. That’s darn impressive in his first 47 games behind the plate. He’s still only 21, too.
7. Ronny Rodriguez, AA Akron, 2B/SS, 4/17/1992
Season stats: .270/.292/.381 in 100 games with 4 HR, 45 RBI, 11 BB, 68 K, 12 SB, 21 E
Recent stretch (July 17th): .184/.220/.207 in 21 games with 0 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 19 K, 2 SB
Before this current cold stretch, Rodriguez was batting .373/.394/.552 in a 31-game hot streak. He’s not a patient hitter, so his value depends upon his streaky slugging production. It’s also notable he had a combined 68 errors at short the previous two seasons in 177 games, so it’s plausible he’s not a long-term shortstop either.
8. Luigi Rodriguez, A Lake County and A+ Carolina, LF/CF, 11/13/1992
Season stats: .275/.368/.370 in 56 games with 1 HR, 20 RBI, 28 BB, 61 K, 8 SB, 3 E
Recent stretch (May 17th): .321/.455/.415 in 17 games with 0 HR, 6 RBI, 13 BB, 16 K, 2 SB
The other toolsy Rodriguez, Luigi has been dealing with left shoulder strain problems that have limited him to just seven games since June. Set to turn 22 this offseason, he has a big season ahead in High-A after playing 173 games for the Captains over the past three years. He’ll likely fall in prospect rankings.
9. Danny Salazar, AA Akron, AAA Columbus and MLB Cleveland, RHP, 1/11/1990
Season stats: 7-5 record, 2.74 ERA, 23 games, 108.1 IP, 80 H, 26 BB, 146 K
Salazar had the worst start of his brief MLB career Monday night. Yet, he still remains a fascinating arm for the future. He led the minors with 12.48 K/9 and 35.5% K-rate upon his (likely) long-term promotion to the minors. He would likely rank No. 3 now, near what Keith Law had preseason, just above Paulino and Clint Frazier.
10. Jose Ramirez, AA Akron, 2B/SS, 9/17/1992
Season stats: .276/.331/.357 in 95 games with 3 HR, 34 RBI, 35 BB, 32 K, 33 SB, 16 E
Recent stretch (July 5th): .364/.391/.477 in 19 games with 0 HR, 8 RBI, 4 BB, 5 K, 4 SB
By no means is Ramirez a traditional prospect at just 5-foot-8. But he’s a good slap hitter with advanced plate discipline, very good speed and, per usually untrustworthy defensive errors, might have a better known position (second base) than either Paulino or Ronny Rodriguez. He skipped High-A, so I’m not 100% sure he moves on to Columbus next year.
Other Prospects – Trending Up
Before the season, many outlets viewed the Indians as an organization with tons of low-to-mid-tier prospects, especially those with young upside. If the system was going to take a leap overall, it would be because of these players “making the jump.” That hasn’t happened en masse as many hoped, but these 13 players still are producing very good numbers in 2013.
The 14th-round pick from 2011 was just promoted to Double-A Akron yesterday. He’s having the best season for any full-season Indians starter.
Joe Wendle, A+ Carolina, 2B, 4/26/1990
Season stats: .300/.375/.523 in 84 games with 12 HR, 50 RBI, 33 BB, 61 K, 9 SB, 13 E
Labeled as “cheap organizational depth” after 2012 sixth-round selection, Wendle just keeps hitting. He’s playing himself into mid-tier prospect range.
Dylan Baker, A Lake County, RHP, 4/6/1992
Season stats: 7-6 record, 3.95 ERA, 23 games, 120.2 IP, 108 H, 57 BB, 92 K
The problem with Indians minor-league pitching is the lack of young guys like Baker, a 2012 fifth-rounder producing solid numbers all season.
Nelson Rodriguez, Short-Season Mahoning Valley and A Lake County, 1B, 6/12/1994
Season stats: .256/.342/.379 in 97 games with 8 HR, 44 RBI, 42 BB, 91 K, 0 SB, 6 E
Big slugger named “Nellie” struggled early with Captains, but has dominated with the Scrappers. Indians Baseball Insider featured him in an article last week.
Dace Kime, Short-Season Mahoning Valley, RHP, 3/6/1992
Season stats: 0-2 record, 2.75 ERA, 7 starts, 19.2 IP, 14 H, 9 BB, 21 K
Big Louisville right-hander was team’s third-round pick in June. A safe pick for signing bonus purposes, his early numbers are pretty solid. At least he’s pitching and doing OK, like Baker.
Luis Lugo, Short-Season Mahoning Valley, LHP, 3/5/1994
Season stats: 1-4 record, 1.97 ERA, 10 starts, 45.2 IP, 34 H, 9 BB, 27 K
Young Venezuelan has been really impressive thus far, already posting five starts with no earned runs of at least five innings. You’ll see his name more in 2014.
Clint Frazier, Rookie Arizona, CF, 9/6/1994
Season stats: .289/.343/.484 in 32 games with 3 HR, 21 RBI, 10 BB, 45 K, 1 SB, 2 E
Is it fair to say this year’s No. 5 overall pick has done better than expected? Not certain, but very impressive early offensive numbers for the redheaded Georgian.
Other Prospects – Staying Stagnant
One of the organizational strengths entering 2013 was the number of mid-tier reliever prospects. I could write about all of them – such as Blake Wood, Nick Hagadone, Preston Guilmet, Matt Langwell, Bryan Price, Austin Adams, Jose Flores, etc. – but none are separating themselves from the pack so much, although many should be on the immediate Indians radar. The rest of this list shares 15 other players with no significant net prospect status change this season.
T.J. House, AAA Columbus and AA Akron, LHP, 9/29/1989
Season stats: 8-11 record, 4.26 ERA, 24 starts, 139.1 IP, 148 H, 51 BB, 114 K
House was promoted after four starts this year, just like last season from High-A to Double-A, but has struggled with the Clippers. He was promoted briefly to the majors, but did not appear in a game. Still young though, so he’s on the radar.
Trey Haley, AA Akron, RHP, 6/21/1990
Season stats: 1-2 record, 3.93 ERA, 31 games, 34.1 IP, 31 H, 29 BB, 32 K
In his second full season as a reliever, Haley was expected to shine in a return to Double-A. The walks are concerning, however, although he’s been fairly dominant over last two months.
Jesus Aguilar, AA Akron, 1B, 6/30/1990
Season stats: .275/.356/.436 in 112 games with 14 HR, 89 RBI, 53 BB, 92 K, 0 SB, 13 E
The big Aguilar has trended down generally over the last year, but he’s had a very solid offensive season. His upside remains limited because he’s not a big power hitter at first.
Giovanny Urshela, AA Akron, 3B, 10/11/1991
Season stats: .265/.289/.391 in 100 games with 8 HR, 36 RBI, 13 BB, 40 K, 1 SB, 12 E
Young Columbian infielder has produced average offensive numbers over three full seasons in minors. He’s young for his level still, so he remains on the prospect radar in case of a breakout.
Alex Monsalve, AA Akron and Rookie Arizona, C, 4/22/1992
Season stats: .313/.340/.458 in 14 games with 1 HR, 8 RBI, 2 BB, 9 K, 0 SB, 1 E
Now splitting Double-A catching duties, Monsalve spent the vast majority of the season on the High-A disabled list. He’s produced at very high levels of offense the past two seasons, so keep an eye on if he can stay healthy in 2014.
Bryson Myles, A+ Carolina, LF, 9/18/1989
Season stats: .300/.357/.459 in 70 games with 7 HR, 45 RBI, 21 BB, 62 K, 11 SB, 5 E
The 2011 sixth-rounder is having another impressive all-around season. His 23-game hitting streak was snapped Monday, but he’s been lights-out since July after missing about six weeks earlier with an injury. He’s old for his level though, which limits his long-term upside.
Jake Sisco, A Lake County, RHP, 12/9/1991
Season stats: 4-10 record, 4.72 ERA, 21 games, 103.0 IP, 112 H, 40 BB, 63 K
The good news is that this 2011 third-rounder continues to be durable and at least plays. The production isn’t great, especially the low strikeout numbers, but the big right-hander should move up to High-A next season.
Felix Sterling, A Lake County, RHP, 3/15/1993
Season stats: 3-4 record, 4.86 ERA, 37 games, 50.0 IP, 64 H, 22 BB, 47 K
Sterling has produced much more effectively as a reliever after a tough 2012 with the Captains mostly spent as a starter. He’s still quite young, so his low-to-mid-tier prospect status remains the same.
Anthony Santander, A Lake County, RF, 10/19/1994
Season stats: .242/.303/.370 in 60 games with 5 HR, 31 RBI, 13 BB, 43 K, 6 SB, 5 E
For his raw age, Santander’s production through mid-July – his last game was July 19 – in full-season ball is darn impressive. He has high upside after 2012’s 43-game Arizona League stats.
LeVon Washington, A Lake County and Rookie Arizona, CF, 7/16/1991
Season stats: .349/.449/.566 in 45 games with 4 HR, 25 RBI, 29 BB, 35 K, 12 SB, 4 E
The toolsy 2010 second-rounder has played just 58 games the past two year because of injuries. He’s produced extremely well when healthy however, setting the stage for a very important season in 2014.
D’Vone McClure, Rookie Arizona, LF, 1/22/1994
Season stats: .217/.287/.304 in 24 games with 0 HR, 5 RBI, 5 BB, 37 K, 1 SB, 2 K
His peripheral statistics mirror his numbers in 24 Arizona League games last season, but his BB/K ratio decreased dramatically – it was 11/19 last year. He hasn’t played in two weeks, but the young and athletic 2012 fourth-rounder still has very high upside.
Sean Brady, Rookie Arizona, LHP, 6/9/1994
Season stats: 0-1 record, 1.80 ERA, 7 starts, 20.0 IP, 16 H, 4 BB, 16 K
Half of his runs allowed have been unearned, so numbers aren’t that shockingly good. Still, this year’s fifth-round pick out of a Florida high school has a high ceiling and was considered a steal.
For most minor league players with high-upside, eventually, they trend down as prospects. That’s just the fact of how minor league baseball works with so few players actually ever becoming productive MLB regulars. In the Indians system, these 10 prospects stick out most significantly because of their drop in prospect status in 2013.
Scott Barnes, AAA Columbus and MLB Cleveland, LHP, 9/5/1987
Season stats: 3-4 record, 7.47 ERA, 37.1 IP, 38 H, 23 BB, 45 K
The player once acquired for Ryan Garko was having a disastrous 2013 season before being placed in the disabled list in early July. The Indians have been desperate for lefty support, but Barnes never seized the opportunity. His 40-man roster status is likely in jeopardy.
Chun Chen, AAA Columbus and AA Akron, 1B/LF, 11/1/1988
Season stats: .261/.344/.416 in 115 games with 14 HR, 60 RBI, 50 BB, 129 SO, 11 SB, 7 E
A former well-regarded catching prospect, Chen is what he is: A contact-only hitting prospect with no defensive position. He had a very tough July in his first stint with the Clippers.
Giovanni Soto, AAA Columbus, LHP 5/18/1991
Season stats: 0-1 record, 5.19 ERA, 9 games, 8.2 IP, 8 H, 9 BB, 8 K
Somewhat well-known for being traded for Jhonny Peralta, throwing a no-hitter last July and having a name resembling the former Cubs catcher, Soto has been on the Clippers DL for most of 2013. He’s still quite young so should have plenty of opportunities, but likely will need to be added to the 40-man roster soon.
Shawn Armstrong, AA Akron and Rookie Arizona, RHP, 9/11/1990
Season stats: 0-2 record, 4.72 ERA, 24 games, 26.2 IP, 25 H, 13 BB, 33 K
Young reliever shined last season, delivering a 0.89 ERA in 17 games in Double-A just a year after being drafted. He went to the DL for 2.5 months this season, then did some rehab.
Jordan Smith, A+ Carolina, RF, 7/5/1990
Season stats: .282/.352/.375 in 114 games with 4 HR, 41 RBI, 48 BB, 62 K, 17 SB, 4 E
Tall and athletic 2011 ninth-rounder had been hoped to showcase improved power this season after a great year in Lake County, but it hasn’t happened. His future prospect ceiling is low as a contact-only right fielder.
Elvis Araujo, A+ Carolina, LHP, 7/15/1991
Season stats: 0-0 record, 5.59 ERA, 2 games, 9.2 IP, 11 H, 4 BB, 8 K
The tall Venezuelan only pitched in two May games for the Mudcats. He’s been on the DL for the rest of 2013, adding more disappointment after his 5.00 ERA in 28 starts for Lake County last year.
Eric Haase, A Lake County, C, 12/18/1992
Season stats: .230/.311/.414 in 91 games with 12 HR, 36 RBI, 38 BB, 106 K, 2 SB, 13 E
The Indians have several low-to-mid-tier catching prospects, including Haase. A 2011 seventh-rounder, he continues to show good power, but in his first full-season experience he’s really struggled with contact.
Jorge Martinez, A Lake County, LF/RF, 3/29/1993
Season stats: .189/.232/.314 in 95 games with 6 HR, 41 RBI, 18 BB, 97 K, 3 SB, 8 E
The young Dominican outfielder clearly isn’t equipped offensively for the Midwest League, yet continues to play regularly for the Captains. He was getting progressively better in Rookie Arizona from 2010-2012, so hopes were high.
Kyle Blair, Short-Season Mahoning Valley and Rookie Arizona, RHP, 9/27/1988
Season stats: 1-0 record, 2.25 ERA, 6 games, 8.0 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 11 K
Blair’s signing bonus as a 2010 fourth-rounder with Cleveland has half of what he was offered as a 2007 fifth-rounder. Since signing, strong-armed pitcher has battled significant injuries and only just started his 2013 season. His prospect days are long over, it appears, which is disappointing.
Dillon Howard, RHP, 7/1/1992
The poster-boy for this category, Howard was suspended for 50 games in June for violation of MLB’s drug policy. The team’s 2011 second-rounder, he pitched only in 2012 with Rookie Arizona. He’s still young, but a total long-term question mark.
Revised ranking for 2014
Last season, in late June, I unveiled my own revised prospect rankings in my “WFNY Wednesday Wahoos” feature. After beginning the year with an aggregate ranking like I’ve used in this monthly feature, I decided to flip the switch and use my own insight to come up with a ranking I’d use for the rest of the season.
Certainly, around this time of the year makes sense for retrospects on the system and where things stand. The draft took place six weeks ago. The short-season leagues have large enough sample sizes to show something noteworthy. And the full-seasons are now in their final stretch. Heck, this is the standard protocol for other sites, too.
Without further ado, looking ahead to 2014, here’s how I would rank the top 15 prospects in the Cleveland Indians organization with some final notes at the end:
1. Francisco Lindor — At absolute worst, a low-end MLB starter for 6-8 years 2. Trevor Bauer — By default, as he still is risky with lots to prove 3. Danny Salazar — Awesome 2012 propels him way up; he’s got huge upside 4. Clint Frazier — First-round pick has best power in system, but very raw 5. Dorssys Paulino — Not a shortstop, but hitting is still advanced for 18 6. Tyler Naquin — By default, as he has a low prospect development ceiling 7. Ronny Rodriguez — Streaky infielder has improved approach, high upside 8. Jose Ramirez — Not traditional prospect, but advanced offensive approach 9. Kyle Crockett — Lefty reliever accelerating fast through the system 10. LeVon Washington — Must stay healthy, but love his skill set and future 11. Mitch Brown — Drops down, has to prove more for Lake County in 2014 12. Luigi Rodriguez — Injuries hampered 2013, still a high upside player 13. Tony Wolters — Giving Indians benefit of doubt with his future at C 14. Sean Brady — Indians fortunate to sign him as a steal in fifth round 15. Kieran Lovegrove — Stays same in mid-10s, very young for a 2012 pick
Players that just missed the cut: Anthony Santander, Dace Kime, Cody Anderson, Chen-Chang Lee, Luis Lugo, Casey Shane, Dylan Baker, Nelson Rodriguez, Jesus Aguilar, Carlos Moncrief, Jose Flores.
Prior to the season, the Indians system was ranked in the 18-24 range by most outlets. Although the organization was labeled as one with high upside, I don’t think the significant prospects made a big enough leap to constitute any change in those rankings. Without knowing the net changes in the other systems, I’d expect the Indians to remain in that same range again for 2014.
Overall, the orgnaization still is fairly weak. There remain a lot of low-to-mid-tier prospects — guys on the “missed the cut” list and more — that could pan out to be something notable. But outside of the top-5 guys in the system, there really isn’t that much. I struggled organizing the 6-15 ranking because so many of those players have significant prospect weaknesses. It’s a whole lot of mediocrity.
As I’ve said before (here and here), we’re still waiting upon proven results from Brad Grant’s drafting. He’s been in his current role of Director of Amateur Scouting since November 2007 — thus he just finished his sixth draft — so I’m not certain why he keeps receiving a default benefit of the doubt. Pitching prospects haven’t developed at all, there are desperately few high-level offensive prospects and the consistent results just aren’t there.
Looking ahead to Cleveland’s future, I’ve already expressed my significant concern for the long-term outlook of the team. Bauer and Salazar should hopefully be contributing in 2014, but outside of that, there isn’t a lot of supplemental major league help on the way in the short-term. There also just aren’t that many expected impact offensive players, outside of Lindor and Frazier. These concerns aren’t just going away over night.
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.