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Cleveland Indians

Original Published Date: Oct. 14, 2012

The Cleveland Indians minor league system went from a fairly deep system two years ago to an uninspiring system today that is heavy on middle infielders and not much else.  Part of the reason for the decline was the promotion of Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis to the big leagues.  However, the 2011 trading deadline, that brought in once-ace Ubaldo Jimenez for Drew Pomeranz and Alex White caused a further hit to the depth of the system.

Four out of the five top prospects in the Cleveland system play shortstop as their primary position. Teenager Francisco Lindor is clearly the best of the group and had a nice season in the Midwest league as the youngest player in the league by nearly a full year.  Two Dominican’s, Ronny Rodriguez and Dorssys Paulino are the next two shortstops with Rodriguez showing a great deal of pop and a candidate to move to second base or even the outfield long-term.  2012 first round draft pick, Tyler Naquin, is the best non shortstop in the system.  Naquin hit tool is considered very advanced and therefore, he should move quickly through the minor leagues system.

The pitching within the Cleveland system is also weak with right-hander Mitch Brown being the only hurler to make the list.

1.  Francisco Lindor (SS)

2013 Age: 19 BP: Puerto Rico
Ht:5-11 Weight: 175 Bats: Both Throws: Right ETA: 2015
2012 LowA 490 83 6 42 27 .257 .352 84.1 12.4 .294

There’s a lot of excitement about Francisco Lindor in the baseball industry, particularly in those that follow and rank prospects – and there are good reasons.  Lindor is an exceptional athlete that has a chance to be a gold glove caliber shortstop in the major leagues.  His lateral movements are effortless as are his instincts to seemingly be at the “right place at the right time” to make a play.  He’s a pure shortstop and clearly the shortstop of the future for the Indians.

Offensively, I’m not as excited about Lindor as others.  Yes there is potential, but he’s got a long way to go to be considered a plus offensive prospect.  Strength is the biggest deficiency in his physical maturity.  I worry as he moves into the higher minors that his gap-to-gap power will diminish and he’ll become a player with a sub .100 ISO.  While he stole 27 bases in 2012, his clock times down the line to first base show a 55 runner. Plus as he matures, the speed will diminish as will the stolen bases.

That said, the biggest thing that Lindor has going for him is time.  He will start his second full year of professional baseball at the age of 19.  There will be high school players drafted in the 2013 first year player draft that will be older than Lindor.  With more time, comes more development and eventually production.

Fantasy Impact: While I like Lindor and believe he’s a top 20 prospect, he’s not in the same fantasy conversation as Jurickson Profar, Wil Myers, or Oscar Taveras and therefore should not be drafted until much later. I am targeting his major league debut in late 2014 at the earliest with a more likely target of 2015. However, I would not expect immediate offensive contribution but would in fact, expect that to occur several years later with a .290-.300 batting average, 10-12 home runs, and 15 stolen bases as his offensive ceiling.

2. Ronny Rodriguez (SS)

2013 Age: 21 BP: D.R.
Ht:6-0 Weight: 170 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2014-15
2012 HiA 454 67 19 66 7 .264 .300 80.6 4.2 .289

Ronny Rodriguez was born in the Dominican Republic but moved to the U.S. when he was 13 and then moved back to the D.R. after high school where he was drafted and signed for $350,000 in 2010.  While it was circuitous route to professional baseball, Ronny Rodriguez is a great athlete with a nice power speed combination at the middle infield position.  In 2012, he switched between second and shortstop with fellow Mudcat, Tony Wolters (ranked #5).

2012 was a breakout year for Rodriguez as he hit 19 home runs in the Sally League showing a nice contact rate of 80.6%.  However, his anemic 4.2% walk rate shows that Rodriguez prefers swinging the bat over working the count.  This is the biggest development area that Rodriguez must work on as he moves to Double-A in 2013.  While Rodriguez only had seven stolen bases in 2012, he has really good speed (65 grade) but his seven caught stealing indicate that he doesn’t yet know how to steal a base.

Assuming Rodriguez can continue on the development path and his bat becomes major league ready, the question will be where does he play?  Lindor is the shortstop of the future and Jason Kipnis is looking like a mainstay at the keystone.  Therefore, don’t be surprised if Rodriguez starts seeing time in centerfield, maybe even during the AFL this fall.

Fantasy Impact:  There’s something here with Ronny Rodriguez.  He’s still very young but the power/speed combination coupled with the ability to make solid contact at only 20 years old is a profile you want in fantasy.  I’m going to be drafting Rodriguez late in my Dynasty League and since most people have yet to hear of the 20 year old Dominican, I’ll simply smile as fellow owners say “Who???”

3. Dorssys Paulino (SS)

2013 Age: 18 BP: D.R.
Ht:6-0 Weight: 175 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2015-16
2012 R-SS 231 47 7 38 11 .333 .380 80.5 7.8 .389

The third ranked shortstop in the Cleveland organization is 17 year old Dominican Dorssys Paulino.  Paulino secured a $1.1M signing bonuses in 2011 that turned out to be one of the larger bonuses that year.  Many 16 year old Dominican signees spend their age 17 year playing in the DSL, but the Indians moved Paulino to the states this year and even allowed him to make an appearance in the college heavy NY Penn league, where he definitely held his own.

Paulino has all the makings of a plus hit-tool with quick strong hands, lots of bat speed and the ability to pickup pitches early, particularly breaking pitches.  In 231 at-bats, he managed an 80.5% contact rate and a respectable 7.8% walk rate to go along with a .380 OBP.  His plus bat speed is already translating into power as he tagged seven long balls in those 231 at-bats.  Plus, he has nice speed that translated into 11 stolen bases.  Given his advanced hit tool, don’t be surprised if the Indians continue to move Paulino aggressively and start him in Low-A in 2013.

Fantasy Impact: Shortstops that have a chance to hit .300 with some pop and speed need to be on Fantasy owners radars.  I would consider drafting Paulino in deeper dynasty leagues as he has the makings of a May pop-up player.

4. Tyler Naquin (OF)

2013 Age: 22 BP: Texas
Ht:6-2 Weight: 175 Bats: Left Throws: Right ETA: 2015
2012 R 137 22 0 13 4 .270 .379 81.0 12.4 .333

Originally drafted in the 2009 by the Orioles in the 33rd round, Tyler Naquin decided instead to go to college and the $1.75M signing bonus he received in 2012 from the Inidians proved he made the right decision.  While a safe pick for the Indians, Naquin does not have loud tools and instead brings solid to above average skills across the board.

Naquin’s best tool is actually his hit tool, which he demonstrated in college by winning multiple batting championships.  While he has a quick approach to the ball with great hand eye coordination, there’s not a lot of leverage in the swing and therefore his home run power will be limited.  In his limited professional exposure, his nice contact and walk rate supported the amateur scouting reports of a well above average hit tool.

The biggest question mark around Naquin is where he’ll play.  He was used primarily as a right fielder in college and while the arm will play there, the bat will not.  The White Sox have moved him into center field but he’s not blessed with great speed, so I don’t believe center field will be the long-term destination.  This profile usually becomes the definition of a fourth outfielder with 225 plate appearances per year in the majors.

Fantasy Impact: Because Naquin does not have loud tools, he doesn’t profile as a great fantasy option and therefore should be ignored in all Dynasty Leagues.  That said, he can hit and given that’s the hardest tool to master, fantasy owners need to periodically read the box scores to see if power develops.

5. Tony Wolters (2B/SS)

2013 Age: 20 BP: California
Ht:5-10 Weight: 165 Bats: Left Throws: Right ETA: 2014-15
2012 HiA 485 66 8 58 5 .269 .320 78.6 7.4 .315

I really liked Tony Wolters as an amateur, particularly when he won the MVP award in the 2009 Aflac game over Bryce Harper.  I thought he would go in the first round, but wound up falling to the third round and signing for well overslot at $1.35M.

Wolters has a nice lefty swing that uses the lower half of his body to create leverage.  It looks like a swing that should be sitting on a 6-foot-4 first baseman as opposed to a 5-foot-10, 170 pound 2B/SS, and that’s part of the problem.  Wolters has good bat speed, but not great bat speed and given his size, he should be aiming to level his swing more to improve contactability.  While he did share the shortstop duties with Ronny Rodriguez in 2012, he profiles better at the keystone.

Fantasy Impact: Wolters can be ignored in most dynasty league formats

6. Luigi Rodriguez (OF)

Luigi Rodriguez is known for his plus-plus speed that he was able to translate into 24 stolen bases in 463 at-bats in Low-A.  He does strikeout a lot (72% contact rate) but also exhibited some patience with a 10% walk rate.  Scouts were worried about his ability to hit with any authority but he did manage to hit 11 home runs in a very pitcher-friendly MWL.

7. Jesus Aguilar (1B)

Jesus Aguilar is unique on my Indians Top 10 list as he is not only the oldest player at 22 but is also the only pure power bat.   A lumbering guy at 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds, Aguilar is not blessed with great bat speed but instead uses his raw power to hit the ball a long way.  Across two levels in 2012, he hit 15 bombs but also struck out 115 times (74% contact rate).  Aguilar should begin 2013 in Double-A.

8. Mitch Brown (RHP)

Mitch Brown is the lone pitcher on my Indians list and based on his ranking of eighth, in a weak system, should tell you a lot about the depth of the starting pitching.  Drafted in 2012 in the second round out of high school, his fastball sits 91-92 with an above average curve.  His mechanics are not good as he throws across his body which puts a great deal of stress on his elbow and shoulder.

9. LeVon Washington (OF)

I was really high on LeVon Washington when he was drafted 55th overall in 2010 and even drafted him in one of my Dynasty Leagues.  He was touted as a toolshed player with great speed and contactability.  However, two years later, he’s no longer on my team as the tools have yet to materialize and in 2012, he missed most of the season due to hip surgery.  The dream is still there, but I need to see some results before considering putting him back on my fantasy team.

10. Alex Monsalve (C)

Signed out of Venezuela in 2008, Alex Monsalve is the ideal size for a backstop at 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds.  While his first couple of years in professional ball did not show much, Monsalve started to put things together in 2012 where he hit eight home runs while batting .256 with great contact (86.7%).  He should start the year back in High-A.

One comment on “Cleveland Indians

  1. Hard to imagine a team without 2 legitimate big league starters being so bereft of pitching in the minors. This isn’t like the Yankees of old-it will take years and years to rebolster their staff with a small market payroll….
    Sounds like Lindor is one notch above Iglesias in the prospect order. I guess the varying belief in Lindor’s hit tool elevates him tho. I never heard a pundit say that Iglesias could hit.

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