MLB: Cleveland Indians' Top 11 Prospects

Evan VogelContributor IIIJuly 8, 2012

MLB: Cleveland Indians' Top 11 Prospects

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    The Cleveland Indians have had some ups and downs in 2012, but they are still in second place in the American League Central heading into the All-Star break. With areas for improvement or needed depth, particularly a powerful right-handed bat or a starting pitcher, the Indians will have a lot of teams scouting the depth in their system in coming weeks.

    Here, you'll find the names of several players who may interest other clubs, as the Indians look to use young talent to acquire a helpful addition, just as they did in 2011 with the acquisition of right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez from the Colorado Rockies at the deadline.

1. Francisco Lindor, Shortstop, 18

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    2012 Totals for Low-A, Lake County:

    .263/.348/.372, 15 doubles, three triples, four home runs, 25 RBI, 18 stolen bases, 48:32 K:BB in 304 AB

    Lindor is the prize of the Indians' current system and he could be the only top 100 prospect that the club even has. He possesses fantastic contact hitting skills and an even better glove at short. While his numbers may not look impressive at first glance, he is in full-season ball and turned 18 years old in November, so he is playing with much older prospects.

    Lindor plays at a position of depth for the Indians in their system, but with Asdrubal Cabrera only signed through 2014, they may hang onto him to sure up the defense and, hopefully, build on his offensive abilities. It wouldn't be out of question to see Lindor hit 12 to 15 home runs per season in his prime.

2. Jesus Aguilar, First Baseman, 22

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    2012 Totals for High-A, Carolina:

    .305/.389/.518, 21 doubles, two triples, 11 home runs, 45 RBI, 68:34 K:BB in 272 AB

    The "other" Future's Game representative for the Indians, Aguilar is a big man, listed at 6'3", 257 pounds. He may have to be a designated hitter due to his size, but for the time being, he is a first baseman. He can produce like a first baseman should, too.

    Aguilar hits, having ripped 51 doubles, 34 home runs and driving in 127 runs since the start of the 2011 season, while hitting .292/.361/.511 over that time. He could definitely use a bigger test after the break since he has 385 at-bats at High-A to this point.

    He may not be considered an elite prospect by many ranking outlets, but Aguilar looks to be an important piece for the Tribe, whether his size matters to you or not.

3. Dillon Howard, Right-Handed Pitcher, 20

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    2012 Totals in Short-Season, Arizona Rookie League

    0-2, 4.35 ERA, 10.1 innings, 10:5 K:BB, three games (two starts)

    Howard was the second-round pick of the Indians in the 2011 MLB Draft. He is still all about projection at this point, which is a bit odd given that he is already 20 years old. Howard made his professional debut on June 20 and is still breaking in his impressive 6'4", 210-lbs frame to the minor leagues.

    Given his small sample, there isn't a whole lot to be excited about, but if you look at his frame and his stuff, Howard could be a No. 2 starter. The Indians are being very careful with him and he is several years away.

4. Tony Wolters, Shortstop, 20

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    2012 Totals for High-A, Carolina

    .252/.315/.364, 19 doubles, four triples, two home runs, 35 RBI, four stolen bases, 64:25 K:BB in 294 AB

    Wolters is ahead of Lindor at shortstop in the Indians system, which makes him trade bait. The numbers above aren't spectacular, but Wolters skipped Low-A due to the presence of Lindor, so he is doing quite well for a 20-year-old in his first taste of full-season ball.

    Wolters has combined for a .271/.336/.364 line over 561 at-bats since the start of 2011. He doesn't possess tremendous speed or power, but he makes solid contact and has some patience at the plate. He could be a solid utility man or a slap-hitting middle infielder over the long haul.

5. Jake Sisco, Right-Handed Pitcher, 20

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    2012 Totals for Short-Season, New York-Penn League

    0-1, 3.32 ERA, 19 innings, 9:11 K:BB, four games (four starts)

    Sisco is another 20-year-old with a lot of potential who is taking baby steps in the Indians system. He was the third-round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft out of a junior college, so he is a little more advanced than a high school arm would be at 20 years old.

    Sisco is a 6'3", 185-lbs righty and he possesses solid stuff, just like Howard. He is several years away, but he has middle of the rotation stuff, at least, if he can stay healthy. He just debuted on June 19, so the snail-like pace is something to consider.

6. Ronny Rodriguez, Shortstop, 20

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    2012 Totals for High-A, Carolina

    .279/.309/.436, 14 doubles, three triples, nine home runs, 40 RBI, four stolen bases, 57:10 K:BB in 298 AB

    Rodriguez is sharing time at shortstop with Wolters at Carolina, also playing second base for the Mudcats. He has some really solid power in his bat, but he also swings and misses a lot.

    In 668 career at-bats, Rodriguez has a .260/.290/.443 line with 42 doubles, 10 triples and 20 home runs. He has also amassed a 140:23 K:BB. He has some work to do on the hole in his swing and his patience, but he could be a nice player to add to the lineup if he keeps the power while improving in those areas.

7. Chun-Hsiu Chen, First Baseman, 23

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    2012 Totals in Double-A, Akron

    .317/.406/.442, 25 doubles, one triple, four home runs, 36 RBI, four stolen bases, 78:45 K:BB in 312 AB

    Chen is repeating Double-A after losing his patience last season in Akron, and he is doing a much better job, taking walks like he did prior to 2011, already exceeding last season's total of 43 walks. While his power numbers are a little down, you have to like the fact that he is back to his basic approach, so the power will come.

    Chen hit 16 home runs last year and 12 in 2010, so he won't be hitting 25 to 30 home runs right away, if ever. Chen was moved off of catcher after the Indians locked up Carlos Santana, so they must have high hopes for the slugger from Taiwan.

    If another club is looking at him in a potential deal, his 35 percent caught stealing rate over parts of five seasons in the minors as a catcher could help him move back behind the plate, where his power and on-base skills would look very impressive.

8. Tyler Naquin, Outfielder, 21

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    2012 Totals for Short-Season, New-York Penn League

    .326/.453/.442, three doubles, one triple, zero home runs, four RBI, two stolen bases, 9:8 K:BB in 43 AB

    Naquin was the 15th overall selection in the 2012 MLB Draft by the Tribe. He has tremendous defensive skills, including a strong arm, and should move quickly in the Indians system. He could debut by the end of next season based on his skill-set, so it is kind of shocking that they started the college pick in short-season ball.

    Regardless, Naquin's stats are a very small sample. He just signed on June 15, so he'll look to continue to impress Cleveland brass, hopefully getting a small taste of a higher level in coming weeks.

9. T.J. McFarland, Left-Handed Pitcher, 23

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    2012 Totals for two levels, currently with Triple-A Columbus

    11-4, 3.72 ERA, 62:29 K:BB in 101.2 innings, 1.81 GO/AO in 17 starts

    McFarland has struggled since his promotion to Triple-A (5.23 ERA), but he was very solid in Double-A (2.69 ERA in 10 starts) before the move. McFarland seems to pitch to contact, having allowed 102 hits and not striking out many, just 62 in 101.2 innings.

    He is left-handed and breathing while having a little success this season, which means he is a prospect for the Indians, if nothing more than a lefty specialist.

10. Jorge Martinez, Second Baseman, 19

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    2012 Totals for Short-Season Arizona League

    .449/.481/.776, five doubles, one triple, three home runs, 11 RBI, one stolen base, 9:3 K:BB in 49 AB

    Small samples are available for Martinez, but he seems to have a powerful stroke that could be dynamic in the middle infield. He could move to third if he continues to progress as a powerful hitter, as his 6'2", 170-lbs frame can allow.

    Martinez is a switch-hitter, so if he hits and keeps improving his skills, he could be a monster. He's a high-risk/high-reward prospect, who could just as easily be in the top three by the end of the 2012 season.

11. Older Guys Who Still Matter and Could Help the Indians Soon

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    Thomas Neal, Outfielder, 24—2012 Double-A Totals

    .307/.381/.461, 17 doubles, one triple, six home runs, 32 RBI, four stolen bases, 47:23 K:BB in 241 AB

    Neal made waves in the hitter-friendly California League as a Giants prospect in 2009, ripping 41 doubles and 22 home runs. He did well in Double-A the next season, 40 doubles and 12 home runs, but hasn't approached his 2009 numbers.

    At 24 years old, he is too old to be in Double-A given his previous success and success to this point in 2012. Neal could post impressive numbers in Columbus, but he would probably be an immediate upgrade right now over Aaron Cunningham. He'll turn 25 in August.

    Cord Phelps, Infielder, 25—2012 Triple-A Totals

    .252/.341/.420, 22 doubles, two triples, nine home runs, 36 RBI, five stolen bases, 56:40 K:BB in 314 AB

    Phelps beat Jason Kipnis to the Majors last season but didn't do enough to keep the job. He has solid pop in his bat for a potential second baseman or utility player. While he doesn't possess any elite skills, he is capable of solid on-base skills and offensive production in a typically weak position. And the beard looks good, above.

    Tim Fedroff, Outfielder, 25—2012 Totals over two levels

    .318/.402/.473, 13 doubles, six triples, six home runs, 34 RBI, five stolen bases, 48:41 K:BB in 277 AB

    Fedroff is aging quickly to be considered a prospect, but he has tremendous on-base skills and fantastic hitting ability. Fedroff has a career minor league line of .294/.378/.402 in nearly 1,700 at-bats in the Indians' system.

    He is yet another left-handed bat for the Tribe if he were to get a call, but he couldn't do much worse than the Duncan/Cunningham backup outfield duo—I know they've done well lately, but a blind squirrel finds a nut.