Cleveland Indians' Top 10 Prospects for 2014

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2014

Cleveland Indians' Top 10 Prospects for 2014

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    After wallowing in the gallows of the American League for three of the previous four seasons, the Cleveland Indians opened up their pocketbooks to sign free agents Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn last offseason. 

    They also got key contributions from the farm. Danny Salazar made an instant impact with a 100 mph fastball and looks like the best homegrown pitching prospect since CC Sabathia debuted in 2001. 

    Cody Allen played a huge role in the bullpen, providing late-inning stability to a situation that got volatile near the end of 2013 when Chris Perez imploded. Jason Kipnis continued his evolution and made the AL All-Star team. 

    The Indians made the postseason for the first time since 2007. Don't expect the contributions from the farm to end, though. This is a franchise that has to rely on young players and inexpensive acquisitions to compete. 

    The farm system isn't deep and there's a lot of volatility after top prospect Francisco Lindor, but it's a group that could take a huge step forward with all the young talent at the lower levels of the minors. 

    Lindor is the star of the bunch and will likely debut at some point in 2014. Clint Frazier, their 2013 first-round pick, gives the team another potential star, but one who won't be ready for at least three years. 

    It's an exciting, intriguing system with a lot of potential. So let's take a look at the top 10 prospects for the Cleveland Indians heading into 2014. 

    Note: All stats courtesy of MiLB.com, unless otherwise noted. Scouting reports are based on personal evaluations/opinions. 

No. 10 Jesus Aguilar, 1B

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    Position: 1B

    DOB: 06/30/1990 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6'3", 250 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: November 2007 (Venezuela)

    ETA: 2014

     

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    A 2007 international signee by the Indians, Aguilar completed his first full season at Double-A Akron in 2013; big-bodied first baseman with huge raw power; will put on a display in batting practice, regularly driving balls out with ease. 

    In-game skills lack discipline; doesn't make as much hard contact as you would want with someone with his body; relies too much on body strength, lacks top-end bat speed to catch velocity; will chase breaking balls out of the zone too often. 

    Poor defensive first baseman; should be limited to DH; slow-footed and poor reactions; arm strength is average; bat will have to take a step forward to carve out any kind of MLB career. 

     

    Ceiling: Second-division regular

    Risk: Moderate

    Video via MLB Prospect Portal

No. 9 Ronny Rodriguez, SS

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    Position: SS

    DOB: 04/17/1992 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6'0", 170 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: October 2010 (Dominican Republic)

    ETA: 2015

     

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Aggressively pushed after signing with Cleveland in 2010, Ronny Rodriguez is still more tools than performance; bat is best tool, though lacks consistency and no approach at the plate; will make contact; still learning to take pitches and not try to pull everything.

    Biggest issues include lack of patience and inability to see off-speed stuff; still has impact with offensive potential thanks to plus raw power and premium bat speed; needs to show better instincts to stay at short, though lack of range likely limits him to second base.

    Given tools and aggressive assignments, Rodriguez could be a player who ends up at or near the top of this list by end of season; needs to start showing tools consistently in games to reach full potential.  

     

    Ceiling: First-division regular

    Risk: High

    Video via Northeast Baseball Prospects

No. 8 Trevor Bauer, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 01/17/1991 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 190 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2011 (UCLA)

    ETA: 2014

     

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Acquired from Arizona last season, Trevor Bauer's 2013 season saw the former first-round pick take significant steps back; velocity has dipped since coming out of college; used to touch 96-97 mph, now struggles to break 93-94; fastball is straight and pitches up in zone too often. 

    Lack of fastball velocity and command has led to more off-speed stuff; will pitch off breaking ball too often; must learn to establish heater to generate swings and misses late in at-bats with curveball and changeup. 

    Well-documented workout and pre-game routine; needs to focus energy and use it sparingly, instead of always trying to be perfect; will lose release point and arm slot with Tim Lincecum-like mechanics. 

    Ceiling has dropped since being No. 3 pick in 2011 draft; lack of height was always a concern, but now stuff isn't as dominant; well below-average command and control limits ability to fool hitters with off-speed stuff. 

     

    Ceiling: No. 3 starter

    Risk: High

    Video via Pastime Athletics

No. 7 Dace Kime, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 03/06/1992 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 200 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Third round, 2013 (Louisville)

    ETA: 2016

     

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Primarily used as a reliever in college, Dace Kime was drafted in the third round as a starting pitcher; prototypical workhorse frame at 6'4", 200 pounds; lack of starting experience could force him to move slower than most college pitchers. 

    Works with three solid-average pitches that offer some projection; fastball has average velocity, 89-92, but plays up thanks to good plane and some deception; curveball is best off-speed weapon, with good shape and tight snap; changeup is still developing, but has good separation from fastball. 

    Command is the biggest obstacle for Kime; can throw fastball for strikes, but doesn't spot the ball well; average control will allow him to beat low-level minor league hitters; has ingredients to be solid back-end starter. 

     

    Ceiling: No. 4 starter

    Risk: High

    Video via Jeff Reese, Bullpen Banter

No. 6 Dorssys Paulino, SS

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    Position: SS

    DOB: 11/21/1994 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6'0", 175 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: July 2011 (Dominican Republic)

    ETA: 2016

     

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    After Francisco Lindor, no player in Cleveland's system has a higher ceiling than Dorssys Paulino. 

    Gulf between present and future ability keeps him out of the top five; team has been aggressive pushing him, allowing him to play all of 2013 as an 18-year-old in Low-A.

    Exciting offensive profile with excellent hit and power projections; controls bat well for someone so young; slugged .558 as a 17-year-old in 2012; above-average runner; lacks discipline at the plate, so raw tools don't play as often as they should. 

    Solid defensive projection; above-average arm strength, though accuracy tends to get sloppy; range and instincts at shortstop are lacking; if bat develops, would profile well at third base; could repeat Low-A and still be young for league. 

     

    Ceiling: First-division regular

    Risk: Extreme

    Video via Jeff Reese, Bullpen Banter

No. 5 Tyler Naquin, OF

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 04/24/1991 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 175 pounds

    Bats/Throws: l/R

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (Texas A&M)

    ETA: 2015

     

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    A surprise pick by the Indians in 2012, Tyler Naquin has taken some moderate steps forward to at least project as a starting MLB center fielder; still has too much of a tweener profile; power doesn't project well at a corner spot; range in center field is better, but only average; learned to read ball better off bat, which could help range projection improve. 

    Best tool is plus throwing arm, which will be one of the best for an MLB center fielder; arm would play in right field; simple, compact stroke that sprays line drives all over the field; doesn't drive the ball as much as you want; gets beat in on the hands by better velocity; high strikeout total in 2013 (134 in 528 at-bats). 

    Naquin's bat and ability to make contact will determine ultimate role; has to make solid contact to stick, because power profile is below-average; has ingredients to be above-average defender in center. 

     

    Ceiling: Average regular

    Risk: Moderate

No. 4 Francisco Mejia, C

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    Image courtesy of Tony Lastoria, IndiansBaseballInsider.com
    Image courtesy of Tony Lastoria, IndiansBaseballInsider.comImage courtesy of Tony Lastoria, IndiansBaseballInsider.com

    Position: C

    DOB: 10/27/1995 (Age: 18)

    Height/Weight: 5'10", 175 pounds

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Signed: July 2012 (Dominican Republic)

    ETA: 2018

     

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Rarely do you find a legitimate catching prospect with this kind of offensive potential; Mejia only played in 30 games with the Arizona Rookie League team, but left an indelible mark; possesses excellent bat speed and power potential from both sides of the plate. 

    Typical young catching prospect with elite arm strength and lack of refinement behind the plate; will have to learn game-calling, receiving and blocking; athletic body offers plenty to dream on. 

    Given where current tools and future projection are, Mejia isn't likely to pop up on a lot of prospect radars until next season; could easily end up off this list as he moves up in 2015. 

     

    Ceiling: First-division regular, All-Star potential

    Risk: Extreme

No. 3 Cody Anderson, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 09/14/1990 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 220 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: 14th round, 2011 (Feather River College)

    ETA: 2015

     

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Cody Anderson, Cleveland's top pitching prospect isn't going to get anyone excited, but does offer a safe, reliable arm to slot into the middle of a rotation; good development path for a 14th-round selection. 

    Terrific pitcher frame at 6'4", 220 pounds; should have no problem throwing 180-plus innings; excellent fastball that will sit 93-94 mph and touch higher; slider is best off-speed weapon with solid tilt and good velocity, though it only projects as average pitch; changeup and curveball are fringy offerings at present, with the former having a better chance to play as average. 

     

    Ceiling: No. 3 starter

    Risk: Moderate

    Video via Tony Lastoria, Indians Baseball Insider

No. 2 Clint Frazier, OF

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 09/16/1994 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 190 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2013 (Loganville HS, GA)

    ETA: 2017

     

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    The No. 5 pick in the 2013 draft, Clint Frazier was sent to the Arizona Rookie League and showed all the tools that make his upside huge; despite smallish frame and lack of physical projection, bat speed is elite. 

    Ability to make hard contact and drive ball over the fence at 19 makes it easy to see plus power potential; swing is short and direct through zone; does sell out too often for power; high swing-and-miss rates in complex league; learning to adjust against off-speed stuff. 

    Running speed is solid average, but likely won't allow him to stay in center field; plus arm strength profiles well in right field; lacks athleticism due to limited physical size, but plays game with passion and intensity to make up for it. 

     

    Ceiling: First-division regular, All-Star potential

    Risk: High

    Video via Baseball Factory TV

No. 1 Francisco Lindor, SS

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    Position: SS

    DOB: 11/14/1993 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 5'11", 175 pounds

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Drafted: First round, 2011 (Montverde Academy HS, FL)

    ETA: 2014

     

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Few teenagers come into professional baseball with the kind of maturity and advanced in-game skills that Lindor had after being taken with the No. 8 pick in the 2011 draft.

    He has yet to experience failure in the minors, showing incredible poise and discipline on both sides of the ball. 

    Offensive skills have improved every season; has ability to read pitchers and stay within his zone; won't expand to chase pitches; tremendous hitting eye and aptitude; won't be big power hitter, but has enough strength and bat speed to hit 10-12 homers at peak; line-drive machine with great baseball acumen will translate to a lot of singles into doubles, and doubles into triples; should steal 15-20 bases at peak. 

    Wizard at shortstop; not the most rangy player, but has tremendous instincts and always puts himself in position to make plays; arm was made for position; going to be a star at the position for years. 

     

    Ceiling: First-division regular, All-Star potential

    Risk: Low

    Video via Steve Fiorindo, Bullpen Banter

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