Evaluating the Prospects: Rangers, Rockies, D’Backs, Twins, Astros, Cubs, Reds, Phillies, Rays, Mets, Padres, Marlins, Nationals, Red Sox, White Sox, Orioles, Yankees, Braves, Athletics, Angels, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Tigers, Cardinals, Brewers, Indians, Mariners, Pirates, Royals & Giants
The Indians are deep. I list 50 prospects below and their 27 and under list is among the deepest in the game, along with a surprising amount of recently-emerging high-end talent. That’s good scouting and it’s come from big league moves, trades, the draft and international signings: one team exec said this is the deepest they’ve been on the farm since 2005. The Tribe’s last five first round picks are prospects 1-4 and 6 on this list, with the 5th prospect a 1st rounder they acquired from another club. After Lindor there isn’t an elite prospect, but there’s plenty of upside types in the top half of the list that could make the jump this year.
Here’s the primer for the series and a disclaimer about how we don’t really know anything. See the links above for the ongoing series about how I evaluate, including the series on the ever-complicated hit tool.
Most of what you need to know for this list is in the above links, but I should add that the risk ratings are relative to their position, so average (3) risk for a pitcher is riskier than average risk (3) for a hitter, due to injury/attrition being more common. I’d also take a 60 Future Value hitter over a 60 FV pitcher for the same reasons. Also, risk encompasses a dozen different things and I mention the important components of it for each player in the report. The upside line for hitters is the realistic best-case scenario (a notch better than the projected tools, or a 75% projection while the projected tools are a 50% projection) and the Future Value encompasses this upside along with the risk rating for one overall rating number.
Below, I’ve included a quick ranking of the notable MLB players 27 and under that aren’t eligible for the Indians prospect list and Dave Cameron shares some general thoughts on the organization. Scroll further down to see Carson Cistulli’s fringe prospect favorite. Up next is the Mariners.
27 & Under Big League Assets
1. Michael Brantley, LF, Age 27, FV: 70
2. Yan Gomes, C, Age 27, FV: 65
3. Jason Kipnis, 2B, Age 27, FV: 65
4. Danny Salazar, RHP, Age 25, FV: 65
5. Carlos Carrasco, RHP, Age 27, FV: 65
6. Jose Ramirez, SS, Age 22, FV: 55
7. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, Age 26, FV: 55
8. Trevor Bauer, RHP, Age 24, FV: 55
9. Zach McAllister, RHP, Age 27, FV: 50
10. Cody Allen, RHP, Age 26, FV: 50
11. T.J. House, RHP, Age 25, FV: 50
12. Bryan Shaw, RHP, Age 27, FV: 45
13. Zach Walters, LF, Age 25, FV: 45
Organizational Overview by Dave Cameron
The Indians are both exactly where an organization wants to be — a legitimate 2015 contender built around young players who aren’t anywhere near free agency — and in a bit of a precarious position, given the number of low-floor players they are relying on in both the short-term and the long-term. The starting pitching is easy to dream on, but most members of their rotation have about half a season of good Major League performance, and young pitching is always a shaky foundation around which to build. Even their best players have already significantly outperformed expectations and might not be able to sustain their 2014 performances going forward. The Indians feature a lot of assets with both significant risk and upside, and few contenders have more things that could plausibly go wrong. But if it goes right, this team could be very good, and stay good for quite a while.
50+ FV Prospects
1. Francisco Lindor, SS
Current Level/Age: AAA/21.4, 5’11/190, B/R
Drafted: 8th overall (1st round) in 2011 out of Florida HS by CLE for $2.9 million bonus
Hit: 40/60, Raw Power: 40/40, Game Power: 30/40, Run: 60/60, Field: 60/65, Throw: 60/60
Scouting Report: Lindor was seen as a solid 1st rounder in his draft spring, then took a step forward down the stretch, with some of his pre-draft workouts, particularly for the Mariners, being the thing of legend. The Mariners took Danny Hultzen and Lindor was the backup choice for a number of picks, which helped him slide to 8th overall, where the Indians were thrilled to get him.
He’s met or exceeded expectation since then, with plenty of contact, speed and defense to comfortably project as an everyday player with a likely 2015 big league look. Lindor is an easy plus runner, defender and thrower with no real questions on any of those skills and that was the case soon after he was drafted. He moved quickly through the system, young for each level, making lots of contact and showing solid plate discipline and a smooth swing, but not a ton of offensive impact due to his lack of power.
Linor is a gap-to-gap, line drive hitter that doesn’t try to do too much at the plate. It exactly what you’re looking for from a guy like this; to hit and show this kind of feel for the game, which is evident in all aspects of how he plays. He’s aged like a college junior this year and he’s basically big league ready, with his only weakness that his swing can get a little too big at times, though not even that often. His biggest need is to get big league time and have the opportunity to make adjustments against the highest level of pitching.
Summation: Lindor needs to show a little more offensive consistency in Triple-A, but he should be up around mid-season this year. I don’t think the bat will be a huge impact, with the below upside line (think 75% projection) similar to current Ben Zobrist, but the speed, defense and position turn an above average but not outstanding offensive profile into a potential star.
Upside: .290/.350/.410, 7-11 homers
FV/Risk: 60, Very Low (1 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AAA/MLB
2. Clint Frazier, CF
Current Level/Age: Lo-A/20.6, 6’1/190, R/R
Drafted: 5th overall (1st round) in 2013 out of Georgia HS by CLE for $3.5 million bonus
Hit: 20/50, Raw Power: 65/65, Game Power: 20/60, Run: 60/60, Field: 50/55, Throw: 60/60
Scouting Report: Frazier was the most fun player to watch in the 2013 draft class, with an out-of-control red mop of hair and Gary Sheffield-level 80 bat speed that allowed him to put on ridiculous batting practice displays at his small home park. Frazier had some trouble making contact in high school against soft-tosser because it causes problems for him to try to slow down his incredibly fast hands. I wasn’t worried about this, as I saw Byron Buxton, Addison Russell and other elite bats have the same problems in high school.
The concerns were about his frame (no projection), his up-and-down spring (with more swing and miss than you’d like to see) and his relative rawness defensively in center field. Frazier played shortstop until his senior year of high school and had some arm soreness that made is arm range from 40 to 60 from day-to-day. The defense still needs some work as expected, but most scouts I talked to think he’ll be a plus runner with a plus arm and at least average in center field.
The main problem Frazier had in his pro debut was making consistent contact, but you can see Javier Baez, another 80 bat speed prospect, is also having some trouble syncing everything together in his first few seasons before a breakout in his second full year. As a 19-year-old, Frazier hit 20% above league average in Low-A with double digit steals and walks, so it wasn’t a failure by any means, but his 29.7% K rate needs to be closer to 20% to make this work at higher levels.
Scouts will give Frazier another year or two to work on adjusting to better pitchers, adjust his mechanics and adjust his approach and I think he’ll figure it out in that time frame. His strikeouts last year came from chasing out of the zone, common early in a power hitter’s career, not swinging through strikes, which would be more worrisome. He’s shown the ability to go to the opposite field in games, which was an adjustment he needed to make after a pull-happy high school career.
Summation: Frazier’s position gives him some leeway with the bat, as guys like Drew Stubbs and Mike Cameron showed that center fielders don’t have to always make tons of contact if they can hit it out of the park and play solid defense. I think Frazier ends up at the higher end of that range, with more power and bat speed than almost any center field prospect in recent memory; the breakout could be coming at any moment.
Upside: .270/.345/.470, 25 homers
FV/Risk: 50, High (4 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: High-A, 2016: AA, 2017: AAA/MLB
3. Brad Zimmer, RF
Current Level/Age: Lo-A/22.3, 6’4/185, L/R
Drafted: 21st overall (1st round) in 2014 out of San Francisco by CLE for $1.9 million bonus
Hit: 20/55, Raw Power: 50/55, Game Power: 20/50, Run: 60/55, Field: 50+/50+, Throw: 60/60
Scouting Report: Zimmer was another highly athletic first rounder out of the University of San Francisco like his brother Royals RHP Kyle Zimmer, another first rounder. Brad is a hitter that’s drawn comparisons to Marlins OF Christian Yelich for his long frame, deceptive speed, and contact approach. Zimmer can play a solid center field now, but likely moves to right field eventually, with further physical projection and/or adding loft to his swing potentially making him a really good starter, if he can hit for average and power in games.
Zimmer doesn’t quite show you everything he has in BP, but it’s around average power now and he should add a decent amount of bulk in the coming years. His swing is very relaxed, almost looks lazy at times and a scout’s instincts is to discount a hitter that’s this big, but Zimmer has hit and hit well at every level he’s ever been. Predictably, he raked again after signing and should get an aggressive assignment to High-A to start 2015.
Again, deceptively, he’ll sneak up on you with plus run times despite his size and has long strides and good reads in center field. The Indians will keep him there, but the expectation is that he’ll lose a step, slide over to right and be above average over there, due in part to his plus arm. Zimmer is also good on the bases and at that point it makes you wonder how a college performer with five above average tools laster until the 21st overall pick. I ranked Zimmer 10th pre-draft and other than some high-level scouts going in, seeing a bad contact weekend and pushing him down the board, I don’t know why he slipped.
He was making the most consistent contact last summer on a strong Team USA squad that included Alex Bregman (soon to be 2015 1st rounder) and 2014 1st rounders Trea Turner, Michael Conforto and Matt Chapman, along with multiple mid-round guys like Sam Travis, Grayson Grenier and Taylor Sparks. Zimmer is big and can look a little awkward physically at times, but when you see the performance and tools and check the track record, you can look past that as a guy growing into his frame, not an un-athletic player.
Summation: I mentioned Yelich above, who is a great comp for the overall skill set. Both slipped about 10 picks later that most expected in the draft and I think both will steadily move up prospect lists before becoming an above average everyday player.
Upside: .280/.350/.450, 15-20 homers
FV/Risk: 50, Medium (3 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: High-A, 2016: AA, 2017: AAA/MLB
45 FV Prospects
4. Tyler Naquin, CF Video: Naquin went in the first round in 2012 out of Texas A&M with the reputation of an outfield tweener that has a smooth lefty stroke and makes tons of contact. He’s still basically seen that way, but has more believers that he can stick in center field and has more momentum with the bat. Naquin is an above average runner with good instincts that looks like he’ll be able to stick in center field, but his above average arm is plenty for right field if he can’t, which is where he played in college.
Naquin has fringy raw power that plays down in games due to his line drive approach, but he wasn’t able to work on that in the second half of 2014 as his season ended by a broken index finger on his right hand. The Indians were starting to see Naquin reaching his potential in 2014–going from a pure hitter with an oppo approach to a more well-rounded hitter with some pull power–and hope to see him pick that up in 2015.
5. James Ramsey, CF Video: Ramsey was somewhat of a surprise 1st rounder by St. Louis in 2012, taking him 23rd overall out of Florida State, then shipping him to Cleveland at the deadline last summer for RHP Justin Masterson. Ramsey was seen as a 2nd rounder by most scouts as a tweener type with feel to hit. His physical, 6’0/200 build made plus run times to first base seem like the product of quick jumps out of the box, but he’s shown more than expected ability to play center field in pro ball.
Ramsey has an average arm and average raw power, with Ramsey trying harder to tap into it in games more than he did in college, which also raised his K rate and exacerbated his problems with tough lefties. If he sounds similar to Naquin, that’s because their tools are almost exactly the same, but Ramsey is a year and a half older with a stockier build. Ramsey turned 25 this winter and has hit at every level of the minors, with some scouts still seeing the 4th outfielder they saw in college, so he has things to work on; with the Indians big league roster full, Ramsey will head back to Triple-A.
6. Justus Sheffield, LHP Video: Sheffield jumped on the scouting radar when he hit 94 mph in October before his junior high school season in relief of his older brother (and current Vanderbilt pitcher) Jordan in front of dozens of scouts. Justus is listed at 5’10/195 but it probably a bit bigger than that, so height isn’t on his side, but he has suitable bulk to start if his stuff and command are enough to overcome his lack of plane. Sheffield looked like a first rounder entering his senior year in high school and then he struggled for most of the season, with some teams not scouting him down the stretch. This was due to inconsistency (his velo dipped into the 80’s at times and command came and went) and the assumption he would go to Vanderbilt to play with Jordan.
Teams that stuck around saw Sheffield regularly hitting 95 and peaking at 96 mph late; the Indians grabbed him at the end of the first round in June. He sits 90-93 with life, hitting 95 at times, with a curveball and changeup that are both above average and, when his delivery is low effort as usual, shows above average command as well, though he’s still working on that. Sheffield was arrested this winter, but the Indians write it off as underage drinking and wrong place, wrong time, with their coaches and officials raving about his on-field makeup and how he immediately came clean with remorse about the arrest. The upside is a #3/4 starter and he could be a quick mover if the feel to pitch regularly comes back in 2015.
7. Mitch Brown, RHP Video: Brown was a 2nd rounder in 2012 out of a Minnesota high school that had a maxed-out frame (6’2/205) and limited miles on his arm, but solid average stuff that flashed better at times. He struggled throwing strikes consistently until he broke though this year, dominating as a 20-year-old in Low-A, racking up a 50.5% ground ball rate and almost a strikeout per inning. Late in the year and in instructs, the stuff had ticked up considerably, sitting 92-95 and hitting 96 mph with a curveball that flashed plus at times, a slider that’s average at times and changeup that’s fringy, but still coming along. Brown attacks hitters aggressively with his newly-improved stuff and now he can put it where he wants it. The upside is a #3 starter, but it would be nice to see him replicate his late season surge in 2015 at High-A.
8. Erik Gonzalez, SS Video: Gonzalez was seen a slick-fielding shortstop with a very light bat that was a utility guy at best, then he suddenly starting hitting in 2014 and became a real prospect. He’s 2nd only to Lindor in terms of shortstop defense in the system, with 60 run, field and throw tools. The power is a 40 at best, but the bat might be a 50, which would make Gonzalez an everyday player. The Indians chalk up the improvements to an incredible work ethic combining with a bulk of reps finally hitting a tipping point. Gonzalez has good eye-hand and bat control, but needs to keep the approach within himself. He’ll head back to the upper levels for his age-23 season and now has a real big league future.
9. Giovanny Urshela, 3B Video: The Colombian third baseman signed for $300,000 in 2008 and the bat has slowly come along while the defense and arm strength have both always been above average to plus. Urshela is quick more than fast (he’s a 40-45 runner) and he also has average raw power. There’s plenty of tools here for an everyday player and Urshela is starting to make adjustments with the bat to control the zone better. He doesn’t strike out much, but he’ll chase out of the zone and make weak contact as an early-count hitter, in part due to his advanced eye-hand and bat control. The Indians see progress and think there’s enough here to be an everyday option, but he may be a Pedro Feliz like without many changes; he’ll head back to Triple-A this year.
10. Francisco Mejia, C Video: Mejia signed for $350,000 out of the Dominican in 2012 and made a huge impression in his two short-season campaigns at age 17 and 18. The 5’10/175 switch hitter has a plus plus arm, at least average raw power and feel to control the zone to get to his power in games as a teenager. The concerns are on contact, as he’s a power over hit type, and defensively, where he has the raw tools to catch, but still needs to make progress in multiple mental areas, like leading a staff, framing, calling a game, etc. There isn’t a long track record of Dominican catchers in the big leagues, so some scouts are still cautious about this ultimate position; first base may be the only other fit, given his below average speed. He’ll head to Low-A this year as a 19-year-old, so it’s still very early to count out this kind of tool package.
11. Bobby Bradley, 1B Video: Bradley was a 3rd rounder last summer out of a Mississippi high school, a profile without much success in the past. He’ll be limited to first base long term, putting him and Papi into a no-room-for-error type of position as prospects. Bradley made a ton of progress last season after being just okay on the showcase circuit, showing improved strength and raw power, which is now a 60. Bradley has advanced feel for the strike zone, an all-field approach that bodes well for tapping into that raw power in games and enough bat speed to allow him to wait for everything to get deep in the zone. He should play at Low-A this year at ages 18/19 and has to keep hitting, but he raked all of last year.
12. Mike Papi, LF Video: Papi was the 38th overall pick last summer out of Virginia and the tools aren’t insane; you’re mostly buying polish and feel to hit. He’s a below average runner with a below average arm that profiles in left field and has played some first base before. Papi’s raw power is solid average (17-20 homers annually) and he should get to all of it in games, but that may take a few years, as he’s an advanced lefty bat with an all-fields, line-drive type approach. Papi likely gets to High-A at some point next year, in his age-22 season and projects as a low-end everyday player with a high floor.
13. Cody Anderson, RHP Video: Anderson was a late-blooming kid from Idaho that the Tribe signed out of a California junior college for $250,000 in the 14th round in 2011. He was a multi-sport kid who had just starting relieving when he got drafted, so he got most of his pitching experience in pro ball. There’s still some fastball command issues, so he may end up in relief, but the 6’4/235 righty will be developed as a starter. The arm action and delivery are both good and he normally sits 91-93 with some sink, hitting 95 mph, but can sit in the mid-90’s in short stints. His slider is above average, the curveball is average but inconsistent and the changeup is fringy but flashes average sometimes. Anderson will head back to the upper levels as a 24-year-old this year and could become a #3/4 starter with some command improvements or a set-up guy if that doesn’t work.
40 FV Prospects
14. Luis Lugo, LHP Video: Lugo signed for $415,000 out of Venezuela at age 17 due to his velocity coming on after he was already eligible to sign at age 16. The projectable 6’5/210 lefty put up great numbers in his first extended look at full-season ball in 2014 and the stuff is there to think this can continue. He sits 90-92 now, hitting 94 mph but scouts think there will be more velocity coming due to the frame and some inefficiencies in his delivery. His curveball and changeup are both already around average regularly, with the changeup the better of the two at this point. Command is the question for Lugo, but big guys take longer to develop body control and he just turned 21.
15. Dylan Baker, RHP Video: Baker signed out of a Nevada JC in 2012 for $200,000 in the 5th round; after getting some top few round buzz earlier in the spring, his stuff tailed off down the stretch. In 2013, he showed those flashes once again as a starter in Low-A and repeated it last year in High-A, but the command is enough of a question that many see a reliever long-term. Baker sits 92-94 and regularly hits 96, getting as high at 100 mph in short stints, along with a hard slider that’s a 55 at times but is erratic. His changeup and command are both below average with a chance to be fringy, but scouts think Baker’s mentality fits better in a late-inning role while Cleveland still thinks they can figure out how to make him a starter.
16. Yu-Cheng Chang, SS Video: Cleveland signed Chang out of Taiwan for $500,000 in the summer of 2013. He’s 6’1/175 and good at shortstop now, but likely ends up at third base, with second base still a possibility. Chang was impressive in his pro debut in the AZL last summer, showing the ability to lash liners all over the field, though he has over-the-fence raw power that should be average eventually. He has an advanced feel for the strike zone for his age and the tools and skills you’re looking for from a teenage shortstop.
17. Jesus Aguilar, 1B Video: The 6’3/250 Venezuelan slugger has slowly moved up the farm and has had to prove it at every level given his position and size, but has now done it at every level except the big leagues. Aguilar struggled in a late MLB look last year; he has very limited speed, below average arm strength and surprisingly good hands, but this is a bat-only prospect. Aguilar has plus raw power from the right side, but there isn’t tons of bat speed, it’s more of a pure strength type of power, so his power approach reveals some holes on the inner half. Aguilar has some hitability and feel for the strike zone, so he should be at least a platoon guy, with most scouts thinking that’s all he’ll be.
18. Carlos Moncrief, RF Video: Moncrief has had an unusual path; he got $150,000 in the 14th round in 2008 out of a Florida Juco to be a pitcher, then converted to hitting in 2010. He’s older than his peers and behind them in bulk of reps, but Moncrief has real tools, with above average raw power from the left side, average speed and a plus arm. The question comes down to contact and how much of his power he’ll get to, which will decide if he’s a starter, reserve or 4A guy. His strikeouts rose and his ISO dropped last year at Triple-A, evidence that he needs more seasoning, but Moncrief uses the whole field and could be on the verge of figuring things out.
19. Willi Castro, SS Video: The Puerto Rican-born and Dominican-trained shortstop turns 18 soon and got $825,000 in 2013. He’s polished for his age, as his father Liliano was a coach for the Mets and Tigers, and the 6’1/165 switch-hitter is an average runner with the tools to stick at shortstop. Castro is a hit over power type that’s doesn’t have much now but could grow into some. There’s enough here to be an average defensive shortstop and make contact with some gap power, so it isn’t a huge impact type and it’s very early, but there’s lots to like.
20. Grant Hockin, RHP Video: Hockin got $1.1 million as a 2nd rounder out of a SoCal high school last summer. The 6’4/200 righty got a little bigger before the spring and his velo ticked up as a result, but he’s still more of a pitchability guy. Hockin sits 88-92 with life and hits 95 mph, his slider is above average, the changeup is average and he’ll mix in an average curveball at times. There’s still some projection, so the stuff could get a little better, but you’re likely looking at a polished, quick moving #4 starter type with a chance for a little more.
21. Roberto Perez, C Video: Perez got an extended big league look last year and should be the regular backup this year. The Puerto Rican backstop was a 33rd rounder in 2008 and has really flown under the radar, but fits the mold of the defensive-minded backup. He’s an above average defender with an above average arm that’s a favorite of pitchers. His 2013 was marred by a diagnosis of Bell’s Palsy shortly after getting to Triple-A. He played through it and really struggled, but it not almost all the way back and tore the cover off the ball in Triple-A in 2013. Perez has always had feel for the bat head and the strike zone, but 2014 was the first flashes of getting to those skills in games. He’s blocked by Yan Gomes, but Cleveland thinks Perez may be an everyday player.
22. Luigi Rodriguez, CF Video: Rodriguez signed for $200,000 out of the Dominican in 2009 and the 5’11/160 switch hitter is quick-twitch and an easy plus runner still learning how to harness it on the field yet. Rodriguez has surprising pop for his size and the bat speed to give him some margin for error along with the wheels to outrun defensive and base running mistakes. He was a little more selective this year and has always drawn his fair share of walks. Rodriguez will head to Double-A this year for his biggest test yet.
23. Tony Wolters, C Video: Wolters went in the sandwich round ($1.35 million bonus) out of a San Diego-area high school in 2010. He was a shortstop then that looked likely to move to second base, but due more to his fringy speed/range than his above average hands, instincts and arm. The 5’10/180 grinder had the advanced feel at the plate to still profile as a usable piece anywhere up the middle, but ended up moving to catcher on a suggestion from manager Terry Francona. The conversion has stuck as Wolters has taken to catching, but, as is common with young catchers, the focus to catch up on the defensive side has weakened the bat. The isn’t impact bat speed or power, but feel to hit is present, so Wolters will head back to the upper levels this year and hope to regain some offense, with big league backup his likely result.
24. Ryan Merritt, LHP Video: Merritt has flown well under the radar since getting $150,000 in the 16th round out of a Texas JC in 2011. He sits 88-91 mph with excellent fastball command, and above average changeup and a slurve that’s often average. Merritt is a command lefty that’ll be 23 in Double-A this year and got added to the 40-man. The numbers don’t stand out, but he’s the low-walk rate, pitch to contact, ground ball type that will put up similar numbers at every level and sneak up on people. He isn’t huge at 6’0/170, but the org thinks they have something here.
25. Levon Washington, CF Video: Washington had a lot of hype out of high school, but turned down the Rays as a 1st rounder out of a Florida high school, signing with the Indians the next year in the 2nd round for $1.2 million out of a Florida junior college. He’s regressed some since signing, but the real problem has been various injuries that limited him to 351 PA or less each pro season. He’s a plus plus runner with quick-twitch athleticism and surprising power for his 5’11/170 frame. There’s some feel for the strike zone and bat speed, so Washington could be an everyday guy if he stays healthy and taps into these tools. He’s still a little raw and will turn 24 this year likely getting his first look at Double-A.
26. Sean Brady, LHP Video: The Indians gave the Florida prep lefty $800,000 to turn pro in 2013 after a spring velo spike. He sat 85-88 mph as a pitchability lefty over the summer/fall, then the 5’11 lefty starting hitting 93 mph in the spring, sitting at 89-91 regularly. His standout changeup from the summer was still above average, but his soft slurve now was also flashing above average with the added arm speed, helping Brady project as a back-end starter. He’ll head to Low-A this year at 21 and his pitchability and above average stuff should help him move quickly.
27. Adam Plutko, RHP Video: Plutko was in a rotation at UCLA with Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer, but his stuff lagged well behind his more well known counterparts, getting him $300,000 late in the 2013 draft. He sat in the high-80’s in college and his velo ticked up a bit in pro ball, sitting 88-92 and hitting 94 mph. He has an above average changeup, excellent feel to pitch and a good delivery, but his curveball and slider are both fringy and there isn’t much room for error. He’ll head to Double-A this year at 23 and should be a 5th starter with a couple more adjustments.
28. Austin Adams, RHP Video: Adams signed for $70,000 in 2009 as an older prospect from a small college in Alabama, but shot through the system, reaching AA in two years and looking like a future rotation piece for the Tribe. He missed the 2012 season with shoulder surgery, but came back with all of his velocity. The 5’11/200 Adams doesn’t have much plane, but has good life to his fastball and still has four pitches from his starting days, though the consistency of his secondary stuff and command are still issues. The 28-year-old sits 95-98 and hits 99 mph with slider that flashes 55, but plane, command and consistency vary too much for him to be more than a middle reliever.
Yandy Diaz, 3B
It’s essentially a tie for this particular distinction between Diaz and catcher Jeremy Lucas. Both exhibit a strong combination of patience and contact while also occupying a place towards the more challenging end of the defensive spectrum. One argument against the latter, however, is that catcher Jeremy Lucas might, at some point soon, become first baseman Jeremy Lucas. Diaz is interesting for other reasons, too: a Cuban defector signed very quietly by Cleveland, he was named best defensive third baseman in the High-A Carolina League, per Baseball America.
Others of Note
Four hitters at the upper levels to keep an eye on: 3B Yandy Diaz (Cistulli’s guy above was the last cut from the list, making him the least fringy player in this series; Cuban signed for $300,000, flashes average bat/arm/glove, ability to play all over the field, good plate discipline, but old for his level, very little game power and ordinary bat speed), CF Tyler Holt (big league ready center fielder is a plus runner and advanced defender, but it looks like a 4A bat, limiting him to 5th outfielder status), SS Ronny Rodriguez (slick defender can play anywhere and is above average runner with solid average raw power, but he hasn’t hit a lick in two years and the plate discipline has always been a problem, but there’s lots of tools) and C Eric Haase (5’10/180 backstop is very athletic, has solid average raw power and some chance to stick behind the plate, but the plate discipline is still problematic).
Four infielders at the lower levels to keep an eye on: SS Ivan Castillo (19-year-old Dominican shortstop is above average runner, thrower and defender with enough feel to hit to be a prospect, but there isn’t a ton of offensive upside), 1B Nellie Rodriguez (6’2/225 and limited to first base only, but Rodriguez has above average raw power and some feel to hit along with solid age-appropriate performances), C Simeon Lucas (Video 2014 prep 7th rounder has chance to stay behind the plate, has average raw power and a smooth lefty cut) and SS Alexis Pantoja (Video 2014 9th rounder is rail-thin Puerto Rican prep shortstop with flashy glove, good instincts and feel to hit, but needs to add weight).
Four outfielders at the lower levels to keep an eye on: LF Dorssys Paulino (signed for $1.1 million in 2011 out of the Dominican and had positive early returns as an advanced bat that could play a middle infield position; Cleveland moved him to left field to take pressure off the bat and he’ll stay there until he regains form, with a chance to return to second base), CF Greg Allen (2014 6th rounder is smaller switch hitter with easy plus speed and advanced defense, with everyday upside if he can stay within himself at the plate), RF Anthony Santander (Venezuelan switch hitter is still only 20 and has five average tools, but has had trouble staying on the field) and CF Gabriel Mejia (5’11/160 teenager performed well in the DSL last year with 72 stolen bases and more walks than strikeouts; there’s a predictable lack of power and he hasn’t faced the best pitching, but there’s something here).
Three righties at the upper levels to keep an eye on: RHP Will Roberts (6’5/220 righty sits 90-93 with fringy to average slider and changeup, good makeup and some feel to pitch, but he’s already 24 with limited strikeout numbers), RHP C.C. Lee (28-year-old Taiwanese reliever has been around for awhile, sits 91-94 and hits 96 mph from a low slot with a solid average slider and usable changeup) and RHP Shawn Armstrong (6’2/225 reliever sits 91-95 and has touched 100 mph before, has a slider that flashes 55 and a usable changeup with a likely 2015 MLB chance, but the command and consistency are real issues; there’s a chance for a setup guy but more likely a fill middle relief type).
Three lefties at the upper levels to keep an eye on: LHP Kyle Crockett (Video 2013 4th rounder made the big leagues last year; sits 88-91 mph from low 3/4 slot with solid average slider and above average command that makes life tough on lefties), LHP Shawn Morimando (5’11/195 lefty is athletic, young for AA and has a shot to be a 5th starter, but the stuff is just okay; solid average fastball/slider and fringy changeup with okay command) and LHP Nick Maronde (Video Angels’ 2011 3rd rounder was rushed to MLB as a reliever, Cleveland got him on waivers last summer and plans to start him this year; his 90-95 mph fastball, solid average slider and fringy changeup are enough to start but the fastball command has backed up).
Four pitchers at the lower levels to keep an eye on: RHP Dace Kime (2013 3rd rounder was converted from college reliever to pro starter; 6’4/200 righty has solid average four pitch mix and fringy command), RHP Leandro Linares (21-year-old Cuban got $950,000 last year and 6’3/205 righty sits 90-93, hits 94 mph with life, an above average curveball and average slider and changeup; command is still coming along but stuff flashed even better at times), LHP Sam Hentges (2014 prep 4th rounder way 6’6’/230 two-way talent from Minnesota; he’s still growing into his frame/delivery and three pitch mix is fringy, though it flashes above average at times) and RHP Casey Shane (Video 2013 6th rounder is 6’4/200 after slimming down, with good feel and three average pitches).
Kiley McDaniel has worked as an executive and scout, most recently for the Atlanta Braves, also for the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates. He's written for ESPN, Fox Sports and Baseball Prospectus. Follow him on twitter.