2014 Cleveland Indians

C – Eric Haase –  LoA Lake County/HiA Carolina – 21 yo;  – (2011 – 7th round)  –
  • .255 – 17HR – 48RBi – 52R – .322/.474/.795 slash   –  – csPAG: 3.28
  • BA-NR  –  MLB Pipeline-NR  –  BP-NR
  • When Jim and I predict our breakouts for each organization, our choices don’t stop at just one player. We tier our picks, creating an organizational UTR hierarchy of several hitters (positionally) and pitchers of both the starting and relieving variety.  I’m not going to walk the plank choosing the Dearborn, MI native as my top breakout choice for the Indians, however, his offensive game coupled with a possible assignment to HiA Carolina to begin 2015 could garner a nice upswing in production. 
1B – Bobby Bradley – AZL Indians – 18 yo;  – (2014 – 3rd round) –
  •  .361 – 8HR – 50RBi – 39R –  .426/.652/.1.078  slash  –  – PAG: 5.36
  • BA-NR  –  MLB Pipeline (mid-season)/#20  –  BP-NR
  • In all the years I’ve been prospect mining I’ve learned to control my enthusiasm over a prospect posting monstrous numbers in their debut season.  However, there are some players that generate excitement on a whole other level.  Bradley is such a prospect.  The 6’1 – 225 lb. lefty began his professional resume in ridiculous fashion leading the Arizona League in runs (39), home runs (8), RBi (50), slugging % (.652), OPS (1.078) and total bases (101.)  The Harrison Central HS (MS) draftee also finished third in hits (56) second in doubles (13) and fourth in batting (.361)  These filthy stats calculated to the highest PAG score recorded amongst all American League prospects who registered regular playing time within their respective teams regardless of short or full season leagues.   PAG doesn’t discriminate based on pedigree, draft status, height or weight.  If you hit, you hit, and PAG will exploit that no matter what.  This leaves Bradley as much a “must watch” prospect as there is in the American League heading into 2015. 

2B – Jorma Rodriguez  – DSL Indians – 18 yo; – (2013 – International FA-VE)

  • .330 – 0HR – 33RBi – 45R – 13 SB  – (46:30-BB:K) -.458/.421/.879 slash  – PAG: 3.61
  • BA-NR  –  MLB Pipeline-NR  –  BP-NR
 
3B – Grant Fink – LoA Lake County – 23 yo;  – (2013 – 23rd round) –
  • .225 – 13HR – 60RBi – 59R  –  .326/.374/.700  slash   – PAG: 2.82
  • BA-NR  –  MLB Pipeline-NR   –   BP-NR
  • There are highs and lows when it comes to sorting through each minor league system.  Sure, PAG helps sift out soon-to-be-(hopeful) top minor leaguers, but it also imposes upon systems who might have as much glaring positional weaknesses as they do strengths. Cleveland’s 3B situation is rather weak as you can see based on my choice of Fink, a Missouri Western State draftee. He’s not a bad prospect, but certainly not on the statistical fast-track to the majors. We here cap our UTR coverage at the HiA level and it’s clear that based on PAG alone (csPAG: 3.41 @ AA/AAA) 2009 international signee Giovanny Urshela is the top prospect dog manning the hot corner in the organization.  
SS – Yu-Cheng Chang – Arizona League  –  18 yo; – (2014 International FA-TW) –
  • .346 – 6HR – 25RBi – 39R – 6 SB –   .420/.566/.986 slash   – PAG: 4.24
  • BA-NR  –  MLB Pipeline-NR  –  BP-NR 
  • As I stated above with the highs and lows of prospect mining, the inception of PAG and TPS  has helped Jim and I drastically improve our prospect game. Yet, just as well, our creation can also force us to become victims of our own device.  Such is Yu-Cheng Chang. The Taiwanese signee has both the privilege and unfortunate task of playing the same position in the same organization that boasts one of the games future superstars shortstop Francisco Lindor.  Jim and I had the pleasure of seeing Lindor in action as a 19 year-old in the Eastern League back in 2013 and he did not disappoint.  In our world of UTR prospects however, Chang definitely held his own during his debut. He tied teammate Bobby Bradley with the Arizona League lead in runs scored (39), ranked second in home runs (6) and hauled in an OPS of .986 and total base tally of 90, both 3rd in the league, all while splitting time between second base and shortstop.
LF – LeVon Washington  –  HiA Carolina – 22 yo; –  (2010 – 2nd round)-
  • .294 – 4HR – 28RBi – 39R – 7 SB –  .402/.393/.795  slash   – PAG: 3.11
  • BA-NR  –  MLB Pipeline-NR  –  BP-NR
CF – Clint Frazier – LoA Lake County – 19 yo; – (2013 – 1st round) –
  • .266 – 13HR – 50RBi – 70R – 12 SB –  .349/.411/.761  slash   –  PAG: 3.19
  • BA/#2  –  MLB Pipeline (mid-season)/#2  –  BP/#2
  • The Loganville HS (GA) draftee was one of the reasons I’m glad I chose to split up PAG between in-season and off-season segments. Frazier posted a solid stat line and PAG score in 2014, and even though it was a step down from his 2013 debut seasonal PAG of 3.80 in the Arizona League, it’s still a step in the right direction for the former #1 draft pick.  But, Frazier was a great example of a top draft pick who rarely made my daily Top Performers list in 2014.  I confess that I need to do a MUCH better job tracking in-season daily mention information in 2015, however what Frazier did was prove how consistent a performer he was, as my daily Top Performer criteria is primarily set to highlight performers who’s PAG is over triple what Frazier averaged for the season. 2015 will continue to prove why he’s Cleveland’s biggest and brightest 5-tool prospects. 
RF – Luigi Rodriguez – HiA Carolina – 21 yo; – (2009 – International signee-DR) –
  • .250 – 6HR – 30RBi – 50R – 15 SB  –  .347/.366/.713  slash  –  – PAG: 2.71
  • BA/#13  –  MLB Pipeline-NR  –  BP-NR

**Bonus Prospect**

Uber-utility – Paul Hendrix – LoA Lake County – 22 yo; – (2013 – 18th round)-

  • .287 – 12HR – 46RBi – 63R – 2 SB  –  .364/448/.813  slash  –  – PAG: 3.01
  • BA-NR  –  MLB Pipeline-NR  –  BP-NR
  • The Texas Christian University grad was the man of many hats for the LoA Lake County Captains. He lead the team in hitting as a non-starter and was what some call a “managers dream” by providing a supreme level of multi-positional infield defense (eligibility). The righty hitting Texas native registered 23 games at 2B, 37 at shortstop and 50 games at third and posted a better fielding percentage than his every day starting teammates. I strongly dislike player comparisons, but his overall profile reminds me of the Daniel Descalso-type player. 
 
 
 
Top 5 Starting Pitchers – Mention Points/TPS
 
1. LHP Ryan Merritt – (17) SP/TPS .109
  • 22 years old – (HiA Carolina)
  • 16th round – 2011
  • UTR Mention (June 22)
  • If your in a AL-only Keeper/Dynasty Fantasy League and Merritt is available, you have to place him tops on your draft list in the end-game for 2015. There’s a very good chance that he might be, as his name doesn’t appear on any of the top prospect list for Indians, a true under the radar arm. The lefty was one of my top UTR pitchers in receiving the most mentions but was only focused on once during the season. If you have a leaguemate that focuses on win-loss records, then Merritt’s 13-3 record will draw attention. To me, its the pure command of his pitches which limits walks and opposing batters to a .216 average over 160.1 innings. He’s not that power pitcher who will blow you away with his stuff (127 K’s), as his fastball doesn’t even touch 90 mph. He keeps hitters off-balance and pitches to contact. He will appear on those lists this Spring and if success follows him to Double-A Akron, Merritt will command notice all the way to Cleveland.
2. LHP Shawn Morimando – (12) SP/TPS .119
  • 21 years old – (HiA Carolina / Double-A Akron)
  • 19th round – 2011
  • Ranked 22nd by Baseball America
  • 2-Time UTR Mention (April 20thJune 14th)
  • Just completing his 3rd year as a pro after being drafted out of high school, Morimando is a polished pitcher. Also in the vain of Merritt, the left-hander doesn’t strikeout a lot of hitters (108 in 152.2 IP over two levels), but does flash a decent 4-pitch mix. This produced limited success during this two stints at Double-A Akron against hitters almost 4 years older than the 21-year old. Look for both Morimando and Merritt in the rotation again at HiA Carolina,as there is no need to rush their development. 
3. RHP Adam Plutko – (11) SP/TPS .096
  • 22 years old – (LoA Lake County / HiA Carolina)
  • 11th round – 2013
  • Ranked 18th by Baseball America
  • 4-Time UTR Mention (May 8thMay 19thJune 13thJuly 11th)
  • Repeatable theme here as the Indians has another pitcher that doesn’t throw with much power. Plutko is flyball pitcher (33% GB rate) who likes to use his fastball, slider and change-up in the zone. His pitches profile with good control and movement which he uses to pitch to contact. Pluto could be a middle of the rotation, innings eater.
4. RHP Mitch Brown – (10) SP/TPS .093
  • 20 years old – (LoA Lake County)
  • 2nd round – 2012
  • Ranked 24th by Baseball America
  • Brown came from the cold-weather climes of Minnesota and was the highest drafted player that resided there since Joe Mauer in 2001. He could be workhorse in the making and is our first listed power-pitcher with his sinking 94mph fastball. Brown has received comps to Chad Billingsley.
5. RHP D. J. Brown – (9) cSR/TPS .141
  • 23 years old – (HiA Carolina)
  • 39th round – 2012
  • No really….just because their last names were Brown, it didn’t mean they automatically made the cut. In fact, D.J just edged out my 2014 Breakout pick Cole Sulser for the final spot. The right-hander started the season by making numerous appearances in my daily tracking spreadsheets and put-up a 1.89 ERA in five April appearances He couldn’t keep going through the whole season, as things fell apart the following two months. There was a major tail-off in my list from 6 through 10 for the Indians, which is how Brown’s quick start to the 2014 season has him at #5.
 
 
Top 3 Relief Pitchers – Mention Points/TPS
 
1. RHP Ben Heller – (11) RP/TPS .051
  • 22 years old – (LoA Lake County / HiA Carolina)
  • 22nd round – 2013
  • Heller is burning through the levels with the Indians. Short-Season during this pro debut in 2013 to (17) HiA appearances in 2014. Heller has a mid-90’s fastball that tops at 97 mph and a good slider that, with improvement, could be his rocket up the ladder.
2. RHP Louis Head – (9) RP/TPS .064
  • 24 years old – (HiA Carolina / Double-A Akron)
  • 18th round – 2012
  • UTR Mention (April 9th)
  • Louis Head also had a fast start to the season which held to make this list. Impressive so, as he did all this in April and May because he dropped off my daily UTR tracking when he was promoted to Double-A Akron. Head features a three pitch mix of a low 90’s fastball, a slider and curve.
3. RHP Trevor Frank – (8) RP/TPS .076
  • 23 years old – (LoA Lake County)
  • 8th round – 2013
  • Trevor Frank took over the closer role at Lake County when Heller was promoted. He finished the season with 18 saves in appearances. He’s a fastball pitcher who throws in the mid 90’s and is developing a slider
 
 
 
Top 5 TPS – Starting Pitchers  
 
1. LHP Anderson Polanco – cSR/TPS .040
  • 21 years old – ( LoA Lake County)
  • Undrafted – 2011
  • A promising young talent from the Dominican Republic that posted a 1.95 ERA with LoA Lake County. He had a successful debut in the DSL as an 18 year old in 2011 as a starter. He repeated the DSL the following year and the Indians placed him in the bullpen where things didn’t go well. State-side in 2013 seen the lefty go from the Arizona League to LoA. Polanco could make the short-list for a 2015 Breakout with the Indians.
2. LHP Thomas Pannone – cSR/TPS .063
  • 20 years old – (AZL Indians)
  • 9th round – 2013
  • 2-Time UTR Mention (June 26thAugust 6th)
  • Pannone was looked at as an outfielder, but when he took the mound at junior college and ran a fastball into the 90’s his career track changed. Though he has only been pitching for a short time, Pannone has been tagged with some upside. He’s definitely one to watch in the next two years.
3. LHP Luis Lugo – cSR/TPS .081
  • 2o years old – (LoA Lake County)
  • Undrafted – 2011
  • Ranked 21st by Baseball America / 19th by MLBPipeline
  • 4-Time UTR Mention (April 25thMay 17thJune 9thAugust 10th)
  • Lugo had a breakout year for the Indians in certain ways. He set career-highs in starts, innings and strikeouts. The big bodied lefty shows a high 80’s / low 90’s fastball that will gain velocity as the 20 year old gets stronger. Already at that young age, Lugo shows an advanced, smooth mechanics with a loose arm.
4. RHP Michael Peoples – cSR/TPS .092
  • 22 years old – (HiA Carolina)
  • 14th round – 2012
  • At 6′ 5″ 190 lbs, Peoples could be a projectable arm once he matures into his lanky frame. He held is own at HiA Carolina where he made 26 appearances (17 starts), striking 101 batters in as many innings.
5. RHP Mitch Brown – SP/TPS .093
  • 20 years old – (LoA Lake County)
  • 2nd round – 2012
  • Ranked 24th by Baseball America
  • Brown came from the cold-weather climes of Minnesota and was the highest drafted player that resided there since Joe Mauer in 2001. He could be workhorse in the making and is our first listed power-pitcher with his sinking 94mph fastball. Brown has received comps to Chad Billingsley.
 
Top 3 TPS – Relief Pitchers
 
1. RHP Ben Heller – RP/TPS .051
  • 22 years old – (LoA Lake County / HiA Carolina)
  • 22nd round – 2013
  • Heller is burning through the levels with the Indians. Short-Season during this pro debut in 2013 to (17) HiA appearances in 2014. Heller has a mid-90’s fastball that tops at 97 mph and a good slider that, with improvement, could be his rocket up the ladder.
2. RHP Louis Head – RP/TPS .064
  • 24 years old – (HiA Carolina / Double-A Akron)
  • 18th round – 2012
  • UTR Mention (April 9th)
  • Louis Head also had a fast start to the season which held to make this list. Impressive so, as he did all this in April and May because he dropped off my daily UTR tracking when he was promoted to Double-A Akron. Head features a three pitch mix of a low 90’s fastball, a slider and curve.
3. RHP Justin Brantley – RP/TPS .066
  • 23 years old – (LoA Lake County)
  • Undrafted – 2014
  • Brantley went underrated and unsigned out of college. He didn’t despair and went to his uncle and former MLB player Mickey Brantley to workout and train. After pitching in a showcase, the offers came and Brantley signed with the Indians. They took a chance and started him at LoA Lake County where he went 4-1 with a 1.31 ERA in 25 appearances.
 
 2014 Breakout Grades
 
The following pitchers were chosen in early March. Their selection was based solely on their previous season’s TPS rating and using the UTRMinors.com criteria for those under the radar.
 
SP Cole Sulser – Sulser didn’t have a great year and just missed being list above which indicates the state of the Indians starting pitchers in the minors. He posted a 5.43 ERA in 27 appearances (25 starts) and went 4-14. He got to a nice start in April and made two UTR Mentions in May and then went 0-5 with a 7.09 ERA in the last 3 months of the season. Grade C-
 
RP Enosil Tejeda – It wasn’t a breakout season, but Tejeda did OK. He cruised along with Double-A Akron until his appearance in late August prior to being promoted to Triple-A Columbus for his only appearance there. In that appearance he came into the 7th inning and the train went off the tracks, by giving up 7 earned runs on 7 hits in just one inning of work. Grade C

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