For the second year in a row, Francisco Lindor heads the Indians prospect rankings and I didn’t even really have to think twice about it. Lindor is a stud in waiting. The acquisition of Trevor Bauer adds a high-end pitching prospect to the mix, something that was lacking in the system. The Indians lack depth overall but also have an excessive amount of toolsy guys that are extremely raw and very risky. It can be difficult to differentiate between players of this type but there were several that stood out and warranted stronger consideration for this list than others.
1. Francisco Lindor – SS (Last Year’s Rank: 1)
If you don’t like Francisco Lindor, I question your love of the game of baseball. He’s a highly skilled player with tons of infectious energy on the field. He has legit shortstop tools and should be a plus defender at the position long term. His bat won’t be a world beater, but he should hit for a solid average, have some gap power and generally contribute on offense. It’s not unreasonable to expect a Omar Vizquel redux.
2. Trevor Bauer – RHP (NR)
Much has been made of my “dislike” for Bauer. That “dislike” has also been grossly exaggerated. Bauer is a very good pitching prospect and one worthy of substantial praise. He also carries some warts that temper his overall ceiling. For me, Bauer profiles very well as a number three starter that walks a lot of guys, strikes out a lot of guys, and may not log as many innings as his arm may allow because his pitch counts will be exceedingly high. He was a good “get” for the Indians and should settle into their rotation this season.
3. Dorssys Paulino – SS (5)
Paulino is the opposite of Lindor in many respects. He doesn’t have true shortstop actions and profiles better at second base long term. His bat projects to carry his prospect profile and he could be a high-average, high-OBP guy with tons of doubles and 10-15 home runs a year. Paulino will take time to develop but he could be paired up the middle with Lindor for a very long time.
4. Mitch Brown – RHP (NR)
Area scouts were in love with Brown last spring but he remained a bit of an unknown entering the draft and some clubs questioned his size. The Indians got a winner here, folks. Brown works 91-93 mph with ease and has projection for more once he matures physically. His cutter stands out but his change-up and curveball need work. As a northern kid with limited experience, his developmental path could be a long one, but there might be a mid-rotation starter at the end.
5. Ronny Rodriguez – SS (NR)
With an unusual path to date, Rodriguez can make things difficult on evaluators. He is 20-years old and already has two years of full-season ball, his only two years of professional ball. He is a quality athlete with an aggressive approach that is helped by solid contact ability and excellent pop. There are scouts that still like him as a shortstop, but others think he may be destined for third base or second base over the long haul.
6. Luigi Rodriguez – OF (NR)
Another 20-year old with loud tools, Rodriguez stands out on the field, though not always for positive reasons. Reports on his outfield defense ranged from bad to horrific at times but he shows the tools to fit in center field. Like Ronny Rodriguez, Luigi is an aggressive swinger and while he can drive the ball when he makes contact, the power doesn’t always play in games. Another player with a long developmental path, Rodriguez has up the middle and top of the order potential.
7. Anthony Santander – OF (NR)
We’ll call this a mini run on toolsy Latin American guys on this list. Santander isn’t the athlete that either of the Rodriguez’s are, but he has a more refined approach at a young age. Santander has the raw tools to hit for average and power down the line, and while he likely settles on an outfield corner, he could be a middle-of-the order slugger as well. Santander may get some exposure to full-season ball in 2013, but I wouldn’t expect the numbers to be impressive.
8. Tyler Naquin – OF (NR)
The club’s first round pick last June, Naquin doesn’t have a tool profile that I like. He’s a tweener all the way for me. His arm is a legit weapon with 70 grades coming routinely. He has some hitting ability and could be a solid batting average option at the big league level. His lack of power hurts his profile on a corner outfield spot and his defense in center field did not impress me over the summer. Naquin could surprise but I’m not expecting much more than a fringe starter or fourth outfielder, with a high degree of certainty of him reaching that level.
9. Danny Salazar – RHP (NR)
Salazar’s size and arsenal hint at a future in the bullpen where his fastball and slider could be huge factors in high leverage situations. He can reach the mid- to upper-90s at times with excellent life on his ball. His slider has plus potential and can miss bats when set up well with his fastball. Salazar has control problems despite a solid delivery, leading to more questions about his ability to start long term.
10. Dillon Howard – RHP (4)
Injures really caused Howard’s stock to drop in 2012 but I remain high on his long term potential. His fastball-change-up combo can induce both ground balls and miss bats and has the potential to develop into two quality pitches in the plus range. His breaking ball needs to be tightened and he will have improve his control/command and prove his durability but he could be a workhorse number 3/4 starter down the line.
11. Cody Allen – RHP (NR)
Allen is a reliever all the way and he has some possibilities to end up in the closer’s role, but he fits nicely as a setup man as well. With a fastball that can sit in the 93-94 range and touch higher, he can miss bats with his heater alone. His curveball provides a second plus pitch and really put hitters in a hole. Allen will need to refine his command to close but that could come with additional professional experience.
12. Scott Barnes – LHP (8)
The profile isn’t flashy, but Barnes will be a big leaguer for quite a while and could fill a variety of roles. His fastball can work in the low-90s and his slider shows excellent bite and can miss bats. His change-up backs up his primary two pitches and he pounds the strike zone with all three. While some believe he will end up working as a bullpen lefty, I still believe he can settle in as a fifth starter.
13. Tony Wolters – IF (7)
Wolters does a little bit of everything on the diamond but doesn’t really stand out in any single area. He’s not a true shortstop but his defensive tools are a little better than most second baseman, leaving him as a bit of a utility option. Offensively, he can make contact and drive the ball with gap power, but he doesn’t project to hit outside the bottom third of a lineup. He could be a nice utility player and with that profile, he could arrive quickly.
14. Dylan Baker – RHP (NR)
Baker is a raw project of a prospect and one that will require considerable work with the developmental staff. As a fifth round pick, his arm strength stands out and gives the staff at least one ingredient to work with. He could sit in the mid-90s down the line and his aggressive approach could be parlayed into a quality power breaking ball as well. The open question is how much his control and change-up develop, and that will determine if he remains a starter or moves to the bullpen.
15. Jorge Martinez – OF (NR)
Martinez makes the back end of this list on the basis of his raw power alone. In a perfect world he could blast 25 home runs a year, though his natural hitting ability lags so far behind that it is difficult to see him reaching that ceiling. Defensively, he fits best in left field, meaning his bat needs to materialize.