By the Numbers - Kinston

As we reach the halfway point in our organizational review, we find a cache of good prospects.

The Hitters

Where to begin?

Let's start with Ryan Mulhern, whose numbers jump out at you. Mulhern was really under the radar going into this season, a year after a poor showing in Lake County. He wasn't even mentioned in Baseball America's Prospect Handbook, and for good reason; he was pushing 24, didn't really have a position, and put up a .255/.319/.392 line in low-A ball at age 23. Well, the Indians moved Mulhern to first base from the outfield, promoted him to Kinston, and voila! BA's Chris Kline had this to say about him in a mid-season chat:

Mulhern was a big time home run hitter in college at South Alabama, and he was one of the better bats I saw in ST this year. Everyone in the organization was saying if he could just put it all together, good things would happen. Looks like he did that, though he too was a little too old for that league. We'll see how he fares in Double-A.

Mulhern did make the jump to AA, thanks in large part to the absence of Michael Aubrey, and picked up where he left off with the K-Tribe. The big issues with him are the same with any power prospect: will major-league pitchers exploit holes in his swing? Can he lay off plus breaking pitches? Aubrey's still the better pro prospect in my opinion, but staying healthy makes a big difference this early in a player's career.

Next on the list is Brad Snyder, whose numbers were decent, but they earned him a midseason promotion to Akron. I'll talk more about him in the next installment.

Kevin Kouzmanoff, who missed the opportunity to go to Akron thanks to injury, is the organization's best prospect at third base. That being said, he's been old for his league at every step so far, and there's nothing on the scouting end that sets him apart from the pack. But he's put up good batting lines at every stop, so you can't ignore him.

Stephen Head, a 2005 draft pick, acquitted himself well after a promotion from Mahoning Valley. Head was a two-way star in college, but is now a full-time hitter. He'll probably get a return trip to Kinston next season thanks a backlog at first base. In a lot of ways he's similar to Michael Aubrey; Head is a good athlete, and has a polished swing. It should be interesting to see how he does in his first full season as a full-time position player.

Finally, you have to mention Brian Barton, who has gone from being undrafted to on the prospect radar in under a year. The power slipped a bit after his promotion to Kinston, but the plate discipline stayed constant, a good sign going forward. There are some concerns with his reads in the outfield, though:
Barton was eligible (for the Carolina League Top 20), but people I talked to questioned the defense overall. As he is an above-average runner, he took bad routes to balls and didn't really have a first step. If you're comparing center fielders, Frank Diaz is younger, more athletic and has a much stronger arm with Willy Taveras-like range in the middle of the diamond.
So he might project more as a corner outfielder than a center fielder. But that's something to worry about in a year or two.

The Pitching

Coming into the season, Adam Miller was far and away the most exciting prospect in the system. And he's still a good prospect. But his 2005 season was a lost one, because of an early-season arm injury and ineffectiveness after he came back. He's pitching in the Arizona Fall League to get some innings in, and not faring well there either, but my primary concern is that he remain healthy.

Jeremy Sowers has surpassed Miller on my list of the organization's best pitching prospects, thanks to performances like he put up in Kinston. I'll talk about him more when I get to Akron.

Edward Mujica, a starter-turned-reliever, was probably the biggest surprise among the pitchers this season. His Kinston line indicates dominance; opposing hitters managed only a .183/.208/.323 line. Like Sowers, Mujica was promoted to Akron at midseason.

The Indians have a great deal of pitching depth in their organization, and it's none more apparent here. Sean Smith, Nick Pesco, Tony Sipp, and Scott Roehl are pitching prospects worth keeping an eye on. Sipp will probably follow in Fernando Cabrera's footsteps and become a full-time reliever soon. There's Tom Mastny, who continues to put up good numbers despite questions about his stuff, and also Mariano Gomez, a left-hander who's battled a finger ligament problem in the past couple of years.

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