I've got opinions and I'm sharing them on select prospects that I've seen. I hate to read glowing prospect reports about every single guy in the system, when in fact, most of them have very clear deficiencies that keep them from playing in the major leagues. You're not going to get that stuff from me b/c it does nobody any good. It's time for some straight talkin'...
Carlos Santana - I saw him this weekend and he was clear and away the best prospect on the field. I don't think the Indians have had as unique of a talent in their farm system for YEARS. A very athletic catcher that could feasibly play any position on the baseball diamond. He has very quick actions and fast-twitch talents. I honestly can't think of any major league catchers that he compares favorably to (Santana is very unique). Basically, try to think of a power hitting, athletic infielder (2b/ss/3b) that plays catcher. Santana is also a major league average runner, and his arm strength is major league average. As I said before, his talents and athletic skill could allow him to play anywhere on the field. If I were a scout holding a try-out and Santana came up to me and asked where he'd like me to see him play, I'd ask him to play shortstop and see where we could go from there -- catcher wouldn't even come to mind at first glance but he plays the position well. On to his hitting...I've only seen him as a lefty, but he has a very quick bat and very good extension. He's got 24-28 HR power potential (with a good deal of doubles) at the major league level. Santana passes the eye test with flying colors, and his BB/K rates are also very strong. I thought to myself the entire night watching him, "Why in the world would the Dodgers trade him for Casey Blake?" The main thing that came to mind was durability issues at C. Santana has below ML average size for a catcher, and athletically he does not profile well to the position (as I said, he is a unique talent). I could see Santana playing 4 times a week (out of an average 6 games per week) at C, filling in at DH or maybe even popping in at 3B or a corner outfield spot to reduce the wear and tear that will come with playing catcher at the major league level. This guy is a very exciting prospect to watch. I think he's a top 15 overall prospect in all of the minor leagues, if not top 10.
Trey Haley - Not off to a great start at Lake County, but Indians fans must be patient. He is a very projectable arm that can spin off a breaking ball quite well. I say give him 2 seasons and then lets see where he is. Hopefully, he will have better K/BB ratios to demonstrate his pitchability. Projection-wise, Haley could be a 90-96 MPH fastball guy with a plus major league curveball. I've seen Clay Buchholz comparisons, and from a qualitative perspective, I think its a good parallel.
Beau Mills - I'm a believer in Mills, although I don't believe he will live up to expectations of a middle 1st round selection. The guy cannot throw the baseball well enough to play 3b, so get any of those thoughts out of your mind. You've got an athletic body build with good, strong proportions and good bat speed. His power numbers aren't there this year, but they will come. His value will be that he'll get his shot at 25 or 26, the Indians can plug him in at 1b or DH, get three years of him at a cheap price and then we'll see after that. I think he's an 85 cents on the dollar version of Joey Votto (less speed and average than Votto). I can see him doing .280, 20 HR, 40 2B at the major leage level in 3-4 years. Not a bad player if you can get that at below $1 million per year.
Lonnie Chisenhall - I've been a critic of his since he entered the system, but now I'm changing my opinion of him. Athletically and tools-wise, he is a tweener. I can see why there was some criticism of him as an "overdraft". The people that would say that, such as myself, probably didn't see a ton of him playing. He's got arm strength, is a tick or two below major league average speed, doesn't have the lower body quickness/agility that projects well in the middle infield, and he doesn't have the size or power projection that you'd like from a corner infielder. A tweener, right? Well, the way this guy is hitting as a 20-year old in Kinston (not exactly a hitters league), his "tweener" status is eroding away. John Maynard Keynes once said, "When the facts change, I change my opinions. What do you do, sir?" Perhaps Chisenhall is just riding a hot streak, but the Indians liked him for his bat and the guy has so far demonstrated in 110 or so professional games that he can hit. I once said he was overrated, but now I think he's a solid prospect. I would have been one of the guys that missed out on him come draft time last year.
Carlos Rivero - Long legs, strong body with some athleticism. I don't see a single plus tool here but his body is good. I don't see much bat speed, I don't see much quickness in the lower half. Honestly, I don't see a ton of projection in his body - not much loose athleticism. He's either an "early maturer" (meaning his body developed earlier than his peers) or a couple years older than his listed age. The good is that he's got a good, athletic physical frame and some arm strength. I see him more as a 3B, but could play some SS at the major league level. If the guy can hit, I think he's a good prospect but I'm not going to make excuses for this guy b/c of his age b/c I don't see a ton of projection with what he brings to the table.
Abner Abreu - I've liked this guy from the start and I still find him intriguing. First, though, he's got to show that he can hit breaking balls b/c all of the strike outs in low-A ball are EXTREMELY concerning. However, Abreu has a lot of loose athleticism and a swing with very good extension. The fact that he is already getting so many extra base hits with such a loose body is quite bullish long-term. Don't be fooled, though, Abreu has narrow proportions and I believe will always look thin, lanky, etc. He does have the type of loose athleticism that will allow him to add muscle w/o hurting his movements, but he's never going to be a big, strong, barrell-chested masher.
Zach Putnam - I've never believed in him as a 2nd round pick as a P (I heard that talk last year) and I do believe the Indians overpaid for him. I don't think its a fluke that he fell to the 5th round (other scouts felt the same about him as I do). Whenever I watch him, and I've seen him more than a few times, it just doesn't click for me. #1 - He has a stout, power hitter's body that is not ideal for pitchers, #2 - he has a low arm slot that does not help him offset his lack of height and arm length and #3 - he doesn't have a good breaking pitch. I said from the start that he is going to have difficulty getting strike outs above A-ball b/c there isn't much depth to his pitches (particularly his slider). The good news is that he has good arm strength and can throw a good sinker, and in his most recent showing he demonstrated a good change/splitter. I do not think the Indians are panicking by moving him into the bullpen b/c I never thought that he would make it as a SP in the major leagues (he doesn't have enough good pitches -- that slider doesn't do it for me). I've said it before, Putnam looks like the guy that walked over from 3B to the mound to give pitching a whirl. With that being said, he's done quite well for himself. This guy is not going to be a good SP at the major league level, and the move to the bullpen is entirely justified. He's got a shot at being a good middle relief guy, but don't expect much more.
Bryce Stowell - Signed as a draft eligible sophomore, I think he had a shot at being a late 1st round or 1st supplemental round guy in the '09 draft. He's got good arm strength, long loose arms and he has the potential to have a plus major league curveball. The downside is that his fastball doesn't have much horizontal movement, but he throws from a tall slot so I think he can get away with it. I'm a little surprised to see him in the pen so early, but he fits the bullpen profile more than as a SP. I've liked this guy for a while and I think he was an excellent draft and sign by the Indians last year. He could be an impactful late innings relief guy down the road if the Indians choose to go that route.
Tim Fedroff - Sorry guys, but I think the Indians could have made a lot better use of the $725k they gave this guy. That is way too much money for somebody lacking so many tools and projection. He's a short without much more projection in his body -- I don't see where the power is going to come from. He has good speed, but I see him more of a corner outfield type and he doesn't have nearly the type of offensive production potential that you'd expect for a corner OF. Even if he plays CF, I'm looking for more. I'm guessing that the Indians really loved his character and desire to succeed, b/c the tools package doesn't say $725k. It says about 25-30% of that, which still makes for a good ballplayer that could have value down the road as a 4th or 5th OF. I hate to rip on the guy b/c I love the Tar Heels baseball program, but the Indians got hosed on this deal.
*NOTE - I think the Indians should have pooled the $1.25 million they spent on Putnam and Fedroff on a guy or two or three that actually have the potential to make an impact at the major league level.*
Nick Weglarz - I've always really liked Weglarz b/c of his strength, size and surpising athleticism that should allow him to play a corner OF spot. I've been pumping him up myself b/c I believe Indians fans didn't realize the potential he had, but now I think they have overdone it. His best tool is obviously his plus power potential (1B power at a corner OF spot is a plus). The strike outs are worrisome, though. The guy struck out a lot in A-ball -- those are some pretty mediocre pitchers down there. I think he has a hole or two in his swing that are exploitable. Major league arms that have advance scouting reports on him will attack those holes (see Chris Davis of the Rangers, and Russell Branyan). He has been making strides but he is still green. I worry that he is never going to realize his power potential due to holes in his swing and he could very possibly be a .240/.330/.470 guy at the major league level -- that's a very real prospect, guys. I think Indians fans need to take a breather on pumping their fists when thinking of Weglarz b/c there is still a long way to go on him. I share your enthusiasm, but don't expect too much, too soon, if anything at all.
Eric Berger - He's got some arm strength, and I like how he throws down on the ball so well with his tall arm slot. Left handers are often coached to throw more so from the side (my personal observation), but Berger comes straight over the top. He doesn't have the cleanest delivery around and I wasn't surprised to see that he had an arm injury before (although I suppose it can happen to anybody at any time, no matter delivery). He should be back to full health now. I expect him to be an arm that goes through hot and cold streaks as a pitcher. He's a lefty with a live arm that pitches with some decent leverage, and was a senior sign for the Indians. I'm not expecting very much, if anything at all, but there are some things to like here.
Matt McBride - This guy is not a major league ball player. I hate to be closed-minded towards things (I really try to be an open minded person), but if you stand this guy next to other major league positional talents he'll stick out like a sore thumb. He's thin and lanky and no way he passes as a corner outfielder at the major league level. He's hit pretty well in the minors and has shown some doubles power, but this is NOT a guy that will turn those doubles into HR's -- he doesn't have that type of projectable body or swing. He's 24 and not shown anything above A-ball. This is a guy that will be playing AA and AAA the rest of his career, with perhaps getting a cup of coffee with a major league club at some point if he runs into the right situation.
TJ House - House is a nice arm, but doesn't have the upside potential that Haley has. I see House as the type of arm that would normally go college for 3 years to prove himself b/c scouts weren't drooling over his potential while he was in high school. That's not a knock against House; it's just how things generally work out. House has some nice stuff and a nice delivery, but nothing really pops out at you. Projecting him to the major league level, I see him as a 4-5 starter (maybe 3 at best). He is the type of prospect that is difficult to get excited about at this point in his career. I'm not trying to compare their pitching styles, but from a talent level, think of him as a guy with the potential to be the next David Huff for the Indians. At this point, I'm taking Trey Haley over him.
Hector Rondon, Jeanmar Gomez, Alexander Perez -- I am reserving comment b/c I've never seen these guys throw. I've never seen Michael Brantley play, either.