The Indians minor league season is well underway. Regulars in Columbus, Akron, Kinston and Lake County have more than 125 plate appearances or 6-7 starts for the pitchers, meaning the season is at about the one quarter mark. Generally, it has been a positive early season for the positional prospects in the system and a disappointing one for the pitchers. Here are the risers, fallers, and some surprises.
Carlos Santana - He was clearly the Indians #1 prospect heading into the season, and nothing he has done has changed that view. He should be in Cleveland in June, and he should make the team better when he arrives.
.322/.447/.570, hitting righties and lefties equally well
Jason Donald - Got off to a fantastic start in April (.912 OPS) and despite his recent slump (.688 in May), has shown why he was a top prospect heading into the 2009 season. It is unclear to me whether Valbuena or Donald is the better bet going forward, but at least Donald is in the discussion.
.281/.398/.430, 13.0 BB% and 19.8 K% are career bests
Kelvin De La Cruz - I think the reports on De La Cruz are actually better than his numbers. But the biggest thing is that he is healthy and he is in AA, so we can actually begin to acknowledge his existence. De La's option status might very well be enough to leapfrog him ahead of some of the pitchers ahead of him on the Indians depth chart.
45 IP, 27 H, 14BB (9%) , 39K (23%), 2.60 ERA, 4.10 FIP
Joe Gardner - Kevin Goldstein says he only has one pitch (a power sinker...hmm), but that pitch has been outstanding so far. He has joined fellow 2009 draftee Alex White in the Kinston rotation and has done well in his first two outings.
35.2 IP, 21 H, 15BB (10%), 47K (30%), 2.27 ERA, 2.95 FIP...78%(!) groundball-rate
Hector Rondon - First, bad performance. Then, and even worse, injury. The peripheral Ks and BBs aren't actually that bad (21% K-rate, 6.5% BB-rate), but an astronomical 18% of his flyballs have gone for HRs. Project him for a full season and he is on pace to allow about 45 HRs. The life of a top pitching prospect is rarely an easy one. Rondon is just one of many pitchers who could be mentioned here.
31.2 IP, 48 H, 10BB, 33K, 8.53 ERA
Carlos Rivero - Rivero's trick of starting cold and putting together a strong finish to the season, which he has done every year since '08, is getting old. As is his tendency to dramatically underperform his expectations based on "luck" and park factors. AA is where Jhonny Peralta established himself. It might just be where Rivero stagnates.
Abner Abreu - He is still young and coming off shoulder surgery, so no reason to forget about him. But the patience and improved plate discipline Abreu was showing in spring training has completely left him (46K, 8BB). He has his first HR of the season Saturday, hopefully a sign of things to come.
Robert 'Cord' Phelps - Akron's middle-infielder has been a steady force throughout the early season. Look for his .396 BABIP to come back to Earth and his numbers along with it. A strong early season for Phelps, but one that probably still places him on the outer fringes of prospect status
.352/.401/.480, Phelps is swinging with confidence, as his 8.1 BB% is half what it was a year ago
Bo Greenwell and Chun-Hsiu Chen - These two Captains have added some excitement the LC offense. Both were fairly highly regarded based on draft status (Greenwell) and signing bonus (Chen), but neither had shown much of interest prior to this season. Both are suddenly pushing for more consideration.
Bryce Stowell - Stowell is far too old to be interesting, especially since he is just a reliever in Kinston. But he is currently striking out more than 42% of the batters he faces.