Following up on our look at the pitchers, Part 2 will focus on the hitters. The good news is that the story with our positional prospects is much brighter that with our pitchers. Not only have most of the important guys done well, but a number of guys have stepped onto the scene and demanded notice. Adding an amusing, if not confusing, veneer to it all has been the reappearance of several presumed dead former prospects or near-prospects. This final point is interesting in that it might perhaps add a layer of hesitancy to some of the great performances in what is probably the best half-season of hitting in recent history within the organization.
Carlos Santana: He isn't in Columbus anymore, but this is a reflection of his failure to disappoint. Santana is one of the top prospects in baseball for a reason, and it is absolutely essential that Cleveland's top prospects perform. There is nothing to not like about Santana at the plate, even if his play behind the plate is still a work in progress. Also, anyone else pleased by how our pitching staff has fared since Santana got the call-up?
Michael Brantley: How good of a prospect Brantley is depends on his ability to add power and his ability to add "extra" value outside of his batting line. After struggling in Cleveland he went down to Columbus and put together a line consistent with what he is known for - good batting average with a decent walk-rate, above average contact and very little power - good for an OPS a hair under .800. If he could do that in Cleveland, while providing good speed on the bases and good defense, he'd be a valuable player. As it stands it is not clear if he can hit like in Cleveland....or run like that (11 SB, 6 CS this season between AAA/MLB)...or play defense like that. But the hope still exists for the recently turned 23-year old.
Matt LaPorta: Maybe not a prospect given his age and experience, but LaPorta 3.0 finally seems to be delivering on his hitting abilities (.371/.436/.771 since his AAA recall).
Lou Marson: Another guy in Cleveland for part of the year (mmm...that's a lot of young talent around Cleveland) who struggled mightily. On the bright side, after his initial sinker-ball struggles, Marson was a stud behind the plate. And his history suggests he can hit much better than he did. He still has an embarrassingly low BA in Columbus, but his peripherals aren't bat and the numbers suggest he is the victim of a lot of bad luck. With Santana in Cleveland, the Indians can afford to give him time to get sorted out before figuring out his long-term status.
Nick Weglarz: The start of his season in Akron was his best pro stretch - great plate discipline, good power, healthy. He got off to a slow start in Columbus, but he's improving, and none of his key indicators have completely fallen off the map. Still looking at a second-half 2011 arrival time in Cleveland for the lumberjack.
Cord Phelps: Phelps entered the season coming off a successful debut '09 campaign, but one which left him on the fringes of being an interesting prospect. He has upped his status considerably this season, performing decently at Akron (.296/.346/.397) and sensationally after his promotion to Columbus (.345/.402/.571). Phelps probably isn't more than a middle infield utility, but now there is a real possibility he serves that role as early as 2011.
The rest: Columbus is like a cemetery in a zombie film with former prospects coming back to life at seemingly every position. It is great, for example, that Carlos Santana put up an OPS of 1.044 while in Columbus. But how does that square with Jared Goedert putting up a 1.138 number? And Josh Rodriguez hitting at a .993 clip. Jordan Brown is back to his old tricks (good average, weak OBP, doubles power), Jose Constanza has returned to more Constanza-like levels (.303/.353/.376, 22 SB, 2 CS), and I think Wes Hodges is still on the team. None of these guys, individually, has a strong likelihood of doing a lot of good at the big league level. But given how many of them there are, I think chances are good that at least one of them sees some significant time in Cleveland at some point this year or next. I would still value Goedert and Rodriguez most highly, with the positional path to Cleveland more straightforward for Goedert.
Lonnie Chisenhall: #19 on BA's midseason prospect rankings, Chisenhall has had a lukewarm season after a blazing spring training. He has been better, particularly in the power department, since coming off the DL with a shoulder impingement.
Carlos Rivero: There are disappointing hitters, too, and Carlos Rivero probably leads the group. After consecutive seemingly under the radar seasons, it was about time for Rivero to breakout. Instead he just seems broken. A .228/.278/.313 line together with 19 errors in the field goes a long way to ending his prospect status.
Beau Mills: Speaking of finished prospects....He has been on fire the last week, but that has only raised his line to .230/.304/.350. Who knows, maybe Mills and Rivero will find new life if they ever get promoted to Columbus.
Jason Kipnis: Drafted the round before Joseph Gardner in the 2009 draft, Kipnis can share the breakout prospect of the year award with his draft partner. In addition to converting to 2B, Kipnis is putting up a bigger batting line than his diminutive size would suggest (.300/.385/.479), How good do the first 3 rounds of that 2009 draft look right now with Alex White, Jason Kipnis and Joe Gardner all having fantastic full-season debuts? (Austin Adams was the 5th round pick, Jordan Henry 7th, Cory Burns 8th, Preston Guilmet 9th and Brett Brach 10th...check out that groups numbers this season)
Jordan Henry: Henry put up an intriguing .333/.438/.358 line to start the season in Kinston, good enough to earn him a promotion to Akron. He has struggled at the AA level (.234/.321/.255), but his overall line, together with 19 SBs and good CF defense are intriguing. Our most Alex Cole-like prospect given his total inability to hit anything but singles.
The rest: John Drennen continues to hang around (.303/.361/.433). Matt McBride is also on a recent tear with 6 HRs already in July (.274/.346/.458). Neither of these two are much, but it is not inconceivable given the lack of corner OF depth above them in the organization that a well-timed hot streak lands one of them in Cleveland for some length of time over the next few years. I'd say Tim Fedroff could get the same consideration, but he is currently underwhelming (.260/.337/.317).
Abner Abreu: Abreu's breakout 2009 was cut short by a shoulder injury. 2010 has not been a pleasant return (.246/.281/.348). He won't be 21 till October, but it is painful to see his 13 walks and 87 strikeouts.
Chun-Hsiu Chen: Maybe an even bigger breakout than Kipnis. Hit .298/.368/.518 in Lake County before getting promoted to Kinston last week. Still working on his catching, but looking like the best thing we have gotten out of our Pacific Rim scouting by a large margin.
Bo Greenwell: The other recent addition to Kinston's roster, Greenwell is starting to get a little more interesting. He doesn't have great power, especially for a corner OFer, but has great plate discipline and contact ability. Doing even better in his two weeks in Kinston than he did in Lake County, good for a .321/.406/.429 line on the season.
The rest: Meh...Karexon Sanchez and Kyle Bellows each have 7 HRs...that is about it.
The Lower Realms
Blah...Not a whole lot that appears interesting. The two best hitters for the Captains right now (Jeremie Tice and Chris Kersten) are old enough to remember watching the Berlin Wall fall. Delvi Cid has 39 stolen bases....but only a .300 OBP. 2010 draftee Jonathan (Chase?) Burnette is showing himself to be superior to the NY-Penn league with a .296/.337/.543 line in his first 3 weeks of action.
The Indians suddenly appear quite loaded with positional prospects, particularly infielders. There is still a lack of power in the system and not a lot of outfielders, but relative to the start of the season, the picture has improved. A huge part of that improvement is right at the major league level. Should Santana and LaPorta continue as they have played over the past month, it will be a major step forward for the organization. There is a surprising lack of interesting guys in the bottom half of the system, but that partly reflects the more aggressive approach taken of late in promoting prospects and the concentration of guys in Akron and Columbus. It also could change considerably next year when the signings from the 2010 draft are finalized. Guys like LeVon Washington, Tony Wolters, Nick Bartolone (already signed and playing), Alex Lavinsky and Tyler Holt would presumably replace some of the filler currently found in Lake County. The incredible offensive performance by nearly the entire Columbus team is a bit of a mystery. The Clippers trail only the Durham Bulls, who play in a stadium known for offense and with a team 3 years older on average than the Clippers (28.5 vs. 25.6), in runs scored in the International League. This might make us more comfortable with the poor performance of their pitchers, but it raises questions about the development and trajectory of the guys who play there.