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2011 Organizational Overview - Middle Infielders

2011 Organizational Overview - Middle Infielders
January 11, 2011
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Kipnis is the top middle infielder in the
Indians system (Photo - Lianna Holub)
Over the course of the next several days I will be posting a report ranking the Indians prospects at each position and an overall report on the position. This will serve as a good appetizer for Tony's Top 50 countdown which starts next week.  I will be using the same rules as Tony concerning eligibility for prospects (50 IP, 130 AB, and played stateside). The age next to the players name is for next season using the July 1 cut-off date.

Second Basemen

Defining who is a second basemen and who is a shortstop is a little hazy. If you don't see someone here, they will be on the shorstop list.

2nd Basemen Not Eligible: Jason Donald, Luis Valbuena

Prospect Ranking (2nd Basemen):

1.) Jason Kipnis (24)
2.) Cord Phelps (24)
3.) Karexon Sanchez (23)
4.) Nicholas Bartolone (20)
5.) Argenis Martinez (21)

The top 2 here are very exciting for fans of the Indians. Kipnis will be on the Top 5 list of many and the development of Phelps last year gives the Indians a bright future at the position as early as July of this season. It would seem with Kipnis blocking him, that Phelps may have to become a utility infielder at Columbus to get his at bats. If Kipnis is the real deal for the Indians unitl 2015+, then Phelps will have to prove his value at third base and maybe some shortstop to beat out Jason Donald to stick with the Tribe in 2012.

Tony recently wrote a nice article on Sanchez, who has some pop for a middle infielder, but he has never hit for a great average and he strikes out too much. Bartolone was a surprise draft pick in the 6th round, but he held his own last year at Arizona and Mahoning Valley. Martinez has shown little offensive ability so far and this may be a make or break year for him as a starter. He could eventually become a minor league backup.

Didn't Make the Cut:

Kevin Fontanez (21)
Preston Mattingly (23)
Logan Thompson (21)
Aaron Fields (23)
Robel Garcia (18)
Daniel DeGeorge (24)
Justin Toole (24)

Future Prospects From the DSL Team:

Erik Gonzalez (19): Hit .346-1-27 last year and he played almost everywhere (2B/SS/3B/OF). Should be the starting 2B for the AZL team in June after his time at EST.

Orgizational Report:

Cleveland - Donald / Valbuena
Columbus - Kipnis / Phelps
Akron - Sanchez
Kinston - A. Martinez
Lake County - Bartolone / Fontanez
Extended Spring Training - Fields / Thompson / Garcia / E. Gonzalez
Cut? - Mattingly / Toole / DeGeorge

The quick development of Jason Kipnis has turned Jason Donald into a body to just keep second base warm until the middle of this season. Donald has gone from a Top 5 Phillies prospect to someone who needs to really prove himself in April and May this season. A hot start by Donald, and a slow start by Kipnis may keep Donald at the position all season.

I don't really like the thought of Valbuena getting a lot of at bats, but he can play three infield positions and that makes him valuable for now. If Kipnis gets the call mid-season, then Donald will become the utility infielder and Valbuena may be sent to Columbus. I'd say he would more than likely be released as Kipnis's promotion would give time for Phelps to play a little second, and the Indians will need to make a roster spot for Kipnis since he is not on the 40-man roster.

Columbus has two solid second basemen, but a hole at shortstop. I'm not sure Phelps has the ability to play short, but if he wants to play at the major league level for Cleveland, then he'll have to prove himself as more valuable than Donald for 2012.

At Akron on down, there really isn't too much to be thrilled about, though we have some solid players. Sanchez and Martinez will have a full time job most of the season. Akron will need a utility infielder, but I think a couple from the shorstop list (Cusick, Rivas) will fight for that spot and Mattingly who can really only play 2B/OF will be out. Bartolone will start at 2nd for Lake County, but it seems wide open as to whom will be the backup infielder in Eastlake. I suppose Fontanez, Tyler Cannon, Fields, and Thompson will fight it out.

The position is pretty strong at the top, and it would be great if the Indians could draft or develop someone at the lower levels to be on track for 2015 and beyond.

Shortstops

Shortstops Not Eligible: Asdrubal Cabrera, Adam Everett

Prospect Ranking (Shortstops):

1.) Tony Wolters (19)
2.) Juan Diaz (22)
3.) Casey Frawley (23)
4.) Jorge Martinez (18)
5.) Kyle Smith (23)

Shortstop is a position that is a little light in prospects for the Tribe. Second base has the big two at the top, but there are no proven prospects at shortstop. 3rd round pick Tony Wolters jumps to the top of my list due to his age and projection, but there really isn't anyone competing for that top spot other than Diaz. Hitting .284-8-60 at A+ last year, Diaz has the Akron position all to himself this year with the loss of Carlos Rivero (Phillies). Rivero was really the player that everyone thought would rise through the system and possibly push Asdrubal Cabrera, but he stalled at Akron.

Though he'll be 23 at Kinston, Frawley put forth some solid numbers (.262-13-74) at Lake County last season. He'll need to continue that hitting at Kinston to stay one step ahead of Wolters going into next season. He may hang on with the organization for some time and possibly develop into a utility infielder at the ML level. Many people may put Jorge Martinez ahead of Frawley on their list, but he had an .891 fielding pct. at shortstop last year for the AZL team. Granted, he was 17 and playing stateside for the first time, but he'll more than likely be on a short-season team again this year. The 5th spot was wide open, but I like how Kyle Smith plays and he is a solid defensive shortstop that can play second base and occasionally third.

Didn't Make the Cut:

Tyler Cannon (23)
Ron Rivas (23)
Matt Cusick (25)
Cristo Arnal (25)

Future Prospects From the DSL Team:

Jairo Kelly (18): Hit .250-0-26 last year for the DSL team. He was 6'0"/170 as a 17 year old, so it will be interesting to see how he develops at EST this year and his probable debut for the AZL team.

Orgizational Report:

Cleveland - Cabrera
Columbus - Everett
Akron - Diaz / Cusick
Kinston - Frawley / Smith
Lake County - Wolters / Cannon
Extended Spring Training - J. Martinez / J. Kelly
Cut? - Rivas / Arnal

Asdrubal Cabrera has a lock on the shortstop position and I'll take his .285-8-60 every season. He'll only be 25 this season, and hopefully healthy, so I'd like to see him develop a little more pop. As our lineup develops into 2012, Asdrubal's numbers will look good in the 8 or 9 spot in the lineup.

I'm not sure 34 year Adam Everett would accept a spot at Columbus, but he won't make the ML roster and there is a glaring need at shortstop for the Clippers. Everett could use his performance at AAA to get himself a shot at a ML job mid-season. If Everett doesn't end up in Columbus, I guess the Tribe could stick Cristo Arnal there, but there has to be a better free agent option. Matt Cusick got his first experience at AAA for the Yankees last season, and he could end up as the Clippers' shortstop, but I'll guess Everett goes to Columbus and Cusick becomes the backup infielder at Akron behind Juan Diaz.

Casey Frawley will be the starting shortstop at Kinston, and I can see Kyle Smith as his backup. I actually think that Smith will play well enough to steal some at bats away from Argenis Martinez at second base for Kinston. Tony Wolters will get his shot with Lake County as a 19 year old. I can't imagine that Wolters won't start the season in Eastlake, but if he doesn't, then Nicholas Bartolone would slide over to short from second base. The backup utility guy at Lake County will be an interesting decision. Tyler Cannon, Aaron Fields, and Logan Thompson could all claim the spot, though I'll give the upper hand to Cannon. Whoever it is might not get many at bats as Wolters and Bartolone probably won't sit much.

The shortstop position isn't a strong one for the Indians, but with a young Cabrera at the position and Jason Donald as a capable fill-in at the 6-spot, the Indians are okay at the top. They'll just need one of their young prospects to be ready by 2015.

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