2013 Carolina Mudcats Preview: Fishing with #1 Draft Picks
The 2013 Carolina Mudcats will start the season off being known for their #1 prospects. The past two will be joining Carolina to start off the season, when Francisco Lindor and Tyler Naquin take their shortstop and center field positions respectively. Both have plus pieces to their game, and they should be teammates for years to come.
Think about this though: Francisco Lindor just turned 19 in November. He’ll be 19 this entire season, and I just don’t think he’ll spend it all in Carolina. I’m getting ahead of myself though, but he really is that good. Tyler Naquin will turn 22 this April. Lindor makes him seem downright old.
There are a bunch of high upside players in the infield (Lindor, Joe Wendle), outfield (Bryson Myles, Naquin, Jordan Smith) and in the rotation (Cody Anderson, Shawn Morimando), and they should anchor a very entertaining team that should have an influx of talent throughout the season.
The Mudcats are now settled into their new digs at Five County, and hopefully they can get the Mudcats to the playoffs for the first time as an Indians’ affiliate. They certainly have the horses to do it. The only question is, how long will they be here?
Minor League Affiliates
Columbus Clippers (AAA)
Akron Aeros (AA)
Carolina Mudcats (High A)
Lake County Captains (Low A)
Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Short Season A)
Arizona Indians (Rookie)
Manager: David Wallace
1st season as manager of the Carolina Mudcats, 5th season in Indians' organization in coaching
Pitching Coach: Jeff Harris
1st season as pitching coach of the Carolina Mudcats, 5th season in Indians’ organization
Hitting Coach: Rouglas Odor
1st season as hitting coach of the Carolina Mudcats, 15th season in Indians' organization
The 2013 coaching staff at Carolina are familiar faces for Cleveland Indians’ organizational beatniks like myself. All three coaches have been with the organization as players, and all three have been coaches for multiple seasons.
David Wallace takes over the team in 2013 from Edwin Rodriguez, who has moved on to the Tribe’s Double A affiliate, the Akron Aeros. The 33-year old is beginning his third season as a manager with the Indians, starting in 2011 when he was named the manager of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. He moved up to Lake County in 2012, and continues through the organization this season with the High A affiliate. Wallace spent the 2009 and 2010 seasons as an assistant to the Indians’ major league coaching staff in both 2009 and 2010, which Wallace described as a glorified title for a “bullpen catcher.” He’s clearly developing into something more than that now.
In 2011, Wallace led Mahoning Valley to a fifth place finish with a respectable 41-34 record. His 2012 Lake County Captains finished at 71-68 overall, but won the second half title in the Midwest League. They finished the first half with a 31-38 record, but stormed to a 40-30 record in the second half, and eventually bowed out of the playoffs in the second round. Wallace has “grown up” as a manager with many of this current crop of Mudcats, including former #1 pick and current top Indians’ prospect, Francisco Lindor. He should bring a nice continuity for a team in one of the toughest pitching leagues in all of the minors.
Joining Wallace is his pitching coach from Lake County, Jeff Harris. Harris spent the past two seasons with the Captains in that role, and like Wallace, will be dealing with a rotation and bullpen that he is very familiar with. Harris initially joined the Indians’ organization as a player in 2007 and 2008 before moving into coaching in 2009, as the pitching coach for the Arizona League Indians in 2009. He spent two seasons in Arizona prior to his two seasons in Lake County, and deserves a lot of credit for the foundation of most of the pitchers from Lake County to Akron, and beyond.
The 44-year-old Rouglas Odor is the “old-man” of the group, and is returning to North Carolina and the Carolina League after spending the past two seasons as Akron’s hitting coach. Prior to that stint, he spent two seasons with the Kinston Indians as their hitting instructor. Odor was initially drafted by the Indians way back in 1988, and the 2013 season will mark his 26th season in the organization in one capacity or another, and is one of the most respected offensive minds in the system.
Odor definitely has some interesting players to work with this season, so it’s not a surprise that they moved him “down” to the Mudcats, where he’ll get a chance to apply his skills to two former #1 picks in Lindor and Tyler Naquin, who both are offensive projects, and defensive gems.
It’s one of the better developmental coaching staffs in the system, and should provide the Muddies with a solid foundation to start off the year.
There aren’t many more pitching prospects in the Indians’ system that are more intriguing than the 20-year old Shawn Morimando. He’s not a giant, at only 5’11” and 170 pounds, but is the type of pitcher that seems to have a major league “make-up” at an early age. He was selected by the Tribe in the 19th round in 2011. He throws a fairly typical arsenal, with a good fastball that tops out at 92, a slider/curve that saw some improvement in 2012, and a changeup. With Morimando, it really is all about location, which is where that make-up comes into play. He went 7-6 with Lake County last season, with a solid 3.59 ERA in 110 1/3 innings. His K/BB per 9 was a rather unimpressive 5.63/4.24, but as he matures and improves his command and continues to grow, those numbers should improve. He’s a wily lefty, and fits a familiar model in the Indians’ organization that may leave Tribe fans wary, but if he continues to progress, he’s a lefty that folks should keep an eye on.
Anderson is a stark contrast to the more diminutive Morimando. He stands at a more prototypical 6’ 4”, and is a more sturdy 220 pounds. He can absolutely bring it, sitting in the low-to-mid 90’s, and can touch 96 right now. He has a cutter, slider and a curve to go along with his straight heat. His best pitch is his fastball, but only because the cutter is so new to his arsenal. He began using it in 2011, and as it continues to improve, will likely be his calling as he moves up through the system. While he’s rated below Morimando right now in the IBI rankings, I absolutely believe this kid is ultimately the best pitcher with the most upside on the team. Tony has noted several times that Anderson is a work-horse, who is baseball-smart and willing to take coaching. When you combine that with his athletic talent, you have a major league starter in the making. When it clicks, he has a top-of-the-rotation look about it, even though he isn’t projected there…yet. I do believe that he is the ace of this rotation, if there is one.
Jordan Cooper returns to Carolina, where he played much of his 2012 season. While he doesn’t have as much upside as the younger Morimando and Anderson, his numbers were extremely good last season at High A, and added some luster and potential to his future. The Indians initially drafted him in the ninth round in 2010, and he’s spent time at Mahoning and Lake County, before moving to the Muddies early last season, after starting in Lake County. The 6’2”, 190 pounder will likely be one of the first pitchers to move up to Akron if there’s a need. He went 9-7 last season with a 3.54 ERA, and really came on as the season wound down. He won his last three ballgames, giving up only one unearned run and two walks, while striking out 16 over those games. He has a two and four-seam fastball, a slider and a curve, to go along with a cutter, and when he’s locating, he can be devastating to hitters, as he was at many times in 2012. When he couldn’t find the zone, he was marginal, at best, but there were times I saw him during the season that he was the best pitcher on the Mudcats’ staff. He’ll be the backbone for the rotation.
I’m a big fan of Jacob Lee. The Indians used him both as a starter and as a reliever in 2012, and that will likely move him through the system faster than some of his contemporaries. Like Cooper, Lee was drafted in the ninth round, only in the 2012 season. He was very effective for the Scrappers, going 4-2 with a 3.12 ERA, again, both in the pen and in the rotation. He has a fastball, slider and change, and the heat can touch 95, but he sits in the lower 90’s for much of the time. He did strike out 47 batters in 43 innings of work last season, so you can see the promise. What will make him most interesting is his curveball. It has plus potential, and combine with a fastball that he can really go after hitters with, it could be devastating in the minors. Ultimately, I project him as a reliever, but he’s one of those guys that could work his way into a discussion if he can manage to move his way up over the next couple of seasons.
Will Roberts took a similar course as Jordan Cooper last season, starting his year off in Lake County, before finding a new home early in the season in Carolina. The 22-year-old was drafted by the Indians in the fifth round of the 2011 draft after a dominant season with the University of Virginia. He started off with some solid numbers in both 2011 and the start of 2012, but he found Carolina to be a tough go, which has dropped him down a bit in the prospect chart. He went 5-10 with a 5.68 ERA last year, while pitching in 122 innings. He’s a big kid, at 6’4” and 205 pounds, but he’s not an overpowering starter. He lives in the low 90’s with his fastball, and has a slider and change to go with it. He lives and dies low in the zone, and when he’s there consistently, can be tough on hitters. When he gets the ball up though, pro hitters can have a field day with him. He has good make-up, but has to maintain command to move up.
Overall, I like this staff. It doesn’t have a lot of major prospects, but it does have a nice, cohesive group of hard workers and overachievers. Look for Michael Goodnight and Francisco Jimenez to figure into the rotation as well, and don’t be surprised if there is some early movement with regards to some guys in both Lake County and Akron.
I’m most intrigued with Grant Sides with regards to the bullpen, and I have to believe that he has closer written all over him, if you are worried about those designations. He won’t be the closer for the Muddies to start the season off, since Jeff Johnson is also on the staff, but it’s something I could see the two sharing, since they have a similar sort of make-up. He can absolutely bring it, and can touch in the upper 90’s when he really has it going. He had Tommy John surgery in college, but is fully recovered. There isn’t much magic and mystique to Sides. He has a big, nasty fastball, and will travel. It’s good enough to get him to the bigs.
Jeff Johnson was the tenth round pick in 2011, which was two rounds ahead of Sides. Like Sides, his primary pitch is his fastball, and it can top out in the mid-to-upper 90’s as well. He was the primary closer for the Scrappers in 2012, notching 15 saves before moving up to Carolina later in the season. Sides was the closer when he made his debut, and he managed only one save in nine appearances. There isn’t much trick to his game. He’s going to try and throw it by you, and has the heat to do just that. He doesn’t have a menagerie of pitches, which will keep him from the top of this list, but he’s still an intriguing power arm going forward.
Michael Goodnight really saw his prospect status drop in 2012 after going 2-13 with a 4.64 ERA in Carolina. He has nice stuff, and his fastball can touch 95. He also has a slider, curve and a changeup, and all four of his pitches have some nice upside. He just hasn’t been able to put it all together yet. He’s being moved to the pen, but I do think he could find some spot-starts and piggy backs in there, as there’s just too much promise not to try and work that all out. The problem, though, is command, and perhaps if he just focuses on a couple of pitches out of the pen, he could reclaim some of the luster that had him near the top-25 IBI prospects prior to 2012.
The best word that I can use to describe Enosil Tejeda is crafty. He is never going to overpower you, and can often live below the 90 MPH mark. I don’t know how this is going to translate as he moves up through the system, but it certainly doesn’t seem to project. Tejeda is all about location and movement, and he’s been pretty dominant in his early time here with the Indians. He’s 14-5 with a sub 2.00 ERA in his three seasons with the Indians, has 23 saves. He doesn’t have the power arm, but he clearly has the make-up. We’ll see what he does in High A.
Owen Dew missed the entire 2012 season thanks Tommy John surgery, and is a relatively advanced 24 years old. He clearly has a long road, and was struggling a bit prior to the injury as it stands, but you just never know what happens when a kid comes back from Tommy John, and in particular, 11 months of rehab. If he improves his velocity, which is expected, he could be an interesting surprise as the season progresses. He’s not being counted on as a back-end, bullpen option, but you never know what could happen after a year of maturity, the growth process of having to rehab, and just the nature of the surgery. He could be a completely different pitcher, and he was pretty good to start with.
Robert Nixon is another guy that isn’t a top prospect, but fills a need as an early reliever. He was a really, really good college pitcher, and the Indians drafted him in the 46th round of the 2011 draft. He started the year off in Lake County and was fairly effective, and moved to Carolina where he found the traffic pretty tight, watching his ERA jump to 5.40. Like Dew, he’s 24, which is an advanced age for High A.
J.D. Reichenbach and Francisco Jimenez will be the lefties in the pen, and both will be familiar to Carolina fans. Reichenbach can start and relieve, which makes him a fairly interesting minor league player. He’ll be 25 this year though, so the writing is on the wall. He spent the entire year as a reliever in Carolina last season after playing at three different levels in 2011. Jimenez is similar in that he can start and relieve, and spent much of the year in 2013 starting for the Muddies, and made a spot start for Akron. He’s played at every level and is 24 this season as well. Both have value as lefties, but aren’t considered top prospects. Then can fill at many levels though.
Overall, this is an interesting bullpen, but certainly it isn’t a top pen in the system. Sides has the most upside, in my opinion, as a straight reliever, because his fastball is electric. Jeff Johnson isn’t far behind, if he’s behind at all. The guy I like the most here is Michael Goodnight though. I still believe he’ll get his starts, but he could really find a niche as a reliever, and could really become one of those outstanding relievers that the Indians’ system has been developing over the past three or four seasons.
You have to start with Francisco Lindor, because he’s simply the best prospect that this system has to offer. You really have to start with his glove, which is major league ready today, and it’s special. He really had an opportunity to showcase that during spring training, making spectacular play after spectacular play. He has fantastic range, but what makes him special are his instincts. He is type of player that moves towards the ball before it’s it…and is truly special. What most folks get down on with regards to Lindor is his offense, but people really need to back off on that. He’s going to be good…really, really good. He already makes good contact and has gap power, and he’s still growing. Again, he has natural instincts and make-up that will really take him far. The Indians are also moving one of their top offensive instructors, Rouglas Odor, to Carolina, and while I don’t specifically think it’s to work with Lindor, it could lay the foundation for a big offensive jump as he moves through the system. The Carolina League is a notorious pitching league because of the hitters and pitchers face each other so many times, so it will be curious to see how he handles it this year, and going forward. It could be a catapult if he’s successful.
Joey Wendle was an outstanding surprise last year, if you want to call him that. His splits at Mahoning were an outstanding .327/.375/.469, and while he lacks power early, he certainly projects into an interesting project. He makes contact, and really controls the strike zone, and brings a similar approach to the plate that has made Michael Brantley successful. I have him listed at third base because of the options that are on the team, but he certainly would be a better fit at second. The Indians appear to be set on keeping him at third, so he absolutely needs to see a power increase. Tony has compared him to Cord Phelps, and that may be a perfect fit going forward, although he likely has a better glove, and less power. Queue the song Mr. Wendle, by Arrested Development (yeah, it’s Mr. Wendal, but who’s counting).
My favorite player on this club may be Jerrud Sabourin, who absolutely burst on the scene last year with his .297/.369/.379 slash-line. While those numbers don’t scream top prospect or anything, I don’t know that anyone looked to Sabourin for a season quite like that. The deal with Sabourin is that he’s a hard worker, can put the bat on the ball, has great make-up and attitude, and has pretty good plate discipline. He doesn’t have much power to speak of, which will hinder him going forward, but he is an intriguing watch. Of course, the Carolina League can be a buzz-saw with hitters, so it could be a make-or-break type year. That said, the “Sabour-Tooth Tigers” will be in full force at Five County.
Todd Hankins has lights out speed, and stole 33 bases in 2012. I have to imagine that he’s going to start at second base this season after playing 24 games in Carolina at the tail end of the season. You can’t teach speed, but until his OBP improves above the .315 range it’s been at over the last two seasons, his speed won’t see the big leagues. The Carolina League can kill hitters like Hankins though, so perhaps the writing is on the wall.
Justin Toole is the all everything guy here, and this career minor leaguer will no doubt find himself bouncing around the levels this season. He can play multiple positions, and will no doubt do just that for the Mudcats.
The Muddies got robbed of seeing Jose Ramirez, and with Tony Wolters making the surprise move to catcher, the strength of the infield took a bit of a hit. Still, with Lindor anchoring Wendle, Sabourin and Hankins, with an occasional Wolters sighting, it should be very good.
IBI #46—Bryson Myles (LF), IBI #8—Tyler Naquin (CF), IBI #23—Jordan Smith (CF), Anthony Gallas (OF)
Tyler Naquin should be really, really agitated if he reads the press. There aren’t a whole lot of “experts” that think he was deserving of the Indians picks, and while a lot of “draft experts” have interesting revisionists looks at their draft prospects from 2012, Naquin should have a lot to prove in 2013. If he just plays the way he can, that should be enough to elevate him quickly. He can absolutely hit, and has done so at every level of his career. Carolina should be an interesting, if not short, test. He’s runs the bases well and has good instincts in the outfield. He isn’t a plus runner by any stretch, but he has good speed and takes good angles to baseballs. He also has the best arm in the system, including the big leagues. So, think Choo in the field, with better instincts. At best, he develops power and forces his way through this system. At worst, he hits pretty well in the minors and becomes a better fielding fourth outfield prospect. I think it’s more the former, than the latter, and I’d be shocked if he’s not at Columbus by the end of the season.
In Jordan Smith’s first season at Mahoning Valley, he hit .300 without a homer. The knock on him was a no-power, good hitting outfielder/third baseman. The Indians moved him strictly to the outfield at Lake County, and he hit .316 with nine homers in his first full season of baseball. No, he’s not Babe Ruth or anything, but he did show a bit of power, pushing him up through the prospect rankings a bit. This kid has a bat, and a professional eye at the plate. In 711 at bats, he has walked 70 times, while striking out only 82 times. He’s 6’4 and has a big frame, so it’s possible that he develops some really interesting accidental home run power as he continues through the system, and for sure has gap power. This is a kid that could be eyeballing a top five slot in the IBI rankings if he continues to improve his power and defensive ability.
There might not be a player with more tools in this talented outfield than Bryson Myles. Myles seemed earmarked for a move to Carolina at some point last season before another injury hampered him early in the season. He is a powerful, compact hitter, who projects to be a doubles machine or better, if he could just stay healthy. He comes from a football background in Texas, and has that “linebacker physique.” He hits the ball hard, and really has the ability to grow in this area over the next couple seasons. He also may be the fastest player on the team, although Todd Hankins may have something to say about that. He has 40 stolen bases in two seasons, and as he continues to stretch out those hamstrings, this could improve more with added health. His hamstring issues really seemed to hinder his speed through the heart of the season. Here’s what I can tell you about Myles though. He’s a great kid. I talked to him last year in an interview, and it was clear that he works hard and has an impeccable attitude. Tony has noted that Myles used that work ethic to come into camp having improved his lower half strength, as well as become more flexible as well. If he can play a full season, I think the sky is the limit for this kid. I like Naquin and Smith, but Myles has far more upside. I don’t like making comparisons here, but he really has that Kirby Puckett look when he’s healthy, and that is certainly his ceiling.
Anthony Gallas starts the year off in Carolina, and the Cleveland native will be a feel-good story for as long as he plays professional baseball. He doesn’t have big league stuff, but he will likely fill an offensive role with this team for the next couple of seasons, and could see time at any level.
Naquin, Smith and Myles are about as good as it gets. All three could hit around .300. All three could hit 20-plus doubles. All three could play solid defense. All three could be spectacular. When you add the names LeVon Washington and Luigi Rodriguez to the mix, this outfield could become very, very interesting as the season progresses.
I’m not going to pretend I get Tony Wolters’ move to the catching position, because I don’t. If anyone can do it, It’s Wolters. If anyone can be good at it, it’s Wolters. If anyone has the attitude and make-up to make it a permanent move, it’s Wolters. If this is a stop-gap move, it doesn’t make much sense to me. If this is a permanent move, it will definitely begin to unclog a full, middle infield. I don’t know what to make of it, to be honest, but it certainly brought some interesting buzz here to the Raleigh area at the tail-end of the camp. The move seems rash and unfair, but perhaps there is something more to this than meets the eye. Tony will be at Five County this weekend while I’m in Florida, so perhaps he can find out some information for us. Wolters is a great kid. His first day with Carolina and first second on the field showed me how good a person he is. He walked onto the field for the first time, walked right over to my son who wasn’t even calling for him to come over, and he started talking to him. He signed a baseball for him, and made a fan for life. Great stuff. If anyone can make it to the big leagues as a catcher, it’s Wolters, so my hope is that he absolutely rakes in his second go-around in the Carolina League and becomes a top catching prospect. We shall see.
Lost in all this Wolters’ talk is Jake Lowery, who returns to Carolina after struggling out of the gate in 2012. He went to Lake County and had a solid season. His average improved, and his power improved as well. His prospect top took a bit of a hit, but he certainly has the type of power that could fix things quickly. He had a great April last year in Carolina, and if he could find that magic again and hold onto it for a bit, he could move through the system as a catcher or a DH. That bat has to stay hot though.
Charlie Valerio will struggle for at bats to start the year off, but he can hit the ball, has some power, and is solid defensively. He has a gun for an arm, and is a nice back-up to have.
If it’s Lowery or Wolters, the catching duties seem good to go to start the year off. When Alex Monsalve comes back though, my suspicions are that Alex Lavisky may be showing up at some point. Not sure what happens then. Of course, after the Wolters move, who knows.
The Mudcats should be an exciting team in 2013. There are ten of IBI’s top 60 prospects on this team, with the possibility of three or four to make a quick appearance should there be April or May movement. The starting pitching is solid and likely understated, with two of the five having the potential to make a run at the big league Indians in a couple of seasons. Cody Anderson could be something special, if he’s brought along the right way. Their bullpen is intriguing as well, but a bit underwhelming. What I like about the pitchers though is that they all have something to prove. This could make them tough in the Carolina League, where they’ll face the same batters several times in a season.
The offense is buoyed by two former #1 picks, as well as several high upside candidates. There really isn’t an offensive weakness on the team at any position to start the year off, and with Washington and Rodriguez on the verge, and some others as well, this team can only get better. Defensively, it could be the best team in the system.
It’s hard to predict playoffs at this level, because you never know what to expect with regards to movement, but with the current management in place, and a slew of potential starts, it might not be a bad idea to have playoff thoughts in your head.
Jim is currently the senior editor and Columnist, as well as the host of IBI's weekly online radio shows, Smoke Signals and Cleveland Sports Insiders. You can follow Jim on Twitter @Jim_IBI, or contact him via e-mail at email@example.com.
For example, Chuck Manuel-- a great offensive mind who was fired by this front office-- was a .198 hitter (.534 OPS) in the majors. He did, however, hit .320 (1.008 OPS) in AAA. He then went to Japan at age 32, finishing with a .303 average and 189 homers and winning an MVP award.
Odor couldn't hit at any level,. He also couldn't master the offensive skills that a "smart ballplayer" without great physical ability can do (draw walks, low strikeouts, bunt well, hit sac flies).
As for his ability to teach, in eight seasons as a manager (not counting the two seasons in the Venezuelan summer leagues), he had six losing years. The Indians never promoted him above a rookie league level before ending his managerial career and demoting him to coach.
How good a coach is he? Let's consider the career of Mickey Calloway as a yardstick. After he retired, he became the pitching coach in Lake County in 2011. In 2012, he was promoted to Kinston. In 2013, he is now in the majors. That would suggest Calloway has considerable ability to teach
Odor coached in Kinston in 2009-10. He was promoted to Akron in 2011-12. Last winter the Indians also needed a batting coach. Not only was Odor not chosen, but he was demoted to Kinston.
If Odor is really a great offensive mind, then why didn't the Indians bring him up, along with Calloway.? The answer to that seems rather obvious. Why hasn't some other organization snapped him up with a big contract and a promotion? That seems rather clear as well. An answer that is not obvious is "Why, after 15 years of unsuccessful performance in the Indians' minor league system, is Rouglas Odor employed by the team?"
The thought that Odor will be interacting with Lindor-- and that the team might want a player with considerable talent to heed the counsel of someone who clearly isn't qualified to teach-- is highly disturbing to anyone who is in full possession of his faculties.
I don't think he was being "snarky" at all. I think he was being sincere. If you read the quote it says "he has one of the best offensive MINDS in the system" not bat.
Baseball history is chulk full of people who struggled as players but went on to be fantastic at teaching the game to others and just because a player was great on the field does not always mean they will be a good coach.
So, I think your really out of touch on that one.
When Alex Monsalve returns, we'll see what happens, but I think it was one of those things where Lavisky was showing a bit more progression than Lowery...but I wouldn't look too much into it.
Best defender? Lowery is older, right and a better prospect so they do not want to rush him?
I'm a big fan of Anderson. I saw video of him pitching in JC and knew this guy has some serious power stuff. Seemed like he was hitting 95 with ease. I look at him right now and think #3 starter, but I somehow suspect he could be more if that cutter works out the way I think it might.
The first thing I thought of when they moved him to catcher was...
The problem with that line of thinking is that Kendall NEVER struck out...and Wolters strikes out way too much...but they are similar-type players...doubles power...hard workers...
Jordan Smith is the most interesting guy to me outside of Lindor and Naquin of course.
Its interesing you think Naquin will move so quick through the system. If he does I wonder if he could be a perfect platoon partner for Drew Stubbs in RF by the end of next season. He could also see time at DH with Phelps and Gomes. I could see him hitting .275 with 15 homers, 15 steals, 30 doubles, a good OBP, solid defense and a rocket arm in the bigs.
In regards to Tony Wolters. I was pretty shocked as well but I feel there are a couple ways to look at it.
They basically moved him from their deepest position in the system to perhaps their weakest. If his bat would play at SS or 2B I could see it playing at C. If his defense holds up there he could bring a steady prescence at the plate.
Or maybe they are looking at him as a super utility player down the road. I doubt they do so this season but perhaps down the line they teach him to play LF as well. I can't think of many switch hitting players able to play SS, 2B, LF and C. He could bring great depth and flex to the bench in the future.
That said...the Carolina is a league that the Indians have stayed in to solve the "Joey Wendle" questions from year-to-year. Because there are only eight teams, these pitchers and hitters face off against each other a lot, and pitchers almost always come out on the positive end of that.
A guy like Wendle, who is an older player in a low level, can really make a name for himself by hitting in this league, or...can get "outed" a bit by struggling. it's not the end-all by any stretch, but it is a good gauge.
The second part of your question is a bit more difficult to answer...off the top of my head, I'd say I like Anderson, Dylan Baker and Trey Haley, with Haley a tick or two below because of injury issues.
Araujo is up there, Barnes...and Adams as well. I have Anderson Baker and Haley up there though because of their electric arms. Adams has that type of arm as well, but lots of questions heading into this year after injury...