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A Scout's Take On The Indians

April 30, 2008
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I was at Akron last night covering them and had the chance to talk to manager Mike Sarbaugh for awhile and also the hitting coach Lee May Jr to see what guys are working on and trying to do to get things going. I'll have their comments in my Thursday farm recap as it is too long to post here right now and I have to go through the audio to recollect everything.

One player of note I talked to Sarbaugh about is Lofgren. Supposedly he is healthy and the velocity is there still, but confidence seems to have waned some. He did not directly say this, but that is what I got. Again, I will go through it again and have it all recapped in this week's Happenings on Thursday.

Also interviewed Lofgren, David Huff and Chris Gimenez. Lofgren had some interesting things to say. Arm didn't feel that great coming out of spring. Also, he was working on some new things like working on new grips with fastball and slowing down mechanics. Delivery has been tinkered some and he is still adjusting. He is still upbeat and positive about everything hopefully he turns it around.

Gimenez and I talked for about 40 minutes. He went through everything he is working on in his transition to catcher. Great guy, and loves to talk. Roving minor league catching coordinator Tim Laker has been in Akron the last week working with Gimenez and he talked in great detail some of the things they are doing. I'll have something on Lofgren and Gimenez in the coming week on the site.

Travis Fryman was also there to work with Wes Hodges some. Did not get a chance to talk to Travis, but was nice to see him.

Anyway, the reason for the posting is because of some comments from some scouts I talked to last night. I actually talked to three scouts, and one in particular I spoke to for close to an hour about a ton of things in regard to the system and outside the system on scouting in general. He is heading to Lake County today for a five game set to see an entire turn through the rotation, and I'll probably be heading up there over the weekend to talk to him some more. Awesome guy and he had so much insight into the general stuff he does as well as what his org looks for in players.

Anyway, all three scouts were organizational scouts. What this means is they follow specific organizations. One of the scouts follows just the AL Central teams from the major league team down to Lake County, the other two followed five specific organizations but were not all AL Central teams. Obviously, all three have the Indians as one of their five teams and know about them a lot. All agreed that at the end of last year that the system was very deep with quality players, but nothing really of impact value at the time. Adam Miller is still viewed as an impact guy because of his two plus pitches and outstanding makeup, and the guys gushed about Nick Weglarz.

These were casual conversations and not formal interviews, so I did not take notes or record the conversations like I normally do....which sucks because they said so much and I am only recalling about 10% of it here, but will do my best below (I apologize for the randomness of the thoughts here, just jotting down notes on these guys as they come back to me):

Brandon Phillips: Saw him when he first came to the Indians in 2002 and loved the raw skills. Bluntly said he was pathetic when he came back to the minors in the second half of 2003....but showed a much better approach his next year. Still, the flash and ability they loved back when the Indians got him had waned even up until the Indians traded him. Said he was not thought of very highly by his team at that point. Lots of issues with the swing. Although was still surprised that the Indians would give up on him being he was such a young player who was still so raw. Never saw coming what Phillips has become in Cincinnati. What Phillips is doing now would not have been a surprise back in 2002 when many teams were very high on him....but it is a complete surprise given what teams saw of him in 2003-2005.

Andy Marte: According to one scout there were red flags with Marte when he hit Double-A. Too many holes with his swing. He crushes stuff out over the plate, but he can be pitched inside because his swing is too long and has that loft where he can't get around quick enough on pitches. Plus, he gets eaten up on pitches low and away....if he is struggling both away and inside, it is something that will be hard to overcome. Also, defense was an issue. While he was voted top defensive 3B in the league for a few years in a row, he just did not see it. Saw him a lot.

Beau Mills: #1 guy in system after last season. Did not really elaborate as I did not ask, and the only reason he was mentioned is because I asked who the #1 guy they had rated in the Indians system after last year.

Ben Francisco: The one scout just loves him. The team he scouts for is a perenniel playoff team, and they always say "is this guy better than what we have" and "can he help us win a championship" when they scout players from other teams. Francisco he said was a yes to both those questions. There is a ton of value with him and he agreed with me when I mentioned my frustration about the Michaels/Dellucci situation and Ben being in Buffalo. He said he is a major league talent and can flat out hit. Should be our starting LFer. He even went as far as to say when Ben and Franklin Gutierrez were in Buffalo that he always rated Ben much higher than Franklin. Feels Francisco CLEARLY has the much better bat while Gutierrez gets an edge on defense although not as much as many think. In every year the last three years Francisco has been rated higher than Gutierrez by their organization. Was ready to pounce on him in Dec 2006 Rule 5 Draft if he was not rostered.

Nick Weglarz: Flat out loves him. Couldn't say enough good things about him. The plate discipline is off the charts good. It is not just the walks, it is how smart he is as a hitter where he lays off so many borderline pitches when he is ahead in the count. Shows how mature of a hitter he is, and this shows him he is ready to be a star in the big leagues. Most players are too anxious and swing at anything close, but not Wegs. Stays within himself and to his plan. Big power. Said he would fit in perfectly with his team/organization. Someone they are very high on and considered as one of the top young hitters in the game. Just raved about his plate discipline and power combo where he projects as a well-above average OBP and SLG guy. He is going to Kinston in May and can't wait to see him this year as he is basing all this off of what he saw of him in several looks at Lake County last year. Says if he stays healthy and continues to hit well and pile up walks, he is a shoe in to be #1 this year on their Indians list.

Jordan Brown: Another guy loved by the scouts. Not nearly the impact guy the one scout feels Weglarz will be, but feel Brown will be a very good contributor. Raved about his offensive approach. Says he is major league ready right now. Said for a corner guy he does not possess the big bat you typically like, but believes his outstanding bat-to-ball ability more than makes up for it and a team will find room for him. A persistent hitter who is a tough out. Said someone will find a spot for him as he will be a .300 hitter in the bigs. Reminds him of Youkilis, but from the left-side.

Michael Aubrey: Suspect bat at the major league level. Just not the same player now as he was pre-injury and coming out of college. Injuries have eroded his skills. A good organization guy, but his days as a good major league prospect are behind him.

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