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Q&A With Baseball America's Chris Kline - Part 2 (2006)

January 6, 2009
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 Note: This Q&A was originally conducted in April 2006, and part one posted yesterday. One more Q&A from Kline will post on Wednesday, and then we'll spend the rest of the week getting ready for the start of the Top 100 Indians Prospect countdown on the site which starts with #100 and #99 this Sunday January 11th.

Without further ado, onto the second half of the Q&A:

Q: What does the organization think Ryan Mulhern's future position in the big leagues is: 1B? LF? Both? Can he play RF?

Chris Kline (CK): He can play both, though I wouldn't want to stick him in right. He could be serviceable there, but not the kind of arm strength you'd want out of that position. But the plan is to get most of his time in at first base--he's a first baseman who can play some LF if you need him to.

Q: Based on a previous response, you seem very high on Chuck Lofgren. What is his upside and best qualities, and how quickly could he move through the system?

CK: I think he could move very quickly. As I've documented before, he came into the system with basically a fastball/curveball mix, and while his curveball was his out pitch in high school, he left it up sometimes during his first year in Burlington and it wasn't nearly as good as it was as an amateur. But he sharpened it up during instructional league, and worked further on developing his changeup and we all saw what he did at Lake County last year.

He continued to springboard last fall in instructs, when he put up completely ridiculous numbers: 30 innings, a 1.00 ERA, three walks and 65 strikeouts. There was talk during instructional league of him changing from a curveball to a slider, but he's sticking with the curveball AND in the process of adding a hard slider.

Talking to him, he's just comfortable and nothing really seems to phase him. He understands and appreciates the history of the game, which is more and more rare these days. He's just one of those guys, to me, that gets it--if that makes any sense. He understands he's in a special place, has all this talent and he's going to make the most of it. That's probably the biggest thing I personally like about Chuck Lofgren.

How quickly could he move? Well, he's already moving quickly in my opinion and he just turned 20. He could be in the big leagues in two years.

Q: What happened to Cody Bunkelman, and why didn't Carlton Smith make a full-season team?

CK: As I touched on earlier, the club decided to move Bunkelman to the pen, so he was held back in extended--probably until the end of this month--before sending him out. Mainly to teach him more of the mindset, get him to where he's focusing on that one inning, and working on the preparation end of things. Smith had reasonably minor knee surgery near the end of last season, so he's likely headed to Mahoning Valley. He's a lot more raw than the other guys we're talking about here, and extended was definitely the best thing for him from a confidence standpoint and from the club's cautionary stand.

Q: How does Trevor Crowe project as a major leaguer, and how serious are the Indians about moving him to 2B? If that's the direction they want him to move, why delay it for a year?

CK: I'm saying right now he projects as a second baseman, especially in this organization. And as you all know, that's a hole of major concern. He has above-average speed, but really doesn't have the quickness or range to play center field in the big leagues, which relegates him to a corner spot if they want to keep him in the outfield. But from all indications, they do not.

After he gets going with the bat this year, look for them to make the move during instructs and he'll come out as the everyday second baseman at Akron next year. I'm not much for predictions very often, but I feel pretty strongly about this. The delay is to get him to build confidence with the bat. Let's face it--coming into this season, the guy has under 250 at-bats as a pro. And this is a little different than facing some of those Pac-10 jokers.

Q: Who do you like the best out of the pitching crop from the 2005 Draft?

CK: Hmmmm . . . . I'll go (Joe) Ness, (James) Deters and (Kevin) Dixon, liking Ness the most. Big body with nice life to his fastball. His changeup has looked good also, and where the scoop on him was that he didn't really have a breaking ball, I've seen a hard slurvy pitch in the mid-80s, which is pretty freakin' good. Deters is off having some success and I also liked Dixon when I saw him in the spring. Another big-bodied guy with a 90-94 mph fastball and shows flashes of a slider and change. Of these three, Ness is obviously the more polished pitcher in terms of stuff, mound presence and poise, and the ability to really attack.

So you're probably wondering, 'So what about Jensen Lewis, who was a third rounder and was picked ahead of all these guys?' I like Lewis, but I like him better as a middle reliever at this point. Great aptitude, but some pretty big question marks as to if he's ever going to be able to develop a third pitch . . . And fastball/change starters tend to get hammered in the Carolina League. Check out his ERA through his first three starts--7.35. Something's got to give.

Q: In your opinion, how good will Franklin Gutierrez be at the MLB level?

CK: I'll go with the comparison I got on him from five different scouts, and the one I put in the Prospect Handbook: Juan Encarnacion. Decent ceiling, but I think he was a little overhyped both by the Dodgers and by the Indians when they got him in the Bradley deal. I think he can be a serviceable right fielder, but I really don't see him being some kind of break-out all-star caliber outfielder. For one, to me, he just doesn't have the body for it. He's more wiry strong in a smallish frame for the position . . . He's a guy I was excited about when he was with L.A., I was excited about when they got him and front office people were raving about him to me, but I'm not that excited anymore. Joe Inglett gets me more excited.

Q: Is there any buzz from Indians extended spring training? Who could break out from that group?

CK: Interesting question. (Nick) Weglarz is the obvious guy, and he would have broke camp with Lake County, but got hurt. He'll start in Mahoning or they may possibly try to get him to Lake County before extended ends. But they were pretty driven about getting him out with a full-season club as quickly as possible. There are also some interesting Latin players--mostly arms--but I'm keeping them secret so I have something to talk about in the third installment of this chat.

Q: Do you think the Indians having a GCL team will change their drafting philosophy? Like slant towards more high school picks rather than the college heavy drafts of the past couple of years?

CK: John Mirabelli has always gone with best player available rather than slant one way or the other, but I think you'll see more high school picks if they're signable. The Appy League really is becoming more and more of a college league simply because of the teams in it--most notably the Blue Jays, but the Astros also tend to let their players creep along through the development process (i.e. Hunter Pence, Ben Zobrist) and they're sending college players straight to their Appy League affiliates. The Tribe has hardly ever done that--feeling that a college player is at least ready for short-season ball, if not low Class A right after the draft.

So instead of adding another Rookie-level team affecting draft philosophy, the GCL team will mostly be comprised of Latin players who don't have nearly the amount of experience as, say, a college player. It will give these young players in the organization more of an opportunity to get into a setting and have some success, rather than, for example, an 18-year-old Dominican pitcher going out and getting ripped by a bunch of 22 year-old college jokers.

Q: What players are in for a big breakout season? Whose stock is rising, and whose stock may be falling?

CK: I know he's only hitting like .160 or something, but keep an eye on Nick Petrucci. I know the organzation is high on him--he had corrective eye surgery in the offseason and looked like a different player in the spring. If Gutierrez struggles this year, his stock will continue to fall . . . Head is rising--quickly . . . The club really likes the versatility of Inglett, since he proved he could still play shortstop . . . Sipp is of course, super-hot . . . And Michael Aubrey kind of remains in limbo. So there are a couple names, anyway . . .

Q: John Mirabelli, Chris Antonetti, and John Farrell. If you had to guess, what job titles will these three hold three years from now, and will it be with the Indians?

CK: Awesome question! Wow . . . I think it depends on what happens with the big league club, of course. I don't think you'll see Antonetti leave until maybe after they win a championship if and when that happens. I tend to think based on his relationship with Shaprio, that those two are in it together for the long haul. I don't really see John M. leaving anytime soon either.

The only guy who I think a big league club might come calling for would be Farrell, and the only way he leaves is if it's a GM job. So keep an eye on the death watch in Seattle, Pittsburgh, Washington, maybe Chicago (Cubs) by the end of the year . . . There are definitely going to be jobs open, and like we saw last offseason, clubs have these guys targeted.

Thanks a bunch for listening to my rambling. I always try to not just spew rhetoric you get with so many of people in this whole media thing. Take it easy, and if we don't talk before then, I just want to wish all you mothers out there a Happy Mother's Day. OUT. CK

Thanks again to Chris for taking part in the Q&A for SwerbsBlurbs.com, and best of luck to him in his future endeavors (ahem, like the birdie that told me

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