It was another interesting year in the Indians farm system in 2008. New prospects have come aboard due to the Casey Black and CC Sabathia deals while some former well regarded prospects have moved on to other organizations.
In recent years the Tribe’s minor league system has been considered one of the deepest in all of baseball but it has lacked the sizzle of some of the games top prospects. That seemed to change this year as it’s now exciting to note that the Indians have 10-15 high-ceiling prospects with potential to make a real impact at the major league level. The system has kept its extraordinary depth while adding and developing players with very bright futures.
Tony will look forward towards 2009 and highlight these players and several more with his new prospect rankings. I however wanted to look back on the season that was 2008 and give you a stock up, stock down review of some players in the upper levels of the Tribe’s system you should know.
? ADAM MILLER, P
Adam Miller entered 2008 widely considered as one of the best if not the best prospect in the Indians farm system. Yet another injury (finger) has kept Miller from fulfilling his great promise. When Miller did pitch he was effective as he recorded a 1.88 ERA and 20 strikeouts in his 28 2/3 innings pitched at Triple-A. Miller will have to prove he can stay healthy for the Indians brass to legitimately consider him for a role with the 2009 club. Miller will more than likely look to rebound from his injury plagued 2008 season by shifting to the bullpen in 2009.
? TREVOR CROWE, OF
Once a fast-tracked prospect, Crowe has moved at a snails pace through the Indians system due to injuries and disappointing play. He started 2008 with a return trip to Akron. After tearing up Eastern League pitching to the tune of a .323 average and .888 OPS he earned his first promotion to Buffalo. Crowe was up and down with the Bisons but finished strong concluding his season on a hot streak with ten hits in his final four games. Crowe appears back in the good graces of Shapiro and Co. but not necessarily in the long term plans. He will have to keep his hot play going into ‘09 so as to not get passed in the system.
? NICK WEGLARZ, OF
It’s hard to imagine any player not being “stock up” when you post a minor league season with 71 walks and only 78 strike outs in 375 at bats, especially when you combine that with an OPS of .828. But that’s how high the ceiling is for the big 6’3” 245 pound Canadian. Coming off a year in 2007 where Weglarz pounded 24 homeruns and 83 RBI’s, his numbers this season where significantly down. Weglarz tallied only 10 homeruns and 41 RBI’s despite hitting behind Beau Mills for most of the year. Everyone fully expects Weglarz’s power to return in 2009. The Indians will bring him along slowly and let his power develop along with his outstanding approach.
? JD MARTIN, P
Martin himself may not have even seen a season like his coming after missing much of 2007 due to injury. The former first round pick finally put things together. Working out of the bullpen for most of the year and then sliding back into the Aeros rotation, Martin put up impressive numbers. None was more impressive than a 1.72 ERA in eight starts. What was equally impressive was his ability to hold lefties to a .178 clip without allowing a homerun. The Indians will need to make a decision soon on the right-hander as he is eligible to become a minor league free agent.
? JOHN DRENNEN, OF
Those might be fork marks you see in Drennen’s back. The former first round pick that the Indians hoped would develop into Grady Sizemore-lite spent 2008 stumbling through yet another season in Kinston. Drennen actually fared worse this past season than he did in 2007 when he hit .254. The Indians front office hoped another season at high Single-A would jump start his progression. Instead, he regressed and hit only .235 with three long balls. Drennen looks like nothing more than a tease and an organization player at this point. He has certainly been passed up by several prospects.
? JORDAN BROWN, 1B
Brown didn’t really have a poor year at Buffalo in 2008, he just didn’t keep up his pace from 2006 & 2007 when he won MVP in the Carolina League and Eastern League respectively. Brown mashed at Akron and the hope was that he would continue that on to Buffalo. Instead Brown coasted through 420 at bats on a bad Buffalo team and finished with a respectable .281 average and an OPS of .754. Brown hasn’t shown enough to supplant Ryan Garko at first base and he won’t keep Matt LaPorta from taking ground balls around the bag either. Expect other teams to have interest in Brown as the Rule-5 draft approaches.
? HECTOR RONDON, P
Rondon has the Indians brass legitimately excited about his future and why not. His numbers (11-6, 3.60 ERA) at Kinston don’t jump out at you but his stuff has been called filthy by everyone in the Indians front office. At only 20 years of age, Rondon averaged a strike out per inning over 145 innings. With the overall lack of dominate right arms in the Indians system Rondon is expected to move quickly.
? JEFF STEVENS, P
If not for his role on the United States Olympic team Stevens may have been a September call-up. Instead he has a real shot at making the big league club out of spring training. Stevens was dominate in 2008 at both Akron and Buffalo. In the two leagues he held batters to a combined .184 average and notched 81 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings. The Tribe’s off season acquisitions will determine how many spots in the pen will be filled within the organization. Stevens appears to be on the short list.
? CARLOS RIVERO, SS
A ridiculous August in which he hit .356 with four homeruns saved Rivero’s season. He finished at .282 with an OPS of .753 in a tough Carolina League. At only 20, Rivero has time to develop although it probably won’t be at shortstop.
? WYATT TOREGAS, C
Toregas had a tough season to gauge and it was anything but consistent. After opening the year and struggling mightily at Buffalo, Toregas was demoted to Akron. He responded by hitting .345 with nine homeruns in July. After his hot July, he cooled to hit only .227 in August. Taking a second shot at Triple-A in 2009 will have to be as good as his second trip to Double-A in 2008 for Toregas to stay in the Indians’plans.
? JOSHUA RODRIGUEZ, SS
The former second round pick, Rodriguez excited Tribe officials and fans with a fantastic 2007 season that saw him hit 20 homeruns and steal 21 bases. For years the Indians system has lacked viable middle infield prospects and Rodriguez seemed in line to break that slump. His 2008 season may have been the most disappointing season in the entire system. Rodriguez hit only .241 with seven homeruns and twelve stolen bases over a season in which he played 137 games and recorded 532 at bats. The shine is certainly off Rodriguez and he will repeat Double-A. Rodriguez will be 24 in December and will have a great deal of pressure to produce a dynamic 2009.
? ROMAN PENA, OF
Pena, a toolsy outfielder in the Tribe’s system since 2005, was forced to repeat low Single-A Lake County after a rough 2007 in which he hit .240 with an OPS under .700. During the first half of 2008 he was one of the Captains few offensive highlights. Although he cooled towards the end of his stay in Lake County he still ended his time there with a .275 average and 11 homeruns. His stay at Kinston was much less memorable. In 54 high Single-A at bats, Pena collected only eight hits, two of those going yard. Pena recently turned 22. He’ll have to have a nice 2009 to avoid being lost in the shuffle.
? CHRIS GIMENEZ, C/1B
Gimenez raked at a Hall Of Fame level at Akron in 2008. He forced the Tribe’s front office to take notice after posting an OPS of 1.024 and displaying a keen eye. Upon his move to Buffalo things didn’t go as smoothly, although he did not struggle. After a rough June in which he hit only .167, Gimenez combined to hit .296 in July, August and September. Gimenez’s standing with the team seems to be directly linked to current Indian Kelly Shoppach. If the Indians move Shoppach, as some have thought they might, a door would open for Gimenez to backup Victor Martinez in 2009.
? MATT WHITNEY, 1B/3B
The Tribe almost lost Whitney last year to the Washington Nationals after an outstanding 2007 season in which he hit .299 with 32 homeruns and 113 RBI’s at both Lake County and Kinston. The Nationals claimed Whitney in the Rule-5 draft only to offer him back to the Indians after spring training. Apparently the switching back and forth between two systems didn’t agree with Whitney as he couldn’t duplicate his fantastic 2007. For the Aeros this past season Whitney went deep only ten times. He wasn’t exactly over his head in Double-A though as his batting average minus a terrible May stood at .286. It seems that Whitney has been in the system forever but he’s still just 24 years old and you never want to give up on a guy with his power potential. He’s in line to become a free agent and he may take that big bat to a team not loaded at first base.
? BEAU MILLS, 1B
Before the additions of Matt LaPorta and Carlos Santana, Beau Mills was certain to be considered for the top prospects in the Indians system. Even after the additions of LaPorta and Santana he may still be, following a terrific 2008 season that saw him dominate the Carolina League, especially in the second half. After the All-Star break Mills pounded league pitchers for a .327 batting average with twelve homeruns. Overall his slugging percentage eclipsed .500. Mills probably could have been advanced to Double-A and he will certainly start 2009 there. He will be in the heart of a stacked Akron lineup. If he starts hot he could be moved along quickly.
? WES HODGES, 3B
Hodges is currently being called the Tribe’s third baseman of the future mainly because their last third baseman of the future, Andy Marte, has yet to make an impression in the bigs. Hodges was a model of consistency in 2008, and it’s because of that, that he is a top five prospect in the Indians system. August was the only month that Hodges did not post an OPS over .800. He also finished the year with 18 homeruns and 97 RBI’s. Hodges will look to continue his consistent ways in Columbus next year. A hot start combined with a big league need could force the issue.
? JARED GOEDERT, 2B/3B
As a prospect under virtually every radar, Goedert crushed Sally League pitching in 2007 as a member of the Lake County Captains. 2008 was not as kind to Goedert. In now a season and half in the Carolina League, Goedert has struggled combining to hit .255 with 14 homeruns. Goedert projects as a utility infielder with decent pop but he’s going to have to do more at high Single-A to advance through the system. As reflected by his low strikeout ratio Goedert always seems to put the bat on the ball, unfortunately for him they just aren’t dropping for hits. Goedert needs to prove in 2009 that his 2007 stint at Lake County wasn’t more than just a couple of hot months.