Top 10 Prospects for the Cleveland Indians Heading into 2013
The Cleveland Indians' 10 Most Important Prospects for 2013
The hard-luck Cleveland Indians continued to struggle mightily in 2012, failing to win 70 games for the third time in the past four seasons. Whether it was an underwhelming pitching staff, an offense that showed some life but not nearly enough to win more games, or a farm system that was both depleted because of injuries to key prospects (Austin Adams, Chen-Chang Lee) and disappointing because certain call-ups didn’t work out too well (Zach McAllister, Nick Hagadone), 2012 was another forgettable season for The Tribe.
Ah, but there is always hope. If anything can be learned from the 2012 season it’s that anything is possible. Look at what the Oakland A’s and Baltimore Orioles were able to achieve. A lot of things have to go right for miraculous seasons like those to occur, but they are not out of the realm of possibility, even for teams like Cleveland. In fact, things are already looking up for the Indians in 2013 and we haven’t even finished with 2012 yet.
Though the recent trade of Shin-Soo Choo will be hard for some to take, the haul that the Indians received in return will help shore up their anemic starting rotation and their thin bullpen. They received prized pitching prospect and 2011’s #3 overall pick Trevor Bauer in the deal as well, making this a move that will hopefully yield many positive results for the Indians in 2013 and beyond.
This leads us into the subject of today’s slide show, which is to list the Cleveland Indians’ Top 10 prospects. Bear in mind that this list is not overly scientific and, like all such lists, is purely subjective. This is simply a list of who I believe to be their best prospects, regardless of whether they are weeks or years away from helping the Indians out.
10. Shawn Armstrong, RHP
In Shawn Armstrong, the Indians could be looking at the 2013 version of Cody Allen, who blitzed his way through the minors in 2012 before making the big leap to the Indians partway through the season. In a combined 45 games for Lake County, Carolina and Akron in 2012, Armstrong posted a 1.60 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 2.11 K/BB, 10.4 K/9 and allowed 0 HR in 67.2 innings. He needs to get his walk rate under control (4.9 BB/9), but this guy has all the tools necessary to be one of Cleveland's best relief options for years to come once he makes it to The Big Show.
9. Trey Haley, RHP
Haley is a prospect the Indians should be salivating over, now that he is healthy again. During his time in Rookie ball, Class A Carolina and Double-A Akron in 2012, he obliterated the opposition. His 2.33 ERA, 2.58 K/BB, 11.4 K/9 and 1.16 WHIP in 2012 were career highs, plus his 49 K's were his best showing since being converted from a starter to a reliever in 2011. He still struggles a little more with his control than the Indians would like (his triple-digit fastball could explain that problem), but if he gets it figured out he'll be on his way to Cleveland in a hurry. He's a possible September call-up.
8. Luigi Rodriguez, OF
If Rodriguez can learn how to cut down on his strikeouts (133 in 463 ABs with Class A Lake County this past season), he could become a formidable hitter for the Indians in the future. He hit 11 HR, drove in 48 runs, stole 24 bases, and hit .268/.338/.406 so there is potential. At just twenty years of age, there is room for him to grow and plenty of time for him to refine his game; if he is able to do so, he could be a serious diamond in the rough for the Tribe.
7. TJ House, LHP
House posted solid numbers splitting time between Carolina and Double-A Akron this season, combining to go 10-5 with a 3.56 ERA, a WHIP of 1.21 and a K/BB of 2.32. All of these were vast improvements from his previous two seasons where he posted losing records and had significantly higher ERAs and WHIPs. He also set a career high for starts in a season (27), strikeouts (116), innings pitched (149.1) and BB/9 (3.0), so he made a number of positive strides this past season.
6. Jesus Aguilar, 1B
He loves it when you call him Big Boppa. In 2011, Aguilar had 23 HR, 82 RBI and hit .284/.359/.506 splitting time between Lake County and Kinston. In 2012, he hit .280/.372/.461 and notched 15 HR and 71 RBI, splitting time between Carolina and Double-A Akron. Hits for power and will take walks so he has a decent eye, but he has struck out over 100 times each of the past two seasons as well, so he needs to cut down on his free-swinging habit at the plate. But if the Indians want to survive based on the feast-or-famine mentality, Aguilar will be someone for them to keep an eye on.
5. Austin Adams, RHP
Shoulder problems kept Adams out of action for part of this season, but when he was on the field for the Orem Owlz of th Pioneer League, the results were okay. Nothing lights out here, but a K/9 of 10.00 and a K/BB of over 2.00 are promising. If given a full year of good health, he could develop into something nice for the Indians.
4. Dillon Howard, RHP
There is no sugarcoating it: Howard got annihilated this year playing for the Arizona Rookie League Indians. With an ERA of almost 8.00, a WHIP that cleared 2.00 and a K/BB ratio that was less than 2.00, he certainly didn't impress. But this 2nd Round pick from the 2011 Amateur Draft also had some misfortune, as he only gave up 3 HR in 41 innings. He was getting a lot of ground balls, but some of them found holes and those led to runs against him. There's not much you can do about that sometimes. Regardless of whether all of this was playing with his head or if it was something else, Howard struggled this year; but now that he's got that rough patch out of the way, if he can rebound next year and develop into the highly-touted pitcher he's supposed to be, this could end up being nothing more than a small bump in the road for him and the Indians.
3. Chen-Chang Lee, RHP
Coming into last season, Lee was a likely candidate to be called up to the Indians at some point, but a forearm injury only a handful of games into the season shut him down. His ERA, WHIP, Hits/9, BB/9 and HR/9 have essentially gone down each year as he progressed through the ranks, while his K/BB and K/9 have increased. If he is able to recover from this injury and regain the form he had at the start of 2012, Lee will be a huge boost to the Indians' bullpen at some point this season, even if only as a September call-up.
2. Francisco Lindor, SS
Lindor, the eighth overall pick in the 2011 draft, may or may not be the shortstop of the future for the Indians. He's still got a couple years to develop and as long as Asdrubal Cabrera remains with Cleveland then there is little need to rush him along. He didn't blow people away this past year at Class-A affiliate Lake County of the Midwest League (.257/.352./355), but it wasn't a bad year either by any means. Lindor's 6 HR, 42 RBI and 27 steals in 122 games--when combined with 61 walks and 78 strikeouts in 568 plate appearances--are pretty good numbers for an 18-year-old. If he continues to progress well and grow into his body more, he could become a star for the Indians in 2-3 seasons.
1. Trevor Bauer, RHP
Trevor Bauer is, of course, the Indians' most important prospect as he has the potential to become the ace this staff so desperately needs, be it in 2013 or shortly thereafter. The Indians will certainly feel the loss of Shin-Soo Choo, but their starting pitching was their most glaring weakness in 2012, not their offense, so this deal helps them in both the short and long term. If Bauer can live up to the hype, then he will do much to improve Cleveland's chances of winning ballgames, and give Indians fans hope that a World Series championship could actually be in the team's future.