With minor league season wrapping up in a few short weeks, it’s a good time to check in on some of the top prospects in Cleveland’s farm system. While 2012 has (so far) not been as kind to the Indians as many have hoped, has it fared better for their farm hands? The short answer is yes and no. Some have prospered, and some have faltered.
Let’s take a look at eight different players and how where they’re trending upward or downward in my rankings.
If you follow the Indians’ farm system at all, you’ve heard about Jesus Aguilar by now. After continuing to play well at High-A Carolina to the tune of a .277/.365/.454 slash line, Aguilar has earned a long-overdue promotion to Double-A Akron. Aguilar has played only five games at the new level, so it’s impossible to draw conclusions from those statistics, but he still remains arguably the best first base prospect in the Tribe’s system after the downfall of Matt LaPorta. The big league job could be his in a few years.
A ninth round selection out of St. Cloud State University in the 2011 MLB Draft, Jordan Smith is a name I left off my top prospects list because I wanted to see some more from him. Now with 96 games of Low-A ball under his belt, Smith has impressed me.
Originally drafted as a third baseman, Smith seems more destined for right field as he has solely played there at Lake County, but the possibility that he sees action at third base down the line is also likely due to lack of depth there. Smith isn’t especially toolsy, but he can hit and rarely strikes out.
After slashing .300/.403/.391 at Mahoning Valley last year, he followed up at Lake County by managing a .311/.358/.443 in 2012. The things Smith still needs is a power stroke. Whether he’s playing a corner outfield spot or the hot corner, a higher slugging percentage will be necessary in order for him to be considered an everyday option. That something that can come with maturity, but ynfortunately for Smith, he’s already 22 so it’s up in the air whether or not that power can come.
A rare $1.1 million investment from the international talent pool, Dorssys Paulino has impressed the Indians brass thus far. Granted, it’s only rookie ball, but Paulino is still a 17-year-old shortstop so he holds plenty of value. In his 37 games in Arizona, Paulino has slashed .344/.392/.586. The usual small sample size warning applies here, but the numbers are still too much to not be impressed with.
The Indians obviously though highly enough of Paulino to invest so much in him, and he is already flashing power (13 doubles, 5 triples, 5 home runs) and speed (six stolen bases in seven attempts). At only 17 and with a lot of quality shortstop prospects ahead of him, Paulino won’t be near Cleveland any time soon. But he’s still one to watch for the future.
In the preseason I put Ronny Rodriguez on my honorable mentions list for the Cleveland Indians’ top prospects but left him off my top 15—a departure from most other lists, which had him in the Tribe’s top five due to his impressive tools in a farm system lacking much talent. My reasoning was that I thought he was almost too raw to really pan out. Rodriguez had one year at Lake County under his belt at the time, I didn’t like his walk rate (only 13 walks in 98 games) and while he did swipe 10 bases, he was also caught stealing seven times. The talent was there, but that was a lot of work to be done.
Now 20 and at High-A Carolina, Rodriguez’s skill set is starting to become too much to ignore. His walk rate has not improved and he’s only 6-for-12 in stolen base attempts, but his overall .267/.303/.449 triple-slash has improved and he’s still hitting for power. The one thing that concerns me other than previously stated is that he has only 18 doubles as compared to his 16 home runs. When a prospect has true power, he’ll hit for both. It seems to me that a lot of those balls are sailing over the fence more so by luck. This could also be a mirage though, as Rodriguez did have 28 doubles and 11 home runs in 2011, a much more sustainable ratio.