The Minor-ity Report: Gauging the Stock Market of Indians Prospects

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I named LeVon Washington the number four prospect in Cleveland’s system before the season because I liked his toolset and plate discipline despite his overall struggles. I pegged him for a rebound year, and for Washington to finally start fulfilling some of his potential. Yeah, that didn’t happen.

Granted, Washington didn’t struggle at the plate this year, he just couldn’t get that far. April hip surgery took him out for essentially the entire season, and he just returned to action on Sunday in rookie ball for a small rehab assignment before returning to presumably Low-A. Washington did do what he does best, as he drew a walk and eventually scored, but with a year lost he needs to have a big 2013 in order to be considered a legitimate prospect.

After finally starting game action in 2012 at rookie ball in Arizona, things have not gone well for Dillon Howard, whom I named the number two prospect in Cleveland’s system. The numbers are ugly as his ERA sits at 5.65 and he isn’t getting many strikeouts (6.6 K/9). For a guy widely considered the top pitcher in the organization, a pedestrian strikeout rate like that in rookie ball is inexcusable.

The worst part is, it might be something more serious. Reportedly his fastball velocity is as low as 88 or 89 mph at times. This is leading to a ton of contact (12.5 H/9) despite the fact he’s playing against some of the most raw talent in the minors. And to top it all off, Howard is walking a few too many guys as well (4.2 BB/9).

He’s still only 20, and Howard has the talent to fix his issues and turn things around in 2013 if he can find his velocity again. But as of right now, I’d have a hard time finding a spot for him in my top five.

It’s a tough year for guys that I named in my top five prospects I suppose, isn’t it? Tony Wolters was my number five prospect entering the year, and he responded by struggling mightily in 2012. As the year went on at High-A Carolina the 20-year-old started to turn it around and at least make his slashline look respectable at .261/.322/.385, but there’s still a lot that needs to be done.

This was Wolters’ first time at a full-season affiliate, but he looks like a much different player than the 19-year-old who slashed .292/.385/.363 at Mahoning Valley in 2011. The tough thing for Wolters is that he isn’t a prospect who relies on talent; he’s always been a grinder, and it’s disappointing to see a guy who works so hard have such a tough time for much of the year.

One of the most concerning things I see in Wolters’ stats is that he was only 5-for-14 in stolen bases after going 19-for-23 in 2011. He also started striking out a lot more as his strikeout rate went from 14 percent all the way up to 19 percent in 2012. Like many others, 2013 will be a big year for Wolters to prove if he can really be a legitimate prospect for Cleveland.

In case you haven’t already heard, the crown jewel of the Cliff Lee trade has officially been released by the Indians after failing to pitch since 2010 and needing yet another shoulder surgery. Knapp always held major upside, but the Indians did not know the full extent of his injury when he was acquired back in 2009. Knapp’s injury issues remain so severe that no other organization has even taken a chance on bringing him in.

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