From Photobucket, by Tony Lastoria

Cleveland Indians 2013 Top Prospects: The Honorable Mentions

Here we go again…

Last year I thought it would be a good idea to submit my own take on the Indians’ top prospects. No one complained. So now I’m back for another—starting, as last year, with the honorable mentions who failed to crack my Top 15.

  • Dillon Howard, right-handed pitcher

Hey Geordy! Wasn’t this guy your number two prospect last year?!

Why yes adoring fan, he was.

Well what the hell happened?!

I had a man crush on Dillon Howard after he was drafted. A hard sinking fastball touching the mid-90s, a changeup that wasn’t half-bad for a 19-year-old and who knows, maybe his curveball could be something as well. Now I just look back on my profile of him last year and laugh, then cry, then spiral into a depressing state of self-deprecation.

“Since he signed late, Howard was unable to get a jump start on his professional career, but 2012 should begin his climb to the top of the Indians rotation.”

Yeah, about that.

I’m not one to make a big deal about stats in rookie ball, but Howard will be the exception to that rule. ERA: 7.90. That should say enough, but I’ll continue anyway. His K/9 wasn’t terrible at 7.7, but when you take into account that this isrookie league it starts to look worse. Throw in a 4.0 BB/9 and it really doesn’t look good.

Normally, if I just saw these stats I probably wouldn’t panic. I do start to panic, however, when reports come back that he’s hitting only 88 mph with his fastball. That hard sinker? Yeah, it’s more like a wiffle ball.

If his velocity isn’t back up this year, Howard could become nothing. It pains me to say that, but I’ll be watching him closely this season.

  • Giovanni Soto, left-handed pitcher

Soto makes his second appearance on the honorable mentions list despite being a personal favorite of mine. That’s mostly due to the fact that he didn’t improve on my criticisms of last year. He’s still lanky (6’3″, 180 lbs.) and his strikeout rate dropped from a K an inning in Carolina to 7.4 per nine in Akron. A lot of that can be attributed to the jump in competition though, and Soto was never expected to be a strikeout king anyway. He did still look good in Akron though, and I like him as a back-end option in mid-2014 to bring some left-handed balance to the rotation.

With a good weight-lifting program, Soto could finally bulk up and perhaps add a tick or two to his fastball. If that were to happen, he could turn into a solid No. 3 starter. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility for the 21-year-old, and he could start to bring back some value after being acquired from the Tigers for Jhonny Peralta.

  • Jake Sisco, right-handed pitcher

Like Howard, Sisco fell from the prospect rankings as he was No. 6 last year. Last spring I discounted Sisco’s poor rookie ball performance as I normally do, but Sisco wasn’t any better at Mahoning Valley last year. After 77 innings, Sisco sported a 5.03 ERA, a 3.5 BB/9 rate and a terrible 5.3 K/9. This is after striking out 8.1 batters per nine innings in rookie ball, and that’s way too big of a drop to pin on the level jump.

I liked Sisco as an above-average third starter if everything went perfectly, as he was a sleeper coming out of junior college when the Indians got him in the third round of the 2011 draft after a nice velocity jump from high school. Sisco is still only 21, but he has yet to play a full season schedule and has not shown us anything in pro ball. If Sisco is anything less than dominant in 2013, I won’t even consider him as an honorable mention next year.

  • From Photobucket, by Tony Lastoria

    Jacob Lee, right-handed pitcher

A ninth-rounder out of Arkansas State last year, I initially compared Lee to Josh Tomlin as a solid college arm that doesn’t have any plus pitches, but he has a solid repertoire and good command of it. After Lee getting a 43 inning taste of short season ball at Mahoning Valley, I’d say that comparison holds up pretty well.

Both Lee and Tomlin have the exact same measurables for one, at 6’1″ 190 lbs, they’re both slightly undersized but make up for it with good pitch location. Lee and Tomlin each had a great showing in Mahoning Valley the year they were drafted. Tomlin saw more action, compiling a 2.09 ERA with his patented low walk rate of 1.7 BB/9 and an 8.0 K/9 in 77 innings. Lee pitched to a 3.12 ERA with a 2.5 BB/9 and 9.8 K/9.

If there’s a difference, it’s that Lee can get more out of his fastball than Tomlin, as he can reportedly touch 94 which is pretty good for someone his size. The other difference is role. Tomlin saw all of his action at Mahoning Valley as a starter in 2006, while Lee made eight starts and eight appearances out of the ‘pen in 2012. Does that mean that the Indians see Lee as more of a reliever due to his lack of size? Lee doesn’t have the pinpoint location of Tomlin, which is the main thing that kept him out of the bullpen.

How the Indians use Lee this year at Lake County (and perhaps Carolina at some point) will give us more on his future. For now, I still like the Tomlin comp, a little less control, but a little more strikeout potential.

  • Dylan Baker, right-handed pitcher

The Alaskan native Baker was one of the hottest junior college prospects leading up to the 2012 Draft. He was considered the best junior college prospect on the board, and he signed quickly enough to log eight starts in rookie ball.

Again, I generally don’t look too far into rookie ball stats, but for Baker it’s all I have to analyze. You have to love the strikeout numbers (11.2 K/9) and hate the walks (5.6 BB/9). Both show that the potential is enormous, but there’s a lot of work to do with the 20-year-old’s arm.

The measurables are good (6’2″ 215 lbs.) but not great, and questions still loom about whether he’s a starter or reliever. His stuff could be awesome to see every fifth day, but definitely electric enough to play a role at the back end of a bullpen. Personally, I think he ends up as the latter. His fastball-curve combination has shown it’s great, but I think the combination of not ideal height and control problems forces him to the ‘pen before he hits Double-A.

However, I could be wrong (I mean, look at what I said about Howard last year, sheesh) and Baker could turn into an intriguing starter for Cleveland down the road as there’s plenty of time left for development. But if Baker does end up as a relief prospect, he’ll headline the next list of great ‘pen options for the Tribe.

Tags: Cleveland Indians Dillon Howard Dylan Baker Giovanni Soto Jacob Lee Jake Sisco

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