Cleveland Indians Top 15 Prospects: 2011
1) Drew Pomeranz, LHP
2) Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B
3) Jason Kipnis, 2B
4) Chun-Hsiu Chen, C
5) Alex White, RHP
6) Nick Weglarz, OF
7) Jason Knapp, RHP
8) Joe Gardner, RHP
9) Bryce Stowell, RHP
10) Kyle Blair, RHP
11) Jared Goedert, 3B
12) Cord Phelps, 2B
13) Jordan Henry, OF
14) LeVon Washington, OF
15) Tony Wolters, SS
16) Matt Packer, LHP
The 2011 Indians are not going to be a very good team. Thankfully to say, their farm system is loaded with a lot of solid contributors. What it seems to lack however, are a lot of bonafide stars. I really think players 1-6 on this list are going to be solid/above average contributors, and Pomeranz has some star power.
A lot of their best arms also have question marks regarding control and a common theme in my writeups for many of them ended up being something like, "if he can't improve his control he could play better in a bullpen role..." Control is a tricky thing and it can turn the best rotation prospects into bullpen options easily. A lack of command not only exposes you to more walks, it also means more mistakes that opposing hitters can take advantage of, and deeper counts that end up taking you out of the game earlier than your manager wants. Stuff is great, but you need to be able to put it where you want.
While giving Drew Pomeranz, who hasn't yet pitched a professional inning of record might be a bit of a surprise, I really like his stuff. I'm not certain if he's an ace, but in a system filled with high risk/high upside arms, I like his the most in terms of projectability.
The biggest surprise on my list will probably be Chun-Hsiu Chen at #4. I'm taking a bit risk here, but putting him at #4 is actually a concession of sorts for me, I wanted to go higher - maybe as high as #1 overall. His 2010 performance between two levels of A-Ball was extremely impressive - he vastly outperformed what Chisenhall did in 2009 at the same levels. Heck, he and Kipnis had a similar number of at bats in High-A in 2010 - and Chen out hit him by nearly 100 OPS points despite nearly identical BABIP marks.
By the numbers alone, Chen would hands down be my #1 pick, he dominated 2010 in ways that no one else in the system did. He pairs that extremely impressive performance with solid tools and a refined swing/approach. By all accounts he should be able to stick behind the plate too.
As I write all of this I am fighting the urge to make him my #1 overall.
I'll hold off though and settle for just being higher on him than essentially anyone else. While it's easy to get lost in impressive performances at the lower MiLB levels, it's extremely important to keep in mind that hitting in Rookie Ball or A ball doesn't translate directly to hitting in the Majors. Or for that matter, AA. It's for that reason that you'll generally see me rate guys with higher projectability, and lower overall ceiling, higher than a lot of others. Everyone has a methodology, and that's mine. I prefer projectability.
It's why you see me rating guys like Wolters and Washington so much lower than others. It's not that I don't recognize their tools, but they're both very raw players in need of a lot of refinement. A lot of times those guys just never pan out. Of course, if they show me they can perform, they can also fly up my list later (because they're suddenly much more projectable...). So if you happen to LOVE Tony Wolters, don't take it as a sign of massive disrespect that he's a bit lower on my list than on some others.
Corey Ettinger is a Senior Writer for Baseball Digest as well as a proud contributor to both 612Sports.net, 312Sports.com, and 313sports.com. He also provides extensive analysis of the American League Central Division at his own blog, AL Central In Focus. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Coreyettinger for the latest updates, random thoughts and general tomfoolery.