Indians Top 5 Fantasy Baseball Prospects
1- Francisco Lindor, SS
The real life package is much greater than the fantasy baseball package, thanks to his smooth and easy fielding skills. That said, he profiles as a plus hitting shortstop, which in and of itself makes him a notable fantasy prospect. Unlike most high school shortstops, Lindor is expected to move through the system quickly. His best offensive attribute is his ability to hit for average. That projects as a plus at the major league level. He’s a switch-hitter that some scouts believe will hit for mid-to-high teens home run power during his peak. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus graded his speed tool as a 55-60 on the 20-to-80 scale, with 50 being major league average. With that in mind, Lindor should steal double digit bases. That total package makes Lindor a potential upper echelon fantasy shortstop.
2- Dillon Howard, SP
Ben Badler of Baseball America, Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus, and John Sickels of Minor League Ball all rank Dillon Howard second on their Indians prospect lists. Howard was a second round pick out of high school in this past year’s draft. He has yet to throw a professional inning, and requires some dreaming on for this ranking. He has a big frame, 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, and throws two plus velocity fastballs. His two-seam fastball sits in the 88-92 mph range and is a groundball inducing weapon, but one that also can get some swing-throughs. Howard’s four-seam fastball is thrown a few ticks harder, and reaches the mid-90s. Somewhat surprisingly for a prep arm, his best secondary pitch is a change-up that he already has an advanced feel for. With more work, it can be a consistent plus pitch. His final secondary pitch is a curveball that needs to be tightened up. He’s a few years away, so be patient.
3- Ronny Rodriguez, SS
This is the point in the Indians list where view points differ wildly. Rodriguez ranked third on Goldstein’s list, missed the top ten on Badler’s list, and was fifth on Sickels’s list. It’s important to remember those lists are looking at real life value. Rodriguez is the proverbial tool shed, and not the type with the blowout hair that can be found on Jersey Shore. The results weren’t spectacular in his state side debut, but considering he’d never played organized games before that, they are encouraging. He blends some current power and speed, and has enough defensive projection to stick at shortstop or slide over to third base. In 394 plate appearances at Low-A, he hit 11 home runs, and stole 10 bases. Quite impressive for a 19 year old, and tantalizing to dream on. The rest of his game is messy, namely his plate discipline (3.3 percent walk rate). Classic boom or bust prospect. Time is on his side, and when things click with a player like Rodriguez, they can become a fantasy star. Don’t bail out on him if he has some struggles during the development process.
4- Luigi Rodriguez, OF
Rodriguez lacks star level tools, but his plus-plus speed makes him intriguing. This 19 year old switch-hitter showed desirable patience (9.5 percent walk rate) in Low-A ball, but could still tighten up his approach and cut back on his strikeout rate (24.3 percent strikeout rate). He lacks power projection, but could profile well as a leadoff hitter with a strong average, good on-base skills, and huge stolen base totals. He should begin by repeating Low-A, and thus, has some rungs on the minor league ladder still left ahead of him.
5- Nick Hagadone, RP
One of the prime pieces that came to the Indians via trade for Victor Martinez, Hagadone finally reached the major last year. Once developed as a starter, the oft injured imposing (6-foot-5 and 230 pounds) southpaw is now a full-time reliever. He has enjoyed two healthy seasons in a row, and has the goods to immediately break camp in a high leverage reliever role. After years of struggling with his control, Hagadone turned the corner in 2011 keeping his BB/9 below three at both the Double-A and Triple-A level. That rate was up to 4.91 BB/9 in the majors, but came in just 11 innings. He uses a power combination of a mid-to-upper-90s fastball and plus slider to strike out boat loads of batters (10.30 K/9 for his minor league career, 9.76 K/9 in 2011 in the minors). He’ll need to show he can get both right-handed and left-handed hitters out if he hopes to ever have a chance to close games. Otherwise, his ceiling is that of a seventh or eighth inning setup man.
Top 5 in 2012
1- Nick Hagadone, RP
Chris Perez was 36 for 40 in save chances last year, and posted a 3.32 ERA. That is where the positives end. He didn’t miss bats, 5.88 K/9, walked too many hitters, 3.92 BB/9, and failed to get the ball on the ground, 28.3 percent groundball rate. That’s a recipe for disaster if his HR/FB regresses. He has two years of his HR/FB finishing under six percent. The sample size is small, and during the two years prior that mark was over 10 percent, so be careful labeling him as an outlier like Matt Cain. If the wheels fall off the bus, there could be saves to be had. If that’s the case, expect Hagadone to throw his hat in the ring.
2- Chen Lee, RP
Lee’s ceiling isn’t as high as Hagadone, and he profiles better as a setup man than a potential closer. That said, he could also benefit from Perez faltering if someone fails to run away with the closer gig as a replacement. Lee throws a fastball with plus velocity, 92-93 mph and can touch 95 mph, and plus movement. He also throws a slider that is at least solid when it is on. Lee has had an excellent strikeout rate in his minor league career, and part of that can be credited to a deceptive low three-quarters arm slot he throws from. That arm slot could lead to potential split issues, as left-handers are liable to see the ball longer and have more success against him. The sample is small, but that bore out as truthful in 31.2 innings at Triple-A. Left-handers hit .277 against him, and walked six times in what minor league baseball’s website measured as 13 innings of work against lefties. His saving grace against them was that he struck out 17 batters. Also, as expected, he terrorized righties. In 18.2 innings of work against right-handers he held them to a .194 average, and struck out 26 while keeping the ball on the ground (2.25 ground out-to-air out). He may have a chance to break camp in the big league bullpen, or he could be sent back to Triple-A for a bit more seasoning. Regardless, expect to see him this year in the majors.
3- Scott Barnes, SP
Barnes was stolen from the Giants in return for Ryan Garko a few years ago. He profiles as a back end of the rotation arm, but makes up for a high ceiling with being big league ready. He likely would have received a look last summer if not for tearing his anterior-cruciate ligament in July. His velocity is inconsistent, but usually sits in the low-90s. That velocity is perfectly acceptable for a southpaw. In addition to his fastball, he throws a slider and a change-up. The slider is useable now and flashes plus, while the change-up is still developing and at best will be average. All of his scouting reports note an awkward delivery that creates deception. The delivery helps explain his excellent strikeout rate that belies his stuff. The Indians rotation is full, but the back end could be fluid. If that’s the case, Barnes, a member of the 40 man roster, is as good a bet as anyone to get an extended look. Barnes deceptive delivery could be enough to lead to moderate success out of the gate. Even then, he isn’t much better than a spot start option in deep mixed leagues, or an AL-only option if everything works out.
4- Beau Mills, 1B
After being selected 13th overall in the 2007 draft, expectations were high for Mills. He has been a huge disappointment. No longer considered a top notch prospect, the 25 year old first baseman is knocking on the door of the majors after a breakout 2011. He spent the season splitting time in Double-A and Triple-A, and showcased noteworthy power hitting 18 home runs in 391 plate appearances. He doesn’t strike out much, but also doesn’t walk as much as a prototypical first baseman does. He had a huge split in 35 games at the Triple-A level slashing .316/.376/.566 with five home runs in 76 at-bats against righties, and stinking it up against lefties hitting ..186/.234/.372 in 43 at-bats. If that turns into a trend, he could be a good platoon option at first base. Matt LaPorta has been awful, and is probably running out of chances to prove he deserves to be the clubs starting first baseman. Surprisingly, as a right-hander he doesn’t hit southpaws well, and isn’t a platoon candidate with Mills. However, Carlos Santana could be his perfect platoon mate. The Indians starting catcher sees time at first base routinely, and clobbers left-handed pitching to the tune of .282/.402/.480 in 276 career major league plate appearances. If Mills crushes the ball in the International League early, a summer promotion looks to be in the cards.
5- Zach McAllister, SP
McAllister is another member of the Indians 40 man roster, and unlike Barnes, saw time in the bigs in 2011. It was a rude initiation to the majors, and he got knocked around in four starts. At his best, he’s a strike thrower with a mix of averge-ish pitches. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for a fantasy baseball pitcher, but the Indians major league ready prospects are few and far between.