Seedlings to Stars is going to give you a look at the prospects your favorite team is sending to the prestigious Arizona Fall League. We encourage you to follow along and enjoy the commentary and analysis that we come up with regarding these prospects and their potential impact on your favorite team down the road. If you’re not familiar with the eligibility rules or how the rosters are constructed click here for a quick refresher.
While the Cleveland Indians limp into the off-season having totally collapsed over the second half of the season, it’s time to look at the players they will be sending to the Arizona Fall League. Before we jump into that, there are a few things that need to be addressed. Manager Manny Acta will almost assuredly be replaced after being at the helm of a terrible offense. The only thing worse than the offense is the team’s starting rotation. The Indians will try to regroup and look forward. However, even that will be a task as there are so many questions surrounding how a team can go from posting a .258/.333/.402 triple slash line prior to the All-Star break to a .232/.299/.349 over the second half. To make matters worse, the rotation went from posting an already substandard 4.50 ERA (28th) and a 1.37 WHIP (23rd) to posting a league worst 5.21 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP (29th). There are so many holes in Cleveland’s offense and defense it’s almost impossible to figure out exactly where to start making improvements. Is everywhere an acceptable answer?
The easiest answer for why the Indians offense took a nosedive can be found in their team OBP. They went from being first in the MLB in taking walks and posting the fourth highest OBP prior to the All-Star break to 15th in free passes and 27th in overall team OBP after the break. That is a very telling statistic as I believe the onus falls on their manager and hitting coaches. They have failed to identify the problem quick enough to make the necessary adjustments and have steered the Indians into a tie for last place in the AL Central with the lowly Minnesota Twins.
With the departure of Acta a near lock and a new chapter in Indians baseball on the horizon, let’s take a look at a few of the potential farm hands who might help the Indians climb out of the cellar over the next few seasons.
RHP - Shawn Armstrong (22) – Drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 18th round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of East Carolina University
2012: 1.60 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 4 Saves, 37:78 BB/K, 67.2 innings over 45 appearances
The right-handed Armstrong has been a fast mover in the Indians organization since being drafted in 2011. In his first full season in 2012 he moved through Class-A, Class-A Advanced, and ended up helping Double-A Akron win the Eastern League title. Armstrong possesses a fastball that runs into the upper 90’s (maybe even as high as 101 mph), a slider/cutter that sits in the mid-80’s, and a developing curveball. Armstrong has proven that he has the “strikeout stuff” teams look for in a back of the bullpen arm and I think he has the stuff to hold a spot in the bullpen long-term when he is ready. One negative about his game is the difficulty he has had controlling his powerful arsenal. That will be the area he will look to focus on in the Arizona Fall League, with his sights set on returning to Double-A and trying to make the move to Triple-A at some point in 2013. I think he has a real shot to compete for a spot in the Indians 2014 Opening Day bullpen. While there may be a possibility of him making it to Cleveland sooner (if injuries ensue), I think it would be best for him to establish himself more in the minors considering his rapid ascent in 2012.
RHP - Trey Haley (22) – Drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the second round of the 2008 MLB draft out of the Texas prep ranks
2012: 2.33 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 2 Saves, 19:49 BB/K, 38.2 innings over 25 appearances
The right-handed Haley works with a three pitch mix that he delivers from a 3/4 arm slot. His fastball routinely sits in the upper 90’s topping out at around 98 mph. He also throws a curveball in the low 80’s and a slider that sits in the mid-80’s, both of which are still developing. Like many power arms Haley needs to work on his control but he has made strides in in 2012 posting a 2.58 K/BB ratio, the highest of his young career after being transitioned into full time bullpen work. Like Shawn Armstrong, Haley looks to have the potential to move quickly through the Indians system and should be on the same accelerated path as Armstrong. I fully expect to see Haley return to Double-A Akron in 2013 and look to improve his command (11:23 BB/K in 2012) with a real shot to move up to Triple-A midway through the 2013 season.
LHP – T.J. House (22) – Drafted by the Cleveland Indians in 16th round of the 2008 MLB draft out of the Mississippi prep ranks
2012: 3.56 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 50:116 BB/K, 145.1 innings in 27 starts
The left-handed House works with a four pitch mix that includes both a two and four seam fastball as well as a breaking pitch and a change-up. The four seamer sits in the low 90’s and his two seamer is more of a high 80’s offering. His breaking pitch, a slider, projects to be a league average pitch with good movement and a bit of added deception as he masks all of his offerings well with a pretty consistent arm slot. There are some mixed reports about his change-up. Some view it as a solid offering and others sight some inconsistency with his arm speed. In 2011 Baseball America rated House’s change-up as the best in the Indians systems so its not as if the offering is sub-par by any means. Realistically House needs to sharpen all of his secondary offerings across the board as he lacks the power arm to get away with mediocre secondary stuff. I think he has the potential to be a decent back of the rotation starter with a legitimate shot at being a number four if he continues to improve on his command and off speed pitches. As a prospect he has kind of gotten lost in the shuffle after posting a rough 2011 season repeating High-A. It looks like he ironed out his issues and is back on track after posting a solid season at Double-A Akron. Look for him to move up to Triple-A in 2013 and he should probably stay there a full season before making his debut in Cleveland in 2014.
LHP – Matt Packer (25) – Drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 32nd round of the 2009 MLB draft out of the University of Virginia
2012: 3.70 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 16:47 BB/K, 65.2 innings over 14 starts
The left-handed Packer was limited to just 65 2/3 innings in 2012 so his invitation to the AFL is just a means for him to log some more innings and gain some more experience. After leading the Eastern League in innings pitched in 2011 (169 1/3) Packer ran into some adversity to start 2012 when he injured his shoulder in spring training. He was able to recover and he will look to use this time in Arizona to continue his development. Not a particularly hard throwing starter, Packer thrives on his ability to control his pitches and attack hitters in the zone making sure he stays ahead in the count. He has a four pitch arsenal. It includes a fastball that sits in the high 80’s/low 90’s. He has a change-up that flashes plus at times and was rated by Baseball America as the organization’s best prior to 2012. He also works in a slider and curveball that show some promise. The biggest thing for Packer will be his ability to make up for some lost time and log some quality innings. He should be in line to start the 2013 season at Triple-A Columbus and I think it would be best for his development to stay in Triple-A all season. At this point Packer’s ceiling is a back of the rotation arm, but he will need to stay healthy and show the Indians he can still eat some innings like he did in 2011.
C – Alex Monsalve (20) – Signed by the Indians as a non-drafted free agent in 2008
2012: .256/.311/.373, 21 2B, 8 HR, 102 H in 439 PA
Monsalve was signed out of Venezuela for roughly $700,000 in 2008. He spent the bulk of of 2012 at Class-A Lake County of the Midwest League before being promoted to High-A Carolina of the Carolina League. As an offense first catcher Monsalve shows the kind of potential that talent evaluators look for from such a young athlete. He is strong and has the ability to drive the ball to all fields, but needs to work on his approach at the plate and his contact skills. Behind the dish he shows solid athleticism and a strong arm, but he is still very young and needs to learn the nuances of the position if he hopes to tap into that raw talent. He has shown consistent improvement year to year and will continue to build on that in Arizona. He will likely spend some time in High-A to open the 2013 season with a chance to see some action in Double-A if he continues to be successful. At this point what he really needs is more repetition and experience with his game calling and footwork, as well as just logging more at-bats. A realistic timetable for him to reach Cleveland should be somewhere around 2015 if everything breaks right.
2B/SS – Ronny Rodriguez (20) – Signed by the Cleveland Indians as a non-drafted free agent in 2010
2012: .264/.300/.452, 20 2B, 19 HR, 120 H in 483 PA
If it weren’t for his inability to take a walk (19:88 BB/K) Rodriguez would be one of the most talked about prospects in the low minors. Despite this glaring weakness, he is still likely to garner some much deserved attention in 2013 and very well could be amongst Cleveland’s top five prospects next season. The youngster hit an impressive 11 home runs in his first season of professional baseball in 2011 to go along with a very strong .449 slugging percentage. He did this while manning shortstop exclusively for Class-A Lake County in only 98 games as a 19-year old. It was obvious in 2011 that his biggest weakness would be his approach at the plate and his tendency to strikeout. 2012 was basically more of the same for the young slugger. He again posted solid power numbers in 2012 including 19 home runs (fourth best in the Carolina League) and an improved slugging percentage of .452 while playing the entire season as one of the youngest players in the league. Defensively Rodriguez spent the majority of the 2012 season at shortstop where his strong arm (rated the best in the system by Baseball America) and instincts play well. However, he has a tendency to be error-prone. It is worth mentioning that he spent a good chunk of time at second base as well. Predictably he played a stronger second base. Tthat might very well end up being his home if he makes it to the big league level and if he can’t piece it all together at short. A realistic timetable for Rodriguez should put him in Cleveland sometime around 2015 or 2016. It will all depend on how he adjusts to hitting at the upper levels and if he learns to be more patient at the plate. If Rodriguez irons out his approach at the plate, he has a very, very high ceiling as a middle infielder with above-average power.
CF – Tyler Holt (23) – Drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 10th round of the 2010 MLB draft out of Florida State University
2012: .258/.340/.320, 15 2B, 9 3B, 0 HR, 29 SB, 137 H in 611 PA
Tyler Holt was signed for $500,000 in 2010 after posting a very strong .355/.480/.629 with 13 home runs and 30 stolen bases for FSU before being taken in the 10th round of the 2010 draft. Needless to say, the power that he showed as a junior at FSU has not translated to his professional game at all. It’s not really a huge deal in the grand scheme of things as power was never really part of his game, but you can’t blame fans for having Trevor Crowe flashbacks when they see Holt’s game. If Holt hopes to make an impact in Cleveland, he is going to need strong OBP skills. He lacks the kind of power to make up for any type of dip in OBP. At this point Holt is looking more and more like a singles hitter with the potential to steal a bag or two while playing above average center field defense. Unfortunately, that probably won’t be enough for the 23-year old to lock up a full-time gig at the MLB level. The best case scenario is that Holt adds enough power to his game to keep pitchers honest and he polishes his base running skills (he was caught stealing 12 times in 2012) enough to lock down a fourth outfielder role in the big leagues. If everything breaks right for Holt I could envision his ceiling as a Scott Podsednik type of player with the ability to contribute on the base paths and in the field. If he can’t add the necessary power or base running skill, it is very unlikely he makes it to the big leagues as he lacks the other aspects of his game to warrant an extended look.
OF – Carlos Moncrief (23) – Drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 14th round of the 2008 MLB draft out of Chipola College
2012: .249/.339/.465, 23 2B, 15 HR, 17 SB, 88 H in 407 PA
Carlos Moncrief was originally drafted as a pitcher but that experiment was short-lived. By all accounts, his subsequent shift to the outfield has gone pretty well. Moncrief still has room for improvement in terms of plate discipline and his overall batting approach, since he has a career 150:334 BB/K rate. His 2012 season was cut short after just 101 games as he broke his hamate bone. The tools are there for Moncrief as he is a very good athlete and has a very strong arm (converted pitcher and all). These will serve him well playing in right field. He has also shown speed on the base paths (20 steals in 2011 and 17 in 2012) and power at the plate (16 HR in 2011 and 15 in 2012). He projects to have the ability to hold down a regular job at the MLB Level. Look for him to log some more at-bats in Arizona in an attempt to make up for some lost time in 2012. This should help him improve his pitch recognition and overall plate discipline. If he is able to cut down on the strikeouts, he has the ceiling of a very strong defensive right-fielder with the potential to perhaps be a 20/20 player during his peak. If he is unable to make the necessary strides at the plate, I could see him as a 4th outfielder with strong defense who might run into a few at the plate. I would imagine that he would get his first real chance in Cleveland around the 2015 season and has the potential to be a long-term solution for the cost-conscious Indians.
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