10 prospects who could have a Major League impact in '13
By Jim Piascik
December 13, 2012
There can be no argument that Terry Francona and Chris Antonetti have done a wonderful job of reshaping the major league roster so far this offseason. To take this team from simply improved to playoff contention, though, some upgrades will need to come cheaply via the minor league system.
No matter how much television money rolls into baseball over the next few years, Cleveland payrolls will always be lower than other teams'. This is simply a fact of life and one that must be accepted.
As such, the growth of minor league players into major league contributors is a key to having successful teams in Cleveland. This list represents 10 such players I feel can help the team in 2013.
Some notable rookie-eligible names will be missing from this list, as I am focusing on players who have yet to make their major league debuts. This is an arbitrary decision I made to make this list more fun and shed some light on players the general populace might not know as well (though IPI regulars are probably sick of their names).
Anyway, let's get on with the list:
Shawn Armstrong, RHP
Armstrong, 22, could easily follow in Cody Allen's footsteps in 2013. Allen was selected in the 23rd round of the 2011 Draft, five rounds behind Armstrong, and ranked 10 spots lower in IPI's pre-2012 rankings. It was Allen that made the big leap to the major leagues, but Armstrong was not far behind, pitching at Lake County, Carolina, and Akron in the regular season and making a stop in the Arizona Fall League to finish his year.
After posting a 1.60 ERA and 10.4 SO/9 in 2012, the sky is the limit for Armstrong. He profiles as a power reliever that could end up at the back-end of a bullpen in time, and if he gets his walks under control (4.9 BB/9 in 2012), he could easily make the leap to Cleveland by late 2013. The organization is deep with relief arms, but Armstrong is one of the best.
Tim Fedroff, OF
At this point, I am sincerely afraid that the hype for Fedroff, who will turn 26 in February, has exceeded what he is capable of achieving at the major league level. The number of cries for Fedroff to fill the left field hole in Cleveland last year were staggering, especially for someone who has never profiled as an impact player.
What it will come down to with Fedroff is if his newfound power in 2012 is real. Fedroff hit 12 home runs last season, more than doubling his total from his previous four seasons. If that power is not a byproduct of Columbus' offense-friendly field, then he might be able to hit enough in the majors to justify playing left field. His .316/.394/.485 line from 2012 looks nice, but time will tell if one of the newest members of the 40-man roster can replicate it against big league pitching.
Trey Haley, RHP
Now that Haley, 22, is finally healthy, his triple-digit fastball and power pitching repertoire are finally yielding results. Haley came into 2012 with a 5.58 ERA, 76 SO/9, and 6.9 BB/9 for his professional career, but after a 2.23 ERA, 11.4 SO/9, and 4.4 BB/9 between rookie ball, Carolina, and Akron last season, he is well on his way to becoming a major league option.
The front office obviously agrees with this, as Haley was added to the 40-man roster and sent to the Arizona Fall League after the season. Haley only pitched 38.2 innings last season and has a mere 15.1 career innings above A-ball, so he still has some work to do before he will be major league ready. If Haley pitches like he did last year, though, he will make quick work of Akron and Columbus and could make it to Cleveland as a September callup at the end of the 2013 season.
T.J. House, LHP
Like Haley, House, 23, made vast improvements in 2012. House was the clichéd "I'm in the best shape of my life" candidate in Spring Training, but he actually came through on it, posting a 3.56 ERA in 149.1 innings between Carolina and Akron. The left-handed starter is not the most overpowering, but he finally got his walks under control (3.0 BB/9) and got back to inducing groundballs after allowing more fly balls than grounders in 2011.
House was also added to the 40-man roster after the season and sent to the Arizona Fall League, a clear sign that the organization is happy with his progression. I could see him starting the year in Akron, but after spending most of the year there, a promotion to Columbus could be warranted. With few left-handed starters available for Cleveland (and none currently in the starting rotation), the path to the majors is clear for House provided he continues pitching as well as he did in 2012.
Matt Langwell, RHP
Langwell, 26, is not one of the sexy bullpen arms in the Cleveland organization, but he may be the most consistent. In 293.2 minor league innings, Langwell owns a 3.06 ERA, 3.22 FIP, 9.1 SO/9, and 3.1 BB/9. He does not have overpowering stuff, but Langwell has gotten the job done at every level.
That lack of stuff is why Langwell was not put on the 40-man roster or selected by another team in the Rule 5 Draft this offseason, but if the bullpen suffers a rash of injuries, he could be a solid fill-in. He will not be the first guy called up to Cleveland, but with the way Langwell has always succeeded in the minor leagues, I hope he finds his way to the majors. At some point, you have to see if there is something there that does not immediately meet the eye.
Chen Lee, RHP
Lee, 26, was my pick for a Vinnie Pestano-type breakout season in 2012 and was ranked as IPI's sixth-best prospect before the season. Unfortunately for Lee and the team, however, Tommy John surgery claimed another victim and Lee missed most of the season. It is likely that Lee will need a little time to finish his rehab after the season starts, but I cannot wait to see if he can quickly work his way back up in 2013.
Lee had a great fastball and slider, as well as strong command, before the surgery. He could help the big league club as a full-time piece in 2014, provided he can regain that form. Lee still needs time to rebuild his arm, so it is unlikely that he will be anything but a September callup in 2013. If he gets to Cleveland, though, watch out. He has the stuff to finally make it to the majors after his setback season of 2012 and be an impact reliever.
Chris McGuiness, 1B/OF
Under normal circumstances, McGuiness, who will turn 25 in April, would not make this list, as the first baseman/possible left fielder has no experience above AA. After Cleveland took him in the Rule 5 Draft, however, he is a major league option, as he must remain on the 25-man roster all year for Cleveland to keep him.
McGuiness has shown some power in his minor league career (23 home runs in 123 games last year) and was the Arizona Fall League's MVP after posting a .283/.370/.467 line in 108 plate appearances, but jumping straight to the major leagues would be a considerable feat. He will likely be used as a left-handed platoon option at first base, designated hitter, and left field (if he can stick there, as playing him there is an ongoing experiment) if he makes the team. I do not know if McGuiness can make the big jump from AA to the majors, but we know for certain he will get the chance to try.
Matt Packer, LHP
Packer, 25, was on track for the major leagues in 2012 before a shoulder injury sidelined him at the start of the season. After that setback, Packer only managed 65.2 innings in 2012, but he managed an effective 3.70 ERA and 2.2 BB/9 while reaching AAA for the first time. Packer also was selected for the Arizona Fall League, where he pitched 13.1 decent innings in relief (4.05 ERA, 3.80 FIP).
No one will mistake Packer for an overpowering pitcher, but the finesse starter is left-handed and could be a decent innings eater. Cleveland needs starters like that to soak up some innings, but first Packer will have to show he can handle AAA. His 34.1 innings at that level left quite a bit to be desired (5.50 ERA, 5.36 FIP), but provided he adjusts to the International League, he should get a chance to show his stuff as a spot starter in 2013.
Giovanni Soto, LHP
Soto, 21, had a very impressive year at AA last season. The raw stats leave something to be desired (3.93 ERA, 4.03 FIP, 7.4 SO/9, 3.6 BB/9 in 121.1 innings), but to pitch that well in the Eastern League at that age says something. Soto also showed how good he is capable of being when he threw a no-hitter against the Altoona Curve on July 15.
In the end, Soto and his dominant cutter may end up in the bullpen, filling a Rafael Perez-type role, but for now, the left-hander is a starter. I would not be surprised to see him start the year in Akron, but if he ups his game his second time through AA, a quick callup to Columbus is not out of the question. Though it is more likely that House or Packer gets the call, I could see a hot Soto earning a spot start in Cleveland if he makes a jump this offseason. He is one of the few prospects the organization has in the upper levels that could be more than depth.
Tyler Sturdevant, RHP
Sturdevant, who turns 27 in a week, is another player who saw his 2012 season sidetracked by injuries. A shoulder injury delayed the start of Sturdevant's season and really caused his results to suffer. After coming into 2012 with a 2.46 ERA, 2.46 FIP, 11.0 SO/9, and 2.6 BB/9, Sturdevant posted an ugly 4.42 ERA, 5.11 FIP, 6.9 SO/9, and 3.4 BB/9 in 36.2 innings between three levels. Even more troubling, Sturdevant struggled mightily in 20.2 Columbus innings, posting a 6.30 ERA.
Providing Sturdevant is healthy in 2013, he could be a dark horse candidate to make the bullpen in 2013. There was plenty of hype surrounding him and his potential debut in 2012, so it is possible that hype just needs to be rolled back to 2013. With a strong showing in Columbus, Sturdevant should get a quick call to the majors to see if he can become the overpowering reliever he was before 2012.
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I see the organization taking it fairly slow with him, starting him in Akron, bumping him to Columbus when he shows he's ready then shutting him down around 140-150 innings (similar to how Soto was shut down after 120 innings last year following a 69.0 inning year).
No inside info on that, just my feeling. That's why ultimately, while Salazar is great, I left him off here.
In regards to the prospects you mentioned, one note: I thought that T.J. House was considered to be a power lefty when he was drafted? Yet, it sounds more like he is now. Did his velocity drop or did I just inflate his velocity?
His lack of signing is making me think that Texas is his preferred spot; even if Texas managed to hold onto him, Seattle would still be a formidable competitor for his services, especially since RF is now a revolving door since Ichiro was traded, M's seem to always have money to spend, and they did finish on a strong note for 2012.
While Ross might not have been our first option, I'd go for him and try to sign Jackson or another of the higher-regarded starting pitchers. Then, see if they can add a primary lefty to the bullpen. But, I'd forget about Swisher, as I don't see him coming here.
You can definitely take the over on the Indians strikeout totals for this year. Hopefully somebody gets on base when Reynolds gets his 1 hit out of 3 strikeouts. If Stubbs & Reynolds can hit 240-260avg and have a .320-.330OBP this season for the Indians will be in good shape but that is a BIG IF.
vs RH: Brantley,(in shape)AsCab,Kipnis,RF(Swisher),Santana,Chiz,Reynolds,DH,Stubbs
vs LH: Stubbs & Brantley, Chiz & DH switch.
As a 4th OF, I think Carrera brings more to the table than Fedroff. If it were a regular LF assignment, Fedroff might be more productive. Carrera would probably be a better platoon with Stubbs in CF I would guess.
But of course, I don't know if anyone else wants to pay him that either.