Who are the Most Exciting Prospects in 2013?
Rodriguez, Ramirez, Paulino among the most exciting players in Cleveland's organization
By Jim Piascik
March 16, 2013
Last week, I listed the 10 prospects with the most to prove in 2013. While it was not planned at the start, that has begun a miniseries for me that will list prospects with varying characteristics.
Today, we will take a look at the most exciting prospects in the organization. Exciting is a subjective term, but I am defining it as someone who just jumps off the field at you, whether through their hitting, their power, or just their all around attitude.
One rule is that, in order to make things interesting and not repetitive, we will not be doubling up on players. So if a player made the "Most to Prove" list, they will not be on here, even if they deserve to be. Also, I split it up by projected start level and listed one position player and pitcher per full season level. Again, just to keep things interesting.
But enough housekeeping. Let's get on to the list.
Tim Fedroff, OF
All in all, the Columbus lineup is a fairly weak sort in terms of "exciting." That said, for those like me who love watching scrappy, high motor players, Fedroff is a real treat.
If Fedroff had standout tools, he would be pushing for a spot in Cleveland out of Spring Training. Since the big league outfield is filled, however, the front office wants him playing every day in Columbus to further his development.
Thanks to that, Fedroff is eligible for this list.
Though his tools are not massive, when you watch Fedroff play, you are seeing him maximize what he can do. He goes all out in center field and on the basepaths and does the nitty-gritty things that help teams win. Fedroff does not have much power, but he knows how to hit and he knows how to get on base.
Shawn Armstrong, RHP
Due to our rules, Trevor Bauer is ineligible for this list. Though leaving his quirky warm-up routine and personality off here is borderline-criminal, Armstrong is exciting enough to justify the omission.
If not for Cody Allen's rise all the way through the system, Armstrong moving from Lake County to Carolina to Akron in his first full season would have gotten more attention. Armstrong was actually picked higher in the draft (18th round compared to the 23rd for Allen) and even struck out more batters (10.37 SO/9 compared to Allen's 9.96 SO/9).
Command and control is still an issue in Armstrong's game, as his 4.9 BB/9 will attest, but there is still time for him to improve. Pitchers like Armstrong who can throw 99 MPH with four pitches (fastball, cutter, curveball, and changeup) are not common, which makes watching Armstrong carve up batters well worth it.
It may be harder to see Armstrong pitch since he is a reliever, but if you happen to catch him, then you should be sure to pay attention. He is a top-flight arm that should settle into the Cleveland bullpen within the next year or two.
Ronny Rodriguez, SS
If you are a subscriber to IBI or have bought Tony's 2013 IBI Book, then you have read about the tools that Rodriguez just oozes. If not, then you should get moving on that!
Like Carlos Moncrief -- who was on the "Most to Prove" list -- Rodriguez has a real chance of showing all five tools at a high level. He has good range, good speed, and showed some impressive pop in Carolina last year. Rodriguez hit 19 home runs in a pitcher-friendly league and park -- more than Aguilar, Cleveland's top power prospect -- which was an unexpected development after he hit 11 in 98 games at Lake County.
The hit tool is still a question for Rodriguez -- see his 88:19 SO:BB in 2012 -- but the jump-off-the-field ability is certainly there. Rodriguez may not reach his ceiling without improving his consistency, but while he works on that in Akron, he is almost guaranteed to entertain night-in and night-out. He is the player I personally cannot wait to see play for the Aeros in 2013 and the biggest reason I wish the season started tomorrow.
Danny Salazar, RHP
When Salazar was called up to Akron late in the season, it was unclear what the Aeros would be getting as they chased an Eastern League championship. Quickly is became clear that Salazar was an electrifying starter that would help lead the team to the title. For most of 2012, Akron had starters more on the finesse side of things. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, but Salazar was a new experience that truly stood out.
Salazar is still stretching himself out after Tommy John surgery in 2010, but in the 87.2 inning he threw in 2012, Salazar made himself the highest pitching prospect behind Bauer on IBI's Top 100. The right-hander throws in the mid-to-upper 90's and complements it with a strong changeup. The rest of his arsenal is still improving, but with just his fastball-changeup, Salazar has a Major League future.
Terry Francona talked about Salazar on multiple occasions this spring, backing up the fact that he is a joy to watch pitch. His workload will still be limited this season, but when Salazar does pitch, he will take the mound and overpower opposing hitters.
Jose Ramirez, 2B
The rise of Ramirez is one of my favorite stories of 2012. People around me are surely sick of hearing about how Ramirez was so unknown that he was not ranked in IBI's Top 100, but his ascension truly is amazing.
When Ramirez is at the plate, you can bet he is looking to hit. In Lake County last year, Ramirez laced 98 hits in only 67 games and had an insane .354 batting average. He also did a very good job of controlling the strike zone, as evidenced by his 26:24 SO:BB, though he was typically better off swinging the bat. Ramirez simply has an innate ability to get the bat on the ball and good things happen when he does that.
Ramirez also brings it on the field, where he and Lindor formed a highlight reel up-the-middle combination in 2012. At 5'9", 165 pounds, he is far from being an imposing figure, but despite the lack of size, Ramirez is one of the most exciting players at the plate and certain to put on a show with his bat.
Elvis Araujo, LHP
Like the Columbus Clippers' projected lineup, the Carolina Mudcats' starting rotation does not look to have much exciting talent. That said, if you are catching a High-A minor league game, you could do worse than watching Araujo throw a few innings.
Araujo is a big pitcher -- coming in at 6'6", 215 pounds -- and knows how to ramp up his fastball. Pitching at Lake County last year as a 20-year-old, Araujo touched 96 MPH and could have even more in his arm. Speed is not everything -- as Araujo's 5.00 ERA points toward -- but it is definitely fun to watch.
Araujo needs to gain experience and really learn how to pitch if he wants to keep climbing up the ladder, but when he is on, he is thrilling to watch. In his first nine starts of 2012, Araujo was flying high with a 2.40 ERA and 41:15 SO:BB in 45.0 innings. That guy is still in there, and on any given night, Araujo could pitch like that again in 2013.
Dorssys Paulino, SS
If you know one thing about me and the Cleveland minor league system, you should know that I have an insane man-crush on Paulino. I may not have gotten to see him play yet (something that WILL be rectified this year), but the results and the scouting reports have me literally frothing at the mouth (well, not literally. But close.)
By all accounts, Paulino is the best bat in the system and possibly the best to come up through the organization since Manny Ramirez. That is high praise and really makes it well-worth seeing him in action. The level of competition (the Arizona League and short-season Mahoning Valley) was lacking, as was the sample size (only 56 games), but Paulino really made use of that time. His .333/.380/.558 line backed up every great thing scouts had to say about his hitting ability and have set the stage for his debut at full season Lake County.
Of all the players on this list, I would rank Paulino at the top as the most exciting. If you are able to make your way to Lake County to watch him this year, you will not regret it; he is worth the price of admission himself.
Mitch Brown, RHP
When Cleveland used their first round pick on Tyler Naquin, more than a few people raised an eyebrow at the pick. After drafting high-end players like Brown in subsequent rounds, however, the front office's plan of shifting money from the first round to spend on players like Brown came into view.
Brown is a fairly advanced pitcher for being straight out of cold-weather high school and can already touch the mid-90's. He still has plenty of improving, refining, and growth ahead of him, but that is the nature of picking prep players. For now, it appears that Brown will be given the chance to jump right into the Lake County rotation, an assignment that if he passes will catapult him down the road to Cleveland.
High-end starting pitching is lacking in Cleveland's organization and Brown has the chance to fix that. He is a rare top-half of the rotation prospect for the team and thus should be an exciting player to watch in 2013.
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It becomes a matter of opinion when you compare what Paulino did at 18 years old in 41 AZL games versus, say, what Santana did as a 23 year old in 130 games in the AA Eastern League. People tend to obsess about young players and because of that they put too much stock into an incredibly limited sample size. What's more impressive, hitting .290/.413/.530 over an entire AA season as a 23 year old, or hitting .355/.404/.610 across 41 AZL games as a teenager? The answer is open to interpretation and depends on whether you value projection or production. Being a great prospect comes down to more than just projection of tools.
Now, that also adds to his risk, but there's risk in all prospects. He's on an advanced timeline in terms of his development -- just like Lindor. And no one is (or at least no one should be) complaining about Lindor's development.
Using Common Cents to help describe good posters is irresponsible and leads to uncontrollable dry heaving, unless of course, you've eaten (which I wouldn't prescribe when reading his inanity). Anyhow, any rock is a far better posting prospect than Common Cents
Using Manny Ramirez to help describe the prospect status of Paulino is irresponsible and leads to unrealistic expectations. Anyhow, Carlos Santana was a far better hitting prospect than Paulino is now.
The series isn't quite over yet. Lindor will appear. Haha.
I mean the team must have seen something in him. Is it realistic to see him hit 270-290 with 15 homers 30 doubles, 20 steals and a few triples as well as a cannon in RF? Of course thats assuming he continues to progress and develop as a player. If he can do that it seems lie a pretty solid pick as a complimentary player.
Only player I am surprised not to see is Francisco Lindor.
I mean, not much else has come through the system. Scouts are very high on Paulino and that's good enough for me.