Who are the Most Impressive Prospects in 2013?
Lindor and Aguilar headline the most impressive prospects in the Cleveland organization
By Jim Piascik
March 23, 2013
When we go to any baseball game, we want to be entertained by the action. Sports is entertainment, after all.
What makes a day at the ballpark even more memorable, however, is when you come away from a game impressed by what you saw.
Players can impress with one standout tool, like a power hitter or a power pitcher. They can also impress with their well-rounded five-tool game. No matter how they do it, that is what today's piece is about: finding players who are the most impressive.
Once again, per the rules of my series, if someone was on my list of the 10 players with the most to prove in 2013 or the most exciting prospects in the system, they are ineligible for this list. Just to keep things fresh. So if someone you think should be here is missing, that might be why.
And as always, I would not be able to go into any depth in this article without using the 2013 IBI Top 100 Prospects book. This may be a shameless plug, but it is one that is well-worth it. The detail just would not be here without it.
Mike McDade, 1B
As a rule, I try not to get too excited about waiver claims. If a player is not one of 40 that another team thinks is worth keeping around, he likely does not have all that much value (see Russ Canzler). Yet I keep finding myself getting excited about McDade.
Something about the soon-to-be 24-year-old switch-hitting first baseman jumps out to me. It could be his relative youth. It could also be the fact that he is a switch-hitter. It definitely is the fact that there have not been many decent first basemen coming up through the upper levels of the system lately. McDade may be a waiver claim, but even leaving his inflated Las Vegas numbers aside, he seems to have some real power that just might play at the big league level.
But he is still a wavier claim. Scouting reports suggest that his baserunning is suspect, and those are the nice ones. But after having Carlos Santana lead the team with 18 home runs in 2012, power is at a premium in Cleveland right now. Even with the addition of Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds, McDade may find a way to make his power play at Progressive Field sometime in 2013.
Carlos Carrasco, RHP
As the last piece of the Cliff Lee trade with a chance of working out, there is plenty of pressure on Carrasco to turn into a successful major league pitcher. Time is starting to run out on Carrasco -- the right hander turned 26 on Thursday -- but with a lack of top-of-the-rotation options in the upper levels of Cleveland's minor league system, many eyes are on Carrasco.
Carrasco is basically all the way back from Tommy John surgery, but he has yet to pitch again at the major league level. When he last pitched in 2011, he dominated in five starts from June 7 to June 29, posting a 0.98 ERA and 28:5 SO:BB in 36.2 innings.
Now, in the six starts after that, Carrasco struggled to a 7.92 ERA and 25:17 SO:BB in 30.2 innings, culminating with him missing the entire 2012 season with elbow reconstruction. Some of that could be attributable to the elbow injury, but it is worrying nonetheless.
Still, the memory of his June dominance could still be in there and Carrasco should work his way back to the majors at some point in 2013. He has some exciting stuff and he will showcase it in Columbus.
Jesus Aguilar, 1B
When you think “power” and “Cleveland organization,” Aguilar’s name should be the first name popping into your head. When Aguilar squares one up, that ball is going for miles and miles. He hit one out of Canal Park in the playoffs last year that might not have landed yet. That power is for real.
The issue with Aguilar is his hit tool. He may not show enough consistency to let the power play in games, which would severely harm his value. Some of that may have been at play in 2012, when he only hit 15 home runs between High-A Carolina and Double-A Akron. Some of that could be attributed to playing in pitcher-friendly parks and leagues, but the worry -- as well as the 115 strikeouts in 127 games -- is still there.
Time will tell if Aguilar can make himself into a major league contributor, but in the meantime, his power will astound. Every at-bat can end with a pitch going over the wall, even in power-sapping Canal Park.
Bryce Stowell & Rob Bryson, RHPs
I'm cheating a bit by having two pitchers here, but this is my list; I do what I want. These two right-handers both have overpowering fastballs, but different flaws have held them back.
With Stowell, injuries have been a real issue. He had bicep tendonitis in 2009, an elbow issue in 2010, shoulderand elbow issues in 2011, and forearm and oblique injuries in 2012. At this point, it is questionable if Stowell can stay healthy enough to make it to the majors. When he is right though, Stowell's fastball-slider combo gets fantastic results (3.25 ERA, 12.3 SO/9 in 205.0 career innings).
For Bryson, his health issues went away in 2012, but they were replaced by struggles with walks. Bryson walked 43 batters in 65.1 innings in 2012, an insane rate that cannot be successful in the long-term. Like Stowell, Bryson's fastball-slider combo gets strikeouts (10.5 SO/9 last season), but much of that benefit was erased by the walks.
Bryson found success in the Puerto Rican Winter League (1.31 ERA, 23 strikeouts in 20.2 innings), but he still walked 14 batters in that time. Stowell did not pitch in winter ball, likely saving his bullets for the regular season. Despite their flaws (and assuming their velocities bounce back from what Tony has seen so far in Arizona), these two should be racking up strikeouts out of the bullpen at Canal Park soon enough, and who doesn't like watching that?
Francisco Lindor, SS
Who is going to argue against Lindor's all-around ability being on this list?
Lindor plays great defense, runs well, has a good arm, and really knows how to hit. That skill set, similar to what Elvis Andrus brings to the table in my mind, is quite valuable at the major league level and often goes underappreciated. Lindor seems to have more pop in his bat, but even if he is just Andrus, the 2011 Draft will be an unqualified success. Franchise shortstops do not grow on trees.
Lindor may not develop 20-25 home run power, but no one is expecting that out of the shortstop position. Lindor has the chance to develop into an elite player and is the top prospect in the system. His multitalented game makes him the most impressive player for Cleveland in the minor leagues and almost certainly a future cornerstone of the franchise.
Cody Anderson, RHP
Most people would not find themselves impressed by a 6.6 SO/9. Coming from a right-handed starter, that is typically associated with a boring soft-tossing righty. But Anderson has a ton of projection left in him and has been turning heads this spring.
With Anderson, everything stems from the cutter. The cutter is a fairly new pitch to Anderson, but he has taken to it quickly. He still needs plenty of work refining his other pitches, but that cutter could carry him. He is being developed as a starter, but if the rest of the arsenal does not develop, the cutter may be enough to get him to a major league bullpen.
Anderson is still being stretched out as a starter -- he only threw 98.1 innings last year -- so he is still pretty far from being ready for a full season in the rotation. That does not matter this year, though, as the fans in Carolina will get to see Anderson pitch for most of the season with his standout cutter.
Bryson Myles, OF
Despite being a 5'6" "scrappy" (which is code for not gifted athletically) shortstop in high school, I typically find myself drawn to the athletes in the Cleveland organization. Maybe that is just envy on my part, but I think it is also because these players with big-time tools and abilities could make stars in the major leagues.
This brings us to Myles. The right-handed hitting outfielder has a linebacker's build (5'11", 230 pounds) and an exciting power-speed combination that brings value in every aspect of the game. Myles has struggled with hamstring injuries in the past, but as Tony reports from Arizona, he has lost 11-12 pounds in an attempt to let his athleticism show (and likely to help him stay healthier in 2013).
Those injuries and Myles' rawness from focusing on baseball until college could end up seeing him bust out well short of Cleveland. Still, watching him play, he is one of the players with a mature body that just looks like a professional ballplayer. If everything breaks right (and his power potential starts showing up in games), he could be a 20-20 threat, something that has only been done in Cleveland 15 times (most recently by Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore).
Dylan Baker, RHP
When it comes to striking starting pitching, being able to dial it up to 100 MPH is always welcome. That is what Baker, Cleveland's fifth-round selection in the 2012 Draft, was doing with the Arizona League team last year. His average velocity sat more in the low-90s, but there is hope that as he matures there will be more consistent speed to Baker's fastball.
The rest of Baker's repertoire is a work in progress, but that is how it goes for most players entering their first full season. The important thing for Baker is that he already has something in his fastball that is putting him on the radar and will keep him around as a prospect to pay attention to in 2013.
Time will tell if Baker can improve his curveball and slider enough to make it as a major league starter. That is a few years down the road, though, and for this season, his fastball should be enough to amaze plenty of paying customers at Lake County.
If you want to follow Jim on Twitter, he’s @JimPiascik. If you want to e-mail him, you can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am intrigued by McDade. Big fellow, though wonder if such conditioning issues catch up to him. But I can't wait to see what he does at Columbus this year.
As for Rondon......no mistake there. He was signed to a minor league deal. Any team could have signed him. The Cubs drafting him Rule 5 was a unique situation. He has a chance to be a solid middle reliever, but at this point because of durability concerns and the lack of a good secondary pitch, he's not expected to make a major impact as a reliever. Up and down guy next three years.
What were they thinking?
Also, whats the deal with Drew Pomeranz? He has had what one full season in the bigs? Pitching in the thin air of Colorado. Why does everyone seem to think he is nothing more than a possible 5th starter?
I think Ubaldo will bounce back to have a solid season with an ERA around 4.28-4.44. I also think he will win way more games then most people suspect. But, I would much rather have Drew Pomeranz in the rotation and Alex White in the bullpen.
I am glad someone is still interested in Byrson and Stowell. You never know when a RP is going to make a huge jump.
I think Mcdade could be an interesting platoon or bench player down the line if his power holds up. Switch hitting power prospects are also impressive.
With guys like Dylan Baker, Dillion Howard, Elvis Andrus, Danny Salazar, Felix Sterling, Mitch Brown. Kieran Lovegrove and Luis Lugo we could have a major breakout of young starting pitching.
In fact if we can get Appel, Stanek, Whal or one of the other top pitching prospects in the draft, I think our minor league system could make a major leap foward in the standings and rankings. We basically have turned the team back into a contender but still have a top 5 draft pick this year. They NEED to make a good choice. We need someone who can lead the rotation with Bauer and Carrasco for years to come.
One name I would have added to the list is Austin Adams. I think the boat may have sailed on him as a starter but I think he could be an impact back of the bullpen arm. Because of his pedigree he could also go multiple innings.
We have some interesting pitching, and tons of middle infield depth. We need some of our young pitchers to take the next step and add some corner outfield guys to the system.
And will he ever play a full season without getting hurt? Looking at his history of injuries, he looks to be the pitching version of Nick Weglarz.
Over 12 K's per 9 innings in his career. That's impressive. But it looks like this year may be his last shot. If he goes down with an injury for the fifth consecutive season, there's not much point in continuing is there?