Prospect Rankings (Part One) – June 2005

This seems to be a great time to review my prospect rankings, given that the first half of the season is over for many of the leagues, and also because there I don’t really want to get into what happened last Wednesday.

Just a quick glimpse into where I’m coming from in putting together this list. I lean towards results rather than projectability, but I will in some cases defer to the player’s upside. I also like prospects at AA or AAA, as there’s less that can go wrong between Akron and Cleveland versus Burlington and Cleveland. With that said, on with the mindless speculation!

(1) RHP Adam Miller
Acquired: 2003 Draft (Sandwich Round)
Born: 11-26-1984
2005 Stats: N/A
Previous Ranking: #1
Trend: Level
ETA: 2007

I’m keeping Miller at the top of the list because there really isn’t anyone else I feel is better than him, and even though he just made his first start of the year. Miller had been sidelined until a couple days ago because of an elbow strain in Spring Training. If Miller is healthy, he’s one of the better pitching prospects in baseball, with a tremendous fastball and slider combination. Check out his numbers in Lake County and Kinston last year and you’ll see what I mean. A combination of low hit rates, at least decent walk rates, and high strikeout rates is the trifecta as far as young pitchers are concerned, and Miller so far in his professional career has all three. If he stays healthy, he could be a really good one.

(2) RHP Fernando Cabrera
Acquired: 1999 Draft (10th Round)
Born: 11-16-1981
2005 Stats (AAA): 39.1 IP, 0.92 ERA, 26 H, 55 SO, 7 BB
Previous Ranking: #7
Trend: Up
ETA: Now

You know that “trifecta” I was talking about? Cabrera has it also. Cabrera may be the best relief pitcher prospect in the minors right now, and he’s pretty much ready for the big leagues whenever the Indians have a need in the bullpen. Fernando was originally a starter in the minors, but over the past couple of years have been eased into a relief role (although I believe the Indians thought he was going to be a reliever before that, but they get Cabrera as a starter in order to get him some innings). Just recently, Cabrera was moved into the closer’s role in Buffalo, which may be a sign that he’s being groomed as a future closer with the Indians. I can see him taking over Bob Howry’s role next year, and then moving into the closer’s role a year or two down the road. Cabrera has been chosen for the Futures Game next month as part of the World team.

(3) C/1B Ryan Garko
Acquired: 2003 Draft (3rd Round)
Born: 1-21-1981
2005 Stats (AAA): 240 AB, .271/.342/.500, 12 2B, 13 HR, 47 SO, 21 BB
Previous Ranking: #4
Trend: Level
ETA: September

Garko has been a pleasant surprise since he joined the organization, and he hasn’t stopped hitting. Garko probably won’t be a full-time catcher anytime soon, although he can probably hit enough to stick as a C/1B/DH like a couple other players have done. I made mention a couple days ago that Ryan could be a cheap upgrade over Ben Broussard if the Indians decide to deal him, or he can be a nice right-handed bat off the bench. Either way, I think he’s with the Indians next season. Garko also is going to appear in the Futures Game as part of the US team.

(4) LHP Jeremy Sowers
Acquired: 2004 Draft (1st Round)
2005 Stats (A+): 71.1 IP, 2.78 ERA, 60 H, 75 SO, 19 BB
Previous Ranking: #10
Trend: Up
ETA: 2006

Sowers has progressed pretty much on schedule, deserving his recent promotion to Akron. The left-hander has good off-speed pitches (especially his curve), and has a good idea how to use them. His fastball tops out in the high 80s, but with his curve in the low-to-mid 70s, his top-end speed shouldn’t be much of an issue. If the Indians really needed him this year, he could probably pitch in September, but I doubt we’ll see Jeremy in the majors until at least 2006, mainly because of 40-man roster considerations.

(5) RHP JD Martin
Acquired: 2001 Draft (Sandwich)
Born: 1-2-1983
2005 Stats (AA): 51.2 IP, 2.44 ERA, 39 H, 61 SO, 7 BB
Previous Ranking: Unranked
Trend: Up
ETA: Late 2006

Martin has become somewhat of a revelation; before this season, his numbers were very pedestrian for a pitcher picked that high in the draft. Then late in 2004, he starting upping his strikeout rates, and carried that trend over to this year. He’s been sidetracked recently with a trip to the DL, but he returned last week pitching as well as he had prior to his arm injury. Also notice the low walk totals, which indicates that his increased strikeout totals haven’t come at the expense of control. Three of the four 2001 bonus babies are pitching well in Akron this year, but Martin is the best of the bunch right now.

(6) 1B Michael Aubrey
Acquired: 2003 Draft (1st Round)
Born: 4-15-1982
2005 Stats (AA): 106 AB, .283/.336/.462, 5 2B, 4 HR, 18 SO, 7 BB
Trend: Down
ETA: Late 2006

I didn’t bump Aubrey down on this list because of his performance on the field. The problem with him has been that can’t seem to get on the field in the first place. Aubrey is still hitting well enough, but the injury concerns are starting to mount; it would be one thing if one major injury was what was holding Michael back, but it seems that he’s gotten a lot of pesky strains and pulls, which doesn’t bode well for his long-term durability. I still love his bat and his glove, but has to stay healthy to stay on schedule.

(7) OF Brad Snyder
Acquired: 2003 Draft (1st Round)
Born: 5-25-1982
2005 Stats (A+): 209 AB, .278/.365/.431, 10 2B, 6 HR, 64 SO, 24 BB
Trend: Level
ETA: 2007

Snyder isn’t having a breakout 2005, but he’s met expectations, earning a promotion to Akron. Beyond the numbers you see above, Snyder has been very good in the stolen bases department; he’s only been caught once in 13 attempts. He’s still seen as a center fielder, although having Grady Sizemore ahead of him may block his progress in this organization. But there aren’t too many high-level outfield prospects in the organization, and Franklin Gutierrez has had an awful time in Akron, so he might get a chance if there’s some attrition among the current major-league crop of outfielders. Right now, the numbers don’t really wow me, but he has some time on his side.

(8) 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff
Acquired: 2003 Draft (6th Round)
Born: 7-25-1981
2005 Stats (A+): 185 AB, .348/.398/.616, 17 2B, 9 HR, 40 SO, 14 BB
Trend: Up
ETA: 2007

The only real knock on Kouzmanoff is his age, and it really wasn’t his fault that he had to pound Carolina League pitching for half the year before he got a promotion to Akron. The strikeouts are something to keep an eye on, as there’s a big jump in pitchers’ control from A+ to AA. Although the Indians might have caught lightning in a bottle with Jake Gautreau, Kouzmanoff is probably the best pure third base prospect in the organization. He could be ready by late 2006 if everything goes right.

(9) OF Franklin Gutierrez
Acquired: Trade, 2004
Born: 2-21-1983
2005 Stats: 211 AB, .227/.303/.355, 11 2B, 4 HR, 48 SO, 21 BB
Trend: Down
ETA: 2007

Wha’ happened? Those are ugly numbers, especially for someone who’s repeating AA. Gutierrez has had some nagging injuries over the past year or so, but I don’t think you can just explain away this poor a showing with just injuries. The drop in power is especially a concern given the numbers he’s put up in the past couple years. Heck, in Akron last year he slugged .466 at age 21. Perhaps Gutierrez is placing too much pressure on himself; recently he was moved out of the cleanup spot in order to help him relax more.

(10) RHP Fausto Carmona
Acquired: Free Agent, 2000
Born: 12-7-83
2005 Stats: 90.2 IP, 4.07 ERA, 100 H, 57 SO, 20 BB
Trend: Down
ETA: 2007

The problem for Carmona is that merely throwing strikes isn’t going to get AA hitters out. He’s giving up way too many hits and striking out too few in my opinion. He was recently promoted to Buffalo, but it appears it’s mainly to fill in for Chad Zerbe, who went on the DL. With good prospects coming in behind him, Carmona may get squeezed out of a rotation spot before too long.

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