Prospect Rankings (Part Two) – June 2005

This half was much more difficult to do, for several reasons. First of all, the difference between prospect #11 and #15 was about the same as the difference between #2 and #3. Also, it was difficult to figure out which prospects deserved a place on the list. There were several prospects that would have made this list easily had I done this in 2001. Because of the depth, I haven’t included any member of the 2005 draft class, although I really like John Drennen, Trevor Crowe, and Nick Weglarz. Again, I’ve given the benefit of the doubt to more advanced prospects, even if they aren’t putting up the same statistics in Akron as a prospect in Lake County. As far as I’m concerned, I like surer things, and it’s a lot easier to project a prospect in AA than one with just a couple innings or at-bats in Eastlake.

(11) RHP Dan Denham
Acquired: 2001 Draft (1st Round)
Born: 12-24-1982
2005 Stats (AA): 92.0 IP, 3.52 ERA, 71 H, 61 SO, 26 BB
Previous Ranking: Unranked
Trend: Up
ETA: Late 2006

Although Travis Foley has pretty much gone by the wayside, three of the four high school arms taken in 2001 are slowly but surely rounding into shape. Jake Dittler, the only one I rated before the season, has the worst numbers of the trio thus far. Martin, who I mentioned in the first half of the list, has the best line of any pitcher in the organization this year, but Denham’s numbers have shown marked improvement his second time around in Akron. His hits ratio is way down, and he’s upped his strikeouts to boot. Denham throws in the low 90s, and has three other complementary pitches (curve, change, and slider). As with any young pitcher, learning how to harness your stuff is half the battle, and Denham has shown improvement in his command and mound presence. He’s one of several good Rule 5 eligibles at the end of the season.

(12) RHP Jake Dittler
Acquired: 2001 Draft (2nd Round)
Born: 11-24-1982
2005 Stats (AA): 95.0 IP, 3.22 ERA, 105 H, 48 SO, 33 BB
Previous Ranking: #9
Trend: Down
ETA: Late 2006

The ERA has gone down, but the strikeouts have as well for Dittler, who has stalled a bit in AA. He was the first of the 2001 high schoolers to make Akron, starting 2004 with the Aeros, but posted a 5.02 ERA. This season, he’s given up less runs, but the peripherals look the same. Granted, Dittler makes use of a sinking fastball, and not having Corey Smith behind you probably helps him out, but he needs to miss more bats in order to be successful in the major leagues. Of course, they said the same thing about Jake Westbrook as he was progressing through the minors.

(13) LHP Chuck Lofgren
Acquired: 2004 Draft (4th Round)
Born: 1-29-1986
2005 Stats (A-): 31.2 IP, 1.42 ERA, 17 H, 20 SO, 17 BB
Previous Ranking: Unranked
Trend: Up
ETA: 2009

I think the Indians may have found something with Lofgren. Drafted as a pitcher, he hit some last year in Burlington, and 10 at-bats convinced him that pitching was his ticket to success. As a 19-year-old, Lofrgen has made a fine full-season debut thus far, and has gotten better with each start. But I’m basing this on a very small amount of IP, so this is more of a hunch pick that anything. Lofgren has a pretty good fastbal (~92 mph)l and a slow (~75 mph) curve.

(14) OF Brian Barton
Acquired: Undrafted Free Agent, 2004
Born: 4-25-1982
2005 Stats (A-): 133 AB, .414/.506/.624, 14 2B, 4 HR, 21 SO, 18 BB
Previous Ranking: Unranked
Trend: Up
ETA: 2008

I think it goes without saying that Barton dominated the Sally League. After all, he’s 23, right? What’s interesting, though, is that Barton had not taken a professional at-bat until he set foot in Eastlake. In any case, give credit to whoever spotted him, because the Indians might have themselves a steal. Since his promotion to Kinston, Brian has been merely mortal; he’s hitting .261/.346/.522 in 23 AB.

(15) LHP Tony Sipp
Acquired: 2004 Draft (45th Round)
Born: 7-12-1983
2005 Stats (A-): 69.0 IP, 2.22 ERA, 71 SO, 19 BB
Previous Ranking: #19
Trend: Up
ETA: 2008

Tony looks to be on the Fernando Cabrera career path; the Indians think he’ll be best suited out of the bullpen, but he’s starting to get some innings in. After dominating the New York-Penn league last season, Sipp has been promoted to Kinston after a fine showing in Eastlake. Sipp’s main pitches are a fastball and slider, so you can see why the Indians think he could be a future setup man.

(16) RHP Nick Pesco
Acquired: 2002 Draft (25th Round)
Born: 9-17-1983
2005 Stats (A+): 85.2 IP, 3.99 ERA, 95 IP, 95 H, 55 SO, 21 BB
Previous Ranking: #13
Trend: Down
ETA: 2008

I’m not too concerned about Pesco, as this is his first full season in Kinston, and he’s holding his own. Pesco has a low-90s fastball and a good changeup, as well as a slider.

(17) RHP Justin Hoyman
Acquired: 2004 Draft (2nd Round)
Born: 4-17-1982
2005 Stats (A-): 48.0 IP, 3.00 ERA, 44 H, 36 SO, 18 BB
Previous Ranking: #17
Trend: Level
ETA: 2007

Hoyman is on the shelf with inflammation in his pitching elbow. Before the injury, Hoyman had been pitching well in Lake County. Again, due to the pitching depth in the organization, he gets forgotten a bit, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a prospect. With pitching, you’re going to have attrition, and having a lot of it means you have a better chance of developing a couple major-league arms. Hoyman has a fastball with good movement, as well as three other pitches, all of which he can throw for strikes.

(18) OF Jason Cooper
Acquired: 2002 Draft (3rd Round)
Born: 12-6-1980
2005 Stats (AA): 205 AB, .254/.359/.478, 9 2B, 11 HR, 67 SO, 30 BB
Previous Ranking: #15
Trend: Level
ETA: 2006

If Cooper is going to make the majors, it will be because of his bat. After a slow start in Akron, Cooper started to catch fire, and was recently promoted to Buffalo. Although there’s a couple of veteren outfielders with the Bisons (Ernie Young, Andy Abad), Cooper’s pretty much it as far as young outfielders are concerned, so if the team is looking for a left fielder for a long stretch, Cooper may get a shot. Now that’s not likely this year, especially as long as the team is in playoff contention, but Cooper has some pop in his bat, and can take a walk. He’s not ready yet, but he could be by next year at this time.

(19) RHP Bear Bay
Acquired: Trade, 2005
Born: 8-7-1983
2005 Stats (A+): 79.1 IP, 3.06 ERA, 74 H, 82 SO, 14 BB
Previous Ranking: Unranked
Trend: Up
ETA: 2007

Acquired for Cliff Bartosh, Bay has looked excellent in Kinston. The right-hander pitched just as well as Jeremy Sowers, and is probably next in line for a promotion to Akron. I especially like the 82/14 SO/BB ratio.

(20) 2B/3B Jake Gautreau
Acquired: Trade, 2004
Born: 11-4-1979
2005 Stats: 258 AB, .287/.348/.535, 20 2B, 14 HR, 49 SO, 23 BB
Previous Ranking: Unranked
Trend: Up
ETA: Now

After being dealt to the Indians for fellow 1st-Round disappointment Corey Smith, Gautreau has finally started to deliver on the expectations. The problem is that Gautreau is more of a tweener than a third base or second base prospect. HIs defense isn’t what you’d like to see at either position, which makes him more of a nice bench player than a starter in my opinion. With right-handers at second and third, Jake could be a nice addition to the bench if Casey Blake or Jose Hernandez (more likely) is dealt this year.

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