Betancourt Suspended

MLB today suspended Rafael Betancourt 10 days for testing positive for a banned substance. Unfortunately, we don’t know what exactly this banned substance is. Betancourt’s suspension takes effect immediately, which does happed to coincide with his time on the disabled list (although the club could have called up a replacement anyway). Betancourt is the third major-league player to test positive for banned substances under MLB’s new drug policy. It is kind of interesting that two of the three are relievers (Juan Rincon and Betancourt), and the third is nowhere near what you’d call a power hitter (Alex Sanchez).

The Indians’ response was one tinged with disappointment. The statement by Shapiro reads as follows:

Earlier today, Major League Baseball announced that RHP RAFAEL BETANCOURT tested positive for a banned performance-enhancing substance under the guidelines of Major League Baseball’s Drug Testing Program. Rafael, who is on the disabled list, is suspended immediately for 10 days.

The Cleveland Indians strongly support Major League Baseball’s testing program for performance-enhancing drugs. In addition to this support, we continue to implement an aggressive educational program at the Major and Minor League levels. We want our players to be aware of the short and long-term dangers of these substances. Until Rafael decides how he will address this finding, we will have no further comment on his situation.

Reading between the lines, it looks like Shapiro is really ticked off at Betancourt, something to keep in mind this offseason.


A bit more comprehensive view of the trade:

Traded IF Alex Cora to the Boston Red Sox for IF Ramon Vazquez

Optioned IF Ramon Vazquez to Buffalo (AAA)

The move can correctly be called a salary dump. Cora is the better fielder, especially at shortstop, but given what Jhonny Peralta has been doing, Cora was a luxury the Indians didn’t really need. So they dealt Cora and the rest of his salary to the Red Sox for Vazquez, a cheaper utility infielder. A cursory look of Vazquez’s career stats shows the ability to take a walk, along with a bit of speed. Besides that, he looks like a backup infielder out of central casting. He played quite a bit of shortstop in 2003 with the Padres, but was dealt (in the Dave Roberts-Jay Payton trade) with the arrival of Khalil Greene. In Boston, he didn’t play much at all, and when did get in the lineup, it was garbage time. Like Cora, Vazquez hits left-handed. Apparently, the plan is to let Vazquez get some ABs in Buffalo, see if he starts to hit, and then bring him up to fill Cora’s old role. Second base looks like Ramon’s best position; he can play short, but not real well.

Where does this leave Brandon Phillips? I have no idea. If the Indians just make him a utility infielder, it would decrease some of his trade value. They seem to be leaning towards picking up Ronnie Belliard’s 2006 option, and Peralta isn’t going anywhere after what he’s done this year. The Indians have been after Vazquez for some time, and tried to get him from San Diego last winter. They seem to see him as their utility infielder going forward, especially given his platoon split against right-handers. As far as Phillips is concerned, he’s blocked at both positions, and he may be blocked by Vazquez for the utility role. This leads me to believe that Phillips is trade bait this July, and if not, certainly he’d be trade bait this winter.

Recalled RHP Fernando Cabrera from Buffalo (AAA)

Cabrera was the end to the string of events started by Rafael Betancourt going on the Disabled List. He’s acquitted himself fairly well, with only a Jeter home run marring his record. He’s being used in low-pressure situations now, but may work himself up the leverage ladder if pitchers ahead of him get dealt or get injured.

Recalled LHP Brian Tallet from Buffalo (AAA)

A short-term fix given who the Indians are facing. Tallet was scheduled to start on Thursday for the Bisons, so he could give the Indians some innings if one the starters gets knocked out during the weekend. Heck, maybe this time he’ll actually get to pitch!

Alex Cora Traded…

To the Boston Red Sox, per WTAM. The Indians are getting “a minor-league infielder.”

UPDATE: The infielder is Ramon Vazquez, who will be reporting to Buffalo. LHP Brian Tallet will take Cora’s place on the 25-man roster, so for the Indians will be going with 13 pitchers for the time being. I would think that Brandon Phillips will eventually be called up to take Cora’s spot on the roster.

Singled and Doubled

It was one of those games. If you watched last night’s contest, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

What is troubling, though, is that the lineup had absolutely no patience at the plate. Jeremy Bonderman cruised relatively unscathed until the eighth inning, when the Indians started some semblance of a comeback. Detroit, who was last in the league in walks, showed an immense amount of discipline, laying off CC Sabathia’s never-ending supply of offspeed pitches in the dirt. Personally I think Sabathia out-thought himself. His fastball-changeup combo worked wonderfully against Baltimore the previous start, but CC changed his approach because the Tigers are a fastball-hitting team. Until he learns to spot his breaking pitches in the strike zone, teams will just lay off them; instead he might as well go with his 95 mph fastball and 85 mph changeup, because those two pitches are good enough to get most hitters out. He didn’t really get hit hard by the Tigers (only two of their ten hits off him were for extra bases), but they could sit on a pitch, mostly his fastball.

Where has Jody Gerut’s power gone? I don’t care much for the modifications he’s made to his swing; gone is the uppercut stroke, replaced by one almost like the one Barry Bonds uses. Gerut is still hitting for a high average, but his slugging percentage is dropping like a rock. Singles hitters who can play good defense tend to end up as fourth outfielders, and that’s where Gerut’s future seems to lie.

Right field is one of several areas where the team could use an offensive upgrade. The others are first and third base, although the team has steadfastly (or perhaps obstinately) stood by Aaron Boone. Barring injury, he will most likely meet the plate appearance threshhold necessary for his 2006 option to kick in. While I take no issue with Aaron’s defense, an AL team simply cannot hope to succeed with a corner player hitting .195/.255/.354. As for first base, that will probably be addressed after the season, when the team will most likely deal Ben Broussard. I really don’t see a circumstance where they’d open the 2006 season with him at first base, unless they make a major acquisition elsewhere.

Rick mentioned Aubrey Huff as a possible acquisition; I’ll mention Raul Ibanez as someone the Indians could get on the cheap. Ibanez isn’t a guy that would attract a ton of attention, but he’s quietly had a very good season in a poor lineup. He currently is hitting .292/.355/.471 in a pitcher’s park. The only problem is that he’s a left-handed hitter. But he’s someone to watch out for, as he’s signed through 2006 for a relatively affordable salary.

Another guy who might be available is Texas’ Kevin Mench, although he’ll probably cost more to acquire. Mench, who didn’t really earn a permanent spot in the lineup until this season, is hitting .290/.356/.550, although those numbers are inflated by where he plays his home games. The Rangers are obviously looking for pitching, both of the starting and relieving variety. But given the relationship between Shapiro and Texas GM John Hart, I’d be shocked if they haven’t at least discussed Mench in the past few weeks. Mench isn’t much of an outfielder, but he’s right-handed and would fit nicely behind Hafner and in front of Victor Martinez. He’s also making close to the minimum.

On Hafner

Last night, manager Eric Wedge gave Travis Hafner a night off. The reason given was fairly understandable: Hafner had played in both halves of a doubleheader, and manager Eric Wedge wanted to rest Hafner in order to keep his elbow in check. So of course, when the Indians lost by a run, Jim Ingraham ripped Wedge for not playing Hafner:

It was a curious decision, given that the designated hitter is not, by definition, a physically demanding role, given that he gets to rest every time his team is in the field. Adding to the intrigue was that Maroth is a left-hander, and Hafner has the third highest batting average against left-handed pitchers (.289) of any player on the Indians’ roster.

Apparently Ingraham forgot that when you swing a bat, you put a lot of stress on your elbow. And he also failed to mention that Hafner is hitting .324 against right-handers, also the best on the team. But that’s beside the point; keeping Hafner healthy for the rest of the season is the important thing here. Because the Indians were short-handed on Monday, Hafner played both halves of the doubleheader. So because Aaron Boone was available on Tuesday, Wedge gave Hafner the night off last night. That’s what this boils down to; it isn’t difficult to figure out.

Now if Ingraham had complained as to how Wedge used his bench late in the game, I could have understood this article, but he seems to concentrate solely on Hafner’s absence from the starting lineup. Just because Hafner is swinging the bat doesn’t mean that he should be playing every day especially given his elbow problem. As a rule, you try to keep your best players healthy; this is why the starting pitchers are taken out after a certain number of pitches, and relievers aren’t used more than 3 days in a row.

Now if Hafner was sitting because a left-hander was on the mound, it would be one thing. But apparently, a manager thinking of the long-term health of his player is idiotic.

Fireworks on the Fourth

The Indians now stand ten games above .500, the team’s high-water mark thus far. On Sunday and Monday, the team won three games rather easily, thanks to good hitting and very good pitching.

First, let’s recap the small flurry of moves that happened in order to allow Jason Davis to start last night’s second game.

(Before Sunday’s Game)

Placed RHRP Rafael Betancourt on the 15-day Disabled List (shoulder)

Recalled RHP Kazuhito Tadano from Buffalo (AAA)

I have no idea how serious the injury, but if Raffy just misses the requisite fifteen days, the DL stint probably does him more good than harm. The move was retroactive to June 30th, when Betancourt first started to complain about the injury, but I’d think the Indians would like to wait until after the break to bring him back. Missing a key bullpen cog for a couple more days is a small price to pay for having him healthy and effective in August and September. Kaz Tadano filled Betancourt’s roster spot on Sunday and the first game on Monday, and would have been the longman. It turned out that he wasn’t needed.

(After Monday’s first game)

Optioned RHP Kazuhito Tadano to Buffalo (AAA)

Recalled RHP Jason Davis from Buffalo (AAA)

Davis was brought up to start Monday night’s game against the Tigers. Davis, who has filled in a couple times before, looked shaky at time against the Tigers, but got out of a couple jams and left after a scoreless six innings. In all probability, he’s going right back down to Buffalo, where he should make his next scheduled start with the Bisons. At this point in his career, the thing Davis needs more than anything else is stability; he needs to be given the ball every fifth day until the end of the season, because he could start the 2006 season in the big-league rotation. In fact, he’s probably Plan B if Kevin Millwood leaves at the end of the year. Tadano, thanks to good outings from Cliff Lee and Scott Elarton, wasn’t needed, and he’ll return to his role as the Bisons’ longman.

So who comes up to fill Davis’ spot before tomorrow’s game? I’d have to think it would be Fernando Cabrera, and if it wasn’t Cabrera, it’d be Andrew Brown. Both guys are on the 40-man roster, both have pitched well as of late, and each has good enough stuff to fill in for a week or so. Because Fernando is a week away from appearing in the Futures Game, it might make sense to see what Brown has now, and if he doesn’t work out, then you can call up Cabrera just after the break, or reinstate Betancourt when he’s healthy. Davis Riske seems to have recovered from week-long string of ineffective games, so you have some flexibility to work a youngster into the bullpen mix.

Of course, the All-Star Rosters were announced on Sunday, and with it brought the usual cacophony of jilted fans everywhere. I’ve learned not to care as much about All-Star rosters, because it’s not really worth it. But it did gall me somewhat that the lone representative was Bob Wickman instead of Travis Hafner or [other Indians player]. It wasn’t really Terry Francona’s fault; he only picked four players to fill out the roster, and I believe all four were of the “one per team” variety. But picking Wickman as Cleveland’s lone All-Star is a double whammy; you realize he’s the only one that’s going, and you just know that he’ll do something idiotic if he’s put into the game. I can just imagine it now: Mike Piazza beats out a chopper to the mound because the first baseman loses Wickman’s toss in the lights, then steals second and third, and scores the winning run on a balk. Of course, if that means Boston doesn’t get home-field advantage in the World Series, Terry Francona would have no one to blame but himself.

Back to Hafner for a bit. Now that Pronk has gotten his OPS just under the 1.000 mark, it should be interesting to see how many teams actually pitch to him in the next couple of weeks. Obvously Coco Crisp has been getting a ton of fastballs in the past month of so, but the 4-5 hitters, whoever they are, need to remain dangerous hitters to enable Hafner to swing the bat. This dovetails nicely into the speculation as to who the Indians are probably targeting. Mark Shapiro has been publicly stating lately that the team is looking into trading for someone to join Hafner in the middle of the lineup. Here’s what Shapiro had to say in today’s Morning Journal:

‘Prior to talking to clubs, we have to determine which ones could be or are willing to trade,” he said.

He figures the sooner he can add a big bat, the better off the Indians will be toward making a run at the playoffs.

”I’m not going to trade for a name or someone who is marginally better than what we have,” he said. ”If there’s not significant separation, we’ll stick with the players we have.

”I believe these guys can win. If there is a move out there and a chance to bring in a guy with significant offensive production, we’ll do it.”

Shapiro isn’t overly concerned with messing up the Tribe’s chemistry.

”It’s always a concern,” he said. ”It’s my obligation to make the club better.”

It’s nice to see this type of thinking. I don’t want Shapiro to deal for Preston Wilson just to say “Look at me! I just traded for a name!” The deal has to make sense for this year as well as for the future. I’d be much more willing to lay off the picked-over rentals that are out there now and spend your prospects on 2-3 years of a guy like Mike Sweeney or Adam Dunn. Of course those types of deals are extremely difficult to consummate, but the payoff would be felt not only the remainder of this season, but in 2006 and beyond as well. Hopefully Shapiro can find last year’s Larry Walker instead of last year’s Richard Hidalgo.

All Your Bases Are Belong To Us

If Kevin Millwood is going to continue to “hold” runners on base like he has recently, he can’t walk anybody. Was he always this bad about holding runners during his National League days?

Anyway, before I head out for the Fourth, here’s an unintentionally funny headline on the Indians’ site:

Notes: Cora struggling to stay sharp
Limited at-bats new for former Dodgers starter

Also, notice the author of the article. heh.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Stepping Back

The Indians beat the Baltimore Orioles again last night, and now are one-half game behind Minnesota for the Wild Card lead.

With the first three months of the season behind us, let’s look at how the team is doing.


AL Overall: tie-3rd (3.70)
AL Starters: 7th (4.21)
AL Relievers: 1st (2.80)

OPS Against: .693 (2nd)
K/9: 6.65 (3rd)
WHIP: 1.24 (3rd)

The pitchers are the reason why the Indians were even around the .500 mark at the beginning of June. From top-to-bottom, the pitching has been solid. Special mention must go the bullpen, which saved a ton of close games early in the year, keeping the team afloat. The starters have been solid, lead by Cliff Lee and, when healthy, Kevin Millwood. Jake Westbrook seems to have hit his stride lately. Even Scott Elarton, has pitched well (by his standards). Only the White Sox and Angels have allowed less runs.

Bullpen VORP:
(1) Rafael Betancourt – 13.2
(2) Matt Miller – 12.2
(3) Arthur Rhodes – 11.8
(4) Bob Wickman – 10.0
(5) David Riske – 8.6
(6) Bob Howry – 7.3
(7) Scott Sauerbeck – 5.0

Keep in mind that VORP is playing-time dependent, so Betancourt and Miller get higher rankings thanks to the larger number of innings pitched. But Matt and Rafael have done yeoman’s work, essentially sharing the role traditionally held by the “6th starter” or longman. You could say that Matt Miller has been the best reliever on the staff, but you could also present compelling arguments for either Arthur Rhodes or Rafael Betancourt. Yes, I know Bob Wickman has the saves, but the real key to Wicky having the save opportunity is the guys pitching in front of him.

(1) Arthur Rhodes – 11 (6th overall)
(2) Bob Howry – 10 (8th overall)
(3) Scott Sauerbeck – 8
(4) Rafael Betancourt – 6
(5) Matt Miller – 5

The Indians’ relievers have the best of both worlds: depth and execution. This should help spread the innings load among all seven pitchers, which should help it stay effective down the stretch run. No reliever has gone more than 36.2 IP, and no reliever has appeared in a game more than 37 times. The starters do need to start going deeper into games, but unlike some other teams, the Indians aren’t really relying on one or two relievers to finish games.

Starter VORP:
(1) Kevin Millwood – 20.6
(2) Cliff Lee – 18.4
(3) CC Sabathia – 9.3
(4) Jake Westbrook – 9.0
(5) Scott Elarton – 4.8
(6) Jason Davis – (-0.2)

For the most part, the starters have been pretty average, usually going 6 innings and leaving the rest for the bullpen. You’d like to see some of the starters start to go longer into games, and there are positive signs up and down the rotation. Kevin Millwood has looked like an excellent signing, and has become the de facto best pitcher on the staff. Cliff Lee is probably a very long shot to make the All-Star team, but he’s been the staff’s most consistent starter. Both Sabathia and Westbrook have had rough patches, although both looked outstanding in their most recent starts. As far as Scott Elarton is concerned, you just have to hope you can squeeze another three months worth of production from him, but if not, you take your chances with Jason Davis or Brian Tallet as the 5th starter.


AL Runs Scored: 9th (359)
AL OPS: 5th (.752)
AL OBP: 10th (.323)
AL SLG: 5th (.429)
AL HR: 6th (90)

Since June 1st, the team has been hitting the bejeezus out of the baseball. The uptick coincided with two events; the firing of hitting coach Eddie Murray, and ascension of Grady Sizemore to the leadoff spot. I’m more likely to pin the blame on Grady, but that’s because I can see what he’s done, and couldn’t see what Murray allegedly didn’t do. Several players have shown marked improvement after slow to abysmal starts. Let’s go to the individual VORP numbers (AL positional rank in parentheses):

1B Ben Broussard: 9.6 (8th)
2B Ronnie Belliard: 12.8 (6th)
3B Aaron Boone: -8.4 (Last)
C Victor Martinez: 10.9 (6th)
CF Grady Sizemore: 27.8 (2nd)
DH Travis Hafner: 30.9 (2nd)
LF Coco Crisp: 13.2 (8th)
RF Casey Blake: -0.5 (17th)
SS Jhonny Peralta: 16.3 (6th)

As you can see, things have gotten a lot better since last we looked at the hitters. Aaron Boone and Casey Blake are still replacement-level hitters, but guys like Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner have really gotten going recently. Most impressive is Grady Sizemore putting up excellent offensive numbers in what is essentially his rookie season. Jhonny Peralta is penalized a bit because he’s sat more than he should have; even though he’s been on the active roster all year, he still is not qualified for the batting title. That should change. It’s pretty obvious that the team needs a large upgrade or three at the corners, but that’s something best talked about as the trade deadline approaches.


Fielding Percentage: .982 (10th)
Defensive Efficiency: .7094 (4th)

I tend to gravitate towards the defensive effeciency measure, as it gives a more encompassing view of the defense. The Indians seem to have good range as a team, especially in the outfield. Although the team has no real candidates for Gold Gloves, everyone more or less does their job. Ronnie Belliard turns double plays very well, Aaron Boone is a marked improvement over Casey Blake in the field, and although Jhonny Peralta has had his lapses, he has acquitted himself well at short. I guess I’ll summarize the defense thusly: the outfield has really helped the flyball pitchers, and the infield hasn’t hurt the groundball hurlers.

So there you have it. The Indians don’t appear to be “lucky” having the record they now hold, and every aspect of the club seems to be solid. Will this remain the same throughout second half of the 2005 season? I wish I knew; injuries can happen, ineffectiveness can happen. But from the information given, I can with a clear conscience say that this is a good team. Whether that translates into a playoff berth remains to be seen, but I certainly like what I see as of right now.

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.