Be sure to check out Smoke Signals tonight as legendary Cleveland sportswriter Terry Pluto will be our on-air guest this week. The show runs from 9:30-10:30pm every Thursday!It is a new year, and with that hope springs eternal for Cleveland Indians fans that maybe this will be the year they can finally go all the way and win a World Series. While things on the big league side for the Indians are starting to take shape and it looks like they will be a strong contender in the division and possible World Series contender, the farm system looks to be as strong as ever. In fact, the Indians minor league system is as strong as it has been since 2003 when the likes of Brandon Phillips, Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, Jeremy Guthrie, and Victor Martinez were all Top 10 prospects going into the season. After a 2008 season where the makeup of the farm system was in a transitional phase with many young players set to break out and prove themselves and very little top level talent, over the course of a year with the help of in-house development, trades and a very good 2008 Draft, the Indians farm system now has several impact players in the system and at all levels from Triple-A down to rookie-level Arizona. Over the course of the next several weeks leading into spring training and most of March, I will be unveiling the Indians Top 100 Prospect list by hosting a daily countdown on my blog. Here at TheClevelandFan.com I will be posting a writeup for every ten prospects posted, starting today with #100-91. This is a comprehensive listing of the Indians best prospects, and to give the potential stars of tomorrow some attention from the fans. These reports are very detailed and lengthy, especially for those in the Top 30 or 50. You won't find a more in-depth listing anywhere, and best of all, it will all be put on the site for FREE. The criteria for inclusion in the ranking requires that a player must still be rookie eligible (under 50 IP or less than 130 at bats). Like most other publications, service time is not considered, although this does not really apply to any players on this list anyway. Last year I omitted the 2007 Draft class from the rankings except Beau Mills; however, one big change this year is players from the recent 2008 Draft is considered for the rankings. I was able to see many of these players last year, so feel confident in forming an opinion on them based on what I have seen and been told. The only players not eligible for these rankings are those who played in the Dominican Summer League (DSL) and have yet to play stateside. Also, recent international signings are not included. The reason for this is pretty simple really, in that I have not seen any of these players play and all the scouts I know have not seen them either. So, the opinions and info is practically non-existent except for what I have learned in limited conversations with the Indians. While no DSL players are in this listing, at this time some players will be in the bonus section only found in the book. Some may wonder what is the basis behind the rankings. While some people rate prospects purely on results (stats), some on standing (class level/age), and some purely on potential (projection), I try to combine all three to try and strike a balance. Admittedly, I generally favor projection more, especially with the very young kids versus some of the minor league veterans.
Bottom line, it comes down to asking "what kind of player does the player have the potential to be"? The rankings are arbitrary, and they really are just a guideline of the best players to watch out for and most importantly provide scouting information on each player so fans know who they are. Any ranking is subjective, but as of January 2009 this is what I think best represents as a snapshot of the Indians organization of players from #100 to #1. Almost all of the information in these scouting reports comes from my notes in conversations I have had with various Indians personnel/players, coaches, scouts, and other non-Indians personnel over the course of the last eight months. I have also supplemented where necessary with information I obtained over the year from comments Farm Director Ross Atkins made via radio or print, as well some information from other media outlets. Also, special thanks to the Cleveland Indians staff, coaches, players and anyone else I have talked to over the past year. It is hard to give the fans a true representation of the Indians organization from the front office all the way down to the coaches and players, but it is first class all the way. Everyone I have ever spoken to has been very helpful and more than gracious. Thanks to affiliate media relations director's Craig Deas (Lake County), Chris Hemeyer (Kinston), Marc Means (Mahoning Valley), Rob Sinclair (Akron), and Brad Bisbing (Buffalo) for all their help and support last season. I also want to give a special thanks to Darren Lewis, Chris Mohan, Norman Banks and Art Gold for their help on this endeavor. All are loyal fans of the farm system and follow it with passion and I sought them out for their help with opinions on the rankings. I wanted to work together with a few people to be sure I got most of the varying viewpoints covered and was not just putting out "my" list. We all tend to undervalue or overvalue certain players too much, so the groupthink helped eliminate most of this. I also have to give a big thanks to http://www.theclevelandfan.com/ site owner Rich Swerbinsky for his continued support. Most importantly, a big thank you to my wife and kids for putting up with me during what has been an ongoing project really since last March! And, a very special thank you to the super duper Ken Carr for providing almost all of the outstanding pictures you will see in the listing. Ken supplied over 80 pictures, and has been a big help all year anytime I needed assistance with a picture. Thanks to Carl Kline for providing some pictures for the listing, particularly for the players in Kinston. For those interested, my prospect book should be available next week. As a thank you for those of you who buy the book, they can get a sneak peak at the entire listing several weeks before it posts on this site. Also, as a bonus, 25-30 additional scouting reports for some players in the Dominican Summer League, recent draft and international signings, and more will be included only in the book at this time. These are much smaller writeups left on the cutting room floor that I did not want to go to waste! Anyone who has not contacted me who is interested in the book, please e-mail me at email@example.com . Note: The following players who were in last year's listing are no longer eligible because of the rookie innings pitched or at bat threshold in the major leagues or as otherwise noted in parentheses: Jensen Lewis, Ben Francisco, Aaron Laffey, Eddie Mujica, Ryan Mulhern (trade), Sean Smith (trade), Luis Perdomo (trade), Jeff Stevens (trade), Ryan Goleski (released), Brad Snyder (waivers), Reid Santos (waivers), Brian Slocum (waivers), J.D. Martin (free agency), and Matt Whitney (free agency). 100. Brian Juhl - CatcherBorn: 09/22/1985 - Height: 6'0" - Weight: 205 - Bats: Right - Throws: Right
History: Thompson was an 8th round pick in the 2007 Draft out of Lewis-Clark State (ID). He was a teammate of Indians 2007 1st round pick first baseman Beau Mills. Strengths & Opportunities: Thompson has a below average bat and very little power, but has shown the ability to work counts. He is a tick above average as a runner, and gets good jumps on the basepaths. Many people may wonder why given his offensive struggles he continues to be in the everyday lineup and is given a much longer leash than most other prospects would be given to perform. The reason for that is simply due to the fact that he is such an incredible defensive middle infielder. Thompson is without a doubt the best fielding middle infielder in the entire Indians farm system. At only 5'9" and 165 pounds, he has little to hang his hat on, but his hallmark will always be his exceptional defense in the middle of the infield. There have been several comparisons made between him and John McDonald, and they are definitely there with the run through a wall play style, extraordinary defense, strong arm, and very questionable bat. While his overall numbers on offense were poor last year, his at bats consistently showed improvement over the course of the last month of the season where he was making solid contact and was doing a very good job working counts. For him to be a regular he has to continue to excel in the field and he has to start learning how to make adjustments at the plate and hit a lot more than he is now. He is a solid runner. Outlook: Thompson probably projects as no more than a utility infielder in the majors or upper levels of the minors and should open the 2009 season in the middle infield at advanced Single-A Kinston. 97. Adam Davis - Catcher/Infielder Born: 10/15/1984 - Height: 5'9" - Weight: 190 - Bats: Switch - Throws: Right
History: Davis is a switch-hitter taken in the 3rd round of the 2006 Draft out of The University of Florida. Strengths & Opportunities: Davis is a scrappy player with very good speed and works counts well by taking walks. He sprays the balls to all fields and has some pop in his bat, but has really struggled in his three years as a professional to get untracked offensively and strikes out a lot. He has good instincts in the field, is quick to the ball, and showcases a strong arm. While he primarily has played second base, his strong throwing arm allows him to play shortstop or even third base with not much of a problem and was a big reason the Indians had him move to catcher last season. In an effort to jumpstart Davis' career and make him more versatile, the Indians had him change positions in-season last year to catcher because they felt he had some innate abilities to catch. Around the middle of May the Indians sent him out to their spring training complex in Winter Haven and put him on a two week crash course to learn how to catch and then brought him back to advanced Single-A Kinston and later Single-A Lake County to exclusively work on his transition to the catching position. Considering he had never caught before in his life it was a major undertaking for him, but he handled it well. In the half season he caught, he showed a strong arm and moved well behind the plate. His quickness, footwork, arm action, and times to second base were all very promising. Catching coordinator Tim Laker worked with him a lot over the course of the rest of the season, particularly with blocking and not trying to pick everything. Outlook: Down the road Davis' size and athleticism will probably limit him to being a utility player, and the move to catcher greatly increases his value to the organization as he can play almost anywhere on the diamond as he has now played catcher, third base, second base, shortstop, and outfield in his short minor league career. Davis likely will start the 2009 season at advanced Single-A Kinston. 96. Adam White - Outfielder Born: 04/21/1985 - Height: 5'10" - Weight: 195 - Bats: Switch - Throws: Right
All photos courtesy of Ken Carr