We continue today with #60-56 in the Indians Top 100 Prospect Countdown. As a reminder, my 2009 Cleveland Indians Top 100 Prospects & More book is now available. Click on the hyperlink for all the details, and to order it just go to my website and click on the form to the top right to complete the order with a check or credit card. If you wish to send a check or money order by US Mail, please contact me at email@example.com and I will verify the order and provide my full mailing address for you so send payment. Here are the earlier rankings:
100. Brian Juhl (C) 99. Brad Hinkle (RHP) 98. Mark Thompson (SS) 97. Adam Davis (C/INF) 96. Adam White (OF) 95. Jerad Head (INF/OF) 94. Brock Simpson (1B/OF) 93. Ryan Blair (OF) 92. Dustin Realini (INF/OF) 91. Shawn Nottingham (LHP) 90. Cirilo Cumberbatch (OF) 89. Michael McGuire (RHP) 88. Sung-Wei Tseng (RHP) 87. David Roberts (RHP) 86. Jason Smit (INF) 85. Marty Popham (RHP) 84. Jose Constanza (OF) 83. Adam Abraham (INF) 82. Isaias Velasquez (2INF) 81. Gary Campfield (RHP) 80. Heath Taylor (LHP) 79. Rich Rundles (LHP) 78. Dallas Cawiezell (RHP) 77. Robbie Alcombrack (C) 76. Carlos Moncrief (RHP) 75. Nate Recknagel (C/1B) 74. Karexon Sanchez (INF) 73. Roman Pena (OF) 72. Kyle Landis (RHP) 71. John Drennen (OF) 70. Todd Martin (1B) 69. Santo Frias (RHP) 68. Michael Finocchi (RHP) 67. Kevin Rucker (OF) 66. Matt Meyer (LHP) 65. Bo Greenwell (OF) 64. Paolo Espino (RHP) 63. Jonathan Holt (RHP) 62. Vinnie Pestano (RHP) 61. Kevin Dixon (RHP) 60. Randy Newsom - Right-handed PitcherBorn: 05/06/1982 - Height: 6'2" - Weight: 200 - Bats: Right - Throws: Right(due to a formatting issue, Newsom's stats are at the bottom of this page)History: The Indians received Newsom in July of 2006 as the player to be named later in the Coco Crisp trade from earlier that year in January. Newsom originally signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Tufts University (MA) with the Boston Red Sox in June of 2004. He turned out to be an important acquisition in 2006 for the Indians, as he was the Mills Cup Finals MVP that year for Kinston in the Carolina League Championship Series.
Strengths & Opportunities: Newsom is a side-arm/submarine-style pitcher who is a command-control guy. He does not have a blazing fastball, wipeout slider, or a knee-buckling curveball, but he is extremely intelligent, has moxie, commands his pitches well, goes right after hitters, and his makeup is off the charts. He does not throw very hard as his fastball sits in the 82-85 MPH range, but this is more by design as he can actually throw harder but the lower velocity allows him to sink the ball more and keep it from flattening out. He complements his fastball with a changeup, slider, and a four-seam fastball. He has a lot of confidence in his changeup, and his slider is coming around. He is a very hard worker, a very likable guy, and is a great teammate.
Newsom's pitches get so much sink and work in on right-handers hands that opposing hitters pound the ball into the ground (4.11 G/F ratio in 2006, 3.05 in 2007, and 3.34 in 2008). He also has not been hurt by the home run ball, giving up only nine in 263 career innings pitched. He has mostly been used in a late inning role the last two years at Double-A Akron and handled the late innings well, serving mostly as the closer where he now is the franchise leader in career saves with 47 after shattering the record of 24 formerly held by Mike Soper. The Indians feel he has been very effective against right-handed hitters, but the biggest test for him will be consistently getting left-handed hitters out. There are not many right-handed specialists in the big leagues, and with one in Joe Smith already on the Indians major league roster it will make it hard for Newsom to get a chance with the Indians. He also needs to be more consistent and show he can continue to pitch in pressure situations. His slider still needs work and he has to become more confident in using it.
Outlook: Newsom knows his submarine style is his ticket to the big leagues and he is now a legit relief pitching prospect in the Indians organization. If you love pitchers who work quick, pitch to contact and get a lot of groundball outs, then you'll love Newsom. He should open the 2009 season in the Triple-A Columbus bullpen and could make his big league debut sometime in 2009.
59. Chris Nash - First BasemanBorn: 02/22/1987 - Height: 6'4" - Weight: 230 - Bats: Right - Throws: Right
Strengths & Opportunities: Nash is a huge first baseman who is still maturing and filling out. His big frame, strength, and size at 6'5" 230 at 22 years of age make him very projectable as a power hitter. The power is there and may be on the verge of emerging once he matures and becomes more accustomed to the feel of wood bats and can maintain good health. He is a very intelligent player who handles himself really well and is a hard worker. He was actually recruited in high school by Division-1 colleges as a tight end. Even with his enormous size, he is very athletic and moves very well around the bag at first base. He has made a lot of progress defensively since coming into the organization and has become a solid defender at the position.
Nash was unable to build off of a great year in 2007 both in performance and development. Since signing in 2006, there are some durability concerns since he was hurt when he signed and did not play in 2006 and while he went through the 2007 season unscathed he had a lat-shoulder problem which caused him to miss significant time during the 2008 season and affected his play. His problems started right away in spring training where he was sidelined for several days with a sore shoulder from a new throwing motion from sidearm to over-the-top the Indians implemented. Apparently the Indians felt the throwing motion correction was necessary because of the problems Nash had with his sidearm throwing angle where his ball was tailing a little bit when he was throwing to second base. He struggled with the change and ended up straining a lat muscle, and the injury ended up lingering all season and spread into other muscles in the shoulder area deep in his rotator cuff to his triceps area. He missed almost two months because of the complications.
The Indians believe he can be a power hitter, but they will let it come naturally and not force him into being one. One problem he has is that he has a problem getting good leverage with his legs or using his lower half really correctly. He worked last season on widening his base to try and get a little more leverage with his front foot. Once he learns how to use his lower half and get better leverage with his front side and not come off the ball, a power explosion could result. He is also still working on staying on breaking balls and using the whole field since he still likes to pull the ball. There is no doubt Nash is a very good fastball hitter, but until he can show the ability to either hit the curveball or lay off pitches low and away he will continue to rack up the strikeouts. The good thing is Nash has a great attitude and understands what he has to do.
Outlook: Coming into last season, Nash was one of the Indians best young hitting prospects because of his size and raw abilities at the plate. While he still is very much a prospect to watch, the disappointing season he had because of an annoying shoulder injury caused him to tumble some in this year's prospect ranking. After a disappointing year, Nash will look to put things back together and should get that chance where he likely opens the 2009 season at Single-A Lake County or advanced Single-A Kinston.
58. Carlton Smith - Right-handed PitcherBorn: 01/23/1986 - Height: 6'2" - Weight: 205 - Bats: Left - Throws: Right
Strengths & Opportunities: Smith pounds the zone and pitches to contact with his sinking fastball which hovers around 91-93 MPH and has topped out as high as 95 MPH. He complements the fastball with an above average slider, split-finger, and is still working on developing a changeup. He is quiet by nature and keeps to himself, and has an excellent work ethic that was instilled in him by his brother and father. Last year he showed signs of improvement with repeating his delivery, commanding the fastball, and throwing his secondary stuff consistently for strikes. He has gotten better mixing the speeds and eye level of his secondary stuff, which has set up his sinker well down in the zone.
Outlook: Smith will move up the minor league ladder in 2009 where he should be in the starting rotation at Double-A Akron.
57. Lucas Montero - OutfielderBorn: 10/18/1984 - Height: 5'11" - Weight: 180 - Bats: Switch - Throws: Right
Strengths & Opportunities: After a disappointing season in 2007 where he only played in 37 combined games at Single-A Lake County and Mahoning Valley because of various injuries, Montero bounced back last year with a very good season. He is very athletic, but is very raw still as a baseball player since he did not start playing baseball until he was 15-years old. He is a versatile outfielder who can play all three outfield positions, and has a nice speed/power combo at the plate and on the bases. He is really strong for his size, and has a lot of pop off his bat and can drive the ball. He has an aggressive approach at the plate, and is at his best once he gets on base where his plus speed is a nuisance to pitchers where his skills and tools as a runner shine.
Montero needs to do a little better job of slowing things down at the plate so he can work on getting on-base more consistently. He also has a tendency to lose control of his swing and swing wildly at balls out of the zone. The Indians would also like to see him improve his defense as his speed covers up a lot of mistakes, but he has to become better at his route running to balls and getting better jumps. He made some good strides in this area late last season, and he also began to show a much stronger throwing arm than in previous seasons.
Outlook: Montero projects as a fourth outfielder down the road, and would fit that role well with his awesome speed, versatility, pop in his bat, and his ability to switch hit. He should open the 2009 season as one of the starting outfielders at advanced Single-A Kinston, but given his age and some experience in Kinston last year has a decent shot of opening the season at Double-A Akron.
56. Steven Wright - Right-handed PitcherBorn: 09/30/1984 - Height: 6'2" - Weight: 210 - Bats: Right - Throws: Right
Strengths & Opportunities: Wright throws a fastball that consistently clocks in at 89-91 MPH and has topped out at 93 MPH. In addition to the fastball he also throws a curveball, slider and changeup, with the best pitch in his arsenal the slider that grades out as a plus pitch. He has always had confidence in his slider, but he is starting to gain a lot more confidence in his curveball and starting to believe he can throw it in any count. He also has very good makeup.
In the offseason and in spring training the Indians worked with Wright's delivery and made some minor adjustments that seemed to pay off over the course of last season. The biggest adjustment was his mental approach where they got him to focus less on his mechanics and more on just attacking hitters and getting his fastball located in the zone. His struggles have centered mostly on a lack of good fastball command and leaving it up in the zone, which can spell doom for any pitcher. To make matters worse, his secondary pitches at times have been flat and not been effective. He needs to work on not only commanding his fastball better, but also keeping it down and working it on the inside and outside half of the plate.
Outlook: There are some who believe Wright's future could be in the bullpen where - like a Jensen Lewis - his fastball velocity could play up. While there are no plans at the moment for a move to the bullpen, this is something that could very well happen at some point this season. He has experience in the role, and he would welcome the change. In the meantime, he should open the 2009 season in the starting rotation at Double-A Akron.
All photos courtesy of Ken Carr
Up Next: #55-51Randy Newsom stats: