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 firstname.lastname@example.org and I will verify the order and provide my full mailing address for you so send payment. We continue today with #50-46 in the Indians Top 100 Prospect Countdown. 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 (RHP) 59. Chris Nash (1B) 58. Carlton Smith (RHP) 57. Lucas Montero (OF) 56. Steven Wright (RHP) 55. Michael Aubrey (1B) 54. Delvi Cid (OF) 53. Clayton Cook (RHP) 52. T.J. McFarland (LHP) 51. Wyatt Toregas (C) 50. Chris Jones - Left-handed PitcherBorn: 09/19/1988 - Height: 6'2" - Weight: 165 - Bats: Left - Throws: Left
Strengths & Opportunities: Jones is a slender left-handed pitcher whose fastball sits around 90-91 MPH with good arm side tail. While he relies on a steady diet of fastballs and changeups, his out pitch is clearly his curveball which projects as a plus pitch. When he needs to make a big pitch, he relies on his curveball. His changeup projects as an average pitch with good sink and fade.
Jones was pegged for the Single-A Lake County rotation to start the 2008 season, but an arm injury held him back in spring training and resulted in him rehabbing it the rest of the year and instead getting in some action in the Gulf Coast League. By the end of the season all pitch restrictions were lifted and he was up to a normal pitch count. He has made a lot of improvements in the year-plus he has been in the organization, and he is still trying to acclimate to professional baseball. He is now learning that it is more than just showing up on the day you pitch and that there is work that goes in between those five days. The Indians did some work with his windup as his hands were real jerky through it, so to alleviate the problem they changed it to a much smoother windup over his head. As a young pitcher barely a year out of high school, he is going through the growth process in the lower levels of the minor leagues with developing as a pitcher while at the same time developing physically. In the last year he has gained a lot of weight and is in the best shape of his career.
Outlook: Jones finished the 2008 season strong and looks poised to crack the Lake County rotation this coming season provided he is healthy.
49. Chen-Chang Lee - Right-handed PitcherBorn: 10/21/1986 - Height: 5'11" - Weight: 176 - Bats: Right - Throws: Right
* These stats are a combination of his outings throughout 2008 in the Olympics, Spring League Tourney, Honkball Haarlem Tourney, and FISU World University Baseball Championships
History: Lee was signed as an international free agent on 09/16/2008 for a reported $400,000. Lee was one of the top amateur college prospects from Taiwan, and was just one of three amateurs on the Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) team that competed in Beijing, China during the 2008 Olympics. In a start against the Cuban National Team he went an impressive 6.2 innings and allowed just three hits, one run, two walks and struck out seven. His other appearance was against Team USA where he went 2.1 innings and allowed three hits, one run, no walks, and had four strikeouts.
Strengths & Opportunities: Lee throws from a sidearm slot and has a four pitch mix of a fastball, sinker, slider and split finger. His fastball velocity as a starter sat around 90-92 MPH and topped out as high as 94 MPH. His future is in the bullpen, and he made the transition to the bullpen right away when he reported to the Fall Instructional League back in September. With a move to the bullpen his average fastball velocity is expected to tick up a MPH or two. He gets good movement on all his pitches and has shown a good ability to command the strike zone. He is a very experienced pitcher who has achieved success at every stop imaginable on the international circuit. The Indians have been scouting him since he was 16-years old and they believe he has a lot of upside. Had he been in the 2008 Draft, the Indians said he would have been a fourth or fifth round pick.
In addition to the Olympics, Lee attended Taipei Physical Education College and pitched for the Taiwanese National team in the 2006 and 2008 World University Baseball Championships. At just 19 years of age at the World University Baseball Championships in 2006 he beat the Cuban National Team by throwing 8.1 spectacular innings and allowed only one run on two hits and had six strikeouts. He also has some other experience pitching internationally as he also pitched in the Asian Games and Intercontinental Cup for Taiwan in 2006, and in the summer of 2007 he pitched in the United States for the Anchorage Bucs of the Alaskan Baseball League going 4-0 with a 2.62 ERA in seven starts (44.2 IP, 37 H, 13 ER, 27 K).
Outlook: The Indians are taking another stab at a pitcher from Taiwan after signing Sung-Wei Tseng in 2006. Tseng to date has not worked out, but Lee may have more promise. He will likely open the season next year in the advanced Single-A Kinston bullpen and is expected to move through the system quickly given his experience and advanced pitching approach.
48. Matt Brown - OutfielderBorn: 02/21/1985 - Height: 6'1" - Weight: 183 - Bats: Left - Throws: Right
Strengths & Opportunities: Brown is an intriguing outfielder who offers a great package of overall tools with good bat speed, raw power, plus arm strength, and average speed. He makes consistent contact, swings hard, and is very aggressive in the outfield. He could develop into a prototype right fielder if his bat starts to show more thunder down the road as he already is very good defensively and has a gifted arm. He was an outstanding pitcher in high school and threw 92 MPH, and that arm strength has translated well to the outfield. He has excellent makeup, and his focus is a rarity for a player at this stage of their development cycle. Because of this, he has a head start over most of the players his age or at his level because of the routine he has developed. He is mentally prepared for the ups and downs of the game as well as with what he needs to do to improve as a player.
Coming out of college Brown's biggest challenge was developing better plate discipline and he did an excellent job last season of implementing a new plan and preparation routine with his at bats that the Indians worked with him on during the 2007 offseason and in spring training. His revised plan is more just him simplifying his approach, looking for a good pitch to hit, looking to hit the ball in the middle of the field, and staying within the strike zone with his swing. His new plan was the catalyst to his very good season and the adjustments he made helped his approach and overall plate discipline as he only struck out once every seven at bats whereas in 2007 he was striking out about once every five at bats. Also, his long, maximum-effort swing was shortened which has helped him create a more consistent bat path to square up the ball and make good contact more often. He is an all-out player which is good in the field, but can take a toll on his body and at the plate some times. He hurt his left wrist diving for a ball in the outfield near the middle of the season, so missed a few weeks. He is that type of fiery player where the Indians will continue to work on getting him to learn to pull it back a little and stay on more of an even keel throughout the game.
Outlook: Brown had a very good season last year, and was one of the few players in Single-A Lake County to do so. He was close to the league average as far as age goes, so it will be interesting to see how he handles the more advanced pitching in the Carolina League next year. He will open the 2009 season in the advanced Single-A Kinston outfield.
47. Ryan Edell - Left-handed PitcherBorn: 07/06/1983 - Height: 6'1" - Weight: 195 - Bats: Left - Throws: Left
Strengths & Opportunities: Edell has a three pitch mix of a fastball, slider and changeup. His fastball only sits around 90-91 MPH, but his command of it has been outstanding and he has shown good control and the ability to spot it to get ahead of hitters. His bread and butter pitch used to be a devastating curveball which was rated the best in the 2005 Draft and considered a major league out pitch, but he lost the feel for it upon coming into the Indians organization and stopped throwing it and started throwing a slider instead. This past season did some work to try and add his curveball back into his pitching mix with mixed results. He does not have dominating stuff and is more a grinder in the rotation where he gets the job done without doing anything flashy. He is quiet and soft spoken, and is very much the definition of what a low-key player is all about.
Edell has a very low effort and professional delivery that he repeats well, and drives his fastball into the zone and in on the hands of the batter with ease. He shows very good composure when pitching in tight spots. He is versatile enough where he could remain a starter or move to the bullpen depending on where the Indians need him as his slider can attack lefties and his changeup is good enough to be effective against righties. While he has done a good job as a starter, he probably best profiles as a major league left-handed reliever. He has had limited experience pitching out of the bullpen, with the 2007 season being the first time he had pitched out of the bullpen in his professional career although he had some prior experience in the bullpen pitching in the Alaska Summer League when he came out of college. He is still working on his secondary pitches to get more consistent with them and throw them for strikes, and has gotten a lot better with repeating his delivery. His biggest problem is he gets in trouble at times where he elevates his pitches and they hang over the plate, so he needs to continue working on his mechanics to keep the ball down in the bottom half of the zone.
Outlook: Due to the starting pitching depth in the upper levels of the system, Edell looks to be in line for a move to the bullpen or a swing role in 2009. In any case, he should open the season with Triple-A Columbus.
46. Neil Wagner - Right-handed PitcherBorn: 01/01/1984 - Height: 6'0" - Weight: 195 - Bats: Right - Throws: Right
Strengths & Opportunities: Outside of Adam Miller, Wagner arguably has the most explosive fastball in the system that sits at 93-95 MPH and touches 98 MPH. He shows good control (career 2.6 BB/9 rate) and the ability to put hitters away with his dominating fastball (career 10.9 K/9). Wagner closed in college, so he has the experience handling late inning pressure situations and is mentally tough. His late season progress was a byproduct of him sticking to his plan as well as some tinkering with his delivery where he lowered his arm slot a little bit and started throwing exclusively from the stretch which improved his velocity and allowed him to be more consistent with his release point.
While Wagner controls his fastball well and can blow it by hitters, the key to him becoming a bona fide relief prospect will be the development of at least one secondary pitch which he has struggled with at times. He throws a slider and changeup, and is working on throwing them both for strikes to better set up his fastball and keep hitters off balance. The results with the slider have been mixed to date, but the changeup showed some consistent improvement over the course of last season and by the end of the season it was a reliable pitch for him where he was throwing it for strikes and able to use it in any count. It is more of a split-changeup because it has the drop of a splitter although is not a true splitter.
Outlook: If Wagner were a few years younger, he might rank a little higher on this list; however, now that he is 25 years old he is close to his ceiling as a pitcher. He just needs an opportunity to prove himself at Double-A and Triple-A, and will get that chance this year as he will open the season in the bullpen at Double-A Akron.
All photos courtesy of Ken Carr except Chen-Chang Lee is courtesy of TaiwanBaseball.com
Up Next: #45-41