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 #35-31 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 (LHP)49. Chen-Chang Lee (RHP)48. Matt Brown (OF)47. Ryan Edell (LHP)46. Neil Wagner (RHP)45. Danny Salazar (RHP)44. Jared Goedert (2B/3B)43. Josh Judy (RHP)42. Jeremie Tice (3B)41. Joey Mahalic (RHP)40. Erik Stiller (RHP)39. Ryan Morris (LHP)38. Mike Pontius (RHP)37. Ryan Miller (LHP)36. Frank Herrmann (RHP)35. Bryce Stowell - Right-handed PitcherBorn: 09/23/1986 - Height: 6'2" - Weight: 205 - Bats: Right - Throws: Right
Strengths & Opportunities: Stowell throws a four-pitch mix of a fastball, sinker, circle changeup and slider. The fastball currently sits at 91-93 MPH and touches 95 MPH, and has the ability to add more velocity. His best secondary pitch is a slider that grades out as an out pitch at the next level. In summer ball Stowell experimented with a 12-6 curveball that he experienced mixed results with. The Indians love his arm, and were impressed with how much more aggressive he became out in the Cape Cod League once he was facing hitters using wood bats instead of aluminum. His velocity jumped up from 92-93 to 94-95, and his breaking ball improved.
Stowell signed late, so he did not pitch in the Indians system in 2008 nor did he participate in the Instructional League in the fall because he logged so many innings over the summer playing in the Cape Cod League. His performance in the Cape Cod League cemented the Indians desire to sign him and make him a Cleveland Indian. He is a fierce competitor with excellent leadership abilities, which combined with his stuff could be the right mentality for a bullpen role down the road. He needs to improve and be more consistent with his command as it is still lacking a little, but this is something the Indians believe can be worked out as he begins working with them next year.
Outlook: Stowell is part of an impressive haul of power-armed college and high school pitching prospects the Indians were able to draft and sign last year. Since Stowell did not pitch for a short-season league team last year, it is tough to gauge where the Indians may place him this upcoming season, but the best guess at this point is he opens the 2009 season at Single-A Lake County but will move quickly to advanced Single-A Kinston provided he stays healthy and performs well.34. Stephen Head - First Baseman/OutfielderBorn: 01/13/1984 - Height: 6'3" - Weight: 220 - Bats: Left - Throws: Left(due to a formatting issue, Head's stats are shown at the bottom of this page)History: Head was a 2nd round pick by the Indians in the 2005 Draft out of the University of Mississippi.
Strengths & Opportunities: Head has good gap power and the ball really jumps off of his bat, and may do so as good as any player in the organization. He has above average power, but he keeps the ball on a line and does not elevate a lot of balls. He had an overhaul to his swing mechanics in 2006 that he finally looks like he has become comfortable with, and in addition to that he has gotten better with his pitch selection each at bat. Initially, he was slow to adapt to the adjustments and at times was overly aggressive by trying to do too much too soon, but the new revamped approach to hitting is starting to pay off.
Head is an outstanding defensive first baseman, and is the best in the system at the position defensively where he profiles as a good major league defensive first baseman. The Indians recently moved him to right field in the middle of the 2007 season to create more versatility for him and take advantage of his athleticism, and while he has split time in the outfield and first base, he now projects as a good outfielder as well. His transition to the outfield has gone smooth mostly because he is a pretty good athlete and had some experience playing out there in high school. After some initial struggles, he has taken to the outfield well and now can play both first base and the outfield. He split time at both positions last year playing 56 games at first base and 42 games in the outfield. Considering that the Indians are loaded with first basemen and outfielders up and down the system the move provides a way to move him up if needed and increases his value to the Indians because of his power bat and versatility.
Head came into last season still recovering from offseason surgery to his right labrum. He got a late start in spring training and did not start hitting until the last two weeks of camp, so he was kept behind for a week in extended spring training to continue getting his shoulder ready for game action. He was eventually activated on the Double-A Akron roster a week into the season, but just five games after being activated he broke a bone in his right (non-throwing) wrist sliding into second base and missed about two weeks. When he returned to the lineup the first week of May he avoided missing any time the remainder of the season, but was still not 100% the rest of the way because he was still recovering from the shoulder surgery and playing through the wrist injury. His focus last season and this upcoming season is to be more aggressive at the plate putting balls in play better. Also, even though he has made huge strides as an outfielder playing out there now for a year and a half, he still needs more time learning to get better reads on balls particularly the ones off the end of the bat.
Outlook: Head loves to play defense, and it shows whether he is in the outfield or at first base. His pop in his bat and versatility as an above average defender at first base and the outfield almost saw him get picked up in the Rule 5 Draft this offseason. He is expected to continue splitting time at first base and the outfield in 2009 where he likely opens the season at Triple-A Columbus.33. Chuck Lofgren - Left-handed PitcherBorn: 01/29/1986 - Height: 6'3" - Weight: 205 - Bats: Left - Throws: Left
Strengths & Opportunities: Lofgren was once considered one of the top left-handed pitching prospects in all the minors, but his performance the last two years no longer puts him in that class. He is a physical starting pitcher who has a good four-pitch mix led by a fastball that sits at 90-93 MPH and has topped out as high as 95 MPH in the past. In addition to the fastball, he also throws a slow curveball that tops out at around 75 MPH and a changeup and slider which sit in the low 80s. He possesses one of the best swing-and-miss fastball statistics in the Indians system, which is heavily influenced by the deception in his delivery.
Several comparisons have been made of Lofgren to a young Al Leiter as his presence, stuff, power and approach are nearly identical. He is a competitor on the mound, and likes to attack hitters on the inside part of the plate with his fastball. He is very good at changing speeds and mixing his pitches. Because of the varying speeds and repertoire, it gives him many weapons to attack hitters and keeps them from zeroing in on one pitch, speed and location. Throughout his career with the Indians, they have been very impressed with his work ethic which is second to none and a direct result of his commitment to routine and being very mature for his age. He is a student of the game in that he understands and appreciates the history of the game, and he is very grounded ego-wise. His aptitude is off the charts.
The Indians placed him on the temporary inactive list and sent him to extended spring training in Winter Haven for almost all of June to "clear his head" as he was on an emotional roller-coaster all season dealing with some personal issues at home with a serious illness to a close family member. Upon returning from extended spring training, the Indians moved him to the bullpen and it seemed to fit him and allowed him to settle down some and help get his confidence back. While he has starting stuff where he has enough arm and enough pitches to attack hitters, he may benefit from a permanent move to the bullpen. He has always had the innate ability to attack hitters and be aggressive, which may be better suited as a reliever.
The big concern with Lofgren was he repeated Double-A and struggled a lot and saw a big dip in his performance, and then followed that up by going out to the Arizona Fall League (AFL) and was hit hard (0-3, 32.14 ERA, 10 games, 7.0 IP, 19 H, 18 BB, 6 K). Last season he was clearly not the same pitcher he was in 2006 at Kinston as he was wild and ineffective really from the outset of spring training and it was an uphill battle for him all season to throw strikes consistently and put up positive results for several outings in a row. There were some erroneous reports published on the web that his velocity had decreased considerably in the AFL, which is not true as he was still around 88-92 MPH with his fastball which is right about where he has always been with it.
There is no questioning his desire and work ethic as he was out to the field early everyday to work with Akron pitching coach Tony Arnold on his mechanics and practice out of the stretch to try and get his delivery down. To counteract the command issues, the Indians worked extensively with him on new grips with his fastball, his release point, and slowing down his mechanics a little bit to no avail. His inconsistent release point hurt his command and led to a lot of walks and also him leaving many pitches up in the zone that opposing hitters hammered. He needs to get out more with his front arm and follow through a little bit better by bringing his back leg around and really firing it and following through. He still needs some refinement with his delivery, and he needs to work on being more efficient with his pitches since his pitch counts get high by the middle innings of games. Also, while he has sharpened his curveball up he still needs more work with his command and mechanics to make it a more reliable pitch in his arsenal, and his changeup still needs more work.
Outlook: Lofgren is still only 23-years old and has a lot of room for growth; however, he has been on a slow slide and has shown little improvement the last two seasons at Akron. Even with the down season last year, the Indians are still very much behind Lofgren and believe he has the potential to be a pitcher at the big league level. The general thought among scouts is the talent is still there and that the issues are mechanical. With some delivery work, the old Lofgren should re-appear. The ups and downs he dealt with last year on the mound as well as off the field are hopefully in his past, and the Indians will look to build him back up this year and get him back on track. It is not known if that means he is destined for a shift to the bullpen or if he will remain in the starting rotation, but in any case he should return to Double-A Akron to start the season and could see a late season promotion to Triple-A Columbus if he turns the corner and is back to his old productive self.32. Trey Haley - Right-handed PitcherBorn: 06/21/1990 - Height: 6'4" - Weight: 190 - Bats: Right - Throws: Right
Strengths & Opportunities: It is hard not to like what you see from Haley from a tools and physical standpoint. The Indians love his projectable frame, arm strength, athleticism, good delivery and two outstanding pitches. His fastball has good movement and sits around 91-94 MPH and already tops out at 95 MPH, and due to his youth he has the arm and body (6'4" 190-pounds) to grow and add more velocity down the road. While the plus fastball is his best pitch, Haley also throws a curveball (77-81 MPH) and deceptive changeup (83-84 MPH) with the curveball rating as a plus pitch and the changeup an average pitch at the moment. He is still learning to get a feel for a changeup since he never really needed it in high school, and the curveball has good depth and could be a weapon for him as he grows into a pitcher in the coming years. He is very competitive, intelligent, and he has good poise on the mound.
Haley is young, so he needs to learn to become a pitcher rather than a thrower. He also needs to learn to develop a routine and become much more sound with his mechanics since he has a tendency to overthrow. One of his bigger issues has been maintaining his velocity and being consistent with his fastball. He is very raw on the mound, and will be a project for the Indians the next two years tinkering with his mechanics and delivery so he can become much more consistent with his fastball velocity and command. There is no telling what Haley can become once he learns how to work in and out and spot up the curveball. Right now the Indians just want him to work on the command of his fastball, curveball, and changeup, and if he is able to develop those pitches, they may work in a slider later.
Outlook: Haley is an intriguing young talent, and because of his age and being so raw on the mound, the opportunity to miss on him is far greater than a player with the same stuff in their early 20s who is a little more established. His intelligence and poise will be put to the test his first two full seasons in the organization with all the ups and downs he is going to encounter on the mound in addition to all the instruction he will get. He is really a wildcard for the Indians from the 2008 Draft as while he has a lot of talent, he is so raw on the mound there is no telling where his career will go. Knowing this, the Indians really took a gamble with him as a second round pick and was one of the more questionable picks the Indians made on draft day but could ultimately pay big dividends for them. Haley will open the 2009 season in extended spring training out in Arizona, and will likely pitch for one of the short-season teams when they start up play in June.31. Rob Bryson - Right-handed PitcherBorn: 12/11/1987 - Height: 6'1" - Weight: 200 - Bats: Right - Throws: Right
Strengths & Opportunities: Bryson throws two plus-pitches, a fastball that sits around 92-94 MPH and tops out as high as 96 MPH, and a wicked slider. He is young and is still working on refining his fastball command, but he strikes people out at a very high rate (career 11.9 K/9). His fastball is a very effective pitch because of his very strong mechanics and his ability to get good drive toward the plate with his big, thick build and use his lower half well. While his slider is already rated a plus pitch with the potential to be a plus-plus offering, he needs some work with it and to become more consistent with it. His changeup is a below average to average pitch and is a work in progress.
Some of his problems in 2008 stemmed from some changes to his mechanics that were handed down by the Brewers which he had a hard time adjusting to and getting comfortable with. As a result, his command suffered. Upon joining the Indians they did not make any immediate changes to his mechanics so they could evaluate him first. They put him in a priority bullpen role, which essentially meant he would throw every three days anywhere up to two to three innings an outing so he would see an entire lineup. The idea of such a role was to stretch him out, get him to use his other pitches, help develop his changeup, and to ensure he faced both left-handed and right-handed hitters.
Bryson was sidelined in late July with a shoulder injury that pretty much ended his season. Tests revealed he only had a partial tear of his labrum and rotator cuff. He did come back to pitch in the final week of the season, but in the offseason had surgery on the labrum to correct the issue. The surgery went well, and he should start pitching in sim games by April and could return to game action maybe sometime in June. At this point the prognosis is that he should make a full recovery and the shoulder should be as strong as ever once he is finished with his rehab.
Outlook: The Indians are very excited to have Bryson's youth, power, and athleticism in the system. He is a high ceiling pitcher who shows excellent composure pitching under pressure, and with his outstanding fastball-slider mix it projects him as a serious prospect in the backend of the bullpen, possibly a closer. Pitching out of the bullpen and in a late inning role is something that Bryson welcomes and actually prefers. His bulldog mentality and good makeup on the mound to go along with his repertoire certainly point to a future in the big leagues in such a role. That said, they will be very cautious with him this year and take it very slow in ramping him back up into game action. Bryson is all but certain to open the year in extended spring training out in Arizona, and likely will be held out of game action until short-season leagues start in June where he should begin a rehab assignment in the Arizona League.
All photos courtesy of Ken Carr except for Stowell picture courtesy of UC-Irvine Athletic Department
Up Next: #30-26Stephen Head's stats: