For those interested, I will be making an appearance on SportsTime Ohio today to talk Tribe prospects on All Bets Are Off With Bruce Drennan. I should be on sometime in the 4-5pm hour. Also, 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 #25-21 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 (RHP) 34. Stephen Head (1B/OF) 33. Chuck Lofgren (LHP) 32. Trey Haley (RHP) 31. Rob Bryson (RHP) 30. Tim Fedroff (OF) 29. Matt McBride (C) 28. Eric Berger (LHP) 27. Alexander Perez (RHP) 26. Cord Phelps (2B) 25. Jeanmar Gomez - Right-handed PitcherBorn: 02/10/1988 - Height: 6'3" - Weight: 168 - Bats: Right - Throws: Right
Strengths & Opportunities: In his first four seasons in the Indians farm system Gomez has been very good showing considerable upside with his growth potential in size and stuff. He has a good feel for his three pitch mix of a fastball, slider and changeup. His fastball consistently clocks in at 89-91 MPH topping out at 93 MPH, and his velocity continues to increase each year with good potential for future strength gains because of his plus arm strength. His curveball has true 11-5 break, and shows good potential. His changeup is an average pitch with sink and fade, and he has good command of it. He has proven to be very durable as the Indians have never had to back him off any of his starts.
Gomez has shown a penchant for being a slow starter as in 2007 at Single-A Lake County in 13 starts before the All-Star break he went 5-6 with a 6.51 ERA and then in 14 starts after the break was 6-1 with a 3.27 ERA. He followed that up last season at advanced Single-A Kinston where in 14 starts before the All-Star break he was 2-6 with a 5.27 ERA and then after it in 13 starts he was 3-3 with a 3.82 ERA. He really finished the season strong in August going 2-1 with a 1.74 ERA in six starts, and his success stemmed from him being able to command his fastball to both sides of the plate and being able to consistently throw his secondary pitches for strikes which has allowed him to throw off-speed pitches in fastball counts. He also worked a lot in bullpen sessions with pitching coach Greg Hibbard to improve the velocity of his slider by improving his mechanics to ended up making it sharper with much better late break. Prior to the adjustments, he would fly open and expose his arm slot which caused problems in getting proper velocity on his pitches and in turn he ended up overthrowing a lot. Now that he is throwing with his arm more out front he is throwing much easier and getting much more life on all his pitches. Gomez also continues to improve in some of the mental aspects of pitching such as reading swings.
His command and control is still only average and it is something the Indians are working with him to improve and they feel he has the ability to have plus command/control in the future. He has been pushed in the system the last two years where he has been one of the youngest pitchers in the league both seasons, and shown an ability to hang in there and compete even though the numbers always are not very good. Being so young, inconsistency is one of the major growing pains for pitchers his age, and is something he will need to get a handle on going forward. The breaking ball is a big key with Gomez developing into a quality starting pitcher. Being an over-the-top guy his slider may be scrapped at some point since it does not work up at that arm slot and is very hittable, so he will need to find another vertical pitch like the overhand breaking ball or split-finger. If he develops a top to bottom vertical pitch to go with his fastball, it could vault his prospect standing significantly.
Outlook: Due to his youth and inexperience pitching at a higher level, Gomez has often spent a lot of time learning on the job. This coming season he will continue to work on improving his mechanics on the mound, repeating his delivery, and throwing strikes more consistently. He is the third amigo in the Latin Trifecta which also includes Kelvin De La Cruz and Hector Rondon, and he should move up to Double-A Akron in 2009 and be in the starting rotation. 24. Josh Rodriguez - Shortstop/Second BasemanBorn: 12/18/1984 - Height: 6'0" - Weight: 185 - Bats: Right - Throws: Right
Strengths & Opportunities: Rodriguez is a patient hitter with gap power who drives the ball well, has some thunder in his bat, and is a great athlete with a knack for hitting. He has great elements of a really good hitter and has done a really good job with his routine work and preparing himself. The raw power is there, even though it did not show in his numbers last season. The ball jumps off his bat, and he has the potential to be a middle of the diamond 20-20 (HR-SB) player in the major leagues eventually. He drives the ball out of the park to all fields, and actually most of his power comes to right and right-center. He is not big, but he has above average bat speed and is an extra base hit machine with the ability to stuff a stat sheet. The Indians have challenged him to get on-base more, and he did that in walking 77 times last season, although his batting average suffered and he struck out more.
Rodriguez has an excellent throwing arm, and is versatile enough to play anywhere in the infield and even some outfield. He has impressed scouts with his defensive abilities, showing good projection as a quality defensive infielder in the majors with plus arm strength and good lateral range to his left and right. While he is a very good shortstop, some feel he would become a better prospect at second base because of his dynamite bat, strong arm and range. The Indians like his play at shortstop, but to improve his versatility started to play him a lot more at second base where he practically split the season between shortstop (74 games) and second base (62 games) at Double-A Akron last season. By the conclusion of last season, he graded out as an above average defender at second base and at least an average defender at shortstop with power and the ability to steal a base. He is still learning the intricacies of playing second base and has some experience playing there before as he played a lot of second base his first two years at college before moving over to short his junior year, and the more he plays at second base the more natural he becomes. He has the ability to be an everyday major league shortstop or second baseman, and at a minimum the Indians know he has the athleticism and the bat to one day help a major league team as a super utility player.
Rodriguez has been a very streaky hitter in his three years in the Indians organization. Last season, after a solid first half showing where he hit .266 with 6 HR, 41 RBI and a .757 OPS in 94 games before the All Star break, he slipped considerably in 43 games after the break where he hit .183 with 1 HR, 8 RBI, and a .551 OPS. His swing is a work in progress, and the inconsistency with it has been a big reason for his up and down performance at the plate. He has made some adjustments at the plate to avoid being so pull conscious by shortening his swing and using the entire field, and he has loosened his hands and started working from the top of the ball down instead of from the bottom of the ball up. That said, he is still having some trouble finding the proper timing and amount of load in his swing so he can see a ball out of a pitcher's hand a little better. He is still learning, and he needs to continue to maintain his revamped approach of being shorter to the ball and getting on top of the ball. He still needs more work on recognizing pitches and being more efficient as a situational hitter. Also, if he ends up a utility player, he needs to be able to show the ability to handle third base in spot duty which is a position he has had some experience playing in the past.
Outlook: Whether he remains at shortstop or moves to second base, Rodriguez fills a position of great need in the Indians system. His subpar performance in 2008 was disappointing considering the Indians need for quality middle infielders, particularly in the upper levels of the system. Still, he profiles as a very good super utility option for the Indians to use perhaps sometime in 2010. It remains to be seen where he opens the season, but given some of the Indians acquisitions over the winter with Luis Valbuena who seems slotted to play second base at Triple-A Columbus to start the season along with a long list of veteran shortstops they have signed, it appears Rodriguez will open the 2009 season by returning to Double-A Akron as the everyday second baseman. He should still get considerable time at Triple-A Columbus. 23. Zach Putnam - Right-handed PitcherBorn: 07/03/1987 - Height: 6'2" - Weight: 225 - Bats: Right - Throws: Right
Strengths & Opportunities: Putnam throws five pitches for strikes, with his power fastball and devastating split finger both rated as plus pitches. His fastball consistently sits at 92-93 MPH and touches 96 MPH with good arm-side run and heavy sink to it. His second best pitch is his splitter which is nasty and already considered a major league out pitch, and was widely considered one of the top secondary pitches in college last year. He also throws a slider which is an effective third pitch that really came on last year and has become another go-to pitch in his arsenal and has the makings of a third plus pitch in his arsenal. His curveball sits in the low 70s and has some good depth to it with the potential to be an average pitch. His fifth pitch is a changeup, but in college was more of a show pitch just to give hitters a different look and is a well below-average major league pitch. The curveball or changeup may be scrapped in order to have him concentrate more on refining his other much stronger pitches.
Putnam is considered around scouting circles as the ultimate college player because of his awesome two-way ability as a power pitcher and potent bat. He played some third base in college and is an excellent hitter who projects professionally as an outfielder with an excellent arm for right field. As a hitter, he showcases raw power to all fields and very good bat speed. At 6'2" 225-pounds he has a big frame to go along with very strong legs and broad shoulders that give him an ideal body to be a workhorse in the starting rotation. Now that he will concentrate solely on pitching, his velocity may creep up a little which is not uncommon for multi-positional players who pitch. He is an aggressive, power pitcher who shows excellent composure in tight games and is a notorious big game player who has that knack of coming through in the clutch with a big hit or quality start against another team's ace.
Putnam has some mechanical issues with his delivery where he doesn't use his lower half well and drags his back leg, and as a result this has affected his command. Straightening up his delivery will be a primary focus early in his professional career. Putnam also needs to develop a better feel for both his slider and curveball. While he has an advanced feel for pitching, he may have peaked physically.
Outlook: Down the road, Putnam may profile more as a dominant late-inning reliever, but with his five-pitch arsenal the Indians will give him every opportunity to stick as a starter where he has top/middle of rotation potential. He is slated to start the 2009 season either at Single-A Lake County or at advanced Single-A Kinston, and because of his advanced pitching approach will likely open the 2009 season in the starting rotation at Kinston. 22. Josh Tomlin - Right-handed PitcherBorn: 10/19/1984 - Height: 6'1" - Weight: 195 - Bats: Right - Throws: Right
Strengths & Opportunities: Tomlin has had some great stats his first three years as a professional, but his questionable role, average tools, and so much depth in the system have often pushed him aside. Not anymore. He has a four pitch mix of a fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup. His fastball consistently clocks in at 89-91 MPH, and touched as high as 93 MPH last season. One of the more interesting developments with him last year was his increased fastball velocity where when he pitched out of the bullpen he was consistently popping in on the radar gun around 92-93 MPH. His slider sits at 83-84 MPH and he has made great strides where it has good depth and tilt and has become a strikeout pitch for him. His curveball and changeup are both average pitches, and the curveball sits around 75-78 MPH.
The Indians have been very impressed with Tomlin's work ethic and how quickly he has made adjustments, especially with the rapid improvement in the depth and command of his slider. It is a tribute to Tomlin's athleticism since he is a converted shortstop, but also mostly to due to his great makeup and upbeat attitude. There are always improvements to be made, and he has worked diligently with Kinston pitching coach Greg Hibbard on improving his slider command and velocity as well as staying taller to throw the ball more on a more downhill plane towards home plate. He also is still working on some improvements with his delivery and harnessing the control of his fastball a little more. He needs to get out in front of the ball, finish his pitches, and stay balanced by using his legs more.
Outlook: It is not certain if Tomlin will be a starter or pitch out of the bullpen in the future, but his versatility to pitch in any role has only enhanced his value and he is happy to pitch wherever the Indians need him. He will open the 2009 season at Double-A Akron in a yet to be determined role in the bullpen or starting rotation. 21. Trevor Crowe - OutfielderBorn: 11/17/1983 - Height: 6'0" - Weight: 190 - Bats: Switch - Throws: Right
Strengths & Opportunities: Crowe has the ability to hit for average with some pop, but his biggest strength is his very good plate discipline and pitch recognition skills. He has a very good approach at the plate, and is a student of the game that understands his skill set as a player. He has a very advanced bat, which allowed him to be moved quickly through the lower levels of the farm system. He has a contagious swagger, and is a very high energy and explosive player who has an engine that never stops. The Indians feel he will hit for more power in the future, and prior to nixing the second-base move in 2006 felt his best comp as a major leaguer was Brian Roberts of the Orioles. Even as an outfielder, Roberts is exactly the offensive player the Indians envision Crowe being if he reaches his ceiling. His approach makes him a potential leadoff or two-hole hitter for the Indians down the road.
Crowe has been a hot and cold player during his time with the Indians. In 2006, after a sensational Kinston campaign the first half of the season where he hit .330 with a .924 OPS in 60 games, he only hit .234 with a .643 in 39 games with Akron the second half of the season. In 2007 he hit .212 with a .566 OPS up until the start of July, and then from July 1st on hit .310 with an .838 OPS. In 2008 he hit .400 (42-for-105) with 10 doubles, 4 home runs and 24 RBI in 25 June games, but the rest of the time hit .259 with a mid-.700 OPS. Crowe has yet to put it together for a full season, although injuries have been most to blame. In 2005, he was hampered with a few nagging injuries, in 2006 he missed parts of the season on the disabled list for a strained oblique and ankle sprain, and in 2008 he missed 35 games the first two months of the season with a herniated disc in his back that had been bothering him since spring training and missed about two weeks in July again with an injury to a muscle in his rib cage area.
Defensively, Crowe grades out as an average center fielder with a fringe above average arm. While Crowe has good speed, he really does not have the quickness or range to play center field in the big leagues which will push him to left field. The Indians have moved him around the last two years among all three spots in the outfield in order to get him ready for a major league opportunity where he likely breaks in as a fourth outfielder. He is such a good athlete and hard worker, and has shown he can play all three outfield positions very well. Going forward, the focus will be on him becoming more defensively sound at the corner outfield positions, improve his base-running, and keep putting up quality at bats. The Indians still want to see him continue to shore up his approach from the right side of the plate, and he needs to show more consistency by not being such a streaky hitter.
Outlook: With the Indians trade of outfielder Franklin Gutierrez to the Mariners in the offseason, the door has been opened for Crowe to be a part of the big league team sometime during the 2009 season. Since he is already on the 40-man roster, Crowe will be the first outfielder the Indians call upon if a need arises, even before Michael Brantley or Matt LaPorta. He will open the season in the outfield at Triple-A Columbus, but an injury to any of the outfielders in Cleveland this spring could see him break camp with Cleveland.
Photos courtesy of Ken Carr
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