It's time for the annual Indians Top 50 Prospect Countdown here on TheClevelandFan.com and SportsTimeOhio.com. I'll be counting down in groups of five about once a week until the middle of spring training, and today we start off with #50-46. As a reminder, these scouting reports will be linked and listed for easy access on my site at http://www.indiansprospectinsider.com/. Also, I will be talking about the countdown, my upcoming 2010 Indians Top 100 Prospects & More book, and lots more on Sports Time Ohio's show "All Bets Are Off With Bruce Drennan" this Thursday January 28th from 4:30-5:30pm.
Without further ado, onto the countdown...
50. Donnie Webb - OutfielderBorn: 04/30/1986 - Height: 5'11" - Weight: 190 - Bats: Switch - Throws: Right
Strengths & Opportunities: Webb's very good speed combined with a solid two-strike approach and the ability to pound the ball into the gaps makes him an interesting leadoff prospect for the Indians. The Indians feel he has the potential with his speed to steal 40+ bases at the big league level. At 5'11" 190-pounds he is short and compact and is as hardnosed as they come. Rarely at the end of a game will you ever see his jersey clean and he is the consummate gamer. One of the more exciting aspects of his game is his ability to stuff a stat sheet. While he has no plus tool offensively, he showed an ability to pile up extra base hits, steal bases, and score a lot of runs, much the result of his aggressive, nonstop hustle where he is always looking to take an extra base whenever possible.
Webb got off to a slow start offensively last year hitting just .244 with a .650 OPS in April, but followed that up with a very good May (.306/.835). He struggled again in June (.247/.699) and July (.207/.574), but then got red hot in August (.420/1.048) and September (.367/.894). He was over aggressive early on in the season and trying to do too much, but after some extensive work and instruction in the cages he worked on leveling out his swing and top down on the ball more since his back shoulder was dropping the barrel head. Things started clicking from there, which resulted in his outstanding finish to the season.
On the defensive front, Webb has proven to be a very well rounded, versatile outfielder showing good range, quickness and instincts to track down balls. His biggest weakness is his fringy arm that is average at best though has above average accuracy. He mostly played center field in Lake County last year, though when Delvi Cid was called up in early June he mostly played left and right field the rest of the season. Considering his lack of power and size, he needs to be able to stick in center field to continue to be an everyday player as he moves up the minor league ladder.
The biggest concern at the moment with Webb is his high strikeout rate, which is something that could present problems for him as he moves up the minor league level and faces more advanced pitching everyday. He is an aggressive swinger so he doesn't draw a lot of walks nor make consistent contact. There is no doubt that when he connects he makes things happen and is exciting to watch run when the ball hits a gap or goes down the line, but going forward developing and improving his plate discipline is a must.
Outlook: While his numbers at Lake County were very good, you have to take into consideration he was old for the league at 23 years old so it is hard to get a good read on how impressive his performance really was. In any case, it was a very solid first full season for him in 2009 and something that should help give him some momentum for this upcoming season where he will be tested a lot more in the pitching dominated Carolina League. At this time he still only likely projects as a fourth outfielder at best in the big leagues because of his versatility and speed, but if he can build on his solid season last year and have an even better one this year he could find himself as a fringe everyday player. He is expected to open the season in the starting outfield for advanced Single-A Kinston.
Photo courtesy of Ken Carr
Donnie Webb MinorLeagueBaseball.com page
Donnie Webb Baseball-Reference page
Donnie Webb MinorLeagueSplits.com page
Donnie Webb Hitting:
49. Austin Adams - Right-handed PitcherBorn: 08/19/1986 - Height: 5'11" - Weight: 185 - Bats: Right - Throws: Right
Strengths & Opportunities: After being drafted as a shortstop in 2008, Adams returned to school and made the conversion to a pitcher and did some incredible stuff in the short time he was on the mound. His fastball consistently sat at 94-96 MPH and he touched 98 MPH, and also showed a plus power curveball and average changeup. While he started in college, the Indians immediately moved him to the bullpen as a professional because they believe his stuff and power will play up in such a role.
Adams has incredible arm strength but little experience pitching, so the Indians view him as a risk-reward guy. While he is still transitioning to being a full time pitcher, they feel that because of his athleticism he should be able to adapt quicker and better learn to repeat his delivery. He is still learning to pitch within himself as his stuff has a tendency to flatten out when he overthrows. Also, his velocity was down almost the entire season at short-season Single-A Mahoning Valley last year where he was pitching more at 90-93 MPH, a sign he was fatigued from his first exposure to pitching. At the tail end of the season and in Instructional League his velocity kicked back up to 97 MPH and he was dominant.
Outlook: Adams is a power pitcher that the Indians plan to develop as a reliever, and he profiles as a middle reliever in the big leagues. If the relief pitching gig doesn't work out, he could always move back to shortstop where he had surprising power and was originally drafted. He should open the 2010 season in the Single-A Lake County bullpen, but could move quickly to High-A Kinston.
Photo courtesy of Tony Lastoria
Austin Adams MinorLeagueBaseball.com page
Austin Adams Baseball-Reference page
Austin Adams MinorLeagueSplits.com page
Austin Adams Pitching:
48. John Drennen - OutfielderBorn: 08/26/1986 - Height: 5'11" - Weight: 195 - Bats: Left - Throws: Left
Strengths & Opportunities: Drennen has a compact build with good power and also creates a nice smooth bat path with his swing. As he has matured he has not developed the power some in the organization thought he would when they drafted him, so he is still more of a gap hitter with average power. He is an extremely hard, intelligent worker with a motor that does not stop, and is very aggressive at the plate, on the bases and in the field. He has good instincts as a runner, but only has slightly above average speed. He has also proven to be a very durable player, missing only a few weeks of action in 2006 with a thumb injury. He is a versatile defender where he can play any outfield position, but he is just an average defender at best with a fringy arm and limited range.
Coming off a 2008 season in Kinston where he was often overmatched at the plate and hit .235 with a .631 OPS it really looked like the light in his prospect star was in danger of going out. After he opened last season at Double-A Akron and proceeded to hit just .191 with 1 HR, 10 RBI and a .601 OPS in 21 games before being shipped out to Kinston in May it looked like that little bit of light left in that star had been extinguished. But something happened when he went to Kinston where things began to click. Some say that his demotion to Kinston was a reality check, while others think some of his recent adjustments at the plate from the past few seasons finally began to take hold. Through it all he remained upbeat and his commitment never wavered as he worked hard in the cages to make more consistent contact, maintain a consistent approach at the plate, and even his bat path. It really was as simple as staying within himself and getting a good pitch and hitting it. It all finally seemed to come together when he returned to Akron on June 1st, where upon his return he hit .296 (76-for-257) with 7 HR, 30 RBI and an .819 OPS in 72 games. He was simply electric in September where in 13 combined games in the regular season and playoffs he hit .377 with 6 HR and a 1.174 OPS.
One of the good things to see was at the end of last season Drennen showed a better load at the plate and as a result he started to show his power stroke again with the home runs and was pounding the gaps and lines like he did when he first broke into the system. If that line drive, gap-to-gap approach that the Indians loved when they drafted him has returned then he could still have some potential as a big league player. The question is whether his showing the final four months of last season was an aberration or if it will really stay, so his 2010 season should go a long way at providing some answers to that question.
Drennen still has a tendency to chase pitches, so needs more work when he steps in the box of being prepared and narrowing his zone down to get a better pitch to hit. Once he shows he is settled in and has seemed to grasp a better handle of the strike zone a larger focus will be placed on him attacking the zone more so some of those doubles start turning into a few more home runs again. He is still a bit showy at times at the plate, but did a good job of cutting down on this last year. He also did a better job last year of calming down at the plate and keeping his head down on the ball to drive it back through the middle of the field. He does a lot of damage on the inside part of the plate, but pitchers know this and often pitch him away which gives him trouble so he needs to become better with going with the pitch and taking the ball the other way if needed. He still struggles a lot with recognizing the changeup.
Outlook: One thing to remember is Drennen did not turn 23-years old until late August, so he was 22 years old for most of the 2009 season. This is something that is easily glossed over since he seems so much older because he has been with the Indians for so long as a high school draft signing, so he still has some time left in his prospect clock. He is still young with some upside, and sometimes with a high school player it takes a little bit longer to become what they were projected to become. His surge in the second half of last season at Akron is him making one final push as a prospect to prove he belongs and can still improve as a player and maybe someday realize that dream of being a big league ballplayer. While he had a solid comeback season last year, he probably does not project as a big league regular, but his versatility and athleticism could make him a solid fourth outfielder or platoon player down the road. He will likely return to Akron to start the 2010 season, and could find his way to Triple-A Columbus near the end of the season provided there is room there and he is playing well.
John Drennen MinorLeagueBaseball.com page
John Drennen Baseball-Reference page
John Drennen MinorLeagueSplits.com page
John Drennen Hitting
47. Bo Greenwell - OutfielderBorn: 10/15/1988 - Height: 6'0" - Weight: 185 - Bats: Left - Throws: Left
Strengths & Opportunities: Greenwell is a toolsy, high energy player with good strike zone discipline and good hands. He only projects to have average power, but he pounds the gaps, the ball jumps off his bat, and he uses the whole field well. He is very athletic, plays hard, and is a student of the game. His play has evoked comparisons to that of Johnny Damon, and the Indians think he can be an above-average base stealer with his 60 speed rating on the scouting scale. Other than a shoulder issue he suffered through in 2008, he has proven to be pretty durable.
The Indians have been very pleased with the adjustments Greenwell has made as a hitter, mostly with how he hits the ball with much more authority and is getting stronger. He is still learning how to use his body for leverage to put a little more juice on the ball, and once he learns how to do that his slugging numbers should improve. He has gotten a lot better at pulling the ball instead of focusing mainly on hitting the other way as a speed/contact guy. He still needs more work on keeping his body back and keeping his hands through the ball.
Greenwell played first base in high school but was moved to the outfield when he signed, so he is still very inexperienced as an outfielder. He still has a ways to go, but because of his above average speed and outstanding work ethic he has become a solid outfielder with plenty of room left for growth. As he settles in and becomes more comfortable in the outfield he is expected to stay play left and center field as he advances in the system. He has improved his route running, but still needs to get quicker jumps on balls off the bat, backing up other outfielders, and improving the accuracy of his throws.
Outlook: Greenwell is still very raw as a baseball player because he spent so much time working on football in high school, so when the Indians drafted him in 2007 it was the first time he was actually able to develop his baseball skills. As a result, he has spent most of his first three seasons in the organization working on adapting to the professional game, maturing, improving his skills and growing physically. He took a significant step in his growth as a player last year as his raw abilities started to translate and his potential showed. He is primed for a breakout campaign in 2010, one which should start by returning to Low-A Lake County.
Bo Greenwell MinorLeagueBaseball.com page
Bo Greenwell Baseball-Reference page
Bo Greenwell MinorLeagueSplits.com page
Bo Greenwell Hitting:
46. 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. 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 the way he uses his lower half well. While his slider is already rated a plus pitch with the potential to be a plus-plus offering, he needs to continue to develop it and become more consistent with it. He also throws a changeup, but it is a below average to average pitch. He is a high ceiling pitcher who shows excellent composure pitching under pressure. His bulldog mentality and good makeup on the mound to go along with his repertoire project him as a big league backend bullpen arm.
Bryson's rehab from shoulder surgery kept him on the shelf for most of the 2009 season. He spent the entire time out at the new Goodyear, AZ training facility rehabbing and taking part in a throwing program and was supposed to begin pitching in games in early July, but he was temporarily shut down because of a forearm injury that came about because he was compensating for his shoulder. He eventually returned to game action for the rookie level Arizona team in late July, and almost earned a reprieve from his long stay in Arizona in late August when he was set to be activated off his rehab assignment and sent to join up with High-A Kinston who happened to be on the road in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware. Unfortunately, he had a minor setback and the plans to send him to Kinston were nixed. He was still sort of feeling his way through things during his time in the Arizona League games, but by Instructional League in the fall he was close to 100% on the mound. During most of the time Bryson was rehabbing his shoulder from surgery he was only topping out at 88-89 MPH, but his arm strength slowly returned and by the end of Instructional League he was sitting in the low 90s and topping out at 94 MPH. He pitched in the new Arizona Parallel League and the rust showed as in 7.0 innings of work he allowed 10 hits, 5 runs, 6 walks, and had 9 strikeouts, but the important thing is he was on a mound and healthy as he no longer had any soreness in the shoulder.
Prior to his injury, Bryson had some command issues during the 2008 season largely the result of some changes the Brewers had made to his mechanics which he had a hard time adjusting to and getting comfortable with. It remains to be seen now that he is fully healthy if the Indians made any adjustments to his mechanics and if his command will return this year. Shoulder surgery is hard to fully recover from and for any pitcher to be what they were prior to the injury, so he has a tough road to hoe to prove not only his durability this coming season but his effectiveness as well. In the back of any pitcher's mind that recently had shoulder surgery is that they could injure themselves again, so a big thing for him will be getting past that and finding the confidence to pitch and not hold anything back. Also, now that his arm strength has returned the big thing for him will be to get the feel for his excellent slider back.
Outlook: Bryson is officially off the rehab list, which means he has no structured throwing sessions or any restrictions on what kind of pitches he can throw so he will be able to throw his slider and changeup at will right out of the gates this season. The Indians are still very excited about his youth, power, and athleticism in the system, and believe his outstanding fastball-slider mix projects him as a potential backend bullpen arm. Of course it all comes back to whether or not he can stay healthy and prove that the shoulder injury is in the past. He is 22 years old now, and will need to make up for lost time this season. He should open the season in the bullpen at advanced Single-A Kinston, but depending on how he performs and responds to regular pitching he could move to Double-A Akron by midseason.
Rob Bryson MinorLeagueBaseball.com page
Rob Bryson Baseball-Reference page
Rob Bryson MinorLeagueSplits.com page
Rob Bryson Pitching: