Here is the next group of prospects in the 2010 Indians Top 50 Prospect Countdown here on TheClevelandFan.com and SportsTimeOhio.com. As a reminder, these scouting reports will be linked and listed for easy access on my site www.indiansprospectinsider.com. Also, if you missed Paul Cousineau and I on STO's "All Bets Are Off With Bruce Drennan" last Thursday, I have all the video from our appearance together imbedded right here.
45. Marty Popham - Right-handed Pitcher
Born: 08/04/1987 - Height: 6'6" - Weight: 235 - Bats: Right - Throws: Right
History: Popham was selected by the Indians in the 20th round of the 2008 Draft out of Union College (KY). His 17 wins in 2008 led the NAIA. Last year at short-season Single-A Mahoning Valley he finished 11th in the league in ERA (2.76), tied for 8th in wins (6), 2nd in strikeouts (83), and 13th in WHIP (1.13).
Strengths & Opportunities: Popham is a big, physical pitcher with excellent size and a nice loose arm. His fastball sits around 90-92 MPH and has touched 93 MPH, and he still has arm strength so his velocity is could see an uptick or two as he gets older and his delivery mechanics are refined. He also throws a solid-average slider and an average changeup, with the slider having the potential to be a good major league pitch. He showed much improvement with his secondary stuff last year, namely his changeup which he was able to use and keep hitters off balance. The improvement of his slider and changeup is important as it helps keep him as a starting pitching option at least for next year.
Popham started the year last season in extended spring training mostly because he was still somewhat raw and the Indians needed to fine tune him and prepare him for regular work with an affiliate later in the year. During his time in extended spring training it allowed him to get over a dead arm issue he was battling through in spring training because of all the throwing they did that he was not used to. He also had trouble adjusting to the use of a cup in the spring which is something he had never worn before, and as a result he had some trouble as he was missing up with his fastball early on in camp because he was not able to get his leg high enough which caused him to stride out and his arm to lag. He eventually got rid of the cup, and the Indians did some tweaking to his mechanics to improve the consistency of his arm slot as he was having problems with that all spring. He was also stretched out from a reliever to a starter, so he worked a lot on developing a routine and understanding how to handle different pitching situations and what to do when they come up. In the end, his successful stint in Mahoning Valley last year was helped immensely by all the work on his mechanics he did in spring training and out in extended spring training.
Popham tends to wrap his slider, so he needs to tighten it up and also continue working on adding some additional velocity to it so that it gets that necessary bite at the end and drops straight down. He did not have a good changeup coming out of college, but worked hard with Lower Level Minor League Pitching Coordinator Steve Lyons on improving the pitch to repeat the same motion and arm speed as his fastball, so continuing to refine his changeup is a must for him to remain a starter.
Outlook: Popham has established himself as an interesting starting pitching prospect in the Indians organization. It is possible due to the success he had last year at Mahoning Valley and his age that he could skip Low-A Lake County completely and go right to High-A Kinston, but in any case it looks like he has shown more than enough to remain in the starting rotation at one of the two levels next year.
Photo courtesy of Tony Lastoria
Marty Popham Pitching:
44. Mitch Talbot - Right-handed Pitcher
Born: 10/17/1983 - Height: 6'2" - Weight: 200 - Bats: Right - Throws: Right
History: Talbot was selected by the Houston Astros in the 2nd round of the 2002 Draft out of Canyon View High School (UT). He was traded in July of 2006 to Tampa Bay in a deal that brought Aubrey Huff to Houston. The Indians acquired him from Tampa Bay in December of 2009 as the player to be named later in the Kelly Shoppach trade. He made his big league debut for the Rays in 2008, making just three appearances.
Strengths & Opportunities: Talbot is a big league ready arm who brings with him a successful seven year minor league career and a solid three pitch mix of a fastball, changeup, and slider. His fastball sits at 89-92 MPH and touches 94 MPH with good movement. He has a plus changeup that has good fade and depth, and he shows a good feel for a slider that gets good late bite to it. He competes well, and goes right after hitters has a pitch to contact approach. He is very athletic, and shows a nice easy delivery which he repeats well.
Talbot pitched in the Arizona Fall League (AFL) in the offseason, and it is there that the Indians interest in him picked up as they scouted him extensively by watching almost all of his starts. Their best scouts saw him repeatedly and according to their reports his stuff looked very good. Finally healthy from the right elbow sprain which limited him to just 15 starts and plagued him throughout much of the 2009 season, he made six starts in the AFL and went 3-0 with a 4.37 ERA with a .303 batting average against in a hitter dominated league (22.2 IP, 27 H, 6 BB, 15 K).
Going into the 2010 season, there are some minor durability concerns with Talbot. While he battled through the arm injury last year, he made 27 or more starts the previous five years from 2004-2008 so he never had any injury issues until last season. He also is out of options which means he needs to make the big league roster out of the bullpen or else be subjected to waivers where he likely would be lost. At times he struggles with the command of all three pitches, so becoming more consistent with his strike throwing is something he needs to focus on. Really, his stuff and everything else about him makes him out to almost be a right-handed version of Jeremy Sowers.
Outlook: Talbot is a competitor and a guy who prior to some elbow injuries last year was major league pitching depth for the Rays. The Indians view him as another solid pitching option to bring to the table in 2010, and they are very satisfied that they were able to pick up him up. He will go into spring training looking to nail down a bullpen job, likely as the long man out of the bullpen. Barring an injury setback, he likely will make the team and open the 2010 season in Cleveland.
Photo courtesy of Major League Baseball Media
Mitch Talbot Pitching:
43. Jordan Henry - Outfielder
Born: 06/13/1988 - Height: 6'3" - Weight: 175 - Bats: Left - Throws: Right
History: Henry was selected by the Indians in the 7th round of the 2009 Draft out of the University of Mississippi. After his sophomore season in college in 2008 he played out in the Cape Cod League in the summer and hit .335 with 0 HR and 16 RBI, and led the league in runs scored (42) and was third in stolen bases (12). Last year as a junior at Mississippi he hit .343 with 0 HR, 31 RBI, and an .869 OPS in 63 games. He also had an amazing 56 walk to 22 strikeout ratio. In his professional debut at short-season Single-A Mahoning Valley he finished the season ranked 1st in the NY-Penn League in on-base percentage (.408), 2nd in runs (48), 2nd in walks (49), and 6th in stolen bases (22). His brother Justin Henry - who is three years older - is in the Detroit Tigers system and played in High-A last year.
Strengths & Opportunities: Henry is a scrawny, lightning quick outfielder who has the ability to be a catalyst at the top of a lineup. Speed is his greatest asset, and he profiles as a top of the lineup hitter because of his ability to battle opposing pitchers by working counts, putting the bat on the ball at a very high rate, drawing walks, stealing bases, and playing excellent defense in the outfield. He has a very short swing with excellent bat control choosing to chop down on the ball more and pound the ball into the ground at a high rate in order to use his speed to leg out hits. He's very much the definition of a slap hitter because of his lack of strength and his approach, but is a fundamentally sound hitter where he sprays the ball to all parts of the field, is an excellent bunter, and controls the strike zone well. He stays back on breaking balls well and is hard to fool and get the ball past him for a swinging strike.
One of the more impressive attributes of Henry is his excellent walk to strikeout ratio, which is yet another example of his advanced approach and keen eye at the plate. The ratio shows a lot of confidence hitting late in counts, very good plate discipline, and excellent hand-eye coordination. His excellent hand-eye coordination is a byproduct of his exposure to the game of tennis growing up where before leaving the sport as a 16-year old in order to concentrate more on baseball he was one of the top amateurs on the junior circuit. In fact, when watching him you would say he swings the bat like a tennis racket.
Henry will never be a guy who hits a lot of home runs or piles up a ton of extra base hits, but his speed which can help offset some of those limitations in the power department. He is very fast and has been timed in the 60-yard dash in 6.5 seconds. He shows very good instincts on the bases, and especially shows some great acceleration out of the left-handed batters box and getting down the first base line.
In addition to Henry's speed and exceptional on-base ability, his other big strength as a player is his defense which is in a league of its own. He has excellent range in center field and gets good jumps and runs good routes to balls. He goes back on balls in the outfield effortlessly and glides and tracks down balls in the gap with ease. His speed allows him to take more chances and play a shallow center field, almost daring the hitter to try and hit the ball over his head. His arm is solid, maybe a tick above average. While he primarily plays center field, he played some left field during Instructional League last fall.
Henry understands his role and what kind of player he is and doesn't try to be something he is not. He could move fast because of his polish and limited upside. That said, while the speed and defense are there it is his offense which will determine if he can become an everyday player as a leadoff hitter or just a fourth outfielder. He needs to continue to refine his approach at the plate and get better at driving balls and turning on more pitches that he should be able to handle. He also needs to improve his stolen base rate by learning different ways to steal bases and how to impact a game more with his legs. He also needs to learn to be more aggressive at the plate in certain situations as sometimes he is too patient. He also needs to get stronger which should help his ability to hit for a little more power and keep defenses honest.
Outlook: Henry is not a power hitter by any means, so this will always hurt his prospect standing. But if he can prove that he is more than a speedy, defensive-oriented outfielder and that his bat can translate as he moves up the minor league ladder, then he is a very good leadoff hitting prospect for the Indians. With his ability to get on base, see pitches, work counts, create havoc on the bases, and play well above average defense, there is a ton of value there. He has not shown he can hit the ball with enough authority to be anything more than a 4th outfielder, which is why his excellent on-base ability needs to translate at the higher levels for him to ever become an everyday player. This upcoming season will go a long way at helping determine whether he is everyday player material or a fourth outfielder, and he should get that chance to prove himself as the starting center fielder at advanced Single-A Kinston to start the season.
Photo courtesy of Ken Carr
Jordan Henry Batting:
42. Josh Tomlin - Right-handed Pitcher
Born: 10/19/1984 - Height: 6'1" - Weight: 195 - Bats: Right - Throws: Right
History: Tomlin was selected by the Indians in the 19th round of the 2006 Draft out of Texas Tech. He grew up in East Texas and went to Angelina Junior College before transferring to Texas Tech. A sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow in 2006 sidelined him for six weeks and ultimately hurt his status for the draft where he slid to the Indians in the 19th round. Last year at Double-A Akron he finished the year ranked 11th in the Eastern League in ERA (4.16), 1st in wins (14), 2nd in strikeouts (125) and 2nd in WHIP (1.21). He also became just the third pitcher in Akron history with 14 or more wins in a season, joining Paul Byrd (14 wins in 1992) and single-season leader Adam Miller (15 wins in 2006). In his two starts in the Eastern League Playoffs he was 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA, going 14.0 innings and allowing just eight hits, no walks, and racking up 15 strikeouts.
Strengths & Opportunities: Tomlin is a performer with an incredible knack for putting up consistent stats and winning ballgames. He features a four pitch mix of a fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup, with his fastball consistently sitting in the low 90s and has flashed 93 MPH. He actually has two different fastball velocities depending on his role, as when he starts it typically sits in the 88-91 MPH range, but as a reliever it kicks up to a consistent 90-93 MPH because he can air it out a little more going just one to two innings an outing. His above average slider sits at 83-84 MPH and he has improved by leaps and bounds where it has good depth and tilt and has become a strikeout pitch for him and is considered a major league pitch. He has shown an ability to command an emerging curveball which sits around 73-75 MPH. That separation in velocity from the fastball to his curveball and ability to command both pitches is a deadly combination to use against opposing hitters. The curveball has proven to be an effective groundball and contact pitch when needed and also to put hitters away with. His changeup is an average pitch that sits around 75-78 MPH, but it continues to show improvement and is a quality pitch in his arsenal.
Tomlin is not an overpowering pitcher and he doesn't have great stuff, but he knows how to pitch, change speeds, and keep the ball down in the zone. His ability to command and locate all of his pitches and pound the zone with strikes makes his stuff very effective and play up. He works quickly and shows a great feel for pitching. The key to his success has been his precise control he has with his fastball to both sides of the plate, and his ability to keep hitters off balance with his secondary pitches. His strike-throwing mentality is something he credits to his former college coach Jeff Livin at Angelina Community College in Lufkin, Texas. Another key for him is his maturity on the mound and his willingness to go right after hitters and not be afraid to pitch to contact. He is a former shortstop, and that athleticism shows not only on the mound with his agility, but also in the way he shows exceptional versatility to pitch in any role be it as a starter, long man, middle reliever, or backend reliever. He has an impressive work ethic with great makeup, and has shown an ability to make quick adjustments.
Tomlin still has several things he is working on fine tuning to make him more effective and consistent as a pitcher. He is still working diligently with Indians coaches 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. Another area of focus is getting him to improve on throwing all of his pitches for a strike in the bottom half of the zone and work both sides of the plate with all of his pitches. He knows that with the lack of a true out pitch and dominating stuff his success will largely be determined on how well he can paint the corners and throw consistent, quality strikes. He is working on throwing more changeups to right-handers as a show-me pitch so he can throw his cutter away. 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. His curveball still needs a little tightening up as well.
Outlook: Tomlin is one of the Indians better pitching prospects often overlooked mostly because he doesn't have dominating stuff and that he has gone back forth between the bullpen and starting rotation during his four year Indians career. He has proven his worth as a versatile, durable, and very athletic pitcher who could pitch in just about any role on a pitching staff. With his continued growth as a pitcher, he has gone from being a depth option in the minor leagues to now a legitimate back of the rotation or bullpen option in the big leagues in the near future. He should open the 2010 season in the bullpen or starting rotation for Triple-A Columbus.
Photo courtesy of Ken Carr
Josh Tomlin Pitching:
41. Steven Wright - Right-handed Pitcher
Born: 08/30/1984 - Height: 6'1" - Weight: 200 - Bats: Right - Throws: Right
History: Wright was selected by the Indians in the 2nd round of the 2006 Draft out of the University of Hawaii. He was the first of four second round picks for the Indians in the 2006 Draft, but he did not pitch for the Indians in 2006 since he signed a 2007 contract. At Hawaii in 2006, he went 11-2 with a 2.30 ERA and in 109.2 innings only allowed 19 walks while striking out 123. He also was tabbed the WAC Pitcher of the Year in 2006, and also received the Russ Ford Award as the Cape Cod Baseball League's best relief pitcher in 2005.
Strengths & Opportunities: Wright is an impressive, consistent strike thrower who commands his fastball well and knows how to pitch. He throws a mix of four pitches led by a fastball that consistently clocks in at 90-92 MPH which has topped out as high as 95 MPH when he was at Hawaii, and complements it with a slider, curveball, and changeup. His plus slider is his best pitch, and is a pitch he has a ton of confidence throwing and coming out of college was considered the best slider in the entire 2006 Draft. 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 throws a changeup, but it is a work in progress and more a show pitch.
Wright's move to the bullpen last year was planned almost from the day the Indians drafted him as they felt his stuff would play up in the role. One of the things that helped shape that thought was his success as a reliever in the Cape Cod League back in 2005. His very good fastball-slider combination combined with great makeup and an ability to throw strikes helped shape that perception into reality when after making three starts for Double-A Akron last year the Indians made the long overdue change and slid him into the bullpen at Akron. Even though the change came after the start of the season, he had no problems adjusting to his new role. While his velocity has not yet played up, his ability to throw four pitches gives him a different game plan every time out to attack hitters in different ways. The move to the bullpen mostly helped the slider because he can rely on it more and go all out with it for two to three innings and not have to worry about facing a lineup a second time. He has not backed off his four pitch mix as he primarily uses his fastball-slider combination, but he keeps his curveball in his back pocket to give hitters a different look and his changeup a change of speed and something down in the zone. At the end of the season, he proved to be the best in the Indians entire minor league system at stranding inherited runners, a quality which is very important for relievers.
Going into last season the Indians had worked with Wright's delivery and made some minor adjustments with his mental approach to get him to focus less on his mechanics and more on just attacking hitters and getting his fastball located in the zone. This was the final piece needed for his transition to the bullpen. Now that he is in the bullpen, he is working more on actually "pitching", reading hitters, and making quicker adjustments. He has had some struggles with a lack of fastball command at times where he leaves it up in the zone, which can spell doom for any pitcher, and his slider can flatten out. Knowing this, he needs to continue to refine his strike throwing ability and keeping it down in the zone to ensure he can maintain his ability to throw consistent strikes once he gets to the big leagues.
Outlook: Wright is now major league bullpen depth for the Indians as soon as this year. They believe he will pitch in the big leagues, it is just a question of when. With so many bullpen options to sift through this coming season, he likely will not get a big league opportunity early in the year, but as things start to shake out at the big league level he could see time in Cleveland sometime in August or later. He will open the 2010 season in the Triple-A Columbus bullpen.
Photo courtesy of Ken Carr
Steven Wright Pitching: