30. Carlos Moncrief, OF
Acquired: 14th round pick in 2008
2011 Stats: .233/.346/.422 with 16 HR, 53 RBI and 20 SB in 122 games for low-A Lake County
Scouting Report: Moncrief was actually drafted and began his career as a pitcher. After struggling to an overall ERA of 7.75 in two seasons in the complex leagues as a reliever, the Indians made the call to convert the athletic Moncrief into an outfielder. He spent most of 2010 in short-season Mahoning Valley, and while he didn’t set the world on fire he didn’t embarrass himself either. The Indians moved him up to low-A Lake County for his age 22 season last year, and he responded by putting up a .768 OPS in the difficult hitting environment of the Midwest League. Again, he’s not an amazing line, but not bad. If you look deeper into the player, there’s a lot more to like. He stole 20 bases, showcasing his above-average speed. Of his 108 hits last year, 49 of them went for extra bases showing that while his hit tool still has a ways to go, his power is developing quite nicely. He struck out a lot last year (158 times in 464 at-bats) but also drew his share of walks (76). He has a solid approach, and just needs to work some more on pitch recognition. The more plate appearances that Moncrief compiles, the better hitter he’s going to be. He’ll play all of 2012 as a 23-year old, so it’s not like he’s too old to be considered a prospect. But he’s got more room to grow than most 23-year olds, simply because he’s not as experienced at the plate after his stint as a pitcher.
As you’d expect from a converted pitcher, Moncrief has a cannon for an arm. He has good speed and his instincts are improving with experience in the outfield. He could be an elite defender in RF, or an above-average CF. He’s an outstanding athlete and has really impressed with his transition to the OF. When you combine the power, speed, approach and defensive potential, Moncrief is a really intriguing prospect. He’s slated to open up 2012 in the high-A Carolina League with the new Carolina Mudcats, and it will be interesting to see how he handles the more advanced pitching. If he can repeat or improve on his 2011 numbers, it will be a good sign that the Indians really have something here.
Glass Half-Full: A 20/20 outfielder with plus defense
Glass Half-Empty: He struggles to adjust to higher level pitching and never makes it past AA
29. Clayton Cook, RHP
Acquired: 9th round pick in 2008
2011 Stats: 9-9 with a 4.56 ERA, 106 K and 53 BB in 122 1/3 IP for high-A Kinston
Scouting Report: Drafted out of a Texas high school in 2008, the Indians talked Cook out of his full ride to pitch for Oklahoma with a $100,000 signing bonus. He throws both a two and four-seam fastball, a curveball and changeup. The four seamer sits between 91-94 MPH, and has touched 92. The two-seamer is a little slower, but has good movement with nice arm-side run. His curveball is his best secondary pitch, and is a big 12-6 offering that comes in and just falls off the table. It’s his strikeout pitch, and hitters often flail at the pitch even as it is bouncing off of home plate. He’s still getting a feel for his changeup, but it has a future grade of at least average and could be above-average to plus.
Cook has a big, projectable frame and could still add some juice to his fastball as he fills out and adds strength. He has a good feel for pitching, and does a nice job using his arsenal to set up hitters. He’s not a huge strikeout guy, but gets a lot of groundballs and doesn’t give up a lot of longballs. He was one of the best pitchers in the system in May, going 4-1 with a 1.77 ERA in his 6 starts that month. He had some issues with consistency and letting things get out of control once he started to struggle. For example, he gave up 28 earned runs in 8 innings pitched over four of his starts, but also put together a 3-start stretch where he gave up 3 earned runs in 18 innings. Cook needs to limit big innings and maintain his command when he gets runners on base. If he can get more consistent, it will go a long ways towards improving his overall numbers and ensure he remains a starting pitcher.
Cook is just 21 years old and has had success at every level he’s pitched at so far in the Indians organization. He’s an aggressive pitcher who loves to attack hitters, but if his command is off he can sometimes get wild within the strikezone and that can result in some hard-hit baseballs. He’s a hard worker and a leader in the clubhouse despite his relative youth, and has great intangibles. He has all the tools to be a #3 starter in the big leagues. He should pitch most of the season at AA Akron, but with his age there’s really no reason to push him too quickly and he could spend some time at high-A Carolina early in the season.
Glass half-full: A workhorse middle of the rotation starter
Glass half-empty: A workhorse back of the rotation starter
28. Jorge Martinez, SS
Acquired: International Free Agent in 2009
2011 Stats: .256/.313/.400 with 4 HR, 30 RBI and 4 SB in 45 games for the Arizona League Indians
Scouting Report: 2011 was Martinez’s second season in the complex leagues with the Arizona League Indians. He’s more of a tools guy than anything at this point, which is not surprising considering he’s just 19 years old. He’s still a pretty skinny guy, but at 6’2” he has a projectable body that should fill out and add power as he adds strength. He already has solid gap power, and as he gets bigger and stronger, scouts expect that a lot of his doubles will start to turn into home runs. He has decent and developing bat to ball ability, as his batting average went from .216 in 2010 to .256 last year.
There’s still a debate as to where Martinez’s future lies defensively. In 2010, Martinez appeared in 29 games as a SS and 13 at 2B for the AZ Indians in the complex leagues. Last year, he worked exclusively at SS in his 38 games. Some scouts see his future as a third baseman if he adds more bulk to his frame. Wherever Martinez ends up, he has to improve his defense. He’s committed 34 errors in his 67 career games at SS, and 3 more at 2B. All of the tools are there, as Martinez is a quick-twitch athlete with outstanding range and a plus arm, he just needs to clean up his fundamentals and become more consistent making the routine plays.
More than anything, Martinez just needs experience and repetitions. He’s making progress at the plate, going from 10 BB and 41 K in 2010 to 16 BB and 34 K in 2011, which is a great sign that his approach will continue to improve as he matures. He has the raw tools to be an impact player on both sides of the diamond, but he’s a long, long ways off in terms of reaching his lofty ceiling. But when you see the jump that Martinez’s numbers took from 2010 to 2011 after just one season of organized baseball, and you really get excited about his potential and wonder if he can make a similar jump this season. Look for Martinez to stay in Arizona in extended spring training and likely join the Mahoning Valley Scrappers once the short season New York-Penn League opens play in June.
Glass Half-Full: He could be an impact bat at an infield position
Glass Half-Empty: He could never play in AAA
27. Bryce Stowell, RHP
Acquired: 22nd round pick in 2008
2011 Stats: 1-1 with a 2.09 ERA, 57 K and 21 BB in 38 2/3 IP
Scouting Report: Stowell is a power reliever who throws as hard as anyone in the system. He has true swing and miss stuff, as indicated with his prodigious strikeout totals racked up throughout his minor league career. Stowell has struck out at least a batter per inning in every season, and at every level of the system that he’s pitched. Overall, he’s thrown 176 innings and has recorded 236 strikeouts. He has true closer stuff when he’s on, and if he’s healthy his floor is probably an 8th inning guy.
Stowell was selected in the 22nd round in 2008 out of UC Irvine and given an overslot bonus to sign. He had a solid season in 2009, going 4-6 with a 4.76 ERA, 37 BB and 77 K in 70 IP between Lake County and Kinston. A good professional debut, no doubt, but nothing amazing. The Indians worked that offseason to clean up Stowell’s delivery a little and make it a little more repeatable and consistent. The results were dramatic, and Stowell had a real breakout season in 2010. He pitched at all three levels from Kinston to Columbus, going 3-1 with a 2.14 ERA and 102(!) strikeouts and 36 BB in 67 1/3 IP. His fastball picked up a couple of MPH, and sat in the mid to high-90’s and touched triple digits. In addition to the dominant fastball, Stowell throws a slider with outstanding tilt and a changeup that he’s still developing a feel for.
Unfortunately, Stowell had to be shut down with elbow soreness in late-August of 2011, and didn’t return until partway through 2011 as the Indians played it extremely conservative with his golden arm. He came back to throw 38 2/3 innings last year between Mahoning Valley, Lake County and Akron, posting a 1-1 record with 57 K and 21 BB. That was good for 13.3 K/9, very comparable to his 13.6 ratio in 2010. He didn’t make it all the way back to Columbus, but his dominant outings in Akron were a good sign that he was harboring few ill-effects from his elbow issues. He has a violent delivery that results in some outstanding stuff, but it also puts a lot of stress on his arm. If he can stay healthy, this ranking will look silly next year because he has the talent to be one of the best relievers in the system. He should start off 2012 in either Akron or Columbus, but if he’s healthy and effective, he’s an option for the Indians as soon as this year.
Glass Half-Full: A backend reliever or closer who strikes out a batter or more per inning
Glass Half-Empty: His elbow injuries keep him from ever becoming a consistent reliever
26. Nick Weglarz, OF
Acquired: 3rd round pick in 2005
2011 Stats: .179/.360/.306 with 3 HR and 12 RBI in 41 games for AA Akron
Scouting Report: When it comes to raw talent, Weglarz is one of the top hitters in the organization. He’s a big, strong lefty with plus raw power and incredible on-base skills. He rarely swings at a pitch outside of the strike zone, and when he gets into a pitch it can go a long, long ways. He has as much raw power as anyone in the system right now. His hit tool is a tick above average, but not elite. He’s not a great defender and isn’t fast, but is a deceptively good baserunner for his size. His career line of .255/.381/.444 in 508 minor league games shows you that he’s a kid with good power who can get on base, and that’s something that never goes out of style. Until last year, Weglarz never had a season-ending OPS of less than .808 in any full season league. Unfortunately, it’s been frustratingly difficult for Weglarz to stay on the field over the past few years, and his talent has been no use to the Indians organization from the disabled list.
Weglarz’s injury history dates back to what would have been his first full season as an 18-year old in 2006. In his first game playing with the Gulf League Indians that year, he broke the hamate bone in his wrist and had to miss the entire 2006 season. He came back healthy in 2007, and as a 19-year old in the Midwest League he put up a .274/.393/.498 line with 23 HR and 82 RBI for the Lake County Captains. That impressive season at such a young age put him on the radars of scouts and talent evaluators nationwide, and he followed it up with just an impressive effort in the Carolina League in 2008, going for a .272/.396/.432 line with 10 HR for high-A Kinston in 106 games. He missed some time in 2008 not due to injury, but while playing with Team Canada in the Beijing Olympics. Prior to the 2009 season, he was ranked in the top-100 nationally by both Baseball Prospectus (#83) and Baseball America (#58). Unfortunately, Wegz was bit by the injury bug again in 2009. After a terrible April where he couldn’t buy a hit, he was really coming in in May and June before playing through a stress fracture in his leg that eventually required him to have surgery to have a rod implanted in the leg. He finished with a poor (for him) line of .227/.377/.431 with 16 HR in 105 games. He was slated to play in the Arizona Fall League after the 2009 season, but ended up getting surgery instead.
Weglarz came back and had a solid year in 2010. He played in 87 games between Akron and Columbus, and put up a line of .285/.390/.503 with 13 HR. But he missed time with tendonitis in his knee, and then tore a ligament in his thumb diving for a ball in late July and had to be shut down for the rest of the season. Still, he was going to start 2011 healthy, in Columbus, and with a shot to play in Cleveland at some point during the season. All of that came crashing to a halt when he tore the meniscus in his left knee during spring training last year, requiring yet another surgery for the big Canadian. He didn’t play a game in 2011 until June when he debuted with AA Akron, but went on to miss more time with the recurring tendonitis in his knee and issues with his left elbow. So by the end of 2011, Weglarz had only played in 41 games, all for AA Akron and really had a season to forget with an OPS under .700.
By all accounts, Weglarz is healthy and ready to go for spring training here in 2012. But a guy that has spent as much time on the DL as he has figures to spend more time on the DL as he gets older. And despite his outstanding talent, he can’t be a top prospect from the sidelines. Wegz is a big kid, and I wonder if the Indians have thought about moving him back to 1B to lessen the strain on his knees that he incurs from running around in the OF. 1B is a position of need in the organization, and his bat would certainly play there. I know both the organization and Weglarz would prefer that he stay in the outfield, but at some point you just have to try and salvage whatever you can out of the talented youngster before it is too late. He’ll play all of 2012 as a 24-year old, so he’s still young enough to have an impact in the organization if he can just stay healthy. The Indians two biggest needs are a slugging left fielder and a slugging 1B…two positions that a healthy Weglarz could potentially fill. So if he can prove he’s healthy and start hitting again, we could actually see him in Cleveland sooner than later. But it all starts with health for the big Canadian, so keep an eye on the injury reports and hope you don’t see his name this year.
Glass Half-Full: A slugging, middle of the order LF
Glass Half-Empty: Nagging injuries never go away and he never makes it out of AAA