35. Matt Packer, LHP
Acquired: 32nd round pick in 2009
2011 Stats: 9-12 with a 4.31 ERA, 129 K and 33 BB in 169 1/3 IP for AA Akron
Scouting Report: Selected in the 32nd round in 2009 after his junior year at the University of Virginia, Packer is a soft-tossing lefty whose results have far outpaced his scouting reports so far in his young career. Packer has a deep arsenal with his fastball, changeup, slider and curveball mix. The fastball sits mostly between 87-91 and touches 93. It is a sinking two-seamer that he has excellent command and control of, and he uses it to get ahead of hitters before going to work with his arsenal of above-average secondary pitches. His best secondary offering is his changeup, which has excellent movement and grades as plus. The pitch really dives down and away from righthanded hitters, an action they’re not used to seeing with a southpaw on the mound. His slider is above average as well, with sweeping action across the strike zone. Lefties especially have a real problem with the pitch. The curveball is behind the change and slider in its development, as it’s a pitch that he’s only thrown since turning pro as he didn’t really need it in college.
Packer is an aggressive, fearless pitcher who does a nice job attacking hitters early in the count and then letting them get themselves out on pitches outside of the zone. He’s been able to stay healthy as a pro, as his clean, compact delivery doesn’t put an undue amount of stress on his elbow or shoulder. After a rough June that saw him go 0-3 with a 10.17 ERA in 23 IP, Packer was one of the best pitchers in the system for the rest of the summer. From July through the end of the season in September, Packer put up a 7-4 record with a 3.08 ERA, 72 K and just 19 BB in 93 1/3 IP. He’s a smart guy who works well with his catcher to attack the weaknesses of hitters. His talent and experience should push him to Columbus this year, but with the number of starting pitchers vying for rotation spots above AA, there’s a good chance he’ll open 2012 back in the Eastern League with the Aeros. Pitchers like Packer that don’t have true swing and miss stuff tend to run into trouble the higher up the organizational ladder they get, so the Indians really want to see him in AAA Columbus to decide what they have with Packer.
Glass Half-Full: An innings-eating #4 starter
Glass Half-Empty: A lefty reliever who can spot start
34. Zach McAllister, RHP
Acquired: For Austin Kearns in 2010. Originally a 3rd round pick of the Yankees in 2006
2011 Stats: 0-1, 6.11 ERA with 14 K and 7 BB in 17 2/3 IP for Cleveland, 12-3, 3.32 ERA with 128 K and 31 BB in 154 2/3 IP for AAA Columbus
Scouting Report: McAllister is a big, durable righthander who was acquired from the Yankees at the trade deadline in 2010 for Zach McAllister. He doesn’t have the type of stuff that you expect when you see his 6’6” frame, as he is more of a command and control guy rather than having overpowering stuff. He has a four-pitch mix, throwing a fastball, curveball, slider and changeup. His fastball is his best pitch, as it is a sinking offering that comes on a downward plane accentuated by his height. It sits in the low-90’s, so he needs to command it well and keep it down in the zone because he’s not going to throw it by many hitters. His secondary offerings are average, but he doesn’t really have a plus secondary pitch to rely on. He has a clean, repeatable delivery and has been extremely durable throughout his career, throwing 149 innings or more in 3 of the last 4 seasons.
McAllister posted excellent numbers for AAA Columbus last season, winning 12 games and posting an ERA under 3.50. It was a nice bounceback season after his subpar 2010, when he put up a 5.29 ERA in AAA with both the Yankees and Indians organizations. He was the ace of the Clippers staff, and started the opening game of both of their playoff series this past fall. The solid AAA season earned McAllister a shot with the big club, and he ended up making 4 starts for Cleveland, throwing 17 2/3 innings and posting a 6.11 ERA. He allowed 26 hits and walked 7, and if he wants to stick in the major leagues long-germ, those are obviously numbers that are going to have to improve. To me, it looked like McAllister was overthrowing in his stint with the Indians, trying too hard to light up the radar gun. As a consequence, his fastball wasn’t moving, and it was up in the zone. If he makes it back to the show this year, he needs to just relax, trust his stuff, and do what got him there in the first place.
Despite being just 24 years old, he’s not a guy who has a ton of projection in him, and is seen as more or less an “is-what-he-is” type of guy. He’ll have an outside shot at the 5th starter job this spring with the uncertainty surrounding the Fausto Carmona situation, but in all likelihood will end up back in AAA Columbus when the teams break from Goodyear this April. Still, McAllister will have a good shot at being called up for spot starts if injury or ineffectiveness strikes at the big league level, which it almost inevitably will. There’s a good chance that we’ll see the big righty on the bump at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario at some point in 2012.
Glass Half-Full: An innings eater in the back of a MLB rotation
Glass Half-Empty: A swingman out of the bullpen who works in long relief and spot starts
33. Kyle Blair, RHP
Acquired: 4th round pick in 2010
2011 Stats: 3-5, 5.16 ERA, 72 K and 40 BB in 82 IP between low-A Lake County and Rookie League Arizona Indians
Scouting Report: Blair was a high draft choice twice, once by the Dodgers in the 5th round of the 2007 draft then again when the Indians chose him in the 4th round of the 2010 draft. Blair has a deep arsenal, with a sinking fastball, plus slider, above-average changeup and a curveball as well. His fastball sits in the low-90’s, and has some natural sink to it. He’s not going to throw the pitch by many people, and needs to work on commanding it in the zone better than he has in the past. Too often last year, he left the pitch up in the zone and when he did, it got hammered. His best secondary offering is a plus slider that is probably his best pitch. He fell a little too in love with the pitch in college, and the Indians had him get away from it a little bit last year in an effort to improve his other secondary offerings. The curveball is ahead of the changeup at this point in his developmental curve, but he still throws all four pitches.
Blair had a nightmare season last year, starting in Lake County and continuing in the complex leagues when he was sent to Arizona. He started 14 games for the Captains, and was so ineffective that he ended up in the complex leagues to try and work through his issues. When he came back to Lake County, he worked out of the bullpen. All told, Blair threw 80.2 innings for the Captains and posted a 5.02 ERA while striking out 70 and walking 40. In addition to the 40 free passes he allowed, Blair gave up 78 hits for a 1.46 WHIP. When you allow almost a hit an inning and a walk every two, that’s going to cost your team some runs. I saw Blair in spring training last year, and he was sitting mostly in the high-80’s with his fastball and was really struggling to locate his changeup. It’s possible that his poor 2011 was a result of the Indians restricting the use of his best pitch (the slider) and making him rely on his fastball/change/curve in order to develop those pitches.
Blair had some injury problems last year that he tried to pitch through, "tweaking" his knee in late April and turning it into a small tear in his MCL before it was all said and done. Pitching through the injury probably wasn't the best idea, and definitely contributed to Blair's struggles. He was shut down for over a month in the middle of the season and was able to avoid surgery and fix the problem through rehab. There's really no telling how much the injury effected Blair, but there's no doubt he was pitching better in early April than May/June. Hopefully the main issue was the knee and Blair can come back healthy, refreshed and successful in 2012.
Coming out of college, Blair was considered to be a high floor, low ceiling guy who was already far along in his development and could move quickly through the system. Last year put the brakes on that assessment, as he could never consistently get low-A hitters out. Blair is already 23 years old, so he needs to get back on the right track quickly or risk becoming more of an organizational guy. The raw talent is there, he just needs to properly apply it. Look for Blair to be back in Lake County to start the year, but he’ll be on the fast track to Carolina if he proves he has put last year’s struggles behind him.
Glass Half-Full: A middle of the rotation starter
Glass Half-Empty: Swingman out of the bullpen
32. Tyler Holt, CF
Acquired: 10th round pick in 2010
2011 Stats: .254/.365/.325 with 2 HR, 26 RBI and 34 SB in 123 games for high-A Kinston
Scouting Report: Holt was drafted out of Florida State in 2010, and signed early enough to get some playing time with the Lake County Captains down the stretch run and into the Midwest League playoffs. He signed for an overslot $500,000 bonus, and actually made his professional debut that same day, likely before the ink was even dry on the contract. He went 1-4 with a triple in a Captains victory. Holt is an intense competitor who wears his emotions on his sleeve, something he’s worked to control after a couple of ejections early in his career. He plays under control, and does a nice job using his intensity to fuel himself on the diamond.
Holt has a solid hit tool, below-average power, and plus speed. He has a nice approach, with an OBP of .372 across his two minor league seasons, and profiles as a classic top of the order hitter who can get on base and run once he’s there. He stole 34 bases last year for high-A Kinston in 40 attempts, which is an outstanding success rate. He’s an above-average defender in CF, where he uses his speed to cover a lot of ground and has an arm that’s average but not plus. Holt will likely open 2012 with AA Akron, and hit in a permissive offensive environment for the first time in his young career.
Glass Half-Full: A leadoff hitter who provides good defense in the OF
Glass Half-Empty: A 4th OF providing speed and defense off the bench
31. Tyler Sturdevant, RHP
Acquired: 27th round pick in 2009
2011 Stats: 7-3, 2.65 ERA with 82 K and 19 BB in 74 2/3 IP
Scouting Report: Sturdevant was a 27th round pick out of New Mexico State University in June of 2009. He was a starter in college, but the Indians immediately converted him to a relief role and he’s never started a game as a professional. Sturdeveant took extremely well to his newfound role out of the bullpen, and has put up impressive numbers as a professional. For his career, the 26-year old is 15-6 with a 2.46 ERA, 215 K and 51 BB in 175 1/3 IP.
Sturdevant has an above-average fastball which sits consistently in the low to mid-90’s and has touched 97. He locates the pitch well, keeping it out of the middle of the plate and works mostly on the black. He compliments the fastball with a nasty cutter that is particularly difficult for right handed hitters to square up. He also throws a changeup and curveball, but neither pitch is particularly effective and he works primarily with the fastball/cutter combination.
At 26, Sturdevant is already a little old as prospects go. He’s only thrown 3 2/3 innings in AAA, mainly because of the Indians depth at RP in the system. He has a simple arsenal, but simple can still be effective. With the Indians losing several relievers that would have likely slotted in the AAA bullpen, Sturdevant will get his chance to prove himself in Columbus right away in 2012. If he can put together another season with an ERA under 3.00 and strike out more than a batter per inning, he could find himself in Cleveland. It’s an unlikely journey for the 27th round pick who had an ERA over 6.00 his senior year in college, but it’s looking more and more likely with every level that Sturdevant gets hitters out.
Glass Half-Full: Joe Smith, only not a sidearmer
Glass Half-Empty: A solid AAA reliever