Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Indians Prospect Countdown: #35-31

Photo Credit: Al Ciammaichella
As we close out the bottom half of our countdown, there are some really intriguing prospects who are starting to emerge here. Today, we're going to look at not just one, but two giant lefthanded pitchers who are trying to rise through the organization after signing as international free agents. We're going to talk about a pitcher-turned-outfielder with (as you'd expect) a cannon for an arm in RF. We'll look at the only player in the C.C. Sabathia trade who has yet to play in the major leagues. Finally, we'll look at a player who's power exploded in 2012 in a most unexpected way, putting him on the threshold of a call-up to the major league roster.

35. Elvis Araujo, LHP

DOB: 7/15/1991
Height/Weight: 6-6/215 lb.
Bats/Throws: Left/Left
Acquired: International free agent in 2008
2012 Stats: 7-10, 5.00 ERA, 111 K and 61 BB in 135 IP with Lake County

Scouting Report: Araujo signed with the Indians as an international free agent out of Venezuela in 2008, and as a 16 year old threw 57 innings with the Indians Dominican Summer League team. He posted a 1.89 ERA in those 57 tantalizing innings, then proceeded to miss the 2009-2010 seasons with various arm ailments. Araujo had Tommy John surgery in 2009, and was finally healthy enough to pitch in 2011 when he threw 63 innings with the Rookie League Arizona Indians, and then made two starts with Mahoning Valley at the end of the season. His 135 innings in 2012 eclipsed his previous career high by a whopping 66 IP, and Araujo seemed to tire in the 2nd half of the season. His ERA after the all-star break was more than a full run higher than in the first half of the year, and a lot of that can likely be put down to fatigue. His 2012 numbers weren’t great, but 6’6” lefties don’t exactly grow on trees, and Araujo is going to be given every opportunity to succeed now that he’s finally healthy and pitching again.

Araujo fastball sits consistently in the 90-93 MPH range, and has touched 95. Coming from his 6’6” frame, the pitch has excellent down action and comes in on a difficult plane for hitters to handle. His best secondary pitch is his slider, which has flashes of an above-average pitch but still needs to be refined. He also throws a changeup that lags behind the slider, and is a pitch that needs to be developed in order for him to have a starter’s arsenal. When he’s commanding all three pitches in the strike zone, Araujo can be a hitter’s worst nightmare. Unfortunately, as evidenced by his 4.1 BB/9 IP last year, those outings were few and far between.

Araujo had a great start to the 2012 season, going 2-4 with 45 K and 20 BB in 53 2/3 IP in April and May. Despite the 2-4 record, he allowed just 19 earned runs for an ERA just above 3.00. Things fell apart in June for the big lefty, as his ERA ballooned to 8.71 in 20 2/3 IP that month. He pushed through it and pitched the rest of the season, but it was clear the innings jump was difficult for Araujo to handle. He’s drawn comparisons to C.C. Sabathia because of his size and the fact that he throws left handed, but Sabathia was pitching in the major league playoffs as a 20-year old, while Araujo was struggling in the Midwest League. 

He’s still just 21 and has plenty of time to fix some of his issues, and if he can improve on his command (especially of his secondary offerings) Araujo could be right back in the Indians top-15 next offseason. He will hopefully pitch the entire 2013 season for the Carolina Mudcats, and should be more ready to handle the rigors of pitching 100+ innings than he was in 2012.

Glass half-full: A big, durable, middle of the rotation starter
Glass half-empty: A 6’6” lefty out of the bullpen would be fun to have, no?

34. Luis Lugo, LHP

DOB: 3/5/1994
Height/Weight: 6-5/200 lb.
Bats/Throws: Left/Left
Acquired: International free agent in 2010
2012 Stats: 2-4, 4.50 ERA with 51 K and 21 BB in 42 IP for Rookie Arizona

Scouting Report: Lugo is a big, young lefty who posted some impressive strikeout numbers as an 18-year old with the Rookie League Arizona Indians last year. Born and raised in Venezuela, an area that the Indians have been going to more and more for international signings in recent years. Lugo has thrown 78 2/3 innings as a professional between the Dominican Summer League and the Arizona League, and he’s recorded 95 strikeouts, but also walked 45 hitters since entering the Indians organization.

Lugo is a big kid at 6’5”, 200 lb, and can afford to add quite a few pounds to his athletic frame. His fastball velocity sits between 87-91 MPH, and he’s a guy who the Indians expect to make a jump in velocity as he gets stronger in the next year or two. He compliments the fastball with a curveball and a changeup, and the curve is further ahead right now than his fastball. He’s going to have to improve both pitches to remain in the starting rotation, but the talent and ability are there and there’s no reason that he can’t be a three-pitch pitcher down the road.

Lugo is one of the few guys in the organization that I haven’t seen pitch before, and I’m really excited to get my eyes on him in Goodyear later this month. He has the size and ability that GM’s dream about, and the fact that he throws from the left side is just an added bonus. He’s put up some impressive numbers in the organization so far during his young career, and if he can improve his command and control as he refines his delivery, things are only going to get better for the young southpaw. Lugo will likely remain in Goodyear for extended spring training until June, when he should be a member of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers starting rotation. He’s an intriguing arm right now who could make a big jump on this list with a solid 2013, especially if he can get his fastball up in the low to mid-90’s with a little more consistency.

Glass half-full: A starting pitcher. That’s about as specific as I can get right now.
Glass half-empty: A reliever. Seriously, who knows at this point?

Photo Credit: Al Ciammaichella
33. Carlos Moncrief, OF

DOB: 11/3/1988
Height/Weight: 6-1/210 lbs
Bats/Throws: Left/Right
Acquired: 14th round pick in the 2008 draft
2012 Stats: .249/.33/.465 with 15 HR and 53 RBI in 101 games for Carolina

Scouting Report: When Moncrief was drafted out of Chipola College in Florida (same alma mater as LeVon Washington), the Indians thought he’d be a pitcher. Two seasons and a 7.75 ERA later, they decided that pitching wasn’t really in the cards for Moncrief and switched him to the outfield. That decision has looked better and better after each season, as Moncrief is now an intriguing power/speed combination with (as expected) a cannon arm in RF. Moncrief was well on his way to a 20/20 season when he went down with a wrist injury last July, but still finished with 15 HR and 17 SB in 101 games. Moncrief broke the hamate bone in his wrist, but managed to come back and play a few games in the Arizona Fall League this past October, hitting .167 in 11 games in the desert.

Moncrief has good bat speed and a lot of pop from the left side, and his power is his most intriguing offensive tool. He’s hit an impressive 31 HR, 48 doubles and 11 triples in 223 games in the last two seasons. His overall hit tool isn’t quite as good, as he’s got just a .239 career batting average since becoming an outfielder in 2010. He’s an aggressive hitter at the plate who’s still learning to recognize offspeed stuff from the batters box instead of throwing it from the mound. His strikeout rate was better last season, but he still whiffed 126 times in 101 games. He did draw 46 walks, but that number was down from 76 in 122 games with Lake County in 2011. If he can lay off breaking balls down and out of the strike zone and make more consistent contact, Moncrief’s prospect standing would take a huge jump. But those are tough skills to learn, especially for a guy who is a couple of years behind the curve because he was drafted as a pitcher.

Defensively, Moncrief is an ideal RF. He’s a good athlete with above-average speed and an elite throwing arm. Moncrief was throwing in the 90’s on the mound, and his arm is a weapon in RF. He recorded a remarkable 21(!) outfield assists with Lake County in 2011, and word clearly got around the league because runners simply did not test Moncrief’s arm last season. He notched “only” 6 assists last season, as Carolina League coaches quickly learned not to have their baserunners try to advance when the ball was in Moncrief’s glove. He’s an above-average runner, picking up 37 stolen bases in the last two seasons.

Moncrief has less than three seasons of experience as a hitter, and sometimes that really shows. No player in the system needs reps as much as Moncrief, which is why the injury last summer was especially unfortunate. Moncrief has a tantalizing set of tools, but if he can’t put the bat on the ball then his power and speed aren’t really worth all that much. As he climbs the organizational ladder, breaking balls are going to get better and better and Moncrief could struggle more and more. He should play the majority of the 2013 season with AA Akron, and it will be interesting to see if the 24 year old has made strides in his pitch selection and recognition.

Glass half-full: A 20/20 guy with a cannon in RF
Glass half-empty: He struggles with breaking balls and tops out in AA.

Photo Credit: Al Ciammaichella
32. Rob Bryson, RP

DOB: 12/11/1987
Height/Weight: 6-1/200
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Acquired: In a trade from the Brewers for C.C. Sabathia in 2008
2012 Stats: 5-5, 2 Saves, with a 2.62 ERA, 76 K and 43 BB in 65 1/3 IP for Akron

Scouting Report: After suffering a freak foot injury prior to the 2011 season, Bryson was only able to throw about 40 innings between three levels in the Indians system. Bryson bounced back with a healthy 2012, pitching a full campaign with the Eastern League Champion Akron Aeros. Bryson was dominant at times last year, but also struggled with his control, issuing 43 walks in 65 1/3 IP. He walked 5.9 hitters per 9 innings pitched last year, well over his career average of 3.8 BB/9. Still, thanks to his ability to miss bats he was able to limit the damage and allowed just 19 earned runs all season. Bryson followed up his AA success with a dominant stretch in the Puerto Rican Winter League, throwing 15 1/3 shutout innings while striking out 19 and walking 7.

Bryson came over as part of the C.C. Sabathia deal in 2008, and his signature pitch is his plus-plus fastball. His fastball sits consistently in the mid-90’s, and has touched 98. He’s a good athlete and has a clean, powerful delivery that uses his lower half well. He compliments the fastball with a wipeout slider, a pitch with explosive late life and tilt. If his slider and fastball are located well, Bryson is practically unhittable. Bryson also has a changeup to show hitters a different look, but it’s not as effective of a pitch as his fastball or slider. It’s not an especially deep arsenal, but when he’s commanding both pitches well his fastball/slider combo can be lethal out of the bullpen.

Bryson has been a big strikeout guy throughout his career, recording an impressive 363 K’s in 282 1/3 innings of work. His career ERA is 2.96, so he’s clearly an effective reliever. He’s had some arm issues in the past, but the past two years have been trouble free so hopefully those injuries are behind him. Bryson is the only player in the Sabathia deal who hasn’t played in the major leagues, but that could change as early as 2013. Bryson should open up in the bullpen for AAA Columbus, and should be right there with Lee, Haley and Armstrong in the mix for the Indians bullpen should injury or ineffectiveness befall one of the members of the Bullpen Mafia.

Glass half-full: A backend reliever in a major league bullpen.
Glass half-empty: The control issues Bryson suffered last year persist, and he walks too many hitters to be an effective late-inning reliever.

Photo Credit: Al Ciammaichella
31. Tim Fedroff, OF

DOB: 2/4/1987
Height/Weight: 5-11/220 lbs
Bats/Throws: Left/Right
Acquired: 7th round pick in the 2008 draft
2012 Stats: .316/.394/.485 with 12 HR and 54 RBI in 123 games between Akron and Columbus

Scouting Report: Before last season, Fedroff’s season high in HR was four. In fact, going into last season, Fedroff had just 11 home runs for his career. He more than doubled that total with a dozen big flies between Akron and Columbus, including 9 in 69 games for AAA Columbus. Fedroff set career highs in HR, 3B, OBP, SLG and SB last season. It was a breakout season for the young outfielder, and his impressive hitting display had some calling for Fedroff to have a shot in LF for the Tribe. I mean, could he really have been worse than the Johnny Damon/Aaron Cunningham/Shelley Duncan/Zeke Carerra pu-pu platter the Indians put in LF last year?  He never got the call to the North Shore, but finished with a .910 OPS for the Clippers, a figure that would have ranked 2nd in the International League if Fedroff had accumulated enough at-bats in AAA to qualify. It was an impressive and unexpected season, one that has Fedroff on the cusp of a major league debut.

Fedroff has an above-average hit tool and good approach. His career triple-slash line in the minors is .296/.378/.412, showing classic top of the order skills in his ability to hit and get on base. He walks almost as much as he strikes out, and despite a lack of elite speed profiles well as a #1 or 2 hitter in the batting order. Despite last season’s power surge, he has below-average power overall, but it’s looking like less of a detriment than prior to 2012.

Defensively, Fedroff is a bit of a tweener. He’s not quite fast enough to play CF at the major league level, but his bat profiles much better in CF than in one of the corners. He has a fringe-average arm and average range, so defensively he fits best in LF. He’s not going to be a plus defender at any of the OF positions, but he has the chops to fill in at CF in an interim basis if the team needs it.

Fedroff’s only plus tool is his hit tool, and he’s not projected as a future star in the OF. But most of his tools are at least average, and he’s a hard worker and a smart player so his overall package plays up to more than the sum of its parts. He probably profiles best as a 4th OF in The Show, but that can still be a very useful player. If his power surge is real and he builds on it next year, he could work his way up to a 2nd division starter. Before the Indians’ OF spending spree this winter, Fedroff looked like he had a chance to compete for at bats in LF out of spring training. But with Bourn, Stubbs and Brantley firmly entrenched in the OF, it’s going to be a lot tougher to find AB’s in the OF than it was last year. Barring a trade, Fedroff will likely open up in 2013 back where he finished in 2012; AAA Columbus. If one of the Indians OF goes down with an injury though, Fedroff will likely be the first OF called up to fill the void. Losing Russ Canzler and Thomas Neal helps push Fedroff to the top of the OF pecking order in the Indians minor league system.

Glass half-full: A 2nd division starter in LF
Glass half-empty: A solid 4th OF

1 comment:

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