Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cleveland Indians Prospect Countdown: #15-11

15.Jesus Aguilar, 1B
Acquired:International Free Agent in 2007
2011Stats: .284/.359/.506 with 23 HR and 82 RBI in 126 games between low-A and high-A

Scouting Report: Aguilar is a massive kid who looks much bigger than his listed 6’3”, 240lbs. He has light-tower raw power, and when he really gets into a pitch it can go a looong ways. He has as much raw power as anyone in the Indians minor league system, and last year it really started showing up in games. The Midwest League isn’t the most hitter-friendly environment, but the 21-year old Aguilar managed to put up some pretty impressive offensive numbers in his 95 games for the Captains, hitting .292/.370/.544 with 19 HR. Moved upto high-A Kinston and the equally pitcher-friendly Carolina League for the stretch run, Aguilar struggled a little. In 31 games for the K-Tribe, he hit.257/.323/.389 with just 4 HR. Losing .203 off of his OPS in the jump to high-A is concerning, but not a deal breaker in terms of his prospect standing due to the small sample size. His approach could use some work, as he walked 46 times against 126 strikeouts last year.

Aguilar does struggle with his pitch recognition, and has been susceptible to breaking balls down and out of the strike zone. He pounds fastballs up in the zone and excels when he can get his arms extended, but can sometimes get tied up on hard stuff up and in. He’s not unlike most young hitters in this respect, and it’s nothing that he can’t fix with a little effort. His hit tool projects to be no more than average at best, but his power should make up for it. Last year in spring training, he hit a couple of homeruns against the Reds that probably still haven’t landed. The Reds coaches were actually talking about a home run he had hit the day before as Aguilar was launching another ball into the stratosphere.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that if Aguilar’s bat falters, he doesn’t have anything to fall back on. His defense is already below average, and he’s only going to get less mobile as he gets older and bigger. As I said, he already looks bigger than his listed weight of 240,and he’s not going to get any smaller. But if his bat continues to mature, his subpar defense at 1st will be easy to overlook, and worst case scenario he ends up as a DH down the road.

Glass Half-Full: A middle of the order, TTO guy who plays a passable 1B
Glass Half-Empty: A TTO DH with an emphasis on the K outcome

14.Elvis Araujo, LHP

Acquired:InternationalFree Agent in 2007
2011Stats: 9-1 with a 3.36 ERA, with 63 K and 25 BB in 69 2/3IP between Rookie AZL and short-season Mahoning Valley

Scouting Report: Araujo has struggled with injuries over the past few years, but was finally healthy enough in 2011 to throw a pitch in a competitive game, something he hadn’t done since 2008. Araujo threw 57 tantalizing innings as a 16-year old with the Indians Dominican Summer league in 2008, then missed the 2009-2011 seasons with arm injuries. There was no reason to rush the big lefty back to action, as he won’t be old enough to legally order a beer in the states until this summer. He’s already had Tommy John surgery, which I suppose could be a positive if you consider the fact that he won’t ever need it again.

Araujo reminds a lot of people of C.C. Sabathia at age 20, both in appearance and stuff. He’s a big, strong lefty who sits consistently in the low-90’s with his fastball and can reach back for more. As you can imagine from his 6’6” frame, he has great action on the pitch from a nice downward plane. In addition to the plus fastball, he has a slider that flashes plus and could be a dominant pitch once he develops and refines it. His third pitch is a changeup that, put kindly, needs a lot of work. Araujo is nowhere near as refined as Sabathia was when he was pitching for the playoff-bound Indians as a 20-year old, but he’s still drawing those comparisons from some scouts. Araujo should have a shot to pitch most of the season at low-A Lake County, where he’ll join one of the more entertaining rotations in the entire system.

Glass Half-Full: Let’s get him healthy first
Glass Half-Empty: Seriously, a full season on the mound would be awesome at this point

13.Chun Chen, C

Acquired:InternationalFree Agent in 2007
2011Stats: .262/.330/.451 with 16 HR and 70 RBI in 113 games for AA Akron

Scouting Report: Chen is an impressive offensive catching prospect who still needs to work on his defense behind the dish. He broke out with a big year in 2010, a season that included an appearance in the MLB Futures Gameduring All-Star Weekend, but didn’t have quite as good of a season in 2011. He moved up to AA and had a solid, but not spectacular offensive season, posting a.781 OPS for the Aeros. After a 2010 where he posted a .924 OPS across two A levels, that was a bit of a disappointment. Still, Chen took some steps forward as a prospect.

Chen’s offense will always be the strongest aspect of his game. He has good bat speed and quick hands that get the bat through the hitting zone in a hurry. He has a nice, compact route to the ball and does a nice job keeping his hands inside the baseball and using all fields. His career minor league numbers are solid, with a line of .272/.357/.446 with 32 HR and173 RBI in 320 games from the complex leagues all the way up to AA. His approach took a bit of a hit last year, with 43 BB and 122 K in 467 AB.
English is not Chen’s 1st language, and he uses an interpreter to talk to the media but speaks the language well enough to interact with his teammates and pitching staff. Both his English and Spanishare both improving, and it’s something that Chen has really worked hard on in the past couple of years. When I saw him in spring training in 2009, he needed an interpreter when the coaching staff was working with him on the side. In 2011, he was receiving 1-on-1 instruction without the need for his interpreter, so it’s clear that he’s making strides on that front.

Chen’s biggest area in need of improvement is his defense behind the plate. He’s a converted third baseman, so he’s really only four years into his career as a catcher. He’s a good athlete and has a strong arm, so the potential for him to be at least an average defensive catcher is there. The issue is whether or not he’ll be able to fulfill that potential early enough to make an impact at the major league level. Chen allowed 18 passed balls in each of the last two seasons in 142 games behind the plate.That’s not an awful number, but it definitely needs to improve. His strong arm makes up for an average transition from catch to throw, and he’s caught 36% of would-be base stealers in his career. Numbers just can’t tell you how effective defensively a catcher is though, and Chen needs to improve his receiving and handling of pitchers in order to be an effective defensive catcher. But the strides he’s made in the last four years are extremely encouraging, and if he can continue to improve there’s no reason to think he can’t be average behind the dish.

Chen’s bat will play in the major leagues someday,but his prospect standing would take a pretty big hit if he weren’t a catcher.If he’s forced to move to 1B, the bat is just average whereas while he’s behind the dish it is borderline elite. Expect to see him back in AA Akron getting reps behind the dish early in 2012, but he should move up to AAA Columbus atsome point during the season.

Glass Half-Full: Alex Avila
Glass Half-Empty: You remember Max Ramirez, right?

12.Robel Garcia, SS/3B/2B

Acquired:International Free Agent in 2010
2011Stats: .284/.371/.544 with 6 HR, 24 RBI and 7 SB in 45 games in the AZ Rookie League

Scouting Report: Just 18 years old for all of last season, Garcia showcased some impressive power in the Arizona Rookie League. In addition to his 6 HR, Garcia smoked 10 doubles and 8 triples to finish with his outstanding .544 SLG. He also featured some impressive patience for a young Dominican hitter, finishing with 23 BB. All in all, it added up to a solid .915 OPS for the youngster, a marked improvement over his .613 OPS in the same circuit in 2010.

Garcia has quick, strong hands and projects to have above-average power. His hit tool projects to be at least average, and when you combine all of that with an above-average eye and an advanced approach at the plate, the Indians could really have something on the offensive side of the ball. He’s at least an average runner right now, but that could potentially decrease as he fills out and puts on more weight.

Scouts don’t really see Garcia sticking at SS long-term, but he should be at least an average defender at 2B or 3B. He has a strong arm, so could easily end up at the hot corner. But if he can play 2B, his bat would really play up there, and would be great to see him at second base down the road. He could be an above-average offensive infielder down the road, but we’re an awfully long ways from that as he won’t turn 19 until spring training is nearly over. He’ll likely stick around Arizona once camp breaks, and make his debut for short-season Mahoning Valley.

Glass Half-Full: A first-division starter at 2B or 3B
Glass Half-Empty: A lot can happen between 18 years old and The Show

11.Felix Sterling, RHP
Acquired:International Free Agent in 2009
2011Stats: 4-6, 4.12 ERA, 66 K and 33 BB in 67 2/3 IP

Scouting Report: Sterling is a strong, power righty who has a lot of potential but is also extremely raw. He’s already a pretty big guy, but has a projectable frame and will likely fill out and develop even more muscle on his frame. He has a plus fastball, and he sets everything up with that pitch. His fastball sits comfortably in the low-to-mid 90’s, and it’s his best pitch at this stage of his development. He also has a developing slider that flashes plus, and should be his out pitch once he refines the command and movement. The key to Sterling becoming an effective starter long-term is his changeup, which would be the third pitch in his repertoire.

Sterling struggled a little when he stepped up to low-A Lake County last year. He had 9 starts for the Captains, going 2-3 with a 4.14 ERA, 35 K and 25 BB in 41 1/3 IP. It was the first time in his career that he struck out less than a batter per inning, and his 5.4 BB/9 ratio was especially concerning. Then again, he was an 18-year old in his first taste of full season ball, so maybe it’s nothing to worry about. Still, it bears monitoring going forward, as command was one of the things he needed to work on heading into last season. He’ll likely begin the 2012 season in the Lake County rotation as a 19-year old, and will be a fun guy to watch pitch this year.

Glass Half-Full: Sterling has the stuff and body type to be a #2 starter in the show
Glass Half-Empty: He’s a long ways off, and needs to refine his command and develop his changeup first


Mark said...

Agulair really intrigues me. Of course, it seems like every year we have a guy who racked up impressive offensive stats with the Captians the year before fall flat on his face in the pitching-dominated Carolina League. If Agulair can avoid this drop-off or even improve his numbers, then we may really have something here, like a Top 5 prospect.

Anyone thinking the next Carlos Pena here?

Al Ciammaichella said...

Yeah, I'm pretty excited about him too. He was out at the fields an hr early today working with Travis Fryman on his defense, and you could really see how much effort he was putting in to work on the weaknesses in his game. If he can start improving his pitch recognition and lay off the breaking balls down and away, he has a chance to be special.