Saturday, March 08, 2014

Indians Prospect Countdown: #10-6

Just two days left in the countdown, as we've reached the top ten prospects in the Indians organization. We're going to look at a pair of toolsy young SS out of the Dominican Republic today, as well as a pair of infielders whose hit tool projects to play well above their defensive abilities. Rounding out today's piece is a starting pitcher who projects to be a solid middle of the rotation piece as soon as next season if the Indians need him to step up to the major league level.

Photo Credit: Al Ciammaichella
10. Dorssys Paulino, SS
DOB: 11/21/1994
Height/Weight: 6-0/175 lbs.
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Acquired: Signed as an international free agent in 2011
2013 Stats: .246/.297/.349 with 5 HR and 46 RBI in 120 games for low-A Lake County

Scouting Report: Signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2011, Paulino was born after the opening of Jacobs Field, the last baseball strike and around the same year that the Cleveland Browns last won a playoff game. He put up some eye-popping numbers in the complex league back in 2012 before falling back to Earth last season in the difficult hitter’s environment of the Midwest League. Still, he’s an intriguing prospect with the bat, albeit one who might end up moving off of SS as his development continues.

Paulino will play the entire 2014 season as a 19-year old, and when you consider that he already has a year of experience at the full-season level, that’s pretty impressive. He has strong, quick hands that a present can generate at least average power, and as he adds some bulk to his frame he has the potential to have plus raw power. He hit just 5 HR last year, but added 28 doubles, some of which will turn into HR as he matures. His hit tool projects to be a 5 or 5+, although at present it doesn’t play to that level due to his struggles with pitch recognition/selection. Paulino feasts on fastballs, but struggles with quality offspeed stuff. He has trouble laying off of sliders down and out of the zone, a somewhat common issue for young players coming out of the Dominican Republic. He’s very aggressive at the plate, and Midwest league pitchers were able to take advantage of that aggression last year as Paulino struck out 91 times against just 30 walks.

Defensively, Paulino struggled at SS last season. He made 39 errors in 116 games at the position, and his range can best be described as below-average. He just isn’t an instinctual shortstop the same way Francisco Lindor is, and lacks the quickness and powerful arm of a guy like Ronny Rodriguez. He’s likely destined for a move to 3B or 2B, but even if he has to move off of SS the bat could still play.

Paulino has a chance to play every day as the Carolina Mudcats SS next season, but would probably be served best by repeating the low-A Midwest League, at least for part of the year. He’s still just 19-years old, so starting out in Lake County wouldn’t be seen as a step backwards for the young Dominican infielder. The tools are all there for an above-average hitter at the major league level, it’s just going to be up to Paulino to refine them and improve his pitch selection in order to move up through the Indians system. With a solid season at the plate, Paulino could be right back near the top of the Indians prospect rankings at this time next season.

Glass half-full: He sticks at shortstop, refines his approach and the bat proves to be special
Glass half-empty: He never plays above AA

Photo Credit: Al Ciammaichella
9. Joe Wendle, 2B
DOB: 4/26/1990
Height/Weight: 5-11/190 lbs.
Bats/Throws: Left/Right
Acquired: 6th round pick in the 2012 MLB draft
2013 Stats: .295/.372/.513 with 16 HR and 64 RBI in 107 games for high-A Carolina

Scouting Report: Selected in the 6th round out of Division II West Chester University of Pennsylvania, Wendle has done nothing but hit since his professional debut with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers in 2012. He was selected as more of a signability pick than anything, but has opened eyes in and out of the organization with his hitting ability as a professional. He posted an .844 OPS in 61 games with the Scrappers that year, and after skipping low-A Lake County, improved to an .885 OPS last year in the Carolina League. He finished 2nd in the Carolina League in OPS, and tied for 4th in the league with his 16 HR.

Wendle’s prospect standing starts and ends with his hit tool. He’s a career .307/.373/.497 hitter in 168 minor league games, with 20 HR and 59 BB. He’s a legit 6 or 6+ hitter, with average power that will show up more than it should because his hit tool will allow it to play to the maximum level possible. He has a solid approach at the plate, makes adjustments from at bat to at bad, and in general just does everything right at the plate. Now, he was 23 in the Carolina League last year, which is a little old for the level, so it’ll be interesting to see what he does for AA Akron this season against more advanced pitching (specifically offspeed stuff). But it’s awfully difficult to find any holes in his offensive game so far, to the point where Wendle was named the organization’s minor league hitter of the year in 2013.

Defensively, Wendle is limited to 2B, and he’ll likely never be more than average at the position. His arm is adequate at best, and his actions can be a little stiff, particularly going to his right. He has decent range to his left and is more effective throwing when he’s already moving towards his target. He’s a below-average runner, but his speed plays up a little due to his baseball instincts. Wendle’s value will be determined by his bat, not his glove or his legs.

Caught in the massive logjam that the Indians have up the middle, Wendle hasn’t played above high-A ball yet in his career. That will change in 2014, when he will get an opportunity at Akron or possibly even Columbus. He reminds me a little bit of a (non-drunk) Carlos Baerga. No above average tool other than his bat, nothing incredibly sexy about his profile, but a guy who will just go out and spray line drives all over the ballpark on a consistent basis. If Wendle can have a peak similar to Baerga’s (3 All-Star teams, 200 hits twice, 120 OPS+ from ’92-’95), I think the Indians will be awfully happy with their investment.

Glass half-full: An everyday 2B with some pop
Glass half-empty: A utility infielder with some pop off the bench

Photo Credit: Al Ciammaichella
8. Ronny Rodriguez, SS
DOB: 4/17/1992
Height/Weight: 6-0/170 lbs.
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Acquired: International free agent signed in 2010
2013 Stats: .265/.291/.376 with 5 HR and 52 RBI

Scouting Report: Rodriguez continued his steady climb up the organizational ladder in 2013, playing the entire season in AA Akron as a 21-year old after playing the previous two years in Lake County and Carolina. Statistically, 2013 was Rodriguez’s worst season as a pro, posting a sub-.700 OPS and failing to crack double-digit HR totals for the first time since signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2010. He was again plagued by pitch recognition and selection issues, striking out 76 times against just 16 walks in 498 plate appearances.

At the plate, Rodriguez flashes a tantalizing array of tools that make him an easy guy to dream on. He has plus power to the pull side, as evidenced by his 19 HR in the Carolina League in 2012. He can sometimes get a little too pull happy though, and advanced pitchers use this to attack him with breaking balls down and out of the zone. He’s been making a concerted effort to stay back on the ball and use all fields, but is still susceptible to good sliders thrown low and away. He has very strong hands, quick wrists and plus bat speed. Watching the relatively small and skinny Rodriguez power balls over the fence in batting practice is an impressive sight, but it’s unclear at this point whether that power will ever materialize in game situations.

Defensively, Rodriguez is a very good athlete with a strong arm at SS. Some scouts see a move to 2B in the future, but I believe that Rodriguez can stick at SS long-term. He has improved greatly at the position in his time stateside and his range at SS is adequate, if not elite. His strong arm is a weapon, and he can make the athletic jump-throw from the hole at SS with relative ease. His hands are soft and his actions are clean, and when I look at him I see an average defensive SS at the next level. He made 16 errors in 71 games at SS in 2013, down from 28 errors in 80 games in 2012. He’s clearly improving at making the routine play in addition to the spectacular ones. He has decent speed and is an average runner, stealing 12 bases last season while being caught just three times.

Rodriguez is one of my favorite players in the organization, a guy who really enjoys playing the game of baseball. He’s worked hard to refine his tools and get to where he is today, and will continue to do so in his quest to reach the major leagues. The upcoming season will be huge for Rodriguez, as he’ll likely repeat AA with Francisco Lindor ticketed for AAA Columbus, and will be playing at a level appropriate for his age for the first time in his career. It’s possible his pitch recognition/selection is a fatal flaw in his game and he’ll never be able to make it to the show. It’s also possible he refines his approach and ends up as a 1st division SS at the major league level. Either way, 2014 will be a very good indicator as to which side of the coin Rodriguez’s future lies. The Indians have a plethora of talented middle infield prospects, so it’s possible that if Rodriguez does play well, he could finish out 2014 with another organization in a July deal.

Glass half-full: A 1st division SS with some pop
Glass half-empty: Approach issues doom him to top out in AAA

Photo Credit: Al Ciammaichella
7. Jose Ramirez, 2B
DOB: 9/17/1992
Height/Weight: 5-9/165 lbs.
Bats/Throws: Switch/Right
Acquired: International Free Agent signing in 2009
2013 Stats: .272/.325/.349 with 3 HR, 38 RBI and 38 SB in 113 games for AA Akron; .333/.429/.500 in 15 games (12 AB) with the Indians

Scouting Report: Ramirez battled an ankle injury and a logjam at the middle infield positions in 2013, but still managed to impress enough to earn a September call-up to Cleveland when rosters expanded last year. He was used primarily as a pinch runner with the Indians, but did rip a triple off of White Sox flamethrower Addison Reed in a late-season victory over the pale hose. He had a solid season with AA Akron, and his brief and unexpected showing at the major league level offered an enticing glimpse of what the future holds for the 21-year old infielder.

Ramirez projects a 6 hit tool from both sides of the plate. He does an excellent job of putting the bat on the ball, striking out just 84 times in over 1000 minor league plate appearances. He makes loud contact from gap-to-gap, but does not project to have very much over the fence power. He hit just 3 HR for AA Akron last year, and is unlikely to reach even double-digit HR at the major league level at his peak. Still, he’ll rack up plenty of doubles and triples given the opportunity, as hitting from both sides of the plate combined with his plus speed and advanced hit tool should help play up his overall profile at the plate. He has the potential to hit in the .280-.300 range with a solid OBP and high stolen base totals if he gets an everyday opportunity at the major league level.

Defensively, Ramirez fits best at 2B. He’s played some 3B and SS, but his arm is below-average and fits best on the right side of the infield. He has decent range and soft hands, and his footwork and actions around 2B improved greatly last season. He can play other infield positions in a utility role, but you shouldn’t expect him to be a team’s primary option on the left side of the infield for a full season.

His defensive limitations downplay his overall prospect standing, and on a team like the Indians where 2B is set for the foreseeable future, it really brings into question his ultimate role in Cleveland. Ramirez could play the Mike Aviles role for the club as soon as this year, but it makes more sense to keep him in the minors and increase his value to ultimately use him as a trade chip. Ramirez held his own in AA as a 20-year old having skipped high-A altogether, and he’ll likely be ticketed for AAA Columbus out of spring training.

Glass half-full: A 2nd division, everyday 2B
Glass half-empty: A solid utility INF with speed off the bench

Photo Credit: Lianna Holub
6. Cody Anderson, SP
DOB: 9/14/1990
Height/Weight: 6-4/220 lbs.
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Acquired: 14th round pick in the 2011 draft
2013 Stats: 9-4, 2.65 ERA with 122 K and 40 BB in 136 IP between high-A Carolina and AA Akron

Scouting Report: A 14th round pick in the 2011 draft, Anderson is a big, durable righty who has “innings-eating #3” written all over him. He pitched well in 2012, going 4-7 with a 3.20 ERA for low-A Lake County, but really put himself on the prospect map with a sub-3.00 ERA in the Carolina League last year. He led the league with a 2.34 ERA in 123 1/3 IP, making the all-star team and being named Carolina League Pitcher of the Year in the process. It was a breakout season for the starter out of Feather River College, and if he can follow it up with a similar performance in Akron in 2014, he’ll find himself on the doorstep of a big league debut next season.

Anderson works primarily off of his fastball, a mid-90’s offering with excellent sink and some arm-side run. When he’s locating the pitch well, he induces a lot of soft contact, keeping the ball on the ground and in the ballpark (just 6 HR allowed for Carolina last year). He also throws a slider, curveball and mixes in an occasional changeup. The slider is by far his most advanced secondary offering, with sharp, late life. It’s his strikeout pitch, and one that he frequently goes to when he gets up in the count. His curveball shows promise but still needs work. It can be a very loopy pitch that is easy for hitters to decipher out of his hand. The changeup is a show pitch that the Indians are trying to get him to develop so he has an additional weapon to attack lefthanded hitters. Improving the curveball and developing/refining the changeup will help determine Anderson’s timetable and eventual ceiling. If he can’t develop a reliable third pitch, he’s not going to be effective deep into games at the higher levels.

Anderson’s calling card is his control, as he posted an outstanding 3.61 SO/BB ratio for Carolina. At one point during the season, Anderson went an impressive 26 1/3 innings without issuing a free pass. He’s probably never going to be a big strikeout guy, but as long as he keeps his fastball down he can pitch to contact well enough to be a solid middle of the rotation arm. If his curveball or changeup can jump a couple of grades, that overall projection could improve. Still, if he ends up as an innings-eating #3 starter in the majors, that’s a pretty good return for a 14th round draft pick. I think the Indians were able to get Anderson relatively late due to his relief role in college. Give the org's scouts a lot of credit for seeing past the role and being able to project him as a starter in the pros. 

Anderson should begin the 2014 season as an Akron RubberDuck, and could easily finish the year in the Columbus rotation. He’s setting himself up for a major league look as soon as 2015, which would be just 4 years after he was selected in the draft.  

Glass half-full: An innings-eating #3
Glass half-empty: An innings-eating #4/5


Jeff E said...

Indians with depth at middle infield...Nice!!

Al Ciammaichella said...

Yup! Lots of up the middle talent. Some good looking C and CF as well.

Whirled HQ said...

Love these rankings, Al - very much appreciate the work and analysis. Was curious - I thought Caleb Hamrick would make your cut considering his success at MV at a pretty tender age. Do you not see much upside with him?

Al Ciammaichella said...

I like Hamrick, but he just didn't miss enough bats in the NYPL to project as a ML starter for me.