Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Indians Prospect Countdown: #30-26

Day three of the countdown brings us a bonus baby SP out of high school, a 1B with serious power potential, a power reliever who took a step back last year, an under-the-radar SP and one of the sweetest swings in the whole organization. 

Photo Credit: Kharli Rose
30. Sean Brady, SP

DOB: 6/9/1994
Height/Weight: 6-0/185 lbs.
Bats/Throws: Left/Left
Acquired: 5th round pick in the 2013 MLB Draft
2013 Stats: 0-1, 1.97 ERA with 30 K and 6 BB in 32 IP for Rookie Level Arizona

Scouting Report: The Indians selected Brady with the 141st overall pick in the 2013 draft out of Ida Baker High School in Florida. Slot for that pick was $347,100, but the Indians dug deep into their bonus pool to pay Brady an impressive $800,000 to forgo his scholarship to the University of Florida and get his professional career underway. Brady went 7-1 with a 0.68 ERA his senior year of high school, striking out an impressive 104 in just 51 2/3 IP. He signed in time to throw a few innings last year, and was able to showcase some impressive command and control, walking just 6 and posting a sub-2.00 ERA in 32 innings of work for the AZL Indians. It was an impressive professional debut for the young southpaw, and I’m excited to see him pitch in Goodyear during spring training this year.

Brady has three pitches, all of which project to be above-average at the major league level. His fastball currently sits between 87-91 MPH, and can touch 93. For a lefty, that’s about average, but you can expect Brady to pick up a couple of MPH as he adds strength to his 6’ frame. Coming from a ¾ arm slot, the pitch has nice arm-side run. He spots it effectively to both sides of the plate, and does a nice job using it to get ahead of hitters early in the count. Both his curveball and changeup are above-average pitches already, and could develop into plus offerings at the major league level. The changeup sits around 77-78 MPH, and has nice fade and sinking action. The curve has tight, sharp break and breaks hard through the zone. I’d love to see Brady add a cutter to his repertoire, as I think it’d give him a weapon to really attack right-handed hitters. But that’s getting a little ahead of ourselves, as the 19-year old hasn’t even pitched outside of the complex leagues yet.

Brady has very clean, smooth mechanics and has shown no problems repeating his delivery. He has a real feel for pitching, and does a nice job attacking hitters early in the count and getting them to swing at offspeed stuff once he gets ahead. He fits the “crafty lefty” bill to a T, but if he picks up some velocity on his fastball he can be more than that. Baseball America chose Brady as one of the 3 high school pitchers with the best command in the 2013 draft, and the bonus $$ forked over by the Indians shows just how highly they value the Florida southpaw. He’s one of the few players on this list that I haven’t see play yet, and I’m really looking forward to watching him pitch in Goodyear this month.

Glass half-full: A projectable #3, if he adds FB velo
Glass half-empty: A solid #4/5 in the back of a ML rotation

Photo Credit: Al Ciammaichella
29. Nelson Rodriguez, 1B
DOB: 6/12/1994
Height/Weight: 6-2/250 lbs.
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Acquired: 15th round pick in the 2012 MLB Draft
2013 Stats: .252/.342/.378 with 10 HR and 50 RBI in 120 games between short-season Mahoning Valley and low-A Lake County

Scouting Report: Rodriguez was drafted out of George Washington High School in New York City. The Indians have had some success with kids out of George Washington in the past, namely outfielder Manny Ramirez who was drafted out of GWHS in 1991. Rodriguez was a catcher in high school in addition to playing some 1B, but the Indians have turned him into a full-time 1B as a professional. His arm was strong enough to remain behind the plate, but his size and feet led the Indians to transition Rodriguez to 1B. His bat should more than play at 1B though, as Rodriguez has as much raw power as anyone in the organization. The Indians were aggressive with the Nellie in 2013, assigning him to the low-A Midwest League as an 18-year old to begin the season. Rodriguez hit just .194/.305/.256 with one HR in 47 games with the Captains, striking out 53 times while drawing 26 walks. Sent down to the short-season New York-Penn League when that circuit began play in June, Rodriguez found a lot more success. He hit .287/.366/.452 with 9 HR in 73 games as a Scrapper, showcasing the skills that the Indians envisioned when they drafted him in 2012.

Rodriguez has 6+ raw power, and puts on an impressive show in batting practice. He has power to all fields, but is particularly impressive from LF to CF. He has a somewhat long swing with a deep load, and will always have some swing-and-miss in his game because of that. But the long swing helps generate power, and when Rodriguez can extend his arms on a pitch out over the plate, watch out. Inside fastballs can sometimes tie him up, and that’s something he’s going to have to work on moving forward. But the raw power makes him an imposing figure at the plate, and he has the potential to be a thumper in the middle of a major league lineup. He has above-average bat speed and strong hands, so even after he shortens up his swing a little he should still have impressive power. Rodriguez offered a tantalizing glimpse of his potential at the plate in July of last year, when he hit .383/.431/.673 with 7 HR in just 29 games for the Scrappers.

Defensively, Rodriguez has a great arm for a 1B. He’s a solid defender with soft hands and does a really nice job digging out low throws from his fellow infielders. He’s a below-average runner, but that’s something you’d expect from a 250 lbs. first baseman. Stealing bases isn’t going to be part of Rodriguez’s game, but that hardly matters if he’s hitting 30+ HR and driving in 100 runs in the middle of a lineup.

Rodriguez is a high-risk, high-reward type of prospect. He’s an extremely hard worker who’s drawn rave reviews for his makeup and intangibles, so there’s a very good chance that he gets the most out of his tools as a professional. He’ll likely be back in Lake County to open the 2014 season, and it will be interesting to see if Rodriguez has made significant adjustments to his swing and approach since 2013’s tour of the Midwest League. He’s a fun guy to watch hit, and has the potential to be one of those “helium” prospects who jumps 15-20 spots on next year’s list.

Glass half-full: A middle-of-the order bat at 1B
Glass half-empty: The bat can’t carry him all the way to the major leagues

Photo Credit: Al Ciammaichella
28. Shawn Armstrong, RP
DOB: 9/11/1990
Height/Weight: 6-2/210 lbs.
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Acquired: 18th round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft
2013 Stats: 2-3, 4.14 ERA with 48 K and 21 BB in 37 IP between Rookie Level Arizona and AA Akron

Scouting Report: Armstrong took a small step backwards in 2013, struggling with his command and putting up an ERA that was 2 ½ runs higher than his 2012 mark. But the raw stuff is still there, as his K/9 rate actually went up from 10.4 to 11.7. Armstrong’s entire season was thrown off by a wrist injury that he suffered in Goodyear during spring training. He tried to pitch through it, and was finally sent to the DL after giving up 3 ER in 2/3’s of an inning for the Aeros on April 19. He returned to Akron on June 30, and posted a 3.58 ERA for the rest of the season. Armstrong closed out 2013 on a high note, as he did not allow an earned run in his final 6 appearances of the season (8 2/3 IP).

Armstrong has back of the bullpen quality stuff, starting with a plus fastball. He works consistently in the mid-90’s and can touch 98 with life. He compliments the fastball with a wipeout slider that is particularly devastating on right handed hitters. He also employs a cutter to attack lefties with, and I was really hoping he’d refine that pitch in 2013 to add a third weapon to his arsenal. It’s an impressive profile, and there’s little doubt that Armstrong has the raw stuff to be a 8th or 9th-inning guy in the major leagues.

The only flaw that could hold Armstrong back is his command, which at present is below-average. He averages 5 BB per 9 IP, which is a number that has to come down if he’s going to find success at the next level. He can get away with more walks than the average arm because he misses so many bats, but still needs to show improvement in his command and control to continue to climb the Indians organizational ladder. His delivery can best be described as violent, which both helps him show deception and increase velocity while at the same time costing him repeatability and command. He’s a good athlete though, and I have to believe the Indians coaching staff will help him iron out a couple of kinks in the delivery that will still allow him to maintain his stuff.  He’ll probably open the 2014 season back in AA Akron, but could move quickly to Columbus and even Cleveland this year if the need arises.

Glass half-full: A power reliever in the back-end of a MLB bullpen
Glass half-empty: Command holds him back from an 8th or 9th inning role

Photo Credit: Al Ciammaichella
27. Jordan Cooper, SP
DOB: 5/10/1989
Height/Weight: 6-2/190 lbs
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Acquired: 9th round pick in the 2010 MLB Draft
2013 Stats: 5-6, 2.88 ERA with 74 K and 39 BB in 97 IP between high-A Carolina and AA Akron

Scouting Report: Cooper had a promising season derailed last year by arm trouble, trying to pitch through the pain but ultimately being shut down in mid-July. He had surgery this offseason to remove bone chips and a bone spur from his right arm, but is already back on a throwing program and should be ready to go with no restrictions to open the 2014 season. When Cooper went down, he was throwing the ball as well as anyone in the system. In 9 appearances (6 starts) with AA Akron in June and July, Cooper went 3-2 with a 1.70 ERA, striking out 30 in his 42 1/3 innings of work. He wound up with the lowest ERA on the Akron staff for pitchers throwing more than 70 innings despite the injury, and it would have been nice to see if he could’ve kept that momentum going through the final month and a half of the season.

Cooper was selected out of the baseball factory that is Wichita State University (alma mater of former Indians skipper Eric Wedge!) in the 9th round of the 2010 draft. He has a deep arsenal, throwing a 2-seam fastball, 4-seam fastball, slider, cutter and curveball. The 4-seamer sits in the 91-94 MPH range, with the 2-seamer a tick slower but featuring some nice arm-side run and sink. Cooper attacks hitters early in the count by pounding the lower-half of the zone with his fastball, and then uses his offspeed stuff to induce weak contact once he gets ahead of them in the count. His cutter really runs in on the hands of lefties, providing him with an effective pitch against hitters from both sides of the plate. His slider is an above-average pitch with nice late life and tilt, and his curveball gives him a weapon to change the eye level on hitters. It’s a starter’s arsenal, and Cooper should have no problem sticking in the rotation long-term.

Cooper is a very good athlete with a clean delivery that he has no problem repeating. He’s more of a command-and-control guy than a top of the rotation strikeout machine, but you can’t argue with the on the field results that he’s been able to produce as a professional. He pounds the strike zone, keeps the ball in the ballpark (less than 1 HR/9 IP in both 2012/13) and induces a lot of soft contact. Cooper will turn 25 in May, so 2014 is a big season for his prospect standing. If he can stay on the field and healthy, he’s a major league option as soon as this year. He’ll likely start off in the AA Akron rotation, and could move quickly to Columbus depending on how the cast of veterans that the Indians are bringing to camp shake out.

Glass half-full: Innings-eating #4 starter
Glass half-empty: Versatile swingman out of the bullpen

Photo Credit: Al Ciammaichella
26. Jordan Smith, OF
DOB: 7/5/1990
Height/Weight: 6-4/205 lbs.
Bats/Throws: Left/Right
Acquired: 9th round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft
2013 Stats: .292/.368/.400 with 5 HR and 54 RBI in 134 games with high-A Carolina

Scouting Report: Smith has been one of the more consistent hitters in the Indians organization since he was drafted in 2011, putting up a .303/.375/.418 line in his 315 minor league contests with the Scrappers, Captains and Mudcats. He was 2nd in the Midwest League in batting in 2012, and his .292 AVG was good for 8th in the Carolina League last year. Smith has produced at every level he’s been at since being drafted out of Division II St. Cloud State in 2011, but he’s also been a little old for each level. Smith can’t control where he plays though, all he can do is go out and hit which is exactly what he’s done so far in his career.

Smith has a sweet, smooth swing from the left side. It’s a very level swing that doesn’t generate a ton of backspin, but he consistently puts the barrel of the bat on the ball and hits line drives all over the ballpark. He’s a potential 5+ or 6 hitter, but his power projects to be only about average. He’s hit just 14 HR in 315 minor league games, but does have 72 doubles. Some of those doubles will turn into HR as Smith continues to add strength to his tall, projectable frame but the swing itself just doesn’t lend itself to a ton of power. If you’ve never seen Smith hit, he swings the bat like a taller version of Lonnie Chisenhall. I have seen two of Smith’s career homers, one at Lake County that never got more than about 15 feet off the ground, and then one for Carolina against Potomac last year that was a moon shot that probably went well over 400 feet to right-center. Smith generates a lot of loud contact, and more power should come as Smith gets older.

Smith was a 3B coming out of college, and played primarily at the hot corner for Mahoning Valley in 2011. Since the beginning of 2012 though, he’s appeared exclusively in the outfield.   He has an above-average arm, and has found a nice home in RF. He played 102 games in right for Carolina last season, collecting 12 outfield assists (he added a 13th from CF). He made just 4 errors, and should have no problem providing average to above-average defense in RF long-term.

Smith’s present bat profiles better at 3B than it does in a corner OF spot, but if he can continue to hit in the .300 range with a .370 OBP, the Indians will live with the relative lack of power. Both the low-A Midwest League and high-A Carolina League are known to favor pitchers over hitters, so it’s possible that Smith’s numbers could take a step forward with AA Akron this year. He’s definitely a guy to keep an eye on, and if his power can tick upwards to even average, he’s a real prospect.

Glass half-full: A .300/.380/.430 guy in RF
Glass half-empty: A slower version of Trevor Crowe 


Mark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark said...

If Nelson Rodriguez lives up to his glass half-full projection, then he'll be a huge steal in the 11th round. Did teams pass on him because of signability concerns (he was in HS) or was it more concern about his ability to develop into a consistent hitter? He's one of those rare, corner of the diamond players the Indians don't seem to draft very often. But his power potential (and from the right side!) is very intriguing.

I didn't realize Jordan Cooper was as close to the majors as he was. Of course, he's entering his age-25 season so he should be. A month's worth of elite numbers in AA is probably too little to get excited about but I'm glad to see a SP prospect ranked in the late-20's who has had a taste of AA. That definitely helps shore up this org's weakest spot.

AA will be a huge test for Jordan Smith, obviously. I didn't realize he was playing at age 22-23 in Carolina. I imagine he will spend the whole year as a Rubber Duck, which would put him in line for Columbus in 2015 in his age 24-25 year. That's a tad old to be a prospect by Triple A standards but not rally too bad.

Al Ciammaichella said...

Rodriguez signed for an even $100k, which isn't huge but is more than most 15th round picks get. Teams didn't see him as a catcher, and as a 1B-only type the bat really has to play to get him to the bigs. He has a lot of swing and miss in his game, but like you said, in a system that is short on corner bats, he's a very intriguing guy.

I love Cooper, as you can see. He doesn't have overpowering stuff, but is a good athlete and a tremendous competitor. I'm probably higher on him that anyone else that follows the system, but he's always pitched so damn well when I've seen him that I just can't have him any lower.

I had Smith several spots higher in my earlier drafts, but his age and lack of power production ultimately had me drop him to 26. He's a very, very good hitter, but I'd like to see him against more age-appropriate pitching before I jump him into the high teens.

Thanks for reading!

Adam Van Arsdale said...

Any chance Brady starts the season in Lake County?

Al Ciammaichella said...

Definitely a chance. They started Mitch Brown in LC the year after he was drafted. They also might want to hold him in extended until it warms up a little.

Adam Van Arsdale said...

Aside from the 2013 draftees (who were outstanding) and Danny Salazar, last year was a pretty dreadful season for Tribe starting pitching throughout the system. Here's to hoping this year is different.