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Reexamining the Indians 2007 prospects

By jcfortun Published: February 26, 2010
Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Aaron Laffey throws during baseball spring training camp Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2010, in Goodyear, Ariz. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Four years ago Baseball America annointed the Indians farm system the 10th best in baseball.

"The Indians formula remains consistent,'' they wrote in the 2007 Baseball America Prospect Handbook.

"They have outstanding depth, keeping them around the top 10, even while remaking the big league club. The organization's strengths include left-handed pitching and power relievers."

Was that an accurate assessment? A four-year window is adequate to finally go back and take a look at how the Indians top 30 prospects, according to the 2007 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, have fared.

Here is a list of all 30 with a brief write up of where they are now and their rank in each of the following years. if it is left blank, it means Baseball America did not rank them.

I didnt get a chance to go as indepth as I would have liked, but this will at least provide the scope of what I was after. Enjoy.

2007 rank/player
1. Adam Miller
Where is he now? On a disabled list. Or an operating table. Or rehabbing his heavily damaged right index finger. Miller's injury history has been well documented and it may
have ended his promising career before it even began.
2. Chuck Lofgren
Where is he now? Milwaukee. Lofgren had to rediscover himself after nearly falling off the map in 2008 (2-6 in 85.2 innings, 5.99 ERA at Akron) when personal issues derided his ascension. Lofgren bounced back last season, starting his year at Akron 3-1 with a 1.48 ERA in 42.2 innings before being promoted to Columbus (6-10, 5.31) where he experienced some growing pains. A rule 5 draft pick by Milwaukee, he will get a chance to break camp with the Brewers this season.
3. Trevor Crowe
Where is he now? Cleveland. Crowe is a strong defender, but looked overmatched offensively in his three stints with Cleveland last year. As of right now he looks like a fourth outfielder. But Austin Kearns is in camp. And Grady is healthy. And Brantley and LaPorta will be fighting for left. And....
4. Tony Sipp
Where is he now? Cleveland. Sipp bounced back from Tommy John surgery in 2007 to become a promising piece in the Indians bullpen. Last year, Sipp pitched 40 innings with the Tribe and was 2-0 with a 2.92 ERA. He struck out 48 and walked 25.
5. Brian Barton
Where is he now? Atlanta Braves, Triple A affiliate. Barton became a rule 5 draft pick  in 2007 when the St. Louis Cardinals grabbed him and inserted him on the major league roster. At the time, Barton's highest organizational level was a 25-game stint with Triple A Buffalo. With the Cardinals, Barton hit .333/.409/.462 in March in 44 plate appearances, but his numbers tapered off as the season progressed. The Cardinals traded him to the Atlanta Braves last April for relief pitcher Blaine Boyer. Last year, in Triple A, he hit .254/.344/.370 with 110 strikeouts and 44 walks in 458 plate appearances.
6. John Drennen
Where is he now? Akron. Hitting a home run off of Roger Clemens in 2006 Class A game can only take you so far. Last year, Drennen finally arrived to Akron after repeating Kinston for three straight years. He struggled with the Aeros, was eventually demoted back to his home away from home Kinston (.270/.395/.397 in 77 plate appearances), and returned to the Aeros again to finish the season with a .274/.320/.449 line at Akron in 354 plate appearances. The former first round pick's stock continues to dwindle.
7. Scott Lewis
Where is he now? Sipping daiquiris with Adam Miller. Lewis has shown flashes of ability when he is not adding to his lengthy medical history. He could play a role in Cleveland this season at some point, if he stays healthy. And that is a big IF.
8. Brad Snyder
Where is he now? Now, 28 years old, Snyder is toiling in the Chicago Cubs minor league system and is no longer a prospect. He hit .278/.335/.549 with 14 home runs in 260 plate appearances last year for its Triple A affiliate, Iowa.
9. Wes Hodges
Where is he now? Columbus. Hodges, like Jordan Brown, is very close to nabbing the dreaded "organizational player" tag. And he can thank injuries for that. Although Cleveland protected him on the 40-man roster this year, so there is still hope of a future return on its investment.
10. David Huff
Where is he now? Cleveland. Huff led the indians in wins last year (11), which doesn't say much. More importantly, Huff gained some invaluable major league experience last season that allowed him to show progression as the season neared its completion. he was 3-1 in September with a 2.00 ERAin four starts.
11. Rafael Perez
Where is he now? Cleveland. A dominant set up man when he is right, which he wasn't for most of last year.
12. Sung-Wei Tseng
Where is he now? The 2006 Taiwan Amateur Pitcher of the Year in 2006 was limited to seven games (1-1. 17.55 ERA in 6.2 innings) in the Rookie Arizona League last year. The 25-year-old split 2008 between Akron (8.80 ERA in nine relief appearances) and Kinston (0-8, 5.27 ERA in 54.2 innings).
13. JD Martin
Where is he now? Washington Nationals. Martin got his first peek the professional level last year and provided some quality depth for the Nationals. he finished the season 5-4 with a 4.44 ERA in 15 starts. Martin could sneak into the Nationals rotation this year as a back-end starter.
14. Juan Lara
Where is how now? Lara survived a horrific car accident in 2007 that left him with brain trauma, a cervical spine fracture, broken ribs and nerve damage to his pitching
arm. He was in a coma for three weeks.Lara tried to come back to baseball last season, an amazing step considering what he has been through, but is yet to pitch in a game.
15. Adrubal Cabrera
Where is he now? Cleveland, and should be for a few more years.
16. Matt McBride
Where is he now? Akron, maybe Columbus. The 25-year-old prospect tore it up at Kinston last year hitting .405/.453/.667 with six home runs, 15 strikeouts and 11 walks in 139 at bats. He earned a promotion to Akron where his overall production leveled out: .247/.301/.427 with 12 home runs, 42 strikeouts and 18 walks in 406 plate appearances. He doesn't catch anymore, which helped his offensive numbers jump, but hurt his overall value. How many
outfield-1B-DH types does this organization already have?
17. Brian Slocum
Where is he now? Organizational filler for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He pitched at triple A Indianapolis last year and posted a 3.94 ERA in 32 innings of relief. He did strike
out 28, but that is one shy of his age this season.
18. Edward Mujica
Where is he now? San Diego Padres. Mujica seemed to find a home after struggling in two seasons with the Tribe. Last year, splitting time between the bullpen and the starting rotation, he finished the season 3-5 with a 3.94 ERA in 93 innings. He started four games, all in September, and went 0-1 with a 5.94 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 16 innings. The Padres clearly have some versatility to work with.
19. Kelly Shoppach
Where is he now? Now providing the air conditioning at Tropicana Field for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Everyone takes shots at Shoppach in Cleveland for his strikeout numbers. Heck, I just did. it was too easy.  But Shoppach is better than he is given credit for. Consider this fact that Basebal Prospectus pointed out: his batting average on balls in play dropped to .280 last year. It was over .350 the previous three seasons. The Rays may be getting a bounce back player. A catcher who can hit 20-25 homers for you and play solid, but not spectacular defense is worth having around... but not worth paying when Carlos Santana is waiting.

20. Wyatt Toregas
Where is he now? Cleveland... At least until Carlos Santana is ready to contribute.
21. Max Ramirez
Where is he now? Texas Rangers minor league system, with a few major league stints. Ramirez, who the Atlanta Braves traded to the Indians for Bob Wickman in 2006, joined a deep catching talent pool in Texas when the Indians sent him there in exchange for Kenny Lofton in 2007.
22. Aaron Laffey
Where is he now? the Cleveland rotation.. or is the bullpen? Laffey showed off his versatility, and knack for getting double plays, last season when he proved to be one of the Indians better pitchers in the starting rotation. Despration moved him to the bullpen where he continued to do well, before a strained oblique muscle interfered. He should be in the middle of the Indians pitching plans this season, most likely the starting rotation.
23. Josh Rodriguez
Where is he now? Akron or Columbus. Rodriguez is your prototypical Mark Shapiro shortstop. Little range, good size and a strong bat. He was moved to second base last season, before a hamstring injury ruined Rodriguez's 2009 campaign at Akron, a level he was already repeating. His window is starting to close.
24. Jordan Brown
Where is he now? Columbus. At what point does a player stop being a "prospect" and just become Crash Davis? It seems like Brown is toeing that line. He holds Carolina League (2006) and Eastern League (2007) MVP honors and led the International League last season with a .336 batting average. He is considered one of the better contact hitters in the organization too. So, what gives? Brown, who will turn 27 this year doesn't strikeout too much (64 times last year), but he doesn't take many walks either (30) and projects to have average power. He isn't a strong a defender and is a below average runner. It's obvious his best trait is his ability to make contact, but the Indians brass appear to demand a bit more out of its corner spots. This season may be his last try at becoming a contributable Indian and I don't see him supplanting Matt LaPorta or Michael Brantley for a roster spot.
25. Jensen Lewis
Where is he now? Cleveland bullpen. How unpredictable are bullpen pitchers? Lewis, and Rafael Perez, both lost their way last year after previously being strong set up men. Lewis could be alright if he figures out how to stay away from giving up home runs.
26. Jose Constanza
Where is he now? Akron or Columbus. A frustrating player to watch. Constanza has game changing speed and, at times, dominates because of it. But he lacks the consistency and demeanor to reach the majors.
27. Tom Mastny
Where is he now? Japan. A reliever for the the Yokohama Bay Stars.
28. Frank Herrmann
Where is he now? Columbus. Herrmann split last season between Akron and Columbus. Upon his arrival in Columbus he was turned into a relief pitcher where he logged 76 innings, struck out 50 and carried a 2.96 ERA. It is unclear where he fits in the big picture yet. He has never been a big strikeout pitcher in the minors.
29. Steven Wright
Where is he now? Columbus. Wright spent nearly the entire season at Akron last year, logging 81.1 innings, striking out 64, walking 20 and carrying a 2.32 ERA. He was 10-0 overall. He struck out four in 5 2/3 innings at Columbus and carried a 4.76 ERA.
30. Stephen Head
Where is he now? Columbus. Yet another first baseman/outfielder type who is buried on the depth chart. last year at Columbus .246/.291/.368, which puts him somehwhere on the organizational depth chart below Russell Branyan, Matt LaPorta, Travis Hafner, Andy Marte, Jordan Brown, Beau Mills, Nick Weglarz, Wes Hodges....

Obviously, projecting future baseball stars isn't a concrete endeavor. Players will get injured (Miller, Scott Lewis). Accidents (Lara) will happen and some players will never reach their full potential. Of course competition will knock many of them out too.

After four years there are still some players who the verdict is out on (Brown,Wright, McBride come to mind) although the window of opportunity is shutting fast.

Despite all that, it is still safe to say the 2007 "top prospects" lacked impact players.

Asdrubal Cabrera is the only positional starter. Wyatt Toregas and Trevor Crowe provide depth.

Baseball America was right about the left-handed pitchers and power relievers.

Left-handers Huff and Laffey are both in contention to be Indians starters this season and have shown some quality signs. Both will be middle of the rotation pitchers at best.

relievers Sipp, Jensen Lewis and Rafael Perez could all be strong bullpen pitchers, but have had their shares of ups and downs.

Other desirables now on other teams:

Chuck Lofgren could turn into a solid starter for the Brewers.

Kelly Shoppach is a solid major leaguer, but wasn't worth an investment when Carlos Santana appears to be the real deal.

Mujica and Martin had plenty of opportunities with the Tribe. Martin was a nine-year minor league vet before he broke through last season.

The lift Lofton gave the Indians in 2007 was well worth the price, Max Ramirez.


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