Prior to the 2009 season, we identified 10 prospects to watch in the Indians farm system. Of those 10, five remain on the 2010 list.
Michael Brantley, OF: Acquired from Milwaukee in the fall of 2008 as the player to be named later in the CC Sabathia deal, the speedy left-handed hitter could be the Indians' Opening Day left fielder this spring. The son of former big leaguer Mickey Brantley is a fine athlete with plate discipline and line drive power to all fields. After hitting a combined .311 in four pro seasons coming into 2009, he batted just .267 at Triple-A Columbus, but added 46 steals. He barely retained his rookie eligibility with 112 at-bats for Cleveland in 2009 but regained his high-average reputation as he hit .313 in that span. A smart player who rattles the opposition when he's on base, he was also 33-for-33 in steal attempts against right-handers.
Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B: Drafted in the first round of 2008 out of junior college in North Carolina, Chisenhall hit .290 with five homers and 45 RBIs in his pro debut at Class A Short-Season Mahoning Valley that summer. In 2009, he was shifted from shortstop to third base, and skipped a level to Class A Advanced Kinston, where he hit 18 homers, tied for fourth-most in the Carolina League, and was third with a .492 slugging percentage. By season's end, he was at Double-A Akron for the final month, continuing his quick climb through the system. A gap hitter with good instincts, he has the arm for the new position and continues to work on the defense there.
Hector Rondon, RHP: Rondon was added to the club's 40-man roster prior to the 2009 season after leading the organization with 145 strikeouts at Kinston and posting a 3.60 ERA. He started the year with a 2.75 ERA in 15 games at Akron, fanning 73 while walking 16 in 72 innings, before moving up to Triple-A Columbus in July. With a lively fastball that touches the mid 90s, a changeup and slider, he has the stuff for the rotation, but could move to the bullpen due to the big league club's needs. The Venezuelan prospect is a good athlete with a clean delivery.
Carlos Santana, C: Santana, acquired from the Dodgers in 2008 for infielder Casey Blake, has won his respective league's MVP award the last two years, including the Eastern League honors in 2009 when he hit .290 with 23 homers and 97 RBIs with a .413 on-base average and .530 slugging percentage at Akron. With the Indians' depth at catcher, they will not rush the converted third baseman as he continues to develop his defense -- even if they think his bat is ready for the bigs -- so don't be surprised if he spends most of 2010 at Columbus. The switch-hitting 23-year-old has power to all fields and good plate patience. He has the arm for the new position and continues to work hard on the other facets of defense there.
Nick Weglarz, OF: A staple on the Canadian national teams of the last few years, the 6-foot-3, 245-pounder was a third-round pick in 2005 out of his home country. Always known for his prodigious power, he struggled with his average at Akron last season, as his numbers dipped from the .270 range of 2007-2008 to a .227 for the Aeros, though he added 16 homers and 65 RBIs before being shut down with shin splints in August. He was also hobbled by back trouble, then underwent shin surgery this past fall. The Indians will keep an eye on the big boy's conditioning in hopes it keeps him off the DL. When healthy, he is a patient hitter with raw strength.
Prospects to watch
|Michael Brantley, OF||Michael Brantley, OF|
|Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B||Carlos Carrasco, RHP|
|Kelvin De La Cruz, LHP||Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B|
|David Huff, LHP||Nick Hagadone, LHP|
|Matt LaPorta, OF||Jason Knapp, RHP|
|Beau Mills, 1B||Lou Marson, C|
|Carlos Rivero, SS||Hector Rondon, RHP|
|Hector Rondon, RHP||Carlos Santana, C|
|Carlos Santana, C||Nick Weglarz, OF|
|Nick Weglarz, OF||Alex White, RHP|
These five players were on our 2009 list but are not on the 2010 list, due to the loss of rookie status, trade, poor performance, injury, the addition of other prospects to the list, etc.
Kelvin De La Cruz, LHP: The 21-year-old southpaw dropped off the preseason Top 10 due to arm trouble that shelved him virtually all season, but look for him to return to form in 2010. Throwing a fastball in the low 90s and plus curveball, he had posted a 12-6 record and 2.98 ERA in 27 games in 2008, mostly at Lake County, but was shut down after a few starts at Kinston where he had gone 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA. He returned for a few rehab starts in Arizona in late August.
David Huff, LHP: The club's top pick in 2006 out of UCLA graduated to the big leagues in 2009 with a 5.61 ERA in 23 starts.
Matt LaPorta, OF: Like Huff, LaPorta no longer qualifies for this list, having used up his rookie eligibility as he hit .254 with seven homers and 52 RBIs in Cleveland. Acquired from the Brewers in the 2008 deal for CC Sabathia, the power hitter was a first-round pick in 2007 out of Florida.
Beau Mills, 1B: The first-round pick from 2007 and son of new Houston Astros manager Brad Mills still has a promising future, but was edged off this list by the Indians' many new acquisitions in the last year's flurry of trades. He was Carolina League MVP in 2008, when he led the organization with 21 homers, but took a small step backward at Akron in 2009, hitting .267 with 14 homers and 83 RBIs. He has a good feel for hitting, but may not have the pure power one would want at first base.
Carlos Rivero, SS: Like Mills, Rivero's absence from the new list is more an indication of the talent picked up in trades than his own weaknesses. The Venezuelan prospect is an outstanding defensive shortstop who is working on bringing his offense up to his defensive game. At Akron this year, he hit just .242 with seven homers and 58 RBIs after batting .282 at Kinston in 2008. He did hit .280 in the second half, though.
The following five players are new additions to the Indians' Prospects to Watch list.
Carlos Carrasco, RHP: One of the top pitching prospects in the Phillies system coming into 2009, Carrasco was dealt to the Indians in the Cliff Lee deal and made his big league debut down the stretch, with an 8.87 ERA in five games. That's not indicative of what to expect from the hard-throwing right-hander, who led the International League with 148 strikeouts in 2009.
Nick Hagadone, LHP: Acquired from Boston with Justin Masterson in the deal for Victor Martinez, Hagadone missed most of 2008 to Tommy John surgery and was used sparingly in 2009 in his comeback but showed why he was one of the most promising southpaws in the Minors before his operation. With a lively fastball in the low-to-mid 90s and a plus slider with late bite, the Washington product was converted from college closer to Minor League starter. He fanned 27 in 20 innings at three stops in 2009, and with the kid gloves off in 2010, look for a big season from him.
Jason Knapp, RHP: Added from the Phillies in the Cliff Lee deal but injured since coming over, the second-round pick from 2008 has great power stuff and got off to a red-hot start at Lakewood in 2009, with a 1.85 ERA in the first month before injuries slowed him down. He underwent shoulder surgery this offseason but when healthy has a fastball in the mid-high 90s, a 12-6 curveball and the makings of a promising changeup.
Lou Marson, C: Like Knapp, Marson came over from the Phillies in the Lee deal, after having been a 2008 Olympian. He is a solid offensive and defensive prospect who, for the time being, looks to be the starting backstop in Cleveland until top prospect Carlos Santana is ready. Marson homered in his big league debut in 2008 and batted .277 in 91 games at Triple-A last summer.
Alex White, RHP: The North Carolina ace lasted until the 15th pick this spring, when the Indians scooped him up. An excellent athlete, with a sinking fastball in the low 90s and a splitter, as well as a slider that is a work in progress, he signed late and will make his pro debut this spring.
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less