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2010 Top Prospects: The Down and Out

Every year prospects are lost to injury.  Sometimes they recover, sometimes they don't. Even if a player does recover, that recovery might take a season or two, during which time a quick glance at their numbers fails to tell the whole story.  Here are a few of Cleveland's players who either missed substantial parts of 2010 or just making their way back from injury.  Even if healthy, these guys wouldn't necessarily be prospects, but they are worth remembering.

1. Adam Miller (25.9, ?)

A year ago I began my write-up of Miller in this series by comparing him to Satchel Paige:

Adam Miller just turned 25 yesterday, but in baseball years he might as well be Satchel Paige.

At this point, though not yet 26, if Adam Miller ever pitches a major league inning the comparison should probably be with Tommy John.  Miller's medical journey has, and sadly will likely remain, a more interesting story than his baseball career.

2. Alexander Perez (21.5, A+)

Probably the breakout pitcher of the system a year ago, Perez didn't make it out of his second start in 2010 before going down with a sore elbow.  After some delay, Alexander Perez found himself getting prepped for TJ surgery and is not expected back till the second-half 2011.  Fortunately, he won't be turning 22 until late July of 2011, so time, if not his elbow, is on his side.

3. Hector Rondon (22.6, AAA)

Last year's top pitching prospect, Rondon suffered through an inexplicably horrendous 7 starts in Columbus before following Perez on the path to TJ-surgery.  In just 31 innings, Rondon managed to give up more HRs (12) than he did the entire 2009 season, while allowing opposing batters to tee off on his pitches (8.53 ERA).  Rondon will just be 23 in February, but with the Indians lack of starting rotation depth, the injury could not have come at a worse time for Rondon and his chances of joining the rotation anytime in the near future.

4. Jason Knapp (20.2, A-)

Seeing a theme? Knapp has some of the Indians best pure stuff, but didn't make it to the mound until the last 6 weeks of the season.  In the 28 innings he pitched he was wild (0.42 BB/IP), but overpowering (1.66 K/IP).  55% of the outs he recorded in his short time came via the K.  A good sign going into next season.

5. Kelvin De La Cruz (22.2, AA)

Kelvin is on this list not because he was injured this season, but because he was coming off of an injury-filled 2009.  His numbers alone this season would not get him on to any prospect list, but the hope is that this was a recovery year for him and that he will bounce back next season.  After beginning the season strong in Kinston, De La Cruz lost his control  and strikeout abilities in Akron.  He stayed pretty healthy however, meaning next year will be a critical year to evaluate the tall lefty.

6. Joey Mahalic (21.9, A+)

Like De La Cruz, Mahalic was coming off injuries in 2010.  Not as projectable as the arms above, Mahalic needs to show he can throw strikes and keep gettting groundballs if he wants to have any path towards the majors as a starting pitcher.

7. Abner Abreu (21.0, A+

Abreu's breakout 2009 season ended with a dislocated shoulder.  His 2010 season might as well have never begun.  He stayed healthy, but was absolutely miserable at the plate with horrendous peripherals and none of the power he showed a year ago.  Shoulder injuries can take time to come back from, so perhaps 2011 will reveal whether Abreu has any prospect in him or not.

This is a tough list.  Rondon, Knapp, Perez and De La Cruz were arguably four of the system's top 5 starting pitching prospects coming into 2010.  Knapp and De La Cruz should be healthy going into 2011, but both have a fair amount to prove.  The timetable for Rondon and Perez is more uncertain.