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Cleveland Indians Prospects That Matter mid-season update: Summary

A recap of the PTM mid-season update.

Francisco Lindor
Francisco Lindor
Rob Tringali

So now that we've gone through the entire system, it's time to recap things.

Here's the combined list of players who made the PTM list, along with those who fell off the list and those short-season players who are worth knowing about.

Before I recap everything, a note about this week's trading deadline. With the Indians on the edge of contention, they are undoubtedly talking to other clubs about trades, and if they do make a trade, one of the players below will likely be included in that deal. The organizational strength right is position players, with catchers and outfielders being the areas of especial depth. The Indians do have one of the biggest trade chips in the game in Francisco Lindor, but they aren't going to deal him for anybody, as he's poised to take over as starting shortstop as soon as Opening Day 2015. Anyone else in the organization, including Clint Frazier, is probably available.

Here are the files with the calculations used in PTM:

Position Players

Starting Pitchers/Relief Pitchers

Prospects That Really, Really Matter

SS Francisco Lindor (Age 20) - Akron (AA)

Had defense been included in these rankings, Lindor would have lapped the field. That Lindor's still #1 without even considering his incredible defensive skills tells you how special a player he is. The Indians drafted him knowing that he'd be a good defender, but in the three years since then, he's developed his offensive game to the point where scouts are projecting him as a top-of-the-order hitter. The Indians may move him up to Columbus soon (after the AA All-Star Break), setting the stage for him to take over as starting shortstop as soon as next Opening Day. Over the next couple weeks, anyone who talks trade with the Indians will be obliged to ask about Lindor, but the answer will be a definitive no.

CF Clint Frazier (Age 20) - Lake County (A-)

After a so-so start, Frazier is starting to hit for power in Lake County. The Indians challenged him, skipping him over Mahoning Valley just a year after he graduated from high school. Thus far he's held his own in center field, though he'll probably move over into a corner by the time he reaches the majors, and if his power continues to develop, that won't be a problem.

LHP Kyle Crockett (Age 22) - Cleveland

Even with the sizable reliever penalty, Crockett has the highest score in the organization. He checks all the boxes: he was very young for both minor-league levels he's appeared in, had an outstanding strikeout rate, didn't walk anybody, and didn't allow a home run in Akron or Columbus. It's likely that this will represent the first and last time that Crockett is eligible for this list, as it's almost a certainty that he remains in Cleveland the rest of the year, which would exhaust his rookie status.

The Indians selected Crockett in the 2013 draft, and moved as quickly as possible through the organization. The Indians purchased his contract in May; he made his MLB debut before he made his AAA debut. His could become a true setup man if he can perfect his changeup, but even if he doesn't, he still can be a dominating weapon against left-handed hitters late in games.

C Roberto Perez (Age 25) - Cleveland

Like with Lindor, the best part of Perez's game is his defense. Even as Perez struggled at the plate last year (suffering through a bout of Bell's Palsey), he still remained an interesting prospect because of his acumen behind the plate. He was named the Best Defensive Catcher in the organization by Baseball America for three straight years (2011-2013), and when you look at his CS%, you understand why. In 6 seasons in professional baseball, he's averaged a 38% Caught Stealing rate, which one of the reasons the Indians chose to make him their backup catcher. Perez is having the best offensive season of his pro carerer, but even if he doesn't hit I think he'll have a considerable big-league career.

C Eric Haase (Age 20) - Lake County (A-)

Haase signed with the Indians out of Michigan rather than attend Ohio State, and so far it looks like he made the right choice. In 684 Plate Appearances in Lake County, he's hit 28 home runs, which is quite a lot in a pitcher's league. Combine that power with athleticism you don't usually see in a catcher and you have an intriguing prospect.  Strikeouts (186 with Lake County) are a point of concern, and although they aren't really hampering him now, it could affect his game at higher levels.

Prospects That Really Matter

2B Jose Ramirez (Age 21) - Columbus (AAA)

Undersized but certainly not underskilled, Ramirez brings a nice combination of speed and plate discipline to the table. Second is probably his best position, but he can play shortstop, which creates the possibility of a future as utility player if he doesn't earn everyday playing time. For now, the Indians will probably utilize him as a late-inning pinch-runner.

CF Tyler Naquin (Age 23) - Akron (AA)

Before the hand injury, Naquin was having the best season of his young career, hitting .313/.371/.424 for the Ducks while playing a nice center field. When he was drafted, the questions about Naquin were whether he'd hit enough to play a corner, or  ave enough range to stay in center. To this point, Naquin has shown enough range to stay in center, making the first question moot.

LHP Ryan Merritt (Age 22) - Carolina (A+)

Earlier this season, Ross Atkins compared him to Josh Tomlin, which makes a lot of sense from both a build and stuff standpoint. Unquestionably Merritt has had the best statistical season in the organization (2.13 ERA, 6.5 H/9, 1.4 BB/9, 7.0 SO/9). Drafted by the Indians in 2011 out of junior college, this is Merritt's third season as a starter in the organization, and he's improved his stats from year to year even as he's been promoted to Lake County and now Carolina. His stuff is not overpowering, but he is succeeding with outstanding command (he has a career 1.6 BB/9). Listed at 6'0", 165 lbs, you wouldn't think Merritt would be a starter by looking at him, but thanks to that outstanding command, along with three solid pitches, he's made himself into a solid starter prospect.

1B Jesus Aguilar (Age 24) - Columbus (AAA)

Prior to this season Jose Aguilar had steadily made his way up the organizational ladder, but really hadn't had an offensive breakout that would make him a viable major-league first baseman. That breakout happened this season, first in the Venezuelan Winter League, and continued in Columbus. He had an incredible April, and although he's cooled somewhat since then, he's already cracked the big leagues, and given that he's right-handed (the Indians are very left-handed heavy), could soon work himself into a permanent role with the Indians.

RHP Ben Heller (Age 22) - Carolina (A+)

Selected in the 22nd Round of the 2013 Draft out of tiny Olivet Nazarene College* in Illinois, Heller has started a grand total of one game in his 55 professional appearances. He had a decent showing last season with Mahoning Valley, but was overpowering this season in Lake County, allowing 4.6 hits per 9 innings and striking out 15.6 per 9 innings. Promoted to Carolina in early July, he's continued his dominant run of appearances.

Heller has a mid-90s fastball, and a good slider, two pitches that most top-end major-league relievers feature. There isn't a lot of difference stats-wise between Heller's and Cody Allen's Age 22 seasons, and that's saying something.

*also the alma mater of Ben Zobrist

LHP Shawn Morimando (Age 21) - Carolina (A+)

Another pitcher who was not a high draft pick, but certainly has impressed with his performance. Last year Morimando's main problem with walks (even though his ERA - 3.73 - was fine) but in his second season in Carolina he's improved dramatically on that front (5.1 BB/9 to 3.3 BB/9), and as a result is now pitching in Akron. Morimando has four pitches (fastball, curve, slider, change), and is now throwing in the low-90s, certainly good enough to get by at upper levels.

Prospects That Matter

C Tony Wolters (Age 22) - Akron (AA)

Already was a promising second prospect, but has made a smooth transition to catcher. If you haven't figured out by now, the Indians are loaded with catching prospects, so perhaps Wolters is traded as part of a July deadline deal, or perhaps he moves back to the middle infield.

LHP TJ House (Age 25) - Cleveland

House was also a low draft pick (16th Round, 2008), but that's a bit misleading, as he fell because he had a strong committment to Tulane. The Indians convinced him to sign with a $750,000 bonus. House has been a durable, solid pitcher throughout his minor-league career, and based on his initial major-league experience, you can see why. House is aggressive in the strike zone, and doesn't get rattled if he gets into trouble (last night's performance in Minnesota was a perfect example of that). His upside probably is a mid-rotation innings eater, but with starting pitching so hard to come by in baseball, that's valuable.

3B Giovanny Urshela (Age 22) - Columbus (AAA)

Urshela has always been very young for his levels, and has shown very good defensive skills. But his offense has lagged behind until this year, when he hit .300/.347/.567 with Akron before holding his own in Columbus. He's never been a patient hitter, usually putting the ball in play early in the count, as evidenced by low walk and strikeout rates.

RHP Mitch Brown (Age 20) - Lake County (A-)

Brown has battled injuries and command problems in his first couple pro seasons, and really struggled to begin the season (opposing batters hit .309/.404/.420 in April) but he's recovered since then (.233/.328/.332 over the last 90 days). If he can spot his mid-90s fastball in the zone, that sets up his arsenal of above-average offspeed pitches. Now that Trevor Bauer is in the big leagues, Brown may have the best stuff of any starter in the system.

1B Nellie Rodriguez (Age 20) - Lake County (A-)

Has been compared to Jesus Aguilar, and for good reason. Rodriguez is a right-handed first baseman with very good power, and wasn't a high-profile draft pick (15th Round, 2012). He hails from George Washington HS in New York, the same high school that produced Manny Ramirez. After a poor showing at Lake County in 2013, he's stuck this year, hitting 16 home runs in 368 Plate Appearances. Might get a promotion to Carolina with Mike Papi now in Eastlake.

RHP Adam Plutko (Age 22) - Carolina (A+)

Another pitcher who doesn't have overpowering stuff but has been getting hitters out. Plutko was a teammate of Trevor Bauer's at UCLA, but unlike Bauer, Plutko doesn't have an above-average pitch, instead relying on his total package of four decent pitches to succeed.

SS Erik Gonzalez (Age 22) - Carolina (A+)

Was a surprise addition to the 40-man roster last winter, but this season he's shown that the Indians made a wise choice. Didn't really start to hit until this season, but had impressed the club with his athleticism. He has already briefly made an appearance in Akron, and should play for the Ducks in 2015.

1B Jake Lowery (Age 22) - Akron (AA)

Hasn't accumulated enough PA for his 2014 stats qualify because of time spent on the DL (orbital fracture). With both Tony Wolters and Alex Lavisky on the Akron roster, Lowery has been playing more first base than catcher, and probably that trend will continue given the catching depth in the system.

CF Tyler Holt (Age 25) - Columbus (AAA)

Seemed lost in the shuffle when he returned to Akron this season, and pushed out of center field by Tyler Naquin. But injuries in Columbus gave him a chance to play center for the Clippers, he got hot at the plate, and made an extremely brief major-league appearance.

RF Luigi Rodriguez (Age 21) - Carolina (A+)

If he makes the majors, Rodriguez would be the first Luigi in MLB history.

C Jeremy Lucas (Age 23) - Carolina (A+)

An offense-first catcher, Lucas has gotten quite a bit of playing time in Carolina.

2B Joe Wendle (Age 24) - Akron (AA)

Started slow in Akron, got hot in June, then unfortunately broke a bone in his hand.

Players who made the PTM pre-season list but dropped off

CF Logan Vick (Age 23) - Carolina (A+)

Really struggled at the plate this season. Had absurdly high strikeout and walk rates in Lake County the year before, and hasn't adjusted to more advanced pitching.

RHP Cody Anderson (Age 23) - Akron (AA)

One of the biggest disappointments of the season, Anderson has struggled to adjust to AA. Most disturbingly, his strikeout rates have dropped from 8.2 a year ago to just 5.8 with the Ducks.

RHP Preston Guilmet (Age 26) - Baltimore

Traded after Spring Training to Baltimore for minor-league utility man Torsten Boss, Guilmet has been driving back and forth from Norfolk to Baltimore all season. He hasn't pitched as well in 2014 as he did in 2013, although his rates are still very good.

2B/SS Ronny Rodriguez (Age 22) - Akron (AA)

Akron has been a roadblock for Ronny, and because he had to repeat the level, was moved to third base to make room for Francisco Lindor and Joe Wendle. He's playing second now that Wendle is on the DL, but the big issue is that he's struggled at the plate.

RHP Dylan Baker (Age 22) - Carolina (A+)

Dropped off the list not by pitching poorly, but because he's missed practically the entire season so far with a broken leg. He's just been activated, so we could see him re-join the list in a couple months.

RHP Bryan Price (Age 27) - Columbus (AAA)

Price started his career as a starter, but since arriving in the Indians organization has been used out of the bullpen. He was part of the package that Boston sent the Indians for Victor Martinez way back in 2009, but Price is still trying to crack the majors. 2013 was his best pro season, striking out 11 and allowing just 6.8 hits per 9 innings between Akron and Columbus. He's back in Columbus again, and as he was added to the 40-man roster last winter, is just a phone call away from the majors.

LF Dorssys Paulino (Age 19) - Lake County (A-)

After committing a an astounding 13 errors in his first 24 games this season, Paulino was moved to the outfield. The position change was probably going to happen eventually, but I don't the Indians planned on having to do it so soon in his development. He's still very young for the level (he's the same age as Clint Frazier), but now that he's an outfielder more will be expected of him offensively.

RHP C.C. Lee (Age 27)- Columbus (AAA)

He's gotten some opportunities in Cleveland, but hasn't yet had a regular role in the Tribe pen. Lee, who sports a sinker/slider combination is now two years removed from Tommy John surgery. His numbers haven't been quite as dominating as they were a year ago, but I think Lee is still very high on the relief depth chart.

Short-season prospects worth knowing

C Francisco Mejia (Age 18) - Mahoning Valley (SSA)

An incredible arm combined with an advanced approach at the plate makes Mejia already one of the organization's best prospects.

LHP Sean Brady (Age 20) - Mahoning Valley (SSA)

Was by far the best starter on the Arizona club a year ago, and has continued that success against polished college bats.

CF Bradley Zimmer (Age 21) - Mahoning Valley (SSA)

Zimmer doesn't have any eye-popping tools, but does everything well. Should move pretty quickly through the system, and probably will end up at a corner by the time he's ready for the majors.

RHP Kieran Lovegrove (Age 19) - Mahoning Valley (SSA)

His stuff is among the best in the system, but yet to show sustained success. Still only 19, though.

1B/OF Mike Papi (Age 21) - Lake County (A-)

Was an outfielder in college, but probably a first baseman in the pros. Papi has already made his full-season debut, and like Zimmer, should move quickly.

RHP Shao-Ching Chiang (Age 20) - AZL Indians (R-)

Signed out of Taiwan two years ago, but until last month had pitched a grand total of two professional innings thanks to Tommy John surgery.

SS Yu-Cheng Chang (Age 18) - AZL Indians (R-)

I'm basing this entirely off his first month or so of games in the US. The Taiwanese shortstop is hitting .320/.452/.560 in his first 14 games.

RHP Casey Shane (Age 18) - AZL Indians (R-)

Struggled last year in his pro debut, but this time around Shane has been impressive, striking out almost a batter an inning.

1B Bobby Bradley (Age 18) - AZL Indians (R-)

Another 18-year-old having a great pro debut.

LHP Justus Sheffield (Age 18) - AZL Indians (R-)

The Indians persuaded Sheffield to forego a college career at Vanderbilt, and they're getting a high school pitcher who already is already comfortable throwing four pitches and has a good feel for the strike zone, two things the typical prep draftee doesn't have.

2B/SS Willi Castro (Age 17) - AZL Indians (R-)

This is based on scouting reports and the fact that the Indians gave him a significant bonus last year.

CF Gabriel Mejia (Age 18) - DSL Indians (R-)

I normally wouldn't place a player on the DSL club here, but Mejia has had an incredible season. He's currently hitting .357/.441/.429 with an unbelievable 45 steals in 40 games. He has more than double the steals of the second-place player in the league (45 to 21). In a week or so, assuming he keeps up this pace, he'll have more steals than anyone has had in the DSL since at least 2006, the first year that stats are available.