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Cleveland Indians "fringe five" and other intriguing prospects

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Who was the most notable omission from the LGT top 20 prospects list? Bridging the gap between the LGT community top 20 and the "dark horse" hitters and pitchers.

Shawn Armstrong
Shawn Armstrong
Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The centerpiece of LGT's farm coverage was the "LGT 20", in which the community voted on their top 20 prospects. In case you missed it, or want a reminder the final results were as follows (each link will take you to the relevant vote and prospect profile):

  1. Francisco Lindor
  2. Clint Frazier
  3. Bradley Zimmer
  4. Giovanny Urshela
  5. Francisco Mejia
  6. Tyler Naquin
  7. Bobby Bradley
  8. James Ramsey
  9. Justus Sheffield
  10. Erik Gonzalez
  11. Mike Papi
  12. Mitch Brown
  13. Jesus Aguilar
  14. Yu-Cheng Chang
  15. Carlos Moncrief
  16. Luis Lugo
  17. Tony Wolters
  18. Cody Anderson
  19. Ryan Merritt
  20. Nellie Rodriguez

These players (whom I will label the "fringe five") also featured in the vote for the final spot on the LGT 20:

  • Dylan Baker 18%
  • Grant Hockin 18%
  • Shawn Morimando 17%
  • Eric Haase 13%
  • Adam Plutko 11%

In this article we provide brief prospect profiles of the "fringe five", together with seven others prospects who have been ranked by Baseball America (and/or other respected authorities) as being somewhere around the 15-30 range. Essentially, the purpose of this article is to bridge the gap between the LGT 20 and the "dark horse" hitters and "dark horse" pitchers who were featured in a pair of recent articles.

Hitters

Willi Castro (SS/2B; age 17; 2014 Rk/2015 extended spring training)
Castro was a fairly expensive international acquisition by the Tribe's standards, signing for $825k in July 2013. He didn't impress much as a hitter in his rookie year, but he's still so young that this probably shouldn't be too surprising.

Eric Haase (C; age 22; 2014 & 2015 A+)
Haase was drafted in the 7th rd in 2011 and wasn't particularly highly regarded until he went on a .270/.338/.514 tear in Lake County last season, earning a late-season promotion to Carolina.

Clearly Haase's outstanding quality is his power (17 HRs in 2014), but he has struck out over 100 times in each of the past two years. Given that he is a power bat who isn't especially highly rated defensively, it's certainly possible that he eventually might end up playing elsewhere than catcher, either as a corner OF or 1B/3B.

Dorssys Paulino (LF; age 20; 2014 & 2015 A)
I've really no idea why Paulino is still ranked in the Tribe's top 30 prospects by Baseball America. Is it just a stubborn unwillingness to admit that past high evaluations of the player have not played out well?

The Indians gave up on Paulino as a shortstop last season after he committed a litany of errors (13 in 24 games), switching him to LF. But to me his bat doesn't play well enough for him to be a meaningful prospect in the OF. He's still only 20, but he's back at Lake County for the third consecutive season, a sure sign of a stalled prospect.

Ronny Rodriguez (2B/SS; age 22; 2014 & 2015 AA)
Ditto Paulino with regards Baseball America. Rodriguez is currently on the DL, but is slated to return to Akron for a third year after a very poor year at the plate. Formerly a highly rated SS prospect, Rodriguez played primarily at 3B/2B/1B last year.

Pitchers

Shawn Armstrong (RHP; age 24; 2014 & 2015 AAA)
After a strong showing as the Akron closer, Armstrong was promoted to the Clippers for the last couple of weeks of last season and then added to the 40-man last November, to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. In all probability, he will be required for the MLB team at some point this season, but it's hard to get too excited about the prospect potential of 24yo relievers who have been in the organization for four years.

Dylan Baker (RHP; age 23; 2014 & 2015 A+)
A 2012 5th rd selection, Baker was promoted to Carolina (as it was then) at the start of last season and promptly broke his leg after making a stellar debut. He came back in July to record eight more starts, and will be trying to make up for lost time this season. (Update - Brutal news for Baker as on Tuesday he was diagnosed with an elbow tendon strain in his throwing arm. And that came after an outstanding seasonal debut for the second year in a row.)

Mike Clevinger (RHP; age 24; 2014 A+/2015 AA)
Acquired last summer in the Vinnie Pestano trade, Mike Clevinger was at one time highly regarded within the Angels’ organization, but he underwent TJ surgery in 2012, and last year was his first real season back. His numbers weren’t particularly good, but BA say he did hit 97 MPH in Carolina after the Tribe did some work on his mechanics. I would say he’s basically a complete wild card at this point.

Grant Hockin (LHP; age 19; 2014 Rk/2015 extended spring training)
Hockin was actually drafted ahead of Bobby Bradley (and with a higher bonus) in the 2nd rd last year and went on to pitch well in Arizona as a rookie. So well in fact, that the Tribe has wasted no time in throwing him into full season ball. Even though he only narrowly missed the LGT 20, I still think he's been somewhat underrated, perhaps rather lost in the shuffle betweewith all the attention devoted to Justus Sheffield and Bradley.

Dace Kime (RHP; age 23; 2014 & 2015 A)
A 3rd rd pick back in 2013, Kime returns to Lake County after a somewhat disappointing 2014 campaign. For reasons that I don't really understand, Baseball America has Kime in their top 20, ahead of pitchers like Lugo, Merritt, Hockin and Morimando, so it will be interesting to see whether their confidence in him is rewarded this season.

Shawn Morimando (LHP, age 22; 2014 & 2015 AA)
For me, Morimando was the most surprising omission from the BA top 30. He has been both durable and consistent since being taken in the 19th rd in 2011, and earned a promotion to Akron (ahead of Ryan Merritt) midway through last season. He put up solid numbers during his spell in AA and it will be fascinating to see how he fares in the Akron rotation this season alongside the higher-rated Cody Anderson and Merritt.

Adam Plutko (RHP; age 23; 2014 & 2015 A+)
After helping pitch UCLA to the college World Series, Plutko was drafted by the Tribe in the 11th rd in 2013 and promptly given the rest of the year off as he recovered from a minor stress fracture to his shoulder blade.. He rapidly earned promotion to Carolina last season, where he ultimately fared pretty well after a poor start. Given his age and advanced background, It would be no surprise to see him in Akron by mid-season.

Casey Shane (RHP; age 19; 2014 A-/2015 A)
Shane was drafted in the 6th rd in 2013 and endured a fairly torrid rookie campaign. However, according to Baseball America he worked hard on his conditioning, which may explain how he was able to bounce back with a vengeance in rookie ball last season. He has certainly become an intriguing option at Lake County for 2015.

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Dark horses on the farm - the pitchers

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