Re: Minor Matters

No one here was smart enough to choose Matt Packer as breakout player for 2010 but he had a great season. Still his raw talent doesn't overly impress so he's No. 24 for Tony and No. 23 for Baseball America.

#24 Matt Packer
Posted by Tony at 12:01 AM
Matt Packer - Left-handed Pitcher
Born: 08/28/1987 - Height: 6'0" - Weight: 200 - Bats: Left - Throws: Left

(Photo: Ken Carr)
History: Packer was selected by the Indians in the 32nd round of the 2009 Draft out of the University of Virginia. His sophomore season in 2008 he led all of college baseball in ERA (1.14), but had velocity issues and a disappointing 2009 year which saw his draft stock plummet. After being drafted, he was a summer follow by Indians area scout Bob Mayer. He had seen Packer at his best in 2008 and his worst in 2009, so he went to the Cape Cod League to see which version the Indians would be getting if they made an offer to sign him. After seeing him pitch in the Cape Cod League all summer they liked what they saw and signed him just before the August signing deadline. Last year he finished the season 1st in the Indians organization in ERA (2.04) and 5th in strikeouts (123), and he ranked 1st in the Midwest League in ERA at the time of his promotion to Double-A Akron in early August.

Strengths: Packer is a versatile, athletic left-handed pitcher who has a deep four pitch mix of a fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup. His fastball sits at 89-91 MPH and touched 93 MPH a few times last season. He had seen a drop in his velocity in 2009 during his junior season at Virginia, but his velocity came back last season thanks to a subtle delivery adjustment that he made. His changeup is his best offering as it really has a lot of deception and depth to it where it really dives. His slider is an above average offering with good swing and miss ability. His developing curveball is still a work in progress, but has shown improvement since being drafted.

Packer is not very big nor is he an over-powering pitcher and instead relies on his intelligence, strike throwing ability, limiting walks, and pitching to contact by using the sinking action on his pitches to pile up groundball outs. He shows an elite feel for his fastball, slider and changeup where he throws them all for strikes and has excellent command and movement down in the zone. He is aggressive on the mound with a good plan, and has a nice compact windup with good arm action that creates some deception in his delivery. He understands how to pitch, and shows good composure on the mound. He controls the running game well, and has an outstanding pickoff move.

Packer is versatile where he could end up as a starter or reliever. He opened last season in the bullpen, but showed four good pitches and command of all four of them in his bullpen sessions and in games to where six weeks into the season the Indians eventually decided to move him into the rotation to see how he could do. He shined in a starting role, which made the Indians shift their gears to develop him as a starter. His incredible walk-to-strikeout rate at Low-A Lake County forced the Indians to move him up to Double-A Akron in August to make what was initially planned to only be a spot start in order to see what he could do, but after he impressed in his Double-A debut going 7.0 strong innings allowing 1 run, 6 hits, 1 walk and 6 strikeouts they decided to keep him there the remainder of the season and he performed well. As a result he completely skipped High-A Kinston, and unless he pitches poorly this upcoming season will likely never throw a pitch at the advanced Single-A level which is unheard of.

Opportunities: Even with the success Packer had last year, he still has a ways to go to be considered a finished product as a pitcher. He mainly worked with a fastball-changeup mix at Lake County last year, and upon moving up to Akron he didn’t even throw his curveball at all. He will need to work his curveball in at the higher levels and develop the pitch so he is more consistently able to throw first pitch strikes with it and most importantly change the eye level of the hitters. He is small for a starter, so he needs to get stronger. He did some extra work in Instructional League in the fall to improve his strength and conditioning in order to help him be prepared to start 27 or more games this season and throw 150-170 innings. He is also working through a few small adjustments to clean up his pitching mechanics and fine tune the mental part of his game as a pitcher with how he pitches to certain batters and better hitting his spots.

Outlook: The Indians consider Packer's fastball-slider-changeup combination to be as good as Jeremy Sowers and Scott Lewis when they were just entering their pro careers. His excellent command, ability to command four different pitches, and his very promising showing at Akron has him now considered as a legitimate big league pitching prospect and one of the Indians best pitching prospects, something that was inconceivable at this time last year. He snuck up on everyone last year and had very low expectations for him going into the season, but going forward the expectations will increase ten fold. It was just one great season, so he will need to put together another good year this season from a development and performance perspective to truly be considered the real deal. He will open the 2011 season at Akron, and due to the depth of starting pitching in the higher levels he should spend most of his season there; however, if he continues to pitch like he did last year he should finish the season at Triple-A Columbus.

[Lining up the stats is going to be too much trouble]

2009 21 Mahoning Valley A- 0 0 2.38 5 0 11.1 8 3 1 1 13 .186 0.8 10.3 0.79
2010 22 Lake County A 8 5 1.60 24 13 95.2 77 17 4 13 92 .218 1.2 8.7 0.94
2010 22 Akron AA 1 2 3.16 6 5 37.0 35 13 3 9 31 .267 2.2 7.5 1.19
MiLB Totals 9 7 2.06 35 18 144.0 120 33 8 23 136 .227 1.4 8.5 0.99
Last edited by civ ollilavad on Thu Feb 24, 2011 4:25 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Re: Minor Matters

One name on BA'sl list that Tony has bypassed (unless he's coming along higher up) is a 18-year-old Dominican named Luigi Rodriguez who BA slots at No. 25. He's a 5-11 160 pounder signed to a small price deal the same summer we overpaid the phony Jesus Ozoria (n.k.a. Walli Bryan, since released) and disappointing-so-far catcher Alex Monsalve.

Ro'driguez, BA says, "offers a promising package of tools and performance. Though he lacks projectible size he's a good athlete with "plus plus" speed. Has nice feel for hitting with an advanced idea of the strike zone for his age. His swing path is short and direct to the ball and his quick contact-oriented stroke helps him stay inside the ball." Doesn't have much power, but gets on base plenty. [Sounds like another Jordan Henry or maybe Tyler Holt] Signed as a 2b, spent his month in the DSL at that position before shifting to CF which his speed makes him a better fit. Will probably debut in the Arizona League in 2011, BA says

Re: Minor Matters

BA's No. 30 Giovanny Urshela still not on the Tony 50, I assume he'll be higher on the board. Tony and I bought like Gio. Tony still might find room for Abner Abreu who missed on BA's 30; Tony had him way up in his Top 10 last year before Abner had a major fall off.

Re: Minor Matters

Here's Gio. All Star 3b of the future. BA says he has gold glove potential but concerned about his bat. He hit quite well as a teen in the NYPL.

#23 Giovanny Urshela
Posted by Tony at 12:01 AM
Giovanny Urshela – Third Baseman
Born: 10/11/1991 – Height: 6’0” – Weight: 185 – Bats: Right – Throws: Right

(Photo: Tony Lastoria)
History: Urshela was signed by the Indians as an undrafted minor league free agent in July of 2008 out of Columbia. He struggled in the first half last year at short-season Single-A Mahoning Valley hitting just .248/.285/.274 in his first 29 games, but in his remaining 29 games from July 21st on he hit .333/.370/.463 and was one of the best hitters in the league. He missed a few weeks in August because of a hand injury he suffered on August 13th.

Strengths: Defensively, Urshela is in a world all to his own as he shows exceptional Gold Glove ability at third base with his range, hands, and arm. He plays near flawless defense with a very strong, accurate arm, soft hands, and shows very good ability to go to his left and right as well as coming in on balls. While he did not lead the NY-Penn League in fielding percentage last season, he was only 14 points off the leader (.970) even though he was three to four years younger than most of the third basemen in the league. Even so, he was a defensive highlight reel every night and played well above his age. There is still a lot of room for growth, but he has already made a big impression on Indians personnel as well as scouts around the league with his defense and emerging

The Indians did not expect much offense from Urshela last year considering his age and the advanced level he was playing at, but he surprised and more than held his own and was one of the best hitters in the lineup by the end of the season. His power is still developing, and he shows an ability to consistently make contact with just 58 strikeouts in 434 career at bats. The Indians believe he will continue to get bigger and stronger and like his approach at the plate where he is already displaying good gap power. He is an average runner, and shows an advanced maturity for his age in being able to make adjustments and implement instruction. He also has the instincts and physical tools to continue to grow as a player where his performance should hopefully continue to improve as he gets older.

Opportunities: There is no doubt that the defense is there for Urshela, so his progress as a prospect will almost exclusively be determined by how he develops as a hitter. He has made some positive strides as a hitter, but as he moves up the minor league ladder he is going to be tested more and more as he faces better pitching. He is currently not very big and lacks much punch with the bat, so he needs to continue to work out and get stronger so he can drive the ball more and pile up more extra base hits. He also needs to refine his approach and be more patient at the plate so he is more selective and swings at better pitches and draws more walks.

Outlook: Urshela was not a household name coming into last season, but he definitely is now. The Indians are very high on him and showed that excitement by having him open last season as the starting third baseman at Mahoning Valley at just 18 years old. His numbers from last season may not appear to be very impressive, but when you consider his age (18) and how he really held his own offensively in a league so much older than him (mostly college players), they are remarkable. His upside is extremely high, especially if the bat continues to develop and he gets more consistent at the plate. The Indians will continue to push the envelope with him and he will likely start the 2011 season at Low-A Lake County.

Re: Minor Matters

Terrible 2010 for Abner Abreu. Tony rates him No. 22 prospect. BA dropped him out of their top 30 altogether. Lots of power potential, an arm for FR, but he needs to make contact. And besides his XB dropped way off last year.

#22 Abner Abreu
Posted by Tony at 12:01 AM
Abner Abreu – Outfielder
Born: 10/24/1989 – Height: 6’3” – Weight: 170 – Bats: Right – Throws: Right

(Photo: Tony Lastoria)
History: Abreu was signed by the Indians as an undrafted free agent in October 2006 out of the Dominican Republic for $75,000. As a 17-year old in the Dominican Summer League in 2007 he piled up 24 extra base hits in 228 at bats, and in 2008 with the rookie level Gulf Coast League team finished with 31 extra base hits and led the league in doubles (16), home runs (11), total bases (107) and slugging percentage (.538). He separated his shoulder diving for a ball in the outfield in June of 2009 while playing for Low-A Lake County, which resulted in him having surgery and missing the rest of that season.

Strengths: Abreu is an athletic player who has an effortless swing that generates excellent bat speed and combines it with some very good raw power where the ball just explodes off his bat. He is a very aggressive hitter so is prone to strikeouts, but shows an innate ability to square the ball up when he makes contact and crushes balls to all fields and can hit the ball out to any part of any ballpark. His strong hands and wrists help create a natural whip in his swing, and he has a very quick bat on inside pitches that allows him to really drive the ball pull side. The Indians recently made a subtle adjustment to his stance as he was standing too straight up and now have him leaning more forward which has helped him get a better load at the plate.

Abreu is only an average runner, but he plays above his speed on the bases and in the outfield because of his athleticism. He has a loose, wiry frame with very long legs and arms, a build similar to his favorite player Alfonso Soriano. Last offseason he added about 15-20 pounds to his listed weight of 170 pounds, and as he continues to mature physically and grow into his body it could lead to more strength and plus power down the road at the major league level. He is a quiet player, but is very patient, confident and a hard worker. He also speaks good English, which helps him communicate and fit in better with his American teammates.

While Abreu’s offensive performance can be erratic, his defense is very consistent and he is the best defensive corner outfielder in the Indians’ system. He was originally signed as a shortstop and then was moved to third base in 2008, but in 2009 the Indians decided to take advantage of his athleticism and excellent throwing arm by putting him in the outfield because they believed he could be an impact defender there. So far it has been a very positive move as some scouts have compared his defensive ability in right field to that of a young Vladimir Guerrero. He glides to the ball and shows a lot of range moving well to his left and right, and comes in and goes back on balls very well. As he continues to fill out his range may drop a little, but he projects as a well above average defensive outfielder with excellent arm strength and accuracy.

Opportunities: The Indians have worked extensively with Abreu on his approach, mindset and plan at the plate to improve his plate discipline issues. He is often over-aggressive at the plate and gets himself out where he is pulling off pitches and not staying on them like he should be which results in a lot of strikeouts and poorly hit balls. He needs to continue to work on staying within himself and let things come naturally instead of over-swinging and trying to show his incredible raw power. He has a tendency to get too geared up for the fastball, which makes him very susceptible to offspeed pitches. He needs to do a better job of recognizing pitches and show that he can hit offspeed stuff, and his two strike approach needs a lot of work. He needs to work on strengthening his core and the mental side of his game.

The hopes for some improvement with Abreu’s high strikeout rate and low walk rate did not happen last year as his strikeout rate got worse (3.6 AB/K in 2009, 3.1 AB/K in 2010). He also saw significant dips in on-base percentage (.351 in 2009, .298 in 2010) and slugging percentage (.488 in 2009, .362 in 2010). The one hope here is since he was coming off a significant shoulder injury in 2009, maybe with another offseason of rehab and some improved confidence he can get back to his expected performance levels. It can take a player awhile to come back from a serious lead arm shoulder injury and rid himself of any uncertainties and apprehensiveness in order to have full confidence that he can swing without pain and not reinjure it, which is something similar that fellow Tribe farmhand Jared Goedert has gone through recently.

Outlook: Abreu did not live up to his promise last season as he had one of the most disappointing years of any prospect in the Indians’ system. From a power and defensive standpoint, he is still one of the most exciting players in the system, but his struggles at the plate with making consistent contact and avoiding strikeouts is a huge concern and will be the determining factor of what he becomes as a prospect. His ceiling is still unlimited and he has not peaked both physically or mentally, so there is still a lot of time to develop him and harness his impressive collection of tools. He is still a priority prospect for the Indians and the hope is that with a full season under his belt after shoulder surgery in 2009 along with the bad taste his 2010 left in his mouth that he will come back and make some very positive strides in this season. He should open the 2011 season by returning to High-A Kinston, but if he plays well he could move to Double-A Akron by midseason.

2007 17 DSL Indians R 56 228 34 69 13 7 4 41 18 46 5 .303 .353 .474 .827
2008 18 GCL Indians R 51 199 32 50 16 4 11 37 9 52 4 .251 .289 .538 .827
2009 19 Lake County A 63 246 36 75 16 4 7 30 11 68 3 .305 .351 .488 .839
2010 20 Kinston A+ 106 409 44 103 21 6 4 58 20 130 11 .252 .289 .362 .651
MiLB Totals 276 1082 146 297 66 21 26 166 58 296 23 .274 .317 .446 .763

Re: Minor Matters

I would put Putnam higher than #22. Baseball America rates him 17th. They say:

His stuff has played up a notch since he moved to the the bullpen with his fastball sitting in the low to mid 90s and touching 96 mph with plus sink and occasional cutting action. Putnam can keep the ball on the ground with his fastball and his plus splitter, another pitch with big sink. His splitter is his best weapon and it became more of a swing and miss pitch with late "tumble" when he became a reliever. Putnam also throws a straight changeup and a slider though the latter is mostly just a spinner. He throws from a 3/4 arm slot and has a herky-jerky delivery but he's able to throw all of his pitches for strikes and attacks hitters aggressively. He's on the verge of the helping the big league club and should be in Cleveland's bullpen at some point in 2011.

#21 Zach Putnam
Posted by Tony at 12:01 AM
Zach Putnam – Right-handed Pitcher
Born: 07/03/1987 – Height: 6’2” – Weight: 225 – Bats: Right – Throws: Right

(Photo: Tony Lastoria)
History: Putnam was selected by the Indians in the 5th round of the 2008 Draft out of the University of Michigan. He played some third base and was a very good college hitter who actually projected well professionally as an outfielder with an excellent arm for right field, raw power to all fields, and very good bat speed. He pitched in the Arizona Fall League in 2009 and in five games went 0-1 with an 8.76 ERA (12.1 IP, 18 H, 3 BB, 18 K). He struggled when he was first called up to Triple-A Columbus last year as in five outings covering seven innings he allowed seven earned runs and 15 base-runners, but he settled in the rest of the season allowing just two earned runs and 12 base-runners in 17.1 innings covering 12 outings.

Strengths: Putnam is an aggressive, power pitcher who is extremely athletic with a great baseball pedigree. He has a four pitch mix led by a fastball that sits at 92-93 MPH and has touched 96 MPH, and complements it with a splitter, slider, and changeup. He commands his fastball exceptionally well and gets good arm side run with heavy, late life. His best secondary pitch is a devastating splitter which is nasty and already considered a major league strikeout pitch, and was widely considered one of the top secondary pitches coming out of college in 2008. The splitter sits around 82-83 MPH and gives hitters fits as they chase it even though it often drops out of the zone into the dirt. His change is more of a show pitch to give hitters a different look and attack left-handers with, but has shown improvement and has become a solid pitch for him. His slider is his primary breaking ball as he also used to throw a curveball but that was dropped so he could refine the slider. The slider shows good depth and tilt and flashes plus ability.

Putnam opened the season last year in the starting rotation in order to develop his slider. The Indians wanted him to concentrate on making sure he was developing consistent shape with it and the ability to throw it for strikes early in the count and being able to expand the zone with it. He got off to a great start, but a minor back injury in late May due to right rhomboid tightness shut him down for about three weeks. When he returned from his back injury he finished the year in the bullpen, and once he started pitching in the bullpen full time he showcased his slider a lot more in order to try and develop it as a true third pitch in his arsenal. His slider took off as he showed a better feel for it, especially at the end of the season, and has become another go-to pitch in his arsenal.

Putnam is a physical presence on the mound with a big frame to go along with very strong legs and broad shoulders that give him an ideal body to be a workhorse in the starting rotation or bullpen. He has an advanced feel for pitching and the versatility to pitch in any role be it as a starter, giving length in the middle innings, or pitching in the backend in high leverage situations. He gets hitters to pound the ball into the ground and he gives up very few home runs because hitters have trouble lifting the ball against him because of his heavy sinker. He has a very strong delivery and the put away stuff to attack hitters and finish them off. He is tenacious on the mound, much like a pit bull where he will attack and challenge hitters and go right at them without backing down. He is a confident, big game pitcher with excellent composure to handle adversity well, and his makeup and toughness are off the charts.

Opportunities: The main focus in Putnam's development at this point is to continue to refine his slider so he can consistently throw it for strikes, get ahead in the count with it, and put away hitters with it. He is already armed with two plus pitches with his fastball-splitter combination, and his changeup is solid, but he needs an effective breaking ball to help his other pitches so it gives hitters something with a different look. He relies on his splitter so much as an out pitch that with the presence of an effective breaking ball it will help make right-handers look away instead of always down and in. He also showed improvement with his delivery last year, but he still needs to iron out a few minor mechanical issues to make sure he more consistently uses his lower half. He is a high effort pitcher, which can have an affect on his command. He also needs to continue to learn how to use and mix all of his pitches and read hitters tendencies better.

Outlook: Since the day Putnam signed with the Indians they saw him as a guy who could help out the major league bullpen in the very near future. With his deep mix of pitches, mentality, athleticism, and makeup he has the potential to be a dominant late inning pitcher in the big leagues for a very long time. He was invited to big league camp last year for spring training and impressed, and even though his overall season did not live up to what many hoped, he is on track for a possible bullpen gig at some point this season. The one thing working against his major league chances is there is no rush to promote him due to roster management reasons and because of lots of depth in the bullpen at Cleveland and Columbus. Even still, it is not a matter of if he will pitch in the big leagues, it is when. That opportunity will likely come near the end of the 2011 season, but in the meantime he will open the season in the bullpen at Columbus.

2008 20 Mahoning Valley A- 0 1 3.72 3 0 9.2 7 4 0 5 8 .206 4.7 7.4 1.24
2009 21 Kinston A+ 2 0 4.13 5 0 24.0 22 11 1 5 23 .247 1.9 8.6 1.13
2009 21 Akron AA 4 2 4.13 33 2 56.2 59 26 2 18 57 .261 2.9 9.1 1.36
2010 22 Akron AA 4 1 3.86 20 3 51.1 58 22 2 9 41 .286 1.6 7.2 1.31
2010 22 Columbus AAA 0 1 3.33 17 0 24.1 20 9 2 7 24 .222 2.6 8.9 1.11
MiLB Totals 10 5 3.90 78 5 166.0 166 72 7 44 153 .259 2.4 8.3 1.27