Tribe's acquisitions own untapped talent
Pre-Deadline trades net Cleveland sudden influx of prospects
CLEVELAND -- The Indians are back home after a wheeling, dealing road trip that saw just about every Trade Deadline commodity, with the notable exceptions of Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner's stash of Pronk candy bars, dealt elsewhere.Cliff Lee, Ben Francisco, Ryan Garko and Rafael Betancourt are goners, and the trades that sent them to playoff contenders brought six new prospects into various levels of the farm system. Just for good measure, the Tribe also added the Minor League player to be named from the June trade that sent Mark DeRosa to the Cardinals.
Team: Triple-A Columbus
Height/weight: 5-foot-11, 210 pounds
Of all the prospects acquired over the last week, Todd, given his development path and the needs of the big league club, has the most potential to impact the Indians this year. He's considered to be a nearly finished product, but the Indians want to stretch him out a bit. Todd was closing for Triple-A Memphis in the Cardinals' organization when the Indians acquired him Sunday as the player to be named in the DeRosa deal. The Indians plan to transition him to Minor League middle and setup relief, with a purpose. "We'll develop him the way we develop all of our bullpen arms," farm director Ross Atkins said. "We expose them to more than just save situations, because save situations are not exposing them to much. Pitching in the ninth with a three-run lead all the time is not difficult to do. So we give them extended outings.
"We want them to control the running game and potentially see the same hitter twice, see left-handed and right-handed hitters. You can only do that so much if you're pitching the ninth."Todd made his Columbus debut Wednesday night, working a 1-2-3 eighth inning on 13 pitches. Upside: Those who have seen Todd pitch suggest unexpectedness at the results he gets with the body he has. He's not physically imposing, but he gets strikeouts and knows how to exploit the opposition's weaknesses. Downside: The Indians' recent history of acquiring and developing bullpen arms is a shaky one. Tribe's take: "He has as good a track record as any pitcher in our system. He's dominated in a hurry." -- Atkins Big league timetable: You'll see him in September, if not sooner. C Lou Marson
Team: Triple-A Columbus
Height/weight: 6-foot-1, 200 pounds
Either Marson was brought aboard in the Lee deal to be flipped to another club, or the Indians intend to deal Martinez and/or the arbitration-eligible Kelly Shoppach sometime between now and the outset of the 2010 season. Any other scenario doesn't appear to make sense for a ballclub with depth at catching both in the Majors and in the Minors, where Wyatt Toregas is at Triple-A and Carlos Santana, one of the premier catching prospects in the game, is looming at Double-A Akron. For now, Marson is headed to Columbus, and he's bringing a high on-base percentage, low slugging percentage bat with him. In his Minor League career, Marson, a fourth-round pick in the 2004 Draft, has put together a .372 on-base percentage with a .388 slugging percentage. Upside: He knows how to work a count and get on base. Behind the plate, the Indians love his game-calling and receiving skills. In the clubhouse, he's considered a natural leader. Downside: Marson doesn't have much power, and he's said to have a so-so arm. Tribe's take: "We're really impressed with his receiving, game-calling and leadership skills. Combined with his bat, he could be at least an average everyday Major League catcher." -- General manager Mark Shapiro Big league timetable: Marson should be big league ready by Opening Day 2010, if not sooner. SS Jason Donald
Team: Triple-A Columbus
Height/weight: 6-foot-1, 195 pounds
As with Marson, it's possible the Indians acquired Donald in the Lee trade to flip him, as they're already set at shortstop with Asdrubal Cabrera. But Shapiro said the Indians' intention with Donald is to have him possibly compete with Luis Valbuena to be the starting second baseman in 2010. Or perhaps, because Donald bats from the right side and Valbuena from the left, the two could share the position, much in the same way veteran Jamey Carroll and Valbuena are sharing it now. Whatever the case, the Donald acquisition falls in line with an organizational trend in recent years of stockpiling middle-infield depth. But that didn't make his inclusion in the Lee deal any less confusing. Upside: Donald was a standout for Team USA in the Beijing Olympic Games. He's considered to be a hard worker with athleticism and power to all fields. Downside: At the time of the trade, Donald was batting just .236 with a .629 OPS at Lehigh Valley after a strong offensive season at Double-A last year. Donald is coming off surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee, but that's not considered serious. Scouts seem to think he projects best as a utility guy, not an everyday option in the Majors. Tribe's take: "He complements the group of guys we've got up here in the middle right now." -- Shapiro Big league timetable: Donald appears big league bound in 2010, or sooner if the Indians trade Carroll. RHP Carlos Carrasco
Team: Triple-A Columbus
Height/weight: 6-foot-3, 215 pounds
The line on Carrasco, acquired in Wednesday's trade with the Phillies, is that his stock has dropped this season. He went a combined 9-9 with a 3.69 ERA in 26 appearances between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley last year. This year, he was 6-9 with a 5.18 ERA at Lehigh Valley. He's struck out 112 and walked 38 in 114 2/3 innings. Phillies assistant general manager Chuck LaMar disputed the "dropped stock" notion. "He moved up to Triple-A [last year] and pitched well, and this year he got off to a really slow start," LaMar told MLB.com earlier this week. "But some of that was self-induced by us. There were certain things Carlos needed to do to become a good Major League pitcher. Start to learn to throw more inside. We introduced a slider to him. He's gone through some growing pains.
"We're glad he's taken to the changes. Carlos gets it."Carrasco will make his first start for Columbus on Friday night at, ironically enough, Lehigh Valley. Upside: The strikeout totals immediately grab the eye. Carrasco has great raw stuff and a live arm. His fastball consistently sits at 91-93 mph, but he can reach 95 or 96 when he lets it go. Downside: As a three-time member of the World Team in the Futures Game (2006-08), Carrasco in some ways feels like a perpetual prospect. But keep in mind that he's only 22. The cutter and slider are still developing. Some scouts feel Carrasco is a "soft" pitcher, in that he relies too heavily on his secondary stuff and doesn't trust his fastball. Tribe's take: "We feel he has a chance to, in a short order, be a core part of our starting rotation." -- Shapiro Big league timetable: The Indians feel he can impact the rotation in 2010. RHP Connor Graham
Team: Double-A Akron
Height/weight: 6-foot-6, 235 pounds
The trade that sent Betancourt to the Rockies provided a happy homecoming, of sorts, for Graham, a Bowling Green, Ohio, native and a Miami of Ohio alum. He was excited to report to Akron. "My wife [Nicole] is from Dayton, so her family is about three hours away," Graham said. "And my family's about 2 1/2 hours away. I was shocked [by the trade] at first, and my wife was immediately ecstatic. It's pretty perfect." The Indians will consider it more perfect if Graham pans out. After the move from Class A Modesto in the Rockies' organization to the Double-A level with the Tribe, he'll remain a starter. But he could eventually transition to late-inning relief, something he's not opposed to. "I've closed my freshman year of college and in the Cape Cod League, and I really enjoyed that and felt that was a good role for me, too," Graham said. "Whatever spot I can be in to get to the bigs the quickest is where I want to be." Upside: Graham is a big-bodied, powerful pitcher with a fastball in the mid-90s and a slider that serves as an out pitch. It's a mix that could point to relief success. Downside: Because of his size, Graham has to be extra careful to stay in his delivery to maintain strike-throwing consistency. The slider is still developing. Tribe's take: "He's a guy who has power stuff." -- Shapiro Big league timetable: If Graham remains a starter, middle-to-late 2011 could be his target date. If he moves to the 'pen, that might speed him up. LHP Scott Barnes
Team: Class A Kinston
Height/weight: 6-foot-4, 185 pounds
Acquired in the trade that sent Garko to the Giants, Barnes adds projectable starting depth to the system. He made his organizational debut Wednesday in a no-decision for Kinston. He gave up three runs on eight hits, including a homer, while walking two and striking out three. Before getting dealt, Barnes was 12-3 with a 2.85 ERA in 18 starts for Class A San Jose in the California League. He was leading the league in wins, was second in ERA, and his 99 strikeouts were tied for ninth overall. The Giants made Barnes their eighth-round pick in the 2008 Draft. Upside: Barnes has all the makings of a big league starter, because, at an early stage in his professional career, he has three effective pitches -- an average fastball, a plus changeup and a still-developing curveball that the Indians feel can be a plus pitch. Downside: Maybe you've heard this story once or twice before in the Indians' system, but Barnes is a left-hander who relies on command and location and doesn't possess electric stuff. Tribe's take: "He has a chance to start for a long time." -- Atkins Big league timetable: Barnes could be up in 2011 or '12. RHP Jason Knapp
Team: Class A Lake County
Height/weight: 6-foot-5, 235 pounds
While pitching for Class A Lakewood in the South Atlantic League this season, Knapp, viewed by some as the key acquisition in the Lee trade, struck out 111 batters in 85 1/3 innings. His fastball has been clocked at 98 mph. Knapp, however, hasn't pitched since July 11 because of right biceps tendinitis. It's not considered serious, but it's still a bit of a red flag at this early stage of his development. Knapp is currently on a return-to-throw program. The Indians haven't said when, exactly, he'll join the Lake County rotation, but it should be sometime in early August. "His right shoulder seemed tired," LaMar said. "We took all precautions, but he got an immediate, clean bill of health. No problems. He started to throw [Sunday]. No problems. ... When you have that kind of talent at 18, we just didn't want to take any chances. But safe to say, the way he's thrown, stuff-wise, he has to be one of the better young Minor League pitching prospects in baseball." While Kyle Drabek was the Phillies' prospect that apparently stood in the way of Roy Halladay going to Philadelphia, some think Knapp might even be a more promising prospect than Drabek, because of his combination of size and stuff. But Knapp's a long, long way from the bigs. Upside: Knapp was a high-risk/high-reward acquisition. He's an 18-year-old kid with confidence and electric stuff, and that leads to the potential for a high reward. The Indians love his big frame. Downside: Having been through the Adam Miller saga, the Indians know all about the risk portion, as well. Not all 18-year-old kids with electric stuff make it to the Majors. Tribe's take: "He has dominating stuff and could have as much upside as anybody in the deal." -- Shapiro Big league timetable: It could be 2012 or 2013 before we get a glimpse of Knapp. The Indians view him as a starter, though some think he could transition to the bullpen eventually.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.