Indians' system top-heavy with middle infielders
Lindor ranked No. 1 among organization's future impact players
The future success of every Major League team lies largely in its Minor League pipeline. With that in mind, MLB.com is looking at each team's farm system, from the Top 20 Prospects to under-the-radar types.
It might seem as though the top two prospects in the Indians' farm system have nothing in common, but Ross Atkins, the organization's director of player development, says Francisco Lindor and Trevor Bauer share a slew of baseball-related traits.
"They have had very different upbringings," Atkins said, "but they have very similar skill sets when it comes to the mental game of baseball, their preparation, their professionalism. Both of them have all of the attributes you're looking for in what it takes to be a professional baseball player."
Lindor, a diminutive teenage shortstop from Puerto Rico who will likely start at the Class A level, wore a jersey with no name on the back while walking the tunnels of Progressive Field for the organization's fan fest in mid-January. The California-born Bauer, on the other hand, isn't so unrecognizable. Many can pinpoint the right-handed hurler long-tossing from up to 400 feet before his outings.
The No. 1-ranked prospect in the organization, Lindor batted .257 with six homers, 42 RBIs and 27 stolen bases in his first full professional season at Class A Lake County. He was named a Midwest League All-Star and played in the XM All-Star Futures Game.
Bauer is expected to help the Indians at some point in 2013. The 22-year-old made four starts for the D-backs last season, and compiled a 12-2 mark and 2.42 ERA over 22 starts between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno. He'll compete in Spring Training for a spot in the starting rotation, but even if he begins the season with Triple-A Columbus, the Indians don't expect him to stay there for long.
"Nothing is etched in stone," Atkins said. "The guy is exceptionally talented. I think [general manager] Chris [Antonetti] and [manager Terry Francona] will decide what is best for him and the Cleveland Indians when they have a little bit more information, not just regarding Trevor, but the entire team."
Top 20 prospects
The organization is rich with middle infielders, with three shortstops among the top four prospects and four among the top seven.
Dorssys Paulino, 18, hit .333 with seven homers, 38 RBIs, 11 stolen bases and 19 doubles in 56 contests between the club's Rookie-level team and Class A Mahoning Valley. Ronny Rodriguez, a 20-year-old from the Dominican Republic, batted .264 with 19 homers for Class A Carolina. His double-play partner, Tony Wolters, logged a .260 average with 30 doubles, eight triples and eight homers.
Jesus Aguilar, a hefty, 6-foot-3 first baseman, might be the best pure slugger in the system. Ranked the No. 12 prospect in the organization, Aguilar hit 15 homers and drove in 71 runs in 127 games with Carolina and Double-A Akron. He also played in the Futures Game. This offseason, he played winter ball in his native Venezuela and batted .267 with three homers in 60 at-bats.
"He has the ability to hit the ball a long way," Atkins said. "He's already an accomplished first baseman. It's early in his career. He has moved relatively quickly. The Arizona Fall League attention, the performances he's had in winter ball, the home runs he has hit in winter ball, those have expedited some things for him."
Bauer paces a pack of six pitchers ranked among the Indians' top 20 prospects. The club has used its second-round Draft choice on a right-handed pitcher in each of the last two years. Mitch Brown, last June's selection, checks in at No. 5 and Dillon Howard, a 2011 pick, ranks No. 10.
Southpaw Scott Barnes, the No. 15 prospect in the system, is expected to challenge for a spot in the Indians' bullpen during Spring Training.
Under the Radar
Juan Diaz, SS: The native of the Dominican Republic made a five-game cameo for the Indians last May when the team was reeling from injuries. He held his own, reaching base five times in 17 plate appearances (.353 on-base percentage). Diaz, 24, who stands a lanky 6-foot-4, batted .266 with 13 homers in 115 games between Double-A Akron and Columbus last season, though he hit .306 for the Clippers.
Shawn Armstrong, RHP: An 18th-round selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, Armstrong logged a 0.89 ERA in 17 appearances for Akron last season, yielding just two runs in 20 1/3 innings. Across 46 career Minor League outings, the 22-year-old righty has posted a 1.55 ERA with 80 strikeouts in 69 2/3 frames.
Hitter of the Year
Lindor might be the easy choice, but with a strong season, Aguilar could push for at least a September callup. He earned an invite to Spring Training, but will likely start at Akron, where he finished the 2012 campaign after flourishing at Class A Carolina.
Pitcher of the Year
Danny Salazar's 2.68 ERA and 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings at Carolina last year merited him a promotion to Akron, where he pitched even better, posting a 4-0 mark and 1.85 ERA in six outings. He should continue to climb the organizational ladder in 2013, as he closes in on the big leagues.