CLEVELAND -- The World Baseball Classic offered more exposure to many of baseball's prospects this past spring. Many players left camps to suit up for the homeland, but plenty who stayed behind received the chance to suit up in big league games.
This was certainly the case for Cleveland, which plugged many of its highly touted farmhands into Cactus League games while some of the Major Leaguers were participating in the international tournament. Consider the Indians' game against the Mariners on March 23, when first-rounders Francisco Lindor and Tyler Naquin, along with second-base prospect Jose Ramirez, combined for six hits, four RBIs and 10 total bases.
where to watch
|3||Dorssys Paulino||Lake County||A|
|5||Mitch Brown||Lake County||A|
|10||Dillon Howard||Extended ST||TBD|
|13||Luigi Rodriguez||Lake County||A|
|15||LeVon Washington||Lake County||A|
|16||Kieran Lovegrove||Extended ST||TBD|
|17||D'vone McClure||Extended ST||TBD|
|18||Jorge Martinez||Lake County||A|
"That was really fun," Indians manager Terry Francona said after Cleveland's kids helped the team claim a 10-5 win over Seattle. "Our young kids -- and they're really young -- they looked like they belonged out there. That was really exciting."
Now, with the Minor League season underway, the Indians' prospects will take that experience to their respective affiliates, continuing their path toward the big leagues. Fans can follow the Tribe's prospects throughout the season on MLBPipeline.com and Prospect Watch. Get scores, stats, news, schedules, tickets and more for all of Cleveland's Minor League teams on MLBPipeline.com/indians.
Topping the Indians' list of prospects is Lindor. The 19-year-old -- selected with the eighth overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft -- opened this season with Class A Advanced Carolina after spending all of last year with low Class A Lake County. In 122 games last season, the switch-hitting shortstop hit .257 with a .352 on-base percentage, along with six homers, 24 doubles, three triples, 42 RBIs, 27 stolen bases and 83 runs scored.
Lindor played for the World team in the All-Star Futures Game in July, and then looked right at home in his stint with the Indians during Spring Training. In 10 Cactus League games for Cleveland, Lindor hit .292 (7-for-24) with two extra-base hits, one stolen base and one RBI.
"He continues to just raise the bar and expectations and standards for himself, for us, for everyone," said Indians vice president of player development Ross Atkins. "The kid just naturally has that, that he wants to take it to another level. He's never satisfied. Nothing is ever enough. He is, by far, the most driven high school player I've ever experienced.
"This offseason, he went and got quicker, faster, stronger. He carried things he learned from the end of the season into Spring Training. We so rarely see that from a high school player. ... Every day, the kid is better. It's difficult to limit him, because every time we think that he's a little bit better than we thought he's going to be, he does it again and raises the bar again."
Here is a glance at Cleveland's farm system at the outset of this season:
One of the most intriguing squads assembled to start this season is Class A Carolina. Cleveland's last two first-round Draft picks -- Lindor (2011) and Naquin (2012) -- are among the prospects on the Mudcats' Opening Day roster. Lindor is one of the top shortstop prospects in the game, and Naquin is a left-handed center fielder with a cannon for an arm.
Fans closer to Cleveland do not need to drive too far to see some of the organization's elite prospects, though. At Double-A Akron, shortstop Robby Rodriguez (No. 4 on MLB.com's Top 20 Indians prospects list) leads a lineup that also includes Ramirez (No. 9), first baseman Jesus Aguilar (No. 12), first baseman/designated hitter Chun Chen (No. 19) and third baseman Giovanny Urshela (No. 20). The rotation includes righty Danny Salazar (No. 8) and lefty T.J. House.
Another of Cleveland's top shortstop prospects, Dorssys Paulino, who is ranked third on the Indians' Top 20 list, began this season with Class A Lake County.
The Indians had bounced around the idea of converting middle-infield prospect Tony Wolters into a catcher in the past. After Francona suggested the same idea this spring, the organization decided to make the switch with Wolters, who is willing to put in the work.
"It was really interesting," Atkins said, "because he talked about his ability to catch in the past. He caught a little bit in high school. We've always talked about that as potentially something to consider, our group of coordinators and some of us in the front office. And then [Francona] got here and he brought it up as a concept. Having a new set of eyes on him, bringing it up as a concept, really brought it to the forefront again.
"The rationale, very summarized, is that he's got a chance to be great as a catcher. He has a chance to be very good as a middle infielder, a chance to be solid, a chance to be an everyday player. But he has a chance to be better than that -- an All-Star -- just because of the premium on catching."
Wolters, 20, opened this season at Class A Carolina to get at-bats as a designated hitter and infielder, while working on the side with Mudcats manager, and former catcher, Dave Wallace. Wolters is scheduled to head back to extended spring camp soon to concentrate on the transition, before rejoining Carolina after gaining some comfort catching in games.
Last year, the left-handed-hitting Wolters posted a .260 average and a .320 on-base percentage in 125 games as a shortstop and second baseman for Carolina. Along the way, he collected eight home runs, 30 doubles, eight triples, 58 RBIs and 66 runs scored.
"His athleticism behind the plate can potentially make him an above-average defender," Atkins said. "Taking his hands, taking his arm slot, taking the coordination of his lower half and making him into a catcher is really exciting."
Debuts and Draftees
The majority of Cleveland's Draftees who signed last summer did so quickly, allowing them to get some early exposure to pro ball. Three to monitor this season will be Naquin (36 games for short-season Mahoning Valley in 2012), second-round pick Mitch Brown (eight starts in the Arizona League in '12) and third-round pick Kieran Lovegrove (eight games in the Arizona League in '12). Naquin is currently with Carolina, Brown is with Lake County and Lovegrove remains in extended spring camp.
New kids on the block
The Indians' No. 2 prospect on MLB.com's list is 22-year-old right-hander Trevor Bauer, who is currently in the rotation at Triple-A Columbus. Bauer was an integral piece within the nine-player, three-team December trade involving the D-backs and Reds. Arizona sent Bauer to Cleveland as part of the deal, and the young righty has already made one spot start for the Indians in the big leagues this season. Bauer was the third overall pick in the 2011 Draft, and the first player from that Draft class to reach the Majors. He could be a fixture in the Tribe's rotation before the end of this season.
Quote to note
"I love seeing that. We all do. Everyone in player development loves seeing these guys get that chance. That's the best part of our job -- that exposure, and then seeing them in there feeling comfortable, was very fulfilling. We were very happy for them. It's very fulfilling to watch."
-- Atkins, on the prospects playing well in Cactus League games
Teams on TV
The Triple-A Columbus Clippers are among a growing number of teams whose games are available on MiLB.TV. The 2013 MiLB.TV package will include more than 3,500 Minor League games streamed live, as well as games archived for on-demand streaming soon after completion.