With all the All Star festivities officially wrapped up, the Tribe finds itself squarely rooted in the hunt for the postseason, trailing the Detroit Tigers by just 1.5 games. And unlike the faux-success through the middle of last year, Cleveland is playing closer to their expected winning percentage. The club’s +25 run differential ranks fifth in the AL and 10th in all of baseball.
Now that the trade deadline is in a couple weeks, the rumors will begin to ramp up and General Manager Chris Antonettti is no stranger to making a big splash at the deadline. Here’s a look at several of the Tribe’s prospects that should be deemed untouchable or made available:
Jesus Aguilar, Age: 23, 1B
Why he’s available: Aguilar’s a nice mid-range prospect, offering some offensive potential and on-base skills, but he’s likely never going to hit enough to justify playing first base. After flashing above-average pop in A-ball (.252 Isolated Power), he’s posted ISOs of .167 and .155 during his next two stops.
Trevor Bauer, Age: 22, RHP
Why he’s untouchable: Sure, he’s had a down year in terms of total production, but the front office’s management of the young right-hander has been, well, quite flawed. Bauer’s simply a mess, both physically and mentally. And his trade value is at an all time low. Why deal him now? He’s still only 22-years-old and has the potential as a very good #2/#3-type guy.
Carlos Carrasco, Age: 26, RHP
Why he’s untouchable: Temper issues notwithstanding, Carrasco has dominated in Triple-A, averaging 9.88 K/9 and just 2.63 BB/9. His velocity’s jumped up several ticks this season, and he’s still got league average starting ability. Bold statement: over a full season the difference between Carrasco and Ubaldo Jimenez is probably negligible (outside of paychecks earned, of course).
C.C. Lee, Age: 26, RHP
Why he’s untouchable: Lee has an extensive history of combining big strikeout numbers with low walk rates. When the Indians deal current closer Chris Perez this offseason, the 26-year-old should slide right into Cody Allen’s current role.
Francisco Lindor, Age: 19, SS
Why he’s untouchable: The second best shortstop prospect in the game, Lindor’s the heir apparent to the big league gig once Asdrubal Cabrera’s dealt. And it’s probably not a coincidence that he was promoted to Akron right around the time the Cabrera-to-the-Cardinals rumors started surfacing. Plus-glove and above-average hit tools aren’t easily found among teen-aged middle infielders.
Tyler Naquin, Age: 22, CF
Why he’s available: I was never a fan of taking him with the 15th pick in last year’s draft, writing at that time: “But for now, the Indians have Naquin, a solid high-floor, low ceiling prospect who’s probably going to settle around a quality fourth outfielder or starter on a non-contending team, and probably has a ceiling of a .270/.330/.420 hitter.” And while his production with Carolina looks solid — .290/.355/.438 — it’s important to remember that he’s a highly drafted collegiate player in an age-appropriate level of competition. According to Weighted Runs Created Plus, his total offensive production has been just 19% better than the league average.
Matt Packer, Age: 25, LHP
Why he’s available: Packer’s a ho-hum lefty with a nice ERA (2.58) in Akron, but the underlying numbers — mainly his strikeout rate of 6.75 K/9 — are replaceable. He’s not particularly strong against fellow southpaws, so it’s not like he’d be a good LOOGY either.
Dorssys Paulino, Age: 18, SS
Why he’s untouchable: Paulino’s struggled more than any other player in the team’s system this year, hitting a meager .237/.289/.343 with Lake County. But the Indians have been uncharacteristically aggressive with the 18-year-old. After playing just 15 games in Low-A in 2012, he began the year as one of the Midwest League’s youngest players. Plus, he’s made strides at the plate each month (OPSs from April to early July): .496, .614, .661 and .749. I’m a big believer in the bat.
Jose Ramirez, Age: 20, 2B
Why he’s available: Ramirez has held his own as a 20-year-old in Double-A this year (.278/.337/.368), but the power is never going to develop (he’s just 5-foot-9) and his on-base skills are average at best.
Luigi Rodriguez, Age: 20, Position: OF
Why he’s available: He’s going to make it the big leagues one day, but it’s as a fourth outfielder-type with decent on-base skills, above-average speed, position versatility and little pop.
Ronny Rodriguez, Age: 21, SS
Why he’s available: Prior to the year, I wrote: “He could kind of fall into that Quad-A territory eventually or decent platoon player.” The problem, of course, has been a horrifically poor walk rate: He’s never walked more than 3.9% of the time and this season it’s down to a career low 2.6%. The above-average power and middle infield position are not enough to compensate for that. Nothing is, actually.
Danny Salazar, Age: 23, RHP
Why he’s untouchable: Whether with Akron, Columbus or Cleveland, Salazar has been magnificent this season. The 23-year-old hurler’s armed with a plus-fastball and the ability to miss bats while limiting free passes. Simply put, he’s going to be the best pure-homegrown pitcher the Indians system has burped up since C.C. Sabathia.
Giovanny Urshela, Age: 20, 3B
Why he’s available: See Ronny Rodriguez.
Tony Wolters, Age: 21, C
Why he’s untouchable: Scrappy, hard-nosed former second baseman that converted to catcher this season, Wolters has thrown out 32% of would-be base stealers during his debut. He also has some upside with the bat.
For more analysis check out Joe’s site — Prospect Digest