|Photo Credit: Al Ciammaichella|
30. Giovanny Urshela, 3B
Height/Weight: 6-0/197 lb.
Acquired: International free agent in 2008
2012 Stats: .278/.309/.446 with 14 HR and 59 RBI in 114 games for Carolina
Scouting Report: Signed as an international free agent out of Cartagena, Colombia, Urshela is an elite defensive 3B who had a solid season at the plate in 2012. Urshela popped 14 HR and posted a .755 OPS, both career highs. In 2011, Urshela played in 126 games for Lake County and hit just 9 HR with a .608 OPS, so he made clear strides at the plate last season. It’s easy to see Urshela’s growth as a hitter simply from looking at his stat line prior to and then after the all-star break. In the first half of the season, Urshela hit .254/.298/.345 with 2 HR and 20 RBI in 46 games. Not terrible, but not good either. After the all-star break though, Urshela played in 68 games and posted an impressive .294/.315/.515 line with 12 HR and 39 RBI. If Urshela can build on his 2nd half breakout in 2013, he could see his prospect standing take a huge jump.
Urshela has a smooth, line-drive stroke from the right side. He doesn’t project to hit for a ton of power, but should hit for a decent average and collect plenty of doubles. Urshela drilled 30 doubles last season with the Mudcats, a figure that was good for 8th in the Carolina League. He has a big, athletic frame and will likely continue to fill out and add some strength that will help turn some of those doubles into home runs. Urshela does need to improve his approach, as he walked just 16 times last season. Despite the low walk rate, Urshela isn’t a hacker at the plate with just 60 K last year, so it’s just a matter of doing a better job with pitch selection. He’s an average runner at best, hitting one triple and stealing just one base all of last season.
Urshela’s real calling card is his defense. He has plus range, quick reactions and a very strong throwing arm at 3B. Scouts are unanimous in praising his D, and some even whisper that he has Gold Glove potential down the road. That’s getting a little ahead of ourselves, but there’s no doubt that he projects as plus defender at the hot corner. But 3B is still an offensive position, and Urshela’s glove will only play if his bat can improve enough to carry him to the next level.
Urshela will play all of the 2013 season as a 21-year old, so he’s well ahead of the developmental curve. He should be a member of the Akron Aeros for the entire season, and it will be interesting to see how the young Colombian adjusts to the advanced pitching of AA. So far in his brief career, Urshela has improved at the dish every time he’s been promoted, so hopefully that trend can continue against Eastern League pitchers. If he can carry over the momentum from his strong 2nd half in 2012, then Urshela will be a candidate for the top-15 part of this list next season.
Glass half-full: Jack Hannahan, with a little bit better bat
Glass half-empty: Jack Hannahan, with a little bit worse bat
Height/Weight: 6-4/215 lbs
Acquired: 12th round pick in the 2011 draft
2012 Stats: 3-1, 6 saves, 2.22 ERA with 75 K and 34 BB in 65 IP between Lake County and Carolina
Scouting Report: Sides was selected in the 12th round of the 2011 draft out of Samford College, and was coming off of Tommy John surgery in 2010. He had a great season in 2012, posting a 1.05 ERA in 18 appearances with Lake County and then striking out 11.2 batters per 9 innings pitched with Carolina after he was called up to the Mudcats. He served as one of the members of the Mudcats closer committee, nailing down 5 saves in the Carolina League. At the end of the season, Sides had a 2.22 ERA and had allowed just one HR in his 65 very impressive innings of work.
Sides’ bread and butter is his fastball, and it’s a plus offering sitting between 94-96 MPH and has touched 98. He’s really just a two-pitch guy, and compliments the fastball with an above-average slider. He was still working on getting a feel for the slider in his first full season as a professional last year, but by the end of the year it was a pitch he felt pretty comfortable throwing in almost any situation.
Sides had impressive numbers last year, but he was much better overall in Lake County than in Carolina. When Sides moved up to the Carolina League, his ERA, walk rate, and AVG against all rose (as did his K rate, ironically). The most concerning jump came in Sides’ walk rate, as after issuing just 11 free passes in 34 1/3 IP with Lake County, he walked 23 in 30 2/3 innings of work with the Mudcats. His higher K rate helped strand a lot of those runners, but the other peripherals are concerning.
Sides will turn 24 in June of 2013, so he needs to move quickly through the system to stay at an age-appropriate level. He should begin the 2013 season with AA Akron, and needs to do a better job throwing strikes with the Aeros than he did with the Mudcats last year. If he’s throwing strikes, he can be an extremely effective reliever in the back end of a bullpen.
Glass half-full: A power reliever in the back end of a MLB bullpen
Glass half-empty: A power reliever in the middle of a bullpen
Height/Weight: 6-3/180 lbs
Acquired: From the Tigers in exchange for Jhonny Peralta in 2010
2012 Stats: 6-9, 3.93 ERA with 100 K and 49 BB in 121 1/3 IP for Akron
Scouting Report: Despite the sub-.500 record, Soto had an excellent season for AA Akron, posting an ERA south of 4.00 and a 1.31 WHIP. Those are solid numbers no matter what, but when you consider that Soto was just a 21-year old in AA, that makes them even more impressive. Soto had some elbow issues in 2011 that limited him to just 64 innings of work, but he pitched pretty much injury-free in 2012, an encouraging sign that the elbow issue is in the past and nothing chronic.
Soto has an average fastball that sits consistently between 88-91 MPH, and has touched as high as 94. The pitch has nice arm-side run, and can be extremely effective against hitters on both sides of the plate when he’s commanding it in the strike zone. He compliments the fastball with a cutter, curveball and changeup. His primary secondary offering is the cutter, a pitch that’s especially effective against lefthanded batters. Both his curve and changeup are average pitches and can flash better than that, and the curve is more consistent than the changeup at this stage of Soto’s career.
Soto won’t turn 22 until late-May of this year, but for someone his age he has a pretty deep resume. For his career, Soto has a 23-21 record with a 3.09 ERA, 315 K and 127 BB in 349 2/3 innings pitched. Soto is a stereotypical “crafty lefthander” who does a nice job attacking hitters with his repertoire. He can pitch backwards, and his fastball velocity plays up due to his deceptive motion and success with his offspeed stuff. The Indians would like to see Soto add a little strength to his frame, and if he does that there’s still a chance that he could pick up another tick or two on his fastball. Physically he reminds me a lot of former Indians RP Raffy Perez, and there’s a chance that Soto ends up in a similar relief role. He doesn’t have a plus third pitch yet, and could really be effective as a two-pitch lefty specialist with his fastball/cutter combo. For now though, Soto will remain in the rotation and should pitch in AAA Columbus at some point in 2013.
Glass half-full: A back of the rotation starter
Glass half-empty: A lefty specialist out of the bullpen
Height/Weight: 6-3/190 lb.
Acquired: 4th round pick in the 2012 draft
2012 Stats:.211/.305/.289 with 1 HR and 12 RBI in 24 games with Rookie Arizona
Scouting Report: Selected in the 4th round out of an Arkansas high school, McClure was given $765,000 to sign on the final day teams were eligible to come to terms with their 2012 draft picks. McClure was committed to Arkansas, and it took the big overslot bonus to convince him to break that commitment and start his professional career with the Indians. Slot for the pick was $314,700, so if the Indians hadn’t saved money in the first round with Tyler Naquin’s underslot signing, McClure might well have gone unsigned. McClure hit .412 with 26 stolen bases his senior year in high school, and is a toolsy athlete who is still refining his baseball sklls. He was considered the top prep player in Arkansas, making it the 2nd consecutive year the Indians drafted the top high school player in that state, following up on their 2011 selection of Arkansas native Dillon Howard in the 2nd round.
McClure is a tantalizing package, as scouts look at him and see a potential five-tool player down the road. The only tool that doesn’t have plus upside is his hit tool, but his power should make up for it. He has some natural loft in his swing, and has quick, powerful hands that get through the baseball on the inner half of the plate. He has a ways to go to reach his ceiling, as his .211/.305/.289 line in the Arizona Summer League last year would suggest. But hidden in that line are some encouraging numbers; McClure drew 11 walks in less than 100 at-bats, an encouraging figure for a high school player in his first taste of professional baseball. He did strike out 19 times, but also had 5 extra-base hits and stole a pair of bases. The 24 games McClure played in Arizona is an awfully small sample size so it’s tough to draw any sort of conclusions from his month or so in the desert, but there’s room for optimism in the 18-year old’s performance.
Defensively, McClure projects as an above-average outfielder. He has a good arm and plus speed, and split time between CF and LF last year in the Rookie League. While in high school, some scouts were putting an Austin Jackson comp on McClure. That’s a little premature, but it shows the type of talent he has in the outfield. He really could be an impact CF on both sides of the game.
McClure was ranked as the #93 player overall in the draft by Keith Law, and #91 by Baseball America. That the Indians were able to select him with the 143rd pick was only due to his bonus demands, demands that the Indians were able to meet to bring him into the fold. It’s early and there’s an awful long ways between the complex leagues and the majors, but several years from now we could be talking about McClure as a steal in the 4th round of the 2012 draft. He’ll likely be held down in extended spring training when the full season leagues kick off in April, and make his debut in Mahoning Valley when the NYPL starts up in June. He’s one of the most exciting, dynamic players in the system, and I’m really looking forward to getting to see him play later this month down in Goodyear.
Glass half-full: A plus defensive CF with some pop
Glass half-empty: A plus defensive LF with not much pop
Height/Weight: 6-2/170 lbs
Acquired: International free agent in 2009
2012 Stats: .324/.370/.536 with 8 HR and 45 RB in 55 games between Rookie Arizona and Mahoning Valley
Scouting Report: Signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic, Martinez has one of the best pure bats in the Indians system. He tore up the complex league last year along with fellow teenage Dominican Dorssys Paulino, as Martinez hit .347/.393/.563 with 7 HR in 46 games with the Arizona Indians. Called up to the short-season Mahoning Valley Scrappers to close out the season, pitchers exploited Martinez’s aggressive approach, striking him out 9 times in 32 at bats. Martinez did hit a home run and three doubles in the NYPL though, flashing a little of that tantalizing raw hitting ability as a 19-year old against much older and more seasoned pitching.
Martinez hits from the right side, and has impressive pop for a kid his size. He has a solid frame that leaves room for him to add bulk and strength as he gets older and works out with a professional training staff. He has a smooth, powerful swing and does a nice job barreling the ball when he makes contact. I’ve never seen Martinez make soft contact with the baseball; when he hits it, he hits it hard. Like many young international signees, Martinez has a “see ball-hit ball” approach that needs to be reigned in a little, as he’s struck out 128 times and taken just 44 walks since moving stateside in 2010. That approach serves him well against fastballs, but he struggles to recognize and lay off good secondary pitches, especially sliders down and out of the strike zone. If he can improve his pitch recognition and selection, Martinez could have an impact bat in the OF.
When Martinez first came stateside, he was a 17-year old shortstop. He made 15 errors in his first 29 games at SS, and the Indians had him play some 2B as well. In 2011 things weren’t much better, as he made 19 errors in 38 games at short. The Indians decided to move him to 3B for the 2012 season, where he proceeded to make “just” 11 errors in 37 games in the complex league, but then recorded as many miscues (6) as assists in 7 games with the Scrappers. It’s tough to keep a kid like that in the infield, so the Indians decided to move Martinez and his strong arm to the OF moving forward. He simply wasn’t progressing in the field like the Indians had hoped, and was still playing the infield like he was wearing a frying pan instead of a glove on his left hand. Martinez is an average runner, and the move to the OF should allow him to concentrate more time on improving his offensive game. His bat was so far ahead of his glove that the move was likely to happen at some point anyway, so getting it over with this offseason is probably for the best.
Martinez will likely be held in extended spring training until the NYPL starts up, and he’ll head to Mahoning Valley in June to make his professional debut in the outfield. I’m really excited to see how comfortable Martinez looks in the OF this spring, as if he can make the transition defensively then his bat could move quickly through the Indians system.
Glass half-full: A middle of the order OF bat
Glass half-empty: He can’t improve pitch recognition and tops out at AA