Pitching the focus of Tribe's 2011 farm system
Chisenhall, Kipnis also make successful jumps to big leagues
At the start of the 2011 season, MLB.com unveiled Top 10 prospect lists for all 30 Major League organizations on Prospect Watch. Over the course of the season, those lists changed due to graduations to the big leagues, trades and performances. With the season completed, MLB.com will review how the prospects on those lists fared in 2011.
Top prospect spotlight
The Ubaldo Jimenez trade sent three of the organization's top pitching prospects to Colorado, but that doesn't mean Cleveland's system has no talent on the mound to draw from in the near future.
Scott Barnes came to the Indians from the Giants in 2009 as part of the Ryan Garko deal. The lefty scuffled in his first full season with the Indians, posting a 5.22 ERA with Double-A Arkon. But the St. John's product was able to make adjustments, partiuclarly in one part of the game, to rebound for a very solid 2011 campaign.
"Being able to pitch with runners on base and limiting the big innings from ever happening -- working on damage control is how you could put it," said Barnes, who spent most of the year with the eventual Triple-A champion Columbus Clippers. "That was one of the trends I noticed in 2010. I was giving up a lot of runs in one inning. I really went in with a goal to limit the big innings this year."
"It's my first time getting hurt," Barnes said. "I'd never been taken away from the game with an injury. It seems like forever now, and it's only been a few months. It's tough, but you can't look at it that way. I'm just trying to get healthy."
Once he does that, Barnes knows what could lie ahead for him. If he continues to pitch well once he returns, the youth-minded Indians could very well give him a shot in the Majors at some point in 2012.
"That's been one of my goals my entire life," Barnes said. "I really want to get healthy and get back on the mound, have a good spring and get back to where I was before I got injured. Then I'll let everything happen the way it does. I'm just very anxious to get to next year when I can play baseball again."
Indians' top 10 prospects
|1.||Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B||Scott Barnes, LHP|
|2.||Alex White, RHP||Nick Hagadone, LHP|
|3.||Jason Kipnis, 2B||Wolters|
|4.||Drew Pomeranz, LHP||Phelps|
|5.||LeVon Washington, 2B||Weglarz|
|6.||Nick Weglarz, OF||Felix Sterling, RHP|
|7.||Joe Gardner, RHP||Washington|
|8.||Tony Wolters, SS||Chun-Hsui Chen, C|
|9.||Jason Knapp, LHP||Knapp|
|10.||Cord Phelps, 2B/3B||Thomas Neal, OF|
The marker of success for any part of every Major League organization is, ultimately, how the parent club performs. That means there is some disappointment among those in the Indians' player development department, simply because Cleveland didn't finish atop the American League Central after hanging around for much of the first fourth months of the season.
"Ultimately, what we evaluate is the performance of our Major League team," said Indians vice president of player development Ross Atkins. "As we look at the guys who transitioned [to the big leagues], whether we got over the hump is the ultimate evaluation, and we didn't get over the hump, so there's some disappointment."
The system's top prospects did contribute to the effort in two very different ways. Two of the organization's top hitting prospects were called upon to become everyday players in Cleveland. Lonnie Chisenhall, the team's No. 1 prospect entering the season, made his debut in late June and spent the rest of the season as the team's third baseman. Second baseman Jason Kipnis, No. 3 to start the year, joined Chisenhall about a month later.
Kipnis provided a huge lift in August before cooling off a bit and dealing with some injury issues, while Chisenhall held his own as well. Others from the Minors helped out as well, but the two infielders certainly got most of the attention and expectations. For the most part, they handled the pressure well.
"We don't have the luxury of always making sure we have a finished product," Atkins said. "Sometimes, it's simply the best alternative. Chis and Kip, they spent very minimal time in the Minor Leagues. Given the time we had, we got a lot out of their development. They made a lot of progress; there are things we'll look back at and try to improve on, things like easing their transition and making it easier for them to get there.
"They handled the expectations as well as could be expected. Those guys are exceptionally talented. They did have relatively smooth transitions and did make some contributions. But there are things we will look to do better in the future."
The Indians also used their farm system to bring in an established starter for that playoff push, sending prospects Nos. 2, 4 and 7 (Alex White, Drew Pomeranz and Joe Gardner) to Colorado for Jimenez. While the Indians fell short and Jimenez was up-and-down over the season's final two months, Cleveland still feels good about dealing the trio of prospects to bring in the right-hander -- not just for now, but also for the future.
"There's no buyer's remorse," Atkins said. "We felt very good about the short term and long term of that deal. A lot of things occurred, mostly injuries, that didn't allow us to get over that hump.
"The only thing that makes it bittersweet is the relationship factor. We felt very good about that trade, still do. But we had a bond with those pieces. We ultimately want the best for all of those pieces in those deals, certainly that one deal. We'll be pulling for those guys and hope they have good careers."
MLB.com's Preseason Picks
LeVon Washington, 2B: The hope was for the 2010 draftee to hit the ground running in Lake County, but a knee injury delayed him and he hit just .218 with 15 steals over 298 at-bats.
Drew Pomeranz, LHP: With a 1.98 ERA over 18 starts, it looked like the lefty was on his way to getting this nod, but his inclusion in the Jimenez trade made it necessary to look elsewhere.
MLB.com's Postseason Selections
Jason Kipnis, 2B: While continuing to learn how to play second base, the 2010 second-round Draft pick continued to hit, showing some pop and some speed en route to the big leagues. He also homered to lead off the Futures Game in July.
Jeanmar Gomez, RHP: Not only did the 23-year-old top everyone in the system but Pomeranz with a 2.55 ERA, he edged out Julio Teheran for the International League crown as well while also making a solid contribution in Cleveland.