Indians' farm system stacked at lower levels

Indians' farm system stacked at lower levels

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians do not mind that shortstop Francisco Lindor is receiving the bulk of the attention among the organization's top prospects. Already this spring, Cleveland has seen a player capable of handling the spotlight.

"One of the most exciting things for us this Spring Training is the impact Lindor has already had on our system," Indians' vice president of player development Ross Atkins said. "Not just from adding that piece to the puzzle, but the attitude and the professionalism. It's unreal."

Lindor, Cleveland's top pick in last summer's First-Year Player Draft, is only 18 years old, but he carries himself in a manner that shows his maturity level matches his skill level on the field. The young shortstop will be the focal point of the Indians' system this season, but the Tribe is excited about a number of its other talented prospects.

With the Minor League season getting under way, fans can keep track of the Indians' top prospects throughout the year on Prospect Watch. Scores, stats, news, schedules, tickets and more for all of Cleveland's Minor League teams can be found on the Tribe's affiliates page.

When it comes to middle-infield prospects, specifically, Cleveland feels it has a good problem on its hands. The Indians believe they have a host of talent up the middle with the likes of Lindor, Tony Wolters, Ronny Rodriguez, Robel Garcia and Dorssys Paulino, among others.

Right now, the Indians' task is to determine where they will all fit in within the system.

"It's been a very, very good Spring Training," Atkins said. "Really, when we know that our decisions are focused around just placing prospects, and all of our energy and effort is going to that, that we're having a productive Spring Training."

Lindor and Garcia begin the season at Class A Lake County. Paulino, signed out of the Dominican Republic for $1.1 million in July, will stay in extended Spring Training, but could be in Lake County later this year. Wolters and Rodriguez project to open the year with high Class A Carolina.

Atkins said the Indians were especially impressed this spring with Wolters, who was a third-round selection by the Tribe in the 2010 Draft.

"He's been unbelievable," Atkins said. "He's made some of the most encouraging strides of any of our players. He performed well last year in Mahoning Valley, and the strides he made in instructional league and then the work he did all offseason, and how he's looked in camp at 19, is all very encouraging."

Here is a glance at how the Indians' farm system shapes up for the 2012 season:

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where to watch
A look at where the Indians' Top 20 prospects are starting the 2012 season:
1 Francisco Lindor Lake County A
2 Dillon Howard Arizona League R
3 Nick Hagadone Columbus AAA
4 Tony Wolters Carolina A+
5 Scott Barnes Columbus AAA
6 Ronny Rodriguez Carolina A+
7 Chen Lee Columbus AAA
8 Austin Adams Akron AA
9 Alex Monsalve Lake County A
10 Felix Sterling Lake County A
11 LeVon Washington Lake County A
12 Alex Lavisky Lake County A
13 Dorssys Paulino Arizona League R
14 Zach McAllister Columbus AAA
15 Luigi Rodrigez Lake County A
16 Jorge Martinez Arizona League R
17 Chun Chen Akron AA
18 Elvis Araujo Lake County A
19 Jake Sisco Arizona League R
20 Robel Garcia Lake County A
Click here for the complete Top 20 list on Prospect Watch.

Stacked squads

The Columbus Clippers feature the kind of roster that could contend for a third consecutive Triple-A championship, but the club does not project to include many of the players considered to be Cleveland's top prospects. Along those lines, it will be Lake County and Carolina that will be the teams to monitor closely this season.

"The lower levels are the exciting ones," Atkins said.

Lindor, who was the eighth overall pick in the 2011 Draft, will be manning shortstop for the Lake County Captains. Wolters will likely be handling shortstop and some second base for the Carolina Mudcats. Another intriguing player likely ticketed for Carolina will be 21-year-old first baseman Jesus Aguilar.

In 164 games combined between last season in Class-A and winter ball, during which Aguilar took part in the Arizona Fall League and the Venezuelan Winter League, the first baseman hit .288 with 29 home runs, 42 doubles and 105 RBIs. If he continues at a strong pace out of the gates this season, Aguilar could reach Double-A Akron quickly.

"He just keeps doing it," Atkins said. "And he's a good first baseman. I think the only reason he's under the radar is the position he plays. It's such a demand on your bat, but he's young and he's done it at a very young age."

Debuts and Draftees

The Indians selected right-hander Dillon Howard with the 67th overall pick (second round) in last June's First-Year Player Draft. He signed with Cleveland shortly before the August deadline last fall for $1.85 million. Due to the late signing, Howard did not pitch in the Tribe's farm system last season.

The 19-year-old Howard pitched for Searcy High School in Arkansas last year, featuring a 92-94 mph fastball, along with a curveball and changeup. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound righty went 9-1 with a 0.31 ERA, piling up 115 strikeouts against 25 walks in 58 innings across 12 starts. He will begin his pro career in the Arizona League.

Teams on TV

The Clippers are among a growing number of teams whose games are available on MiLB.TV. The 2012 MiLB.TV package will include more than 2,500 Minor League games streamed live, as well as games archived for on-demand streaming soon after completion.

Fans tuning in to watch The Clip Show will be seeing a club vying for a third straight International League crown.

"Columbus is loaded," Atkins said. "It's not quite as exciting from a prospect standpoint, but they're going to be good."

The Indians are especially excited about some of the pitchers, both in the rotation and bullpen, who will be with the Clippers this season. Left-hander Scott Barnes and righty Zach McAllister could impact Cleveland's starting staff this season. Relievers Chen-Chang Lee and Tyler Sturdevant could work their way into the Tribe's bullpen mix, too.

From the farm director

"With the youth projection of our middle-infield prospects, and then the depth of our relief prospects throughout our system and the starters at the top of the system, there is a relatively diversified group of prospects that we feel pretty good about." --Atkins

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.