June 5, 2004

Tribe Minor League Report

It's good to have ended the latest losing streak at three games last night. How often this year have the Indians outscored their opponents 5-0 in the last two inning? Refreshing. But on to the Minor League Report for June 4.

Grady Sizemore has been hot, dragging his batting average up over .260 for the first time at AAA Buffalo, and starting to hit with some more power. Corey Smith is headed the other way. The AA Aero's third baseman has crashed and burned to a .227 batting average after hitting .324 in April. Smith has had a reputation for being allergic to leather, and for striking out excessively in his five years with he organization. Drafted in the first round in 1999, Smith is now causing the team to look elsewhere for that third baseman of the future. Speaking of which, I'm still waiting to hear of the minor league assignment for 3B prospect Matt Whitney on his way back from last year's broken leg. I think he's only 20 years old, so he may not be a AAA ballplayer. He really belongs at AA Akron, but he needs to play every day, and that's where the ever-disappointing Corey Smith is playing third every day. It's got to be a nagging question for Shapiro. When do you give up on Corey Smith?

The list of prospects in the Indians system that are opening eyes and turning heads in the 2004 season has to begin with Ryan Garko, the catcher-first baseman drafted last year out of Stanford, who is playing his first full season of pro ball at Class A Kinston. Splitting time evenly between the two positions, Garko is hitting .341 with a .618 slugging percentage. He has 14 doubles, 11 homers and 44 RBI, in 46 games. Also raking at Kinston is last year's No.1 pick, 1B Michael Aubrey. He's sporting a .322 BA and is slugging .538, with 11 doubles, 8 homers and 44 RBI. You'd think the organization would be considering a position change for Garko, with Aubrey as the heir apparent at first base, and Victor Martinez owning the starting catcher spot for the next ten years or so. Can he play third?

But Class A Kinston has the best record in all of professional baseball at 38-15 because they have the best pitching of any of the Indians clubs. Fausto Carmona, Dan Denham, Brian Slocum, J.D. Martin are all promising starters, and closer Ryan Prahm has a 1.59 ERA and 13 saves. Former Buckeye Matt Davis has a 2.04 ERA in 35 relief innings. I 'm hoping to see Kinston play later this year on a vacation jaunt to NC.

The Indians are grooming some other OF prospects that, along with Grady Sizemore, look to replace Crisp and Lawton in the next couple of years. The trio at AA Akron of Ben Francisco, Franklin Gutierrez, (who came in the Milton Bradley deal), and Jason Cooper all look like keepers. But the outfielder having the best start in 2004 is Ryan Goleski at Class A Lake County. He's hitting .329, slugging .623, with 13 doubles, 14 HR and 49 RBI in 51 games.

The next tier of pitching prospects after the Kinston foursome is the group with the Lake County Captains, which includes Sean Smith (6-2, 4.14 ERA) and Adam Miller (4-1, 2.95). Kyle Denney (4-1, 2.61) is the best we've got at AAA Buffalo and Jeremy Guthrie seems to be getting his act together at AA Akron. I believe Peter Gammons, who says the Indians may have more quality pitching prospects in the minors than any other team. It's a good feeling but, to quote Michael Ledeen, "faster, please!"

Posted by dan at June 5, 2004 11:35 PM