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Which Prospects have the Most to Prove in 2013?

Bauer, Washington among 10 prospects with most to prove

Which Prospects have the Most to Prove in 2013?
LeVon Washington (Photo: Lianna Holub)
March 9, 2013
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Every player who does not start the year on the 25-man roster will be out to prove that they belong in the major leagues. That's the goal for every minor leaguer after all: to make it to The Show.

Some players, however, have more on the line than others. For the ten players in this article, 2013 will be a tipping point in their careers. They could either put themselves firmly back on track to be successful major league contributors or they could fall farther behind other prospects.

Something to keep in mind: this list is skewing toward players who have been around a little longer or have made it farther up the organizational ladder. That is not to say that players slated for Lake County have nothing to prove, just that, outside of more extreme cases, I see them as having more time.

Or, to put it another way, players who have been around longer have the book written on them. Thus, if that book is showing some flaws, they have more on the line in 2013.

Trevor Bauer, RHP

The idea that Bauer, Cleveland's high-profile return for the Shin-Soo Choo trade, has a lot to prove is no real shock. The third overall pick in the 2011 Draft aggravated the Arizona Diamondbacks so much that they traded him for far less than he should have been worth.

Bauer has plenty of talent, but he really needs to work on making adjustments to the major league level. His first taste of the big leagues did not go well, but few players make it that far without any failures. Bauer's 16.1 innings in Arizona were rough, but now he has to rebound in 2013.

Much has been made about Bauer's eccentricities, but as long as he pitches well, no one will say anything. He may find a way to win the fifth starter competition out of Spring Training, but the more likely outcome is spending a month or two in Triple-A to work on consistency. Either way, Bauer brings a shot of adrenaline to a system lacking high-end starting pitching in the upper levels, though he will need to prove that he can handle pitching in the major leagues.

LeVon Washington, OF

When I did this list last year, four of the five members were Jason Knapp, Beau MillsNick Weglarz, and Cord Phelps.

Needless to say, 2012 did not work out how they would have wanted.

2012 also was not kind to Washington, who was the fifth member of that list. Washington came into the season as IBI's (then IPI) second-rated prospect -- an aggressive rating based on what he would be capable of by staying healthy. Not a sure thing based on Washington's injury history.

Six games into the season, the injury bug bit hard, with a torn labrum in his left hip almost knocking him out for the season. The word at the time was that he might be out for the season, but Washington made it back and actually played four games at High-A Carolina, a level above where he started the year.

Washington has been working hard this offseason to make 2013 his year -- even staying off Twitter since early November to focus on training. Time will tell if Washington can stay healthy and keep #WashTime on the field, but if he can, then the 21-year-old should become a top prospect in the system once again.

Dillon Howard, RHP

Following Washington on IBI's rankings was Howard, Cleveland's second round pick in 2011. Despite being a high school pitcher, Howard was supposed to come with an advanced approach that would let him get through the system quickly.

So much for that.

2012 proved to be a humbling experience for Howard, who did not come into camp in the best of shape and got injured during the spring. Howard then only threw 41.0 innings in the Arizona League, allowing 36 earned runs, 53 runs and 65 hits. All in all, it amounted to a lost year for the right-hander.

Howard is only 20, so he still has time on his side. Assuming he uses 2012 as something to learn from, he could easily re-establish himself as a priority arm in the system. The talent is there; now it is on Howard to make the most of it.

Nick Hagadone, LHP/Chen-Chang Lee, RHP/Austin Adams, RHP

2012 was not a good year to be a top IBI prospect, as Hagadone was ranked fourth, Lee sixth, and Adams eighth. Cleveland has plenty of relief depth, but there is no denying that having a great deal of the higher-end of that depth struggle in 2012 was far from ideal.

Everyone by now knows about Hagadone breaking his own hand in anger after a bad outing and Steve Orbanek did a great job of profiling him in Then & Now on Tuesday, so I'll just get out of the way on this one. Hagadone has a great slider, an even better fastball, and a high ceiling in the bullpen, assuming he can get out of his own way.

As for Lee, he was pitching very well before he succumbed to Tommy John surgery in June. The right-hander will be brought back slowly and likely will not be assigned to a full season league until later in the year, but a healthy start for him will go a long way to getting him back on track to being in the Bullpen Mafia.

Adams also succumbed to injury in 2012, missing the entire season after shoulder surgery. There have always been questions about Adams' ability to stay in the rotation, but now the bullpen may be the most likely spot for him. Like Lee, Adams should be brought along slowly in 2013, but if he can make it through the year without any setbacks, his fastball-curveball combination should see the major leagues at some point in 2014.

Felix Sterling, RHP

Sterling, who came into the season ranked 12th by IBI, was supposed to use 2012 to build off of a successful 2011. In 2011, Sterling was able to pitch effectively in nine starts at Lake County, an impressive feat for the then 18-year-old. Heading into 2012, there was no reason to think that Sterling would not continue his progression through the system and keep climbing through the system.

Of course, Sterling is on this list because 2012 did not go smoothly. The right-hander struggled early on in Lake County and actually saw himself demoted back to the Arizona League and put in the bullpen. The moves were intended to help him fix his delivery and approach and signaled a real setback in his development.

The good news is that time is still on Sterling's side. He will only be 20 in 2013 and still has the raw ability that made him a top prospect in the first place. He should either start out at Lake County or Carolina and, with some improvements and adjustments, could show everyone once again that he has a bright major league future.

Trey Haley, RHP

A rarity for this list, Haley actually enjoyed his first truly successful season as a pro in 2012. Haley may have only thrown 38.2 innings between the Arizona League, High-A, and Double-A, but his 2.33 ERA and 49:19 SO:BB have put more of the shine back on the former second round pick.

What Haley has to do now is prove that 2012 was not a fluke. There has been talk about moving Haley back into a starting role to maximize his value, but even if he stays in the bullpen, he needs to continue pitching effectively. It should be easier after finally having his sports hernia diagnosed correctly and fixed, but we will see if he can maintain the momentum he gathered in 2012.

Carlos Moncrief, OF

Like Haley, Moncrief actually had a pretty good year in 2012. The former pitcher has really made the transition to the outfield, with a .249/.339/.465 line, 15 home runs, 17 steals, and a great arm in right field. The outfielder flashes the ability for all five tools and could easily be a late-blooming star in the organization.

Starting his career as a pitcher put Moncrief farther behind other prospects, but he has really worked hard to catch up. The raw talent is magnificent, but he still needs to refine some of it. Moncrief struck out in 31% of his plate appearances in 2012, and if he wants his tools to shine at the major league level, he will need to improve that strikeout rate. Still, Moncrief is a prospect with a high ceiling who will look to make the very difficult jump to Double-A, where his flaws in pitch recognition could be exploited.

Jake Lowery, C

Cleveland has quite a few intriguing catchers in the lower minors between Alex MonsalveAlex Lavisky, and Eric Haase, and it is quite possible that Lowery has been left behind. Lowery started 2012 in High-A Carolina, but he struggled so much that he was dropped back down to Lake County.

The left-handed hitter saw his power emerge in 39 games at Lake County (he posted a .248/.358/.504 line with seven home runs), but if that power does not stay, his value with evaporate quickly. As Tony currently does not have him projected as a starter, Lowery will need to come out hitting to get himself playing time. If he can force Cleveland's hand with the bat, though, I would imagine the fourth round pick in 2011 will get himself some playing time.

If you want to follow Jim on Twitter, he’s @JimPiascik. If you want to e-mail him, you can do so at jpiasci1@kent.edu

User Comments

Jim Piascik
March 9, 2013 - 6:43 PM EST
I agree on the injury prone players. I used to think it was overblown, but I believe it now.

As it pertains to LeVon, it hasn't been pretty so far. But, despite putting him on this list last year, I think that 2013 is his big year. He still has all that talent and (assuming the injuries haven't robbed him of it) athleticism; now it just comes down to staying on the field.

If LeVon stays healthy and stays on the field, I think he'll shoot right back up Tony's rankings and up the front office's depth chart. But that's a huge if. It will be very interesting to watch how things go this year.
Roger
March 9, 2013 - 6:38 PM EST
i know football and baseball and basketball are all different sports however there is something to be said about injury prone players. The colts drafted in the second round maybethe year that they drafted edgerton james a def tackle from michigan. I think his name was jason williams who had missed half of the games at UM due to injury and low and behold he was injured more than half of the games with the colts and the nfl gave up on his talent. Varajoe with the cavs seems to always find a way to get hurt and miss significant time. I am wondring is wash time is that way. He always seems to find a way to hurt himself. i am sure there are many other brilliant prospects that have a way of always getting injured and the injuries are different parts of the body. unless washington shows he can stay healthy i think the tribe will have to turn the page on the kid. Talent is hard to show when you are on injured reserve or the disabled list. Up until this year i kinda thought kerie irving might have the same problem due to his one year at duke and rookie year in the nba however he seems to be mostly healthy this year and levon might show us the talent that two teams saw in him to make him a high draft choice twice. as for the others i agree based on 2012 results including bauer on the list is scary, but jim the law of averages is in your favor. nice article lets hope you have the opposite success in 2013 that you had in 2012, I suspect the tribe is vastly different this year than in 2012 and will defy any negative predictions given to them. Whether they can beat the Tigers is an unknown at this point but it certainly is a totally different atmosphere at progressive field almost like the atmosphere was at the "JAKE"
Jim Piascik
March 9, 2013 - 3:55 PM EST
I have an obligation to the sacred craft to call them as I see them. Haha.

I'm hoping that last year was the outlier. I can't possibly pull off going 0-for-15, can I?
Jwahoo
March 9, 2013 - 3:22 PM EST
You should have at least left Bauer off to be careful.
Rich
March 9, 2013 - 3:02 PM EST
Are you sure it was a good idea to write this column, Jim? Last year's group was 0-for-5, with Phelps being the only one not to bomb spectacularly.

If you go 0-for-10 this year we're in a lot of trouble. Actually you put 12 names in there, so it could really be bad.

I think if we can just get Bauer and Hagadone to have successful seasons we're ahead of the game. And if either Haley or Howard could get it together we'll have hit the jackpot.

Washington reminds me of LaPorta in that they both had recurring injuries including serious hip injuries. They're both heading down the Knapp and Weglarz path from what I can see.
Tony
March 9, 2013 - 1:52 PM EST
Yes, LeVon certainly has his issues. I've heard mixed reports on his abilities, swing, etc. I still believe a lot of that inconsistency with how people view him is not just because of his inconsistent play, but also his injuries. I'd like to see him play a full season healthy to accurately assess him.
Jim Piascik
March 9, 2013 - 12:42 PM EST
I haven't gotten a chance to see LeVon, but he has dealt with tons of injuries. They easily could have been affecting his swing. For what it's worth. Tony may have more (better?) information.
Tommy
March 9, 2013 - 12:26 PM EST
I think LeVon Washington's swing sucks and he's not a good hitting prospect. When I've seen him I hope he was compensating for an injury or something, b/c through my experience guys with swings like that do not turn into major league hitters. Not a pretty swing. He's demonstrated a lot of fragility at a young age, too.

I've always liked Trey Haley. Such good arm speed, good pitcher's body. It's taking him a long time to develop but he's got a chance to make an impact in the majors.

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