Minor League Keeper Thoughts: AL Central Remainder Edition

DETROIT - SEPTEMBER 01: Jacob Turner #50 of the Detroit Tigers pitches in the first inning against Alex Gordon #4 of the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park on September 1, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. The Royals defeated the Tigers 11-8. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

So far, we've looked at 9 of the systems in the Majors, and seen some good and some not-so-good. The goal with each team I look at is to discuss a few players who are likely to have an impact in the Majors in 2012, a few who could be ready by the start of 2014, and a few more who are a long ways away, but could be interesting as well. You can find links to the previous teams below:

Houston Astros | Minnesota Twins | Seattle Mariners | Baltimore Orioles

Kansas City Royals | Chicago Cubs | San Diego Padres | Pittsburgh Pirates | Colorado Rockies

Overview

For these three systems, I'm including them all in one post, because honestly, all of the systems are extremely thin at the moment. For the Indians, graduations and trades have left the minors with just 1 true impact talent in the system, but a lot of high-upside, extremely far away talents. For the Tigers, you have a pair of prospects who would be at the top of nearly every system, but then a lot of high-risk or lower-ceiling talents after that. The White Sox, between graduating 3 players and either not having or missing on their top draft picks, have left their system in shambles.

2011 Graduates

CHW: Chris Sale, Brent Morel, Dayan Viciedo

CLE: Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis, Alex White (now with COL), Vinnie Pestano

DET: Charlie Furbush

Ready in 2012

Jacob Turner (DET)

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA G IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2010 19 DET-min A+,A 6 5 3.28 24 115.1 106 48 42 7 23 102 1.118 8.3 0.5 1.8 8.0 4.43 LAK,WMI · FLOR,MIDW
2011 20 DET-min AA,AAA 4 5 3.44 20 131.0 117 53 50 10 35 110 1.160 8.0 0.7 2.4 7.6 3.14 ERI,TOL · EL,IL
2011 20 DET AL 0 1 8.53 3 12.2 17 13 12 3 4 8 1.658 12.1 2.1 2.8 5.7 2.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/29/2012.

Turner was the Tigers' top draft pick in the 2009 draft at #9 overall, and has moved pretty quickly through the system. He spent 2010 between the Tigers' low-A and high-A affiliates, and made the jump to AA to start 2011. He even received a call up to the Majors last year, making a start in July and 2 more in September. Turner has shown both a solid strikeout rate and a low walk rate at every stop so far, including his 3 starts in AAA. Here's what John Sickels had to say about Turner as a part of his top 20 prospect list:

I think he could use some additional Triple-A exposure, but the Tigers may have different ideas. I don't see him as a number one Verlander-like ace, but more like a durable workhorse number two.

The Tigers aren't exactly known for keeping their prospects in the minors if they think they can help in Detroit, and I have to imagine that Turner probably isn't going to get more than a few starts at AAA this year, if that. Realistically, there may not be a starting pitcher in the Tigers' system right now who is both closer to the Majors and has higher upside in that role than Turner. I think he'll start the season in the Majors, as the Tigers have made it abundantly clear that they are going for it this year.

Addison Reed (CHW)

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA G CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2010 21 CHW-min Rk 1 0 1.80 13 0 0 1 30.0 17 7 6 1 6 44 0.767 5.1 0.3 1.8 13.2 7.33 GRF · PION
2011 22 CHW-min A+,AAA,AA,A 2 1 1.26 43 0 0 5 78.1 43 14 11 3 14 111 0.728 4.9 0.3 1.6 12.8 7.93 WSM,CHR,BIR,KAN · CARL,IL,SOUL,SALL
2011 22 CHW AL 0 0 3.68 6 0 0 0 7.1 10 3 3 1 1 12 120 1.500 12.3 1.2 1.2 14.7 12.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/29/2012.

Reed skyrocketed up the system last year, pitching at 4 different levels in the minors prior to pitching in 6 games in Chicago at the end of the season. Reed finished the season having pitched 85 2/3 innings across all 5 levels, struck out 123 and walked just 15. The White Sox have groomed him long-term to be a closer, and it appears to be going quite well. Here's what Kevin Goldstein had to say about Reed as a part of his White Sox top 11 prospects:

Reed has everything it takes to be a major-league closer. His fastball averages 95 mph and touches 97-98, and it plays up due to his ability to use both sides of the plate and get ahead of hitters. His wipeout slider is among the best in the minor leagues; it’s a two-plane breaker that consistently misses bats. He works quickly, aggressively, and without fear.

Matt Thornton is likely to start the season as the closer for the White Sox, but it would not surprise me at all if Reed finished the season with more saves. I have to wonder if Reed's emergence last year at least played a part in the team's moving Sergio Santos. I believe he has the skills long-term to be a top-10 closer.

Could Be Ready by 2014

Nestor Molina (CHW)

Year Age Lg Lev W L ERA G IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2007 18 DOSL FRk 0 0 0.00 1 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 0.0 0.0 9.0 0.0 0.00
2008 19 DOSL FRk 4 1 0.96 20 37.1 30 6 4 1 5 27 0.938 7.2 0.2 1.2 6.5 5.40
2009 20 GULF Rk 3 0 1.69 15 37.1 31 8 7 0 4 32 0.938 7.5 0.0 1.0 7.7 8.00
2009 20 NYPL A- 0 1 1.59 2 5.2 9 3 1 1 1 6 1.765 14.3 1.6 1.6 9.5 6.00
2010 21 MIDW A 8 2 3.17 37 76.2 64 31 27 4 20 61 1.096 7.5 0.5 2.3 7.2 3.05
2010 21 FLOR A+ 0 0 2.08 2 4.1 7 4 1 0 0 3 1.615 14.5 0.0 0.0 6.2
2011 22 FLOR A+ 10 3 2.58 21 108.1 102 37 31 8 14 115 1.071 8.5 0.7 1.2 9.6 8.21
2011 22 EL AA 2 0 0.41 5 22.0 12 2 1 0 2 33 0.636 4.9 0.0 0.8 13.5 16.50
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/29/2012.

The player acquired from the Blue Jays in exchange for the previously mentioned Santos, Molina finished last season with the Blue Jays' AA affiliate in New Hampshire. A control specialist, Molina finished the 2011 season with 148 strikeouts and just 16 walks in 130+ innings pitched. Here's what John Sickels wrote about him at the time of the trade:

Molina has a solid 90-94 MPH fastball and keeps it low in the zone, picking up grounders. He also has a very good splitter. His slider is still a work-in-progress according to scouts, but his delivery adds deception and helps his stuff play up. His statistics last year were simply spectacular, and it is unusual to see a relief-to-starting conversion turn out this positively. He wasn't some old guy tricking people; he was just 22 last year. If anything, Molina still doesn't get the respect he deserves as a prospect.

I'll be interested to see what the White Sox do with Molina this year, as he seems likely to start the season back in AA. But based on the results he has shown to this point, I think he could move very quickly, and Molina will likely be ready at some point in the 2013 season.

Nick Castellanos (DET)

Year Age Lg Lev G R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2010 18 GULF Rk 7 5 8 2 0 0 3 0 1 4 5 .333 .414 .417 .830
2011 19 MIDW A 135 65 158 36 3 7 76 3 2 45 130 .312 .367 .436 .803
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/29/2012.

The Tigers' top pick from the 2010 draft, Castellanos struggled to start his season in 2011 (.188/.232/.219 in April). And then he proceeded to hit the cover off the ball for the rest of the year in Low-A, hitting .329/.381/.469 from May onward. Here's what Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com had to say about Castellanos as a part of his top 100 prospects:

He’s a good natural hitter who should continue to hit for average, especially as he gains better pitch recognition/plate discipline, something he did as he surged in the second half of 2011. He has good raw power and many of last year’s 36 doubles will become home runs as he matures. He played shortstop in high school but has moved over to third, where he’ll be more comfortable long term.

Castellanos will still be just 20 years old this season, and he could be ready right around the time that Victor Martinez's contract will expire. When Castellanos is ready, the team could very well move either Fielder or Cabrera to DH, and hand the position to him. If not, they could also use Castellanos as a trade piece toward their run in the next two seasons. Either way, Castellanos projects to be a top-10 3B once he gets to the Majors, which I believe will be sometime during the 2014 season.

Long Term Prospects (Won't Be Ready Until At Least 2015)

Francisco Lindor (CLE)

Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB
2011 17 Mahoning Valley NYPL A- CLE 5 20 19 4 6 0 0 0 2 1 0 1 5 .316 .350 .316 .666 6 0 0 0 0 0
1 Season 5 20 19 4 6 0 0 0 2 1 0 1 5 .316 .350 .316 .666 6 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/29/2012.

Lindor was the Indians' top draft pick last season, and will likely play in a full-season league for the first time in 2012. Drafted out of a Florida high school, Lindor did debut last year in the short-season NY-Penn League, and hit .316, albeit in just 5 games. Lindor looks like he will be able to stick at shortstop long-term, although the scouting reports I have read do not appear to profile as a top-tier fantasy shortstop. It sounds more like Lindor will be a second-tier type, which will still have definite value, but may not provide elite production in any particular category. Here's what Jonathan Mayo said about him as a part of his top 100:

Lindor has the tools to be an all-around shortstop on both sides of the ball. He has a very advanced approach at the plate as a switch-hitter, once who should hit for average and power from both sides. He gets on base and is a heady baserunner. There’s also no question about his defensive ability, with a plus arm and range.

Overall, Lindor is a long way away still, and I imagine he will start the year with the Indians' low-A affiliate. I'll be really interested to see what he can do in 2012, and how he may profile with regard to his power and hit tools.

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