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Indians Indians Archive Indians Top 50+ Prospects: #6-10
Written by Tony Lastoria

Tony Lastoria
The creme de la creme.  The best of the best.  The future of the Cleveland Indians.  That's what we're getting into as we start to take a look at Tony Lastoria's top ten prospects in the Tribe farm system.  Last year's first round pick Beau Mills and starting pitcher Aaron Laffey are some of the more familiar names that show up in this segment, but the bottom line is, all the guys from here on out should be household names to all Tribe fans.

This is part eight of a nine piece installment ranking the Indians top prospects.  Here is a listing of the previous seven installments: 
Intro & Prospects Who Just Missed 
Top  2007 Draft & Dominican Summer League Prospects 
Top Prospects #41-50 
Top Prospects #31-40 
Top Prospects #21-30
Top Prospects #16-20
Top Prospects #11-15

These reports will be archived here at under my author listing.  In addition, these reports will be individually housed on my blog at The Cleveland Indians Minor League Insider.  A listing of the scouting reports for each player will be listed on the left panel for quick access, and these will be updated at times throughout the season with links to new video, pictures, and information. 
All photos in this installment are courtesy of Carl Kline. To get in touch with Carl Kline for photo assistance, please e-mail me at and I will forward his e-mail address to you. 
All ages as of 04/01/2008 
10. Beau Mills - Third Baseman 
Age: 21  Height: 6'3"  Weight: 220  Bats: Left  Throws: Right

2007 MV/Lake/Kin.26162245446420164221530.337.424.761

Photo courtesy of Carl KlineHistory:  The Indians drafted Mills in the 1st round of the 2007 Draft out of Lewis-Clark State (ID).  As a freshman at Fresno State, Mills hit 22 HR which was a school record for a freshman, and he also ranked 8th in the nation that year in home runs.  He played two years at Fresno State, but due to academic reasons the team suspended Mills, so Mills transferred to Lewis-Clark State.  In his debut at Lake County last year, Mills hit a grand slam home run. 
Strengths & Opportunities:  While the results may seem to indicate otherwise, the Indians were very pleased with Mills professional debut last summer, saying he was "outstanding".  The Indians feel his makeup, presence, demeanor, and level of intensity are off the charts amazing.  He did a very good job of easing into the professional environment at Mahoning Valley, Lake County, and Kinston, and his intensity and the way he got along and interacted with staff members and players who may have three years of professional baseball under their belts was remarkable.  The Indians wanted to get his feet wet, and did more than that at three different levels last year.  He was a late season callup to Kinston as they were in a playoff push, and the Indians like to expose their top prospects to playoff environments since you get to see them react to different playoff situations where every out, every at bat, and every pitch counts. 
Mills has an electric bat with excellent power and strength.  He has very good hitting skills, and hits the ball hard and has a nice line drive stroke where he gets good loft to hit balls a long way and punish mistakes.  He covers the plate well, and hits the ball well to all fields, and is good at making adjustments at the plate.  When he is able to get good extension, he crushes balls.  He has a good major league body and size for a corner infield position.  He is not a fast runner, but he is smart on the basepaths and makes good decisions. 
There is no question that Mills is an excellent hitting prospect, but it is his defense which has set him back in recent years.  He moves around well and shows good agility and footwork to where he could be an average third baseman someday, but he has been hindered by a bad shoulder which has hurt his throwing.  The injury is an impingement in his arm which resulted from inflammation in his shoulder, which he had surgery on over a year ago to correct.  The Indians initially had a plan after they drafted him to move him over to first base right away because of the arm issue, but as the season played out they decided to leave him at third base.  The Indians feel he has the agility and athleticism to play third base, and they have a lot of confidence in the program their medical staff put him on to strengthen his bothersome shoulder.  By the end of the season, the Indians were excited with the improvement Mills showed with the strength in his shoulder and his throwing.  Mills had no problems with his shoulder in the Fall Development Program and looked good at third base, which is where he will now stay. 
Some of his offensive struggles, especially early at Mahoning Valley, may have had more to do with him making the transition to first base.  Mills was learning to play on a new side of the field as he had only ever played third base and it made things a little more difficult trying to learn a whole new position right at the beginning of his pro career.  At the end of the season, he was really a lot more comfortable than when he started two months earlier in Mahoning Valley, and a lot of it was attributed to him moving back to third base late in the year.  Also, from a hitting perspective, the Indians are working with Mills to get his feet quiet at the plate as he tends to move his feet a little too much when he hits.  He also likes to extend his arms, so he can get tied up inside.  The key going forward will be to get him to shorten up some so he can better handle those inside pitches. 
Outlook:  With Mills looking good at third base and responding well to the rehab program the Indians medical staff has laid out for him, the organization wants to see him play third base more before abandoning it and moving him to first base full time.  Reportedly, Mills' shoulder is 100% and he is ready to go for spring training.  Mills should open the season as the starting third baseman in Kinston. 
Video: Mills at Lake County and at Kinston
9. Tony Sipp - Left-hander Pitcher 
Age: 24  Height: 6'0"  Weight: 190  Bats: Left  Throws: Left 

2007 Did not play---------------

Photo courtesy of Carl KlineHistory:  The Indians selected Sipp in the 45th round of the 2004 Draft out of Clemson University.  The pick was a gamble by the Indians, as Sipp had only pitched in 22 career college games and many felt he would be too costly to sign.  But, the Indians found a diamond in the rough and after he impressed the Indians in the Cape Cod League they gladly paid him an unheard of $130,000 for a 45th rounder to sign.  In his professional debut in 2004 at short-season Mahoning Valley Sipp went 3-1 with a 3.16 ERA, but more impressive were his 74 strikeouts in only 42.2 IP.  In 2005, Sipp went 6-3 with a 2.40 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 116.1 IP in 35 combined appearances (17 starts) at Lake County and Kinston.  In 2006, Sipp went 4-2 with a 3.13 ERA in 29 appearances (4 starts) with 80 strikeouts in 60.1 IP with Akron. 
Strengths & Opportunities:  Sipp is a power-armed pitcher who has an impressive three-pitch arsenal.  His stuff is big-time, fronted by a plus fastball and plus-plus slider that both grade out as out pitches at the major league level.  His fastball has good movement and consistently sits in the 91-94 MPH range, although his quick arm action and excellent deception makes it look a lot faster.  His outstanding 11.60 career strikeouts per nine innings average and 6.49 hits per nine innings average shows how dominant a pitcher he can be. 
Sipp is still developing a changeup and has a good feel for it, and even after only over a year of using it the Indians feel it may end up being his best pitch.  With the changeup, hitters can't sit on his slider and fastball, and the development of his changeup jumped him into an elite level of relief prospects, so much so, that Baseball America ranked him as the #2 closer prospect in all the minors in 2006.  With three very good pitches, a player of Sipp's caliber would normally project as a starter, but the Indians love his potential as a dominant late-inning reliever.  Sipp is also extremely athletic, and his athleticism allows him to consistently repeat his delivery well.  He is very aggressive on the mound, and has prodigious aptitude. 
Just before spring camp broke last year, Sipp started to experience discomfort in his left elbow and the Indians shut him down with a sore elbow.  After a few days, the Indians diagnosed it as an ulnar collateral ligament sprain and deemed it serious enough to shut him down for half the season where they would re-evaluate it after the All Star break.  In July, after Sipp started his throwing program he had a setback in his recovery from the injury where he experienced some pain in the elbow again.  The Indians ended up sending him to Dr. James Andrews, and Sipp had to undergo Tommy John surgery. 
Sipp is reportedly recovering well, and on track for a return sometime this season.  Unfortunately, 2008 will be more about rebuilding arm strength and staying healthy, so his appearances and innings will be limited this year.  Still, Tommy John surgeries today usually result in over 90% of pitchers experiencing a full recovery.  Also, like many pitchers before Sipp, after a year of rehab pitchers typically tend to come back near full strength the following year and even stronger.  One of the more interesting dynamics of Tommy John surgery is pitchers usually return from the surgery throwing harder than they ever did before, which is not from the surgery itself but instead from the rigorous rehab a pitcher puts himself through in strengthening the arm that causes the bump in velocity.  Since Sipp already threw 93-94 MPH before the surgery, it will be interesting to see if he sees an increase in velocity when he is hopefully 100% at the start of the 2009 season. 
Going forward, Sipp's elbow injury really hurt him and the Indians in that this year he would have been given a legitimate shot at a bullpen spot with the big league club.  By not playing last year, Sipp lost a year of development and maybe more, and it no longer means he is a sure thing to help the backend of the Indians bullpen in 2008 and beyond as many thought he would.  Also, while Sipp has made great strides with the changeup, he still is working on maintaining consistent command with it.  He also is a little undersized, and lacks pinpoint control.  Sipp also has been hampered by injuries, as he went down with the aforementioned elbow injury and he also missed two months in 2006 with an oblique injury and left elbow inflammation. 
The Outlook: Going into 2007, Sipp was a candidate for the closer's job in Cleveland in 2008 and beyond.  But, his Tommy John surgery changed all that.  In 2008, the Indians will strictly monitor his pitch count and appearances in order to slowly build up his arm strength.  Even without any setbacks, Sipp really will not be on the big league radar where he can help the Indians until spring training in 2009.  Sipp should start the year in extended spring training, and then likely start the year with a short-season club on a rehab assignment which could take him through several stops to where he eventually finishes the last month or two of the season in Buffalo. 
8. Josh Rodriguez - Shortstop 
Age: 23 Height: 6'0" Weight: 185 Bats: Right Throws: Right 

2007 Kinston.262133493841292092082689521.351.460.811

Photo courtesy of Carl KlineHistory:  The Indians took Rodriguez with their second of four picks in the 2nd round of the 2006 Draft out of Rice University.  He finished last season with nine triples, which tied a Kinston franchise record.  Also, Rodriguez was just the second player in Kinston history to put up at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in a season.  The only other person to accomplish the feat is current Kinston hitting coach Jon Nunnally, who put up 24 home runs and 23 stolen bases at Kinston in 1994.  Rodriguez also led the Carolina League in runs with 84, and racked up two Carolina League Player of the Week honors (8/13 and 9/4) and also was named a Carolina League Post-Season All-Star. 
Strengths & Opportunities: Rodriguez is a patient hitter with gap power who drives the ball well, and has some thunder in his bat.  He is a great athlete with a knack for hitting, and in his first full season of professional baseball was driving the ball out of the park in a pitchers park in Kinston.  The ball jumps off his bat, and according to scouts his power is for real where they believe he could reproduce his 20-20 (HR and SB) in the majors eventually.  Rodriguez is not a big kid, but he has above average bat speed and is an extra base hit machine.  Not only did he hit 20 home runs last year, but he also piled up 20 doubles and nine triples, and if you add in his 21 stolen bases you can see why he is much adored as an offensive player because he is a player who can stuff a stat sheet.  He has shown the ability to get hot and carry a team, going on a 5 HR, 17 RBI outburst in a six game span in early August last year. 
Rodriguez has an excellent throwing arm, and is versatile enough to play anywhere in the infield and even some outfield.  He impressed scouts in the Carolina League last year with his defensive abilities, showing good projection as a quality defensive shortstop in the majors with plus arm strength and good lateral range to his left and right.  While he is a very good shortstop, some feel he would become an elite prospect at second base because of his dynamite bat, strong arm and range.  The Indians were very encouraged by his play at shortstop last year, and while he has the ability to be an everyday major league shortstop, at a minimum the Indians know he has the athleticism and the bat to one day help a major league team as a super utility player. 
Rodriguez's swing was a work in progress all last season as he worked extensively with Kinston hitting coach Jon Nunnally to try and find the proper timing and amount of load in his swing.  He struggled the first half of the season while he was making all of these adjustments, and only hit .233 with 6 HR, 33 RBI and a .728 OPS.   But, the second half of the season was a different story, as he hit .287 with 14 HR, 47 RBI, and an .886 OPS.  The reason for Rodriguez's late season success was tied to the adjustments he and Nunnally made at the plate to avoid being so pull conscious by shortening his swing and using the entire field.  He finally adapted to getting loaded much quicker and squared to the plate so he could see the ball out of the pitcher's hand better.  He loosened his hands as they were real tight, and he also started working from the top of the ball down instead of from the bottom of the ball up. 
Going into his draft year, Rodriguez was considered the top shortstop available in preseason draft rankings, but his draft stock plummeted somewhat when he suffered a serious elbow injury in the fall of 2005.  The injury limited Rodriguez to designated hitter duty for most of the 2006 season at Rice, and when he returned to the field late in the year he was moved to third base so he would not have to make any long relay throws which could further damage the tendon in his elbow. 
Rodriguez is still young and learning, and as he continues to mature he needs to maintain his revamped approach of being shorter to the ball and getting on top of the ball.  He still needs more work on recognizing pitches.  Also, the Indians want him to become more of a situational hitter by learning to hit the ball differently in different situations, and they worked on that with him in the Florida Development Program this past fall. 
Outlook:   Like with Wes Hodges, it appears the Indians gamble on drafting Rodriguez with their second round pick has paid off and they may have found another potential steal.  After playing a season in Single-A Mahoning Valley and advanced Single-A Kinston the last two years, it looks like Rodriguez's health issues are behind him since he has not been sidelined with any elbow issues.  With the need in the system for quality, impact middle infielders, Rodriguez is one to keep an eye on going forward.  Rodriguez should open the season as the starting shortstop at Akron. 
Video:  Rodriguez at the plate and taking batting practice
7. Aaron Laffey- Left-handed Pitcher 
Age: 22  Height: 6'0"  Weight: 185  Bats: Left  Throws: Left 

2007 Akr/Buf/Cle1763.3431300180.7172679421242.096.181.18

Photo courtesy of Carl KlineHistory:  The Indians drafted Laffey in the 16th round of the 2003 Draft out of high school (Cumberland, MD), and he had committed to playing college baseball with Virginia Tech before signing with the Indians in July of 2003.  Laffey made his professional debut in Burlington that year, and in nine games he went 3-1 with a 2.91 ERA and limited batters to a .183 batting average against (BAA) while striking out 46 batters in 34 innings pitched.  Laffey jumped onto the prospect scene in 2006 after he combined to go 12-4 with a 3.16 ERA in 29 appearances (23 starts) at Kinston and Akron in 2006.  Laffey also impressed in limited time with the Indians late in the season last year, going 4-2 with a 4.56 ERA in nine starts. 
Strengths & Opportunities:  Laffey is a pitcher who oozes confidence on the mound, and has a fastball that consistently clocks in around 87-89 MPH and has excellent movement.  His fastball has very good, heavy sink, he commands it well, and he compliments it with an above average slider and a good changeup.  He does not have overpowering stuff so he has to trust his ability to work hitters to his strengths, which is his command, changing speeds and pitching to contact to get them to pound the ball into the ground (2.81 G/F in 2007 and 2.55 G/F in 2006).  He is aggressive on the mound, and goes right after hitters and attacks them. 
His backdoor slurvy breaking ball is about as good as they get, and was something that came along well for him last year.  The development of his breaking ball got him over the hump and became a put away pitch, and as a result his strikeouts per nine innings totals increased from 4.9/9 in 2006 to 6.8/9 in 2007.  When he is on, the backdoor breaking ball is an un-hittable pitch as it is a matter of whether he is going to get the call with it, and if so there is nothing a hitter is going to do with it.  If he is commanding it, it is big enough that it starts out of the zone and lands just in it.  Laffey also handled the emotions of transitioning up and down from Buffalo to Cleveland exceptionally well last year, which shows his off the charts makeup and confidence.  He fields his position arguably as well as any pitcher in baseball. 
The development of Laffey's changeup and him being able to throw to opposite arm side were other big reasons he developed into one of the Indians best pitching prospects last year.  In the past, Laffey had problems improving his mechanics and developing his changeup, which many felt would make him a lefty specialist down the road.  A pitcher with his stuff, size and groundball rate may be better suited in the bullpen, but the Indians plan to keep him as a starter (for now).  His durability and consistency project him as a solid #3 or #4 starter who eats innings in the big leagues. 
When you look at Laffey's minor league resume, he has been consistent every year putting up an ERA somewhere between the mid-twos and mid-threes at every stop and every year except for one stop in half a season at Lake County in 2004.  Laffey was called up last year to Buffalo in late May because of promotions and injuries to the Buffalo staff, and what looked like a short cup of coffee in Buffalo turned into a permanent stay after he impressed Indians officials, and he eventually moved up to Cleveland.  In six starts at Akron before his callup to Buffalo, Laffey was 4-1 with a 2.31 ERA.  He struggled in his first three Buffalo starts going 0-3 with an 8.64 ERA, but suddenly things all came together as he put up one of the most dominating months ever seen from a starting pitcher in the Indians farm system.  In six June starts, Laffey went 6-0 with a 0.87 ERA and set a Buffalo Bisons record by winning six games in one month.  From June 2nd on, in 13 starts Laffey was 9-0 with a 1.92 ERA, and became the first Buffalo starting pitcher in history to win nine consecutive decisions. 
Outlook:  Laffey transformed into a new pitcher and minor league sensation seemingly overnight last year.  Last season was the first time Laffey started a season in the starting rotation, as in previous years he started the year in the bullpen and eventually earned his way into a starting spot.  This is no longer the case as he will battle Cliff Lee and Jeremy Sowers in spring training for the #5 starter spot in Cleveland, and if he does not win it will be part of a strong and deep Buffalo starting rotation to start 2008. 
6. Nick Weglarz - Outfielder 
Age: 20  Height: 6'3"  Weight: 215  Bats: Left  Throws: Left 

2007 Lake/Kinston.274127446761222802483831311.393.498.891

Photo courtesy of Carl KlineHistory: The Indians selected Weglarz in the 3rd round of the 2005 Draft out of high school (Ontario, Canada).  In his pro debut in 2005 at rookie level Burlington, at 17 years of age Weglarz held up well and hit .231 with 2 HR and 13 RBI in 141 at bats. In 2006, he played only one game for the rookie level Gulf Coast League (GCL) Indians as he was sidelined for the entire season with a broken hand.  Weglarz is one of only a handful of players under 20 to have an OPS in the South Atlantic League of .892 or higher in the last 15 years.  The others were:  Adrian Beltre, Vladamir Guererro, Kelly Johnson, Chipper Jones, Lastings Milledge, Ian Stewart, and Delmon Young. 
Strengths & Opportunities:  Weglarz was one of the biggest stories of the year in the Indians minor league system last year, as his raw power combined with his advanced approach at the plate at just 19 years of age in a full-season Single-A league impressed many in the Indians organization.  With his size and raw power, Weglarz is one of the best power prospects to come out of Canada in some time.   Weglarz is a big kid who the Indians think will get bigger as he matures.  Last year, comparisons to Jim Thome at similar stages of their development began to be thrown around by various people around baseball.  Weglarz is a developed hitter with above-average hand-eye coordination, and he loves low pitches so he can extend through it either away or down and in.  Weglarz has some flaws in his swing that will need to be tinkered along the way, but his long arms and good bat speed generate tremendous power. 
Last year at age 19, Weglarz showed that he understood the value of on-base percentage and that he had a very good understanding of the strike zone.  He is still a young, unpolished hitter who strikes out a lot, but he also shows excellent patience in waiting for his pitch and rarely swinging at pitches outside of the zone, which is uncommon for a player his age.  Weglarz keeps a simple approach at the plate: let the ball come to him and hit it hard.  While this may seem easy to do, for a lot of hitters one of the hardest things to do is have that innate ability to be patient to wait for their pitch, and hit it hard. 
Weglarz played first base all the way up until the Indians drafted him, but they decided to move him to the outfield.  First base may be the position Weglarz is more suited to play in the long run because he is a below average runner and lacks much athleticism.  He also continues to get bigger (reportedly up to around 240 pounds), so his size could eventually play him out of the outfield depending on how big he gets.  He'll never win a Gold Glove out in left field, but he has become at least an average fielder and shows an adequate arm. 
In July, Weglarz stepped in nicely as the go-to guy offensively when hot hitting infielders Jared Goedert and Matt Whitney moved up to Kinston.  Weglarz seemed to get stronger and more confident as the year wore on, and finished 6th in the South Atlantic League (SAL) in home runs (23), 2nd in walks (82), 8th in on-base percentage (.395), and 10th in OPS (.892).  The high strikeout rate is concerning and he does not hit for a very high average, but he is a slugger and while he may never be a .300 hitter he has enough plate discipline to where he could still get on base at a .360-.380 clip and become a 30-40 home run a year player. 
In the Fall Development Program, the Indians worked on Weglarz's leg position and made some mechanical adjustments to his swing, and on defense worked on his footwork and his route-running to the ball.  In the last year, Weglarz has made significant progress in the outfield and it is believed he can stay there depending on how big he ends up being.  Going forward, one of the primary areas of focus of the organization is getting Weglarz up to par defensively as he is still making the transition from first base to the outfield.  In order to prepare Nick for a potential career in the big leagues, he will continue to get work on perfecting his throwing mechanics, as well as the routes and angles he takes to the ball in the outfield.  As a hitter, Weglarz needs to continue working on using the other side of the field and hitting balls the other way.  He needs to stay on balls and not fall into his tendencies to pull off and roll balls over and groundout. 
Outlook:  As one of the youngest position players in the SAL last year, Weglarz held his own and his impressive display of raw power combined with a beyond-his-years approach at the plate.  Last year was his first full season, and his encore this year should tell a lot more about what the Indians have in Weglarz.  He should open the season in the outfield at Kinston. 
Video:  Weglarz at the plate
Up Next: Indians Top 50+ Prospects #1-5

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