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Indians Indians Archive 2008 Kinston Indians Preview
Written by Tony Lastoria

Tony Lastoria
While yesterday was Opening Day around Minor league Baseball, a few leagues do not kick of their season until today. The Carolina League is one of them, and the Kinston Indians will finally get their season underway at 7:00 p.m. ET tonight at home against Winston-Salem. In his final preview of the Indias minor league affiliates, Tony takes a look at the 2008 version of the Kinston Indians.

Kinston IndiansThis is the final article previewing the Cleveland Indians full-season minor league affiliates. Lake County, Akron and Buffalo were showcased earlier in the week.

While yesterday was Opening Day around Minor league Baseball, a few leagues do not kick of their season until today. The Carolina League is one of them, and the Kinston Indians will finally get their season underway at 7:00 p.m. ET tonight at home against Winston-Salem.

Last season, Kinston finished the regular season with the best record in the Carolina League at 87-52. The season ended abruptly however, as their bid to make their fourth straight appearance in the Mills Cup Finals and repeat as league championship ended with an opening round loss to Salem 2-1 in a best-of-three series.

Even with the disappointing end to the season, it was yet another successful season in the win/loss column for Kinston, and in the player development department for the Cleveland Indians. The revolving door that is the player development system continues to turn as players like Josh Rodriguez, Wes Hodges, Chris Gimenez, Matt Whitney, Frank Herrmann, David Huff and Jose Constanza have moved on, and several new bigtime prospects have arrived with the likes of Nick Weglarz, Carlos Rivero, Paolo Espino, Hector Rondon, and Jeanmar Gomez.

While there are some new faces coming to Kinston, there will be a lot of familiar ones returning. With the Indians system so jammed with prospects in the upper-levels, particularly with pitching and outfielders, players like John Drennen, Beau Mills, Jim Deters, Jerad Head, Erik Stiller and Jared Goedert will start the season in Kinston.

From a talent standpoint, Kinston should be loaded on offense as there will be several big bats up and down the lineup. The key to their success will fall in the laps of the Latin starting pitching trio of Espino, Rondon and Gomez. If the three young right-handers continue to progress as expected, Kinston could challenge some team records in the win-loss department and also with home runs and runs scored. Kinston is as strong as ever and will be a favorite to win the Carolina League Championship and hold the Mills Cup trophy high above their heads for the third time in five years.

Minor League Affiliates

Buffalo Bisons (AAA)
Akron Aeros (AA)
Kinston Indians (High A)
Lake County Captains (Low A)
Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Short Season A)
GCL Indians (Rookie)

Kinston Indians Coaching Staff

Manager: Chris Tremie
1st season as Kinston manager, 3rd season in Indians organization

Hitting Coach: Jon Nunnally
2nd season as Kinston hitting coach, 2nd season in Indians organization

Pitching Coach: Greg Hibbard
2nd season as Kinston pitching coach, 6th season in Indians organization

Roster & Rotation

Pitchers (12):
Jim Deters (RHP)
Paolo Espino (RHP)
Jeanmar Gomez (RHP)
Matt Meyer (LHP)
Luis Perdomo (RHP)
Hector Rondon (RHP)
Carlton Smith (RHP)
Erik Stiller (RHP)
Heath Taylor (LHP)
Josh Tomlin (RHP)
Neil Wagner (RHP)
Steven Wright (RHP)

Catchers (2):
Alex Castillo
Brian Juhl

Infielders (6):
Adam Davis
Jared Goedert
Todd Martin
Beau Mills
Carlos Rivero
Niuman Romero

Outfielders (5):
Jason Denham
Cirilo Cumberbatch
John Drennen
Nick Weglarz
Jerad Head

Steven Wright
Paolo Espino
Hector Rondon
Jeanmar Gomez
Carlton Smith

Players to Watch

Jeanmar Gomez - Right-handed Pitcher
Age: 20 Height: 6'3" Weight: 168 Bats: Right Throws: Right

2007 Lake County1174.8027270140.7152751946942.946.011.41

Jeanmar GomezGomez was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Venezuela in April of 2005. In his first three seasons in the Indians farm system Gomez has been outstanding. At the end of last season, Gomez showed increased arm strength and has good potential for future strength gains for plus arm strength. He shows a feel for a three pitch mix at times, with a good fastball, curveball and changeup. His fastball consistently clocks in at 87-90 MPH and tops out at 93 MPH. His curveball has 11-5 break, and shows good potential. His changeup is an average pitch with sink and fade, and he has good command of it. He has average command and control right now, but has the possibility of having plus command/control in the future. Gomez finished the year strong and showed improvement in his fastball velocity as it was higher than it was at the beginning of the season. As one of the youngest players in the league, he hung in there, competed and in the second half made a lot of strides. He made every start, and the Indians never had to back him off his starts. He stayed healthy showing durability, and got better as the season went on. Gomez has considerable upside, and his growth potential in size and stuff is very good.

Paolo Espino - Right-handed Pitcher
Age: 21 Height: 5'10" Weight: 190 Bats: Right Throws: Right

2007 Lake County453.6633130108.3954420311162.589.641.16

Paolo EspinoThe Indians selected Espino in the 10th round of the 2006 Draft out of high school (Bradenton, FL). Espino was signed in July of 2006, but 2007 was his professional debut as he did not pitch for a short-season league team in 2006. The Panamanian righty showcases a fastball that usually sits at 90 MPH and tops out at 92 MPH, and he compliments it with a good curveball and changeup. His best pitch is his changeup, but all three of his pitches grade out as at least average with the chance to be above average pitches. Espino started last season in the backend of the Lake County bullpen, but after progressing nicely and going 2-1 with a 3.65 ERA and .213 batting average against in 20 appearances out of the bullpen he was moved into the starting rotation in June. Espino finished the year in the rotation, and was strong as he went 2-4 with a 3.66 ERA and .243 batting average against in 13 starts. He pitched better than his win-loss record and ERA show, as he pitched every fifth day and pitched strong just about every time out going five or six innings, and only in two of his final ten starts did he allow more than two runs. While he will be in the Kinston starting rotation to start the season, down the road - because of his size - Espino may be more suited for a bullpen role.

Hector Rondon - Right-handed Pitcher
Age: 20 Height: 6'3" Weight: 165 Bats: Right Throws: Right

2007 Lake County7104.3727270136.01436613271131.797.481.25

Hector RondonRondon was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Venezuela in August of 2004. Rondon is a young and projectable starting pitcher with a fastball with average life that consistently clocks in at 89-90 MPH and has topped out as high as 94 MPH. He also throws a curveball and changeup, with the potential in the future to be an average breaking ball and straight changeup. At 6'3" and 165 pounds, Rondon is long and lanky and has plenty of projection still with his body. He has shown the ability to mix up his pitches well, and showed plus control with the ability to throw strikes and locate his pitches well to both sides of the plate. He is a competitor on the mound and very aggressive with his fastball where he likes to challenge hitters. He often gets himself into good counts, and as the year wore on last season he became more consistent with making his pitches and gradually got stronger. He has a good plan when he takes the mound, sticks with it, and shows good tempo. He showed good durability as he made every start last year and did not wear down. Rondon grew a lot as a pitcher over the course of last season, and he has a good ceiling. He is part of a young Latin Trifecta which also includes Kelvin De La Cruz and Jeanmar Gomez that has the Indians excited.

Beau Mills - Third Baseman
Age: 21 Height: 6'3" Weight: 220 Bats: Left Throws: Right

2007 MV/Lake/Kin.26162245446420164221530.337.424.761

Beau MillsThe Indians drafted Mills in the 1st round of the 2007 Draft out of Lewis-Clark State (ID). While the results may seem to indicate otherwise, the Indians were very pleased with Mills professional debut last summer, saying he was "outstanding". 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. The Indians feel his makeup, presence, demeanor, and level of intensity are off the charts amazing. 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 Indians feel he has the agility and athleticism to play third base, and he will split time there and at first base this season. 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.

Nick Weglarz - Outfielder
Age: 20 Height: 6'3" Weight: 215 Bats: Left Throws: Left

2007 Lake/Kinston.274127446761222802483831311.393.498.891

Nick WeglarzThe Indians selected Weglarz in the 3rd round of the 2005 Draft out of high school (Ontario, Canada). 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 need to be tinkered along the way, but his long arms and good bat speed generate tremendous power. 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 played first base all the way up until the Indians drafted him, but they decided to move him to the outfield. 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.

Jared Goedert - Second Base
Age: 22 Height: 6'1" Weight: 180 Bats: Right Throws: Right

2007 Lake/Kinston.321812876792190207458541.434.5961.030

Jared GoedertThe Indians originally drafted Goedert out of high school in the 36th round of the 2003 Draft, but he chose to go to college and the Indians took him again when he was eligible in the 9th round of the 2006 Draft out of Kansas State. Goedert is not a big assuming player nor overly strong, but he has very good power, the ball explodes off his bat, and he has the ability to hit the ball out to any part of the ballpark. He is a quiet, mentally tough kid with a consistent swing and line drive stroke that help generate most of his power. He is a line drive hitter who hits the ball where it is pitched, and with the help of instructors in the offseason and spring training last year he was able to correct some flaws in his swing and get more backspin on the ball to help balls travel further in the air. Goedert's sound mechanics and low maintenance swing help create a nice, consistent bat path to the ball. Goedert has shown a very good eye at the plate where his plate discipline is excellent. While he can definitely hit, his defense is what holds him back. Goedert is not flashy defensively, but he makes all the routine plays and has an above average arm. To make him more versatile and push him to Kinston, the Indians moved him from third base to second base last year. Goedert has had problems with his left shoulder since he had surgery on it in October 2006, so if the shoulder issues become chronic it could be a roadblock for him down the road. Goedert's clear path to the majors is at second base, as it is a position in the Indians' system where he has absolutely no one in front of him. He should play most of the time at second base, but could occasionally play third base.

Carlos Rivero - Shortstop
Age: 19 Height: 6'3" Weight: 200 Bats: Right Throws: Right

2007 Lake County (A-).2611154365911426076247841.332.369.701

Carlos RiveroRivero was signed out of Venezuela in March of 2005 at just 16 years of age. Coming into last season, Rivero was a hidden gem in the Indians system that finally started to show himself over the course of the season at Lake County. Now at age 19, he is an impressive physical specimen at such a young age. To go along with his size, Rivero has all the outstanding abilities and intangibles except speed. What he lacks in speed, though, he more than makes up with his power potential, bat-to-ball ability, his hands, and his glove-work. Rivero has the potential to be a good hitting middle infielder with some power potential down the road. He has a very good approach for a young player, and last year he got better as the year went on and competed at a high level for a kid who just turned 19-years old during the season. Rivero is a big kid with a great looking swing with good technique, and the ball comes off his bat well. He hit a couple home runs last year which were very deep, and could have hit more home runs if he was allowed to pull the ball more, but he was working on staying in the middle of the field. For his size, he moves around well at shortstop. He is not fast, but he has good first step quickness, has real good hands, and a strong and accurate arm. In a system mostly barren when it comes to good middle infield depth, the 2008 season is a big opportunity for Rivero to establish himself as an elite prospect.

John Drennen - Outfielder
Age: 21 Height: 6'0" Weight: 190 Bats: Left Throws: Left

2007 Kinston.254131496721262521377531046.336.391.727

John DrennenThe Indians snatched Drennen up with their supplemental pick in the 1st round of the 2005 Draft out of Rancho Bernardo High in San Diego. The Indians selected Drennen because they loved his advanced bat and polished approach to hitting. Drennen has a compact build with good power, and also creates a nice smooth bat path with his swing. Although he is somewhat undersized, he packs a lot of punch in his swing and has good pop and a dynamite bat. Right now, he is more a gap hitter, but as he matures he is expected to develop more power. Drennen buffed up some last winter packing on 20 pounds of weight and came into camp in great shape, and this offseason he set goals to continue to work on improving his strength, speed and agility. Drennen is an extremely hard worker and is very aggressive at the plate, on the bases and in the field. He is an intelligent player, and is an energy player with a motor that does not stop. In his return trip to Kinston last year, Drennen hit right-handers very well as he hit .292 with 11 HR, 65 RBI and an .820 OPS in 359 at bats. But, he really struggled against left-handers as he only hit .153 with 2 HR, 12 RBI and a .481 OPS in 137 at bats. While Drennen is a very good hitter, one of the main focal points with his development this coming season will be improving his approach against left-handed pitching. The Indians have a plethora of good outfield prospects in the upper levels of the organization, so Drennen is back in Kinston again to continue his development and wait for an opportunity in Akron.

The Rest

Cirilo Cumberbatch (Outfielder): The Indians signed Cumberbatch as an undrafted free agent in July of 2003 out of Panama City, Panama. Last year, Cumberbatch had a breakout season where he hit .299 with 6 HR, 45 RBI and had 5 stolen bases in 84 combined games at Lake County and Akron. Cumberbatch is solidly built and very strong, and the Indians feel he is someone who can develop some good power in a few years because he has a projectable body that should continue to get bigger. He runs well, and defensively he takes good routes to balls and displays a strong and accurate arm.

Adam Davis (Second Baseman): Davis is a switch-hitter taken in the 3rd round of the 2006 Draft out of The University of Florida. Last year at Lake County, Davis hit .266 with 6 HR, 41 RBI, and had 22 stolen bases in 500 at bats. Davis is a scrappy player with very good speed and works counts well, and he sprays the balls to all fields and has some pop in his bat. He has good instincts in the field, is quick to the ball, and showcases a strong arm. While he primarily plays second base, his strong throwing arm will allow him to play shortstop or even third base with not much of a problem.

Jim Deters (Right-handed pitcher): The Indians selected Deters in the 7th round of the 2005 Draft out of Calvin College (MI). Deters finished last season 12-4 with a 2.24 ERA in 33 appearances (10 starts) for Kinston and won the Carolina League ERA Title. Deters throws a fastball that tops out around 90 MPH, and compliments it with a curveball and changeup. His biggest strength is his consistency, versatility, makeup, and his ability to throw strikes. Deters will serve as a swing man on the pitching staff.

Jerad Head (Utility): Head was signed as a non-drafted free agent in August 2005 out of Washburn University (KS). Head is a jack-of-all-trades who can play at any position on the field. He was converted to catcher this offseason to improve his versatility and will get plenty of action behind the plate at Kinston to get better at the position. He has good pop, and last year at Kinston hit .266 with 5 HR and 32 RBI in 83 games.

Todd Martin (First Baseman): Martin signed as an undrafted free agent out of Middle Tennessee State in July of 2006. Last year at short-season Single-A Mahoning Valley, Martin hit .360 with 8 HR and 40 RBI in 54 games and won the NY-Penn League batting title. The Indians like his powerful bat and approach at the plate as he is a mechanically sound hitter with a great swing. Last year, Martin underwent a position change to first base and handled it well, and going forward could split time in the outfield and at first base.

Matt Meyer (Left-handed pitcher): The Indians selected Meyer in the 15th round of the 2006 Draft out of Boston College. In 43 combined appearances at Lake County and Kinston last year, Meyer was 3-4 with a 3.31 ERA. Meyer throws a low 90s fastball that gets up to 93 MPH, and compliments it with a deceptive slider. He throws from a three-quarters arm slot and is very tough on lefties. The Indians are excited about his potential, and he will continue his work in Kinston on becoming a lefty specialist out of the bullpen.

Luis Perdomo (Right-handed pitcher): Perdomo was signed by the Indians as a non-drafted free agent in April of 2003. Last season at Lake County, Perdomo went 4-6 with 10 saves and a 3.27 ERA. Perdomo is a flame-throwing reliever whose biggest weapon is a plus-plus fastball that consistently clocks in around 95-96 MPH, and he used that pitch to mow down 81 batters in 66 innings pitched last year. While he is small (6'0" 170 lbs), he is athletic, strong, and very durable. Perdomo projects as a power armed pitcher in the middle of the bullpen, but will start the season as the closer in Kinston.

Carlton Smith (Right-handed pitcher): The Indians selected Smith in the 21st round of the 2004 Draft out of high school (NJ). Carlton is the brother of former Indians #1 prospect, third baseman Corey Smith. Smith throws a fastball which hovers in the low 90s and tops out at 93 MPH, and compliments it with an above average slider and is still working on developing a changeup. Last year at Lake County, Smith was 11-6 with a 4.22 ERA in 31 games (18 starts).

Erik Stiller (Right-handed pitcher): Stiller signed with the Indians as an undrafted free agent out of Princeton University shortly after the 2006 Draft. Last year, Stiller was 3-6 with a 2.89 ERA in 25 appearances (5 starts) in Kinston. Stiller's fastball typically hovers around 90-92 MPH with the ability to reach back and get it to 93-94 MPH if needed. Stiller also throws a cutter, curveball, and changeup with his best secondary pitch being his changeup. Working out of the bullpen, Stiller will continue to work on his fastball command and being more aggressive with it, and is still a starting pitching option. He could move to Akron quickly if a spot opens up there.

Josh Tomlin (Right-handed pitcher): Tomlin grew up in East Texas and went to Angelina Junior College before transferring to Texas Tech, and was drafted by the Indians in the 19th round of the 2006 Draft. Last year, Tomlin went 11-4 with a 3.36 ERA in 32 combined games (20 starts) at Lake County and Kinston. Tomlin has a three pitch mix where he throws a fastball that consistently clocks in at 85-89 MPH, sometimes touching 90 MPH, and he also throws a slider and changeup. Tomlin has great career stats, and has been an under-rated performer the last two years. He will begin the season in the bullpen, but at some point this season he should get a chance to start.

Neil Wagner (Right-handed pitcher): The Indians drafted Wagner in the 21st round of the 2005 Draft out of North Dakota State University. In 50 combined games at Lake County and Kinston last year, Wagner went 1-4 with 11 saves and a 3.44 ERA. Wagner closed in college, and at this point it appears the Indians intend to develop him as a late inning reliever. Outside of Adam Miller, Wagner arguably has the most explosive fastball in the system that touches 96-98MPH consistently. While he controls his fastball well and can blow it by hitters, the key to him becoming a bonafide relief prospect will be the development of at least one secondary pitch, which he has struggled with.

Steven Wright (Right-handed pitcher): Wright was selected by the Indians in the 2nd round of the 2006 Draft out of the University of Hawaii. Last year, Wright went 7-9 with a 5.67 ERA in 27 combined started for Lake County and Kinston. Wright has very good makeup and a fastball that hovers in the low 90s, but the best pitch in his arsenal is a slider that grades as a plus pitch. He is still working as a starter, but as he climbs up the minor league ladder many feel he will eventually end up in the bullpen.

The Others: Alex Castillo (Catcher), Jason Denham (Outfielder), Brian Juhl (Catcher), Niuman Romero (Utility), Heath Taylor (Left-handed pitcher).

All photos courtesy of Carl Kline

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