One June 3, Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera left the game early after limping his way down the baseline. The next day he was placed on the 15 day disabled list and the Indians called up injury fill-in Juan Diaz from Columbus. The injury seemed to call into question among fans not only his value on the field, but his value in the trade market. Many looked to the Indians Minor Leagues and asked who within the organization could replace Cabrera at short. The Tribe is thick with young talent at shortstop at the Minor League level, and among there is almost certainly a couple future Major League players. Three of the Indians top 20 prospects play short, and four of their top 20 prospects play the position. Among all those young players, six have made themselves worthy of note as possible future Indians.
Francisco Lindor is one of the most recognizable names that have come through the Indians system in the last decade. He has sparked hope and excitement in Cleveland’s future, and the hype is not just smoke and mirrors. Drafted 8th overall by the Tribe in 2011 at the age of 17, Lindor has climbed the ranks to debut this season for the Carolina Mudcats, the Indians High A affiliate. The now 19 year old Lindor currently boasts a .299 batting average, a .367 on-base percentage, and a .416 slugging percentage. He looks like the real deal, excelling both offensively and defensively at every level. His skills have earned him the Indians organization top prospect and Baseball America’s 28th best prospect in baseball. He is certainly on the fast track to the Major League level but is still at the very least a year away.
Dorssys Paulino is another extremely young prospect in the Indians organization. At just 18 years old, Paulino has already played 107 games at three different levels in the Tribe system. He dominated Rookie League and Low A baseball at Mahoning Valley last year, combining for a slash line of .333/.380/.558. This season has been a slow start but that is to be expected for a still high school age teen at the Single A level. He ranks as Cleveland’s third best prospect and has the talent to advance quickly through the Minor Leagues.
Ronny Rodriguez started this season as the Akron Aeros everyday shortstop. Last season at Carolina, Rodriguez displayed superior power by smashing 19 home runs for the Mudcats. At 20 years old he already hit 30 home runs in two seasons. He started 2013 a bit on the slow side but has picked up his game over the last three weeks. A 12 game hitting streak at the end of May helped power his offensive numbers and his power is starting to come around. The now 21 year old Rodriguez does have superlative talents, but still needs to polish up some of his fundamentals. The Majors are still a little bit away, but the Indians 4th best prospect has the raw ability to be an impact player of the future.
Continuing with the Indians 21 and under club is Lake County shortstop Jorge Martinez. The 20 year old Dominican native came into 2013 with promise. He spent last season between the Indians Rookie League team and their Short A affiliate in Mahoning Valley; between the two teams he batted a crisp .324. Martinez is one of four Cleveland Indians in the top 20 of the organizations prospect list sitting at 18.
There are two other Indians prospects that are not officially shortstops but have spent time there in 2013. Jose Ramirez is Akron’s everyday second baseman, but has made 13 starts at short for the Aeros. The 20 year old Ramirez has never hit lower than .325 at any of the three levels he has played with the Indians since joining the organization in 2011. He is currently batting .259 with a .329 on-base percentage for the Aeros and ranks as the Indians 9th best prospect. Expect those numbers to go up in the second half of the season as he adjusts to the pitching. The other is Akron third baseman Giovanny Urshela. Making only two starts at short this season, Urshela may be hitting the best of the Aeros young trio of infielders. He is batting .273 on the season and at just 21 years old is another player with an extreme upside. He definitely projects out as a third baseman, but his play this season is worthy of note. He ranks as the Indians 20th best prospect heading into the season, but he is sure to quickly climb that list.
The Tribe has a large number of shortstop prospects, but none are very close to making an impact at the Major Leagues. Despite his age and his positioning at the Single A level, Lindor is probably the closest and has the most upside, but he is still not ready to make that jump this year. He may not see Cleveland until 2015, but don’t rule out a 2014 appearance should he continue to show the ability to dominate at every level he sees. Players like Rodriguez may be able to impact the Indians this season via the trade route, he is the type of player that other teams may want in a package for a starting pitcher to help the Tribe down the stretch. The future is bright as the Minor Leagues for the Indians are chalked full of very young middle infield talent, but none of those players will see the Major Leagues this season. Look for these names down the road as the they develop through the organizations ranks.
Photo by Nikolaus © 2013 Carolina Mudcats