Indians prospects to watch: Lake County Captains

Anthony Santander is one Indians prospect who is poised to perform.

The Lake County Captains get their season going with their opener is scheduled for Friday night. They are the closest team in proximity to the home offices in Cleveland and are set to open what is now their 12th season as an affiliate with the Indians.

This season, they boast one of the most interesting rosters — they have had with so much depth on the pitching staff and some interesting players in the lineup. They will start the season with an eight-man rotation where there are two regular starters — Dace Kime and Adam Plutko — and then the other six pitchers (Jordan Milbrath, Mitch Brown, Kenny Mathews, Luis Lugo, Matt Whitehouse, Caleb Hamrick) will piggyback and split the other three spots in the rotation with one going five innings to start the game and the other four innings to end the game.

Here is an overview of the roster and who to keep an eye on…

Who to watch

Mitch Brown (Right-handed pitcher): Brown came into last season with a lot of hype as a high round pick out of high school with great stuff and potential. He struggled at Lake County last season with injuries and performance and had to go back to Arizona to rehab and get things righted. This season, he comes in with a little less fanfare but still has significant upside and is a starting pitching prospect to watch with his easy low 90s fastball and deep mix of secondary offerings.

Prospects to watch: Carolina Mudcats

Eric Haase (Catcher): Haase had a solid season at Lake County last year racking up a .761 OPS and pounding out 40 extra base hits — 14 of them homers. He should probably be opening at High-A Carolina but he is back in Lake County mostly because of some significant catching depth above him where a few guys are back a level. He could, however, still use some work with his plate discipline and that will be his focus in the early going.

Dace Kime (Right-handed pitcher): Kime is a local product out of Defiance, Ohio who the Indians selected in the third round of last year’s draft out of the University of Louisville. He has a nice low 90s fastball that will touch 95 MPH and a good curveball-slider combination and is one of the better starting pitching prospects for the Indians. He made a conversion from the bullpen to a starter last season, and the Indians are seeing it through because of his size, stuff and talent.

Luis Lugo (Left-handed pitcher): Last season, Lugo ranked first in the Indians organization in ERA (2.37), and due to a late-season promotion to Low-A Lake County, he fell just short of qualifying as a league leader with short season Single-A Mahoning Valley — otherwise he would have ranked second in the NY-Penn League in ERA (1.97). He just turned 20 years old and with his nice size (6’5" 200 pounds) and stuff, he is a guy every fan should pay attention to every five days when he starts.

Dorssys Paulino (Shortstop): Paulino had a tough introduction to full season ball last season as he only hit .246 with a .646 OPS at Lake County. However, he was also 18 years old and in his first full season so the Indians are hoping that a repeat at the level and being a year wiser will allow his offensive talents to show. He is one of the most gifted hitters in the Indians minor league system with the ability to crush line drives all over the field. He is working on his consistency at the plate and with his defense this season.

Prospects to watch: Akron RubberDucks

Adam Plutko (Right-handed pitcher): Plutko is about as decorated and experienced as they come out of college. He pitched at UCLA in the rotation with Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer his freshman year in 2011, and last season extended his school record for postseason wins to seven while pitching UCLA to the National Championship. His stuff won’t wow you, but he is a high 80s to low 90s guy with several solid average secondary pitches, and most importantly he knows how to pitch. He probably won’t be in Lake County for long.

Nellie Rodriguez (First baseman): Rodriguez opened last season at Lake County as an 18-year old, and, just like Paulino, he struggled. Unlike Paulino, he was reassigned to short season Single-A Mahoning Valley and found himself as he ranked 12th in the NY-Penn League in batting average (.287), 6th in home runs (9), 7th in RBI (37), 2nd in total bases (118), 10th in walks (29), and 6th in OPS (.818). He’s a giant with big power who has some potential as a first baseman.

Anthony Santander (Outfielder): Santander is another player who was part of a big youth movement at Lake County last season as he was an 18-year-old, though he actually performed well until a bicep injury crept up on him and limited him. He is a very physical player with a lot of power potential, but he does much more than that as he has a good feel for hitting and is a solid defender with a strong arm. He might be the best well-rounded prospect in the lineup as far as potential goes.

Dark Horses

Prospects to watch: Columbus Clippers

Jordan Milbrath (Right-handed pitcher): Milbrath is an example of scouting at its best as he is a 35th round pick out of a small South Dakota college who really impressed the Indians in his debut with them last season. He has a large frame, a powerful fastball that is up to 95 MPH and some developing secondary offerings where the Indians think they can develop him into a starter.

Claudio Bautista (Second baseman): Bautista had a short stint at Lake County last year before spending the rest of the season at Mahoning Valley where he actually had a solid season and ranked in the top 15 in runs, hits, doubles, triples and total bases. He is an offensive-oriented second baseman who can also play a little third base and shortstop.

Caleb Hamrick (Right-handed pitcher): Both Kieran Lovegrove, Mitch Brown and Hamrick were all high school hurlers the Indians drafted in the top 10 rounds in 2012, but while Hamrick came in with less fanfare, he has developed the best to date. Last season he finished 17th in the NY-Penn League in ERA (3.20) and 7th in innings pitched (76.0).

The Rest

Ryan Battaglia (C), Wander Beras (LHP), Grant Fink (1B/3B), Cody Ferrell (OF), Trevor Frank (RHP), Ben Heller (RHP), Jorge Martinez (OF), Kenny Mathews (LHP), Josh McAdams (OF), Alexis Paredes (RHP), James Roberts (INF), Brian Ruiz (OF), Richard Stock (C/1B), Matt Whitehouse (LHP)