Tribe still deep with arms after Ubaldo trade
Top prospects are gone, but Indians rich with pitching in Minors
CLEVELAND -- If Brad Grant had thoughts of pounding the table and yelling and trying to put a stop to the trade, he is not saying. The Indians' director of amateur scouting only lets out a laugh at the mental image of himself in such a scenario.
"No," Grant said. "I understood the decision completely."
It was a decision that could very well define the tenure of Indians general manager Chris Antonetti. It was also one that rid the ballclub of two prospects who have defined Grant's time as the man charged with overseeing Cleveland's hauls in the First-Year Player Draft.
On July 28, the Indians pulled highly touted pitching prospects Drew Pomeranz and Alex White from their scheduled appearances for Double-A Akron. One day later, both were packaged in a five-player swap that brought star pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez to Cleveland.
Cleveland's Major League rotation improved immediately. The team's farm system, on the other hand, was suddenly void of any premier pitching prospects. Pomeranz and White -- considered cornerstones for the Tribe's future a little more than a week ago -- both project to be potential front-line starters in the Majors.
With both pitchers now gone, where does that leave Cleveland's Minor League system?
"It's certainly not as strong today as it was a couple of days ago," Antonetti said at the time of the trade. "But again, I think the whole point of a Minor League system is to have competitive Major League teams. We feel that, in acquiring Ubaldo, we've greatly improved our competitiveness, not only this season, but for the next two years.
"Ultimately, that's what a Minor League system is for, to help the Major League team, either directly through their promotion and performance at the Major League level for us, or to allow us to acquire players that would improve our competitiveness."
That might be true, but that did not make the decision an easy one to make.
"It was a very difficult decision for Chris Antonetti and for all of us to experience," said Ross Atkins, the Indians' director of player development. "But professionally, it felt like it was the right thing to do."
Since taking over as Cleveland's director of amateur scouting, Grant has been lauded for the team's drafting. The first pick under Grant's watch was third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, who was selected 29th overall in the 2008 Draft and is currently manning the hot corner on a regular basis for the Indians.
The next two years produced White and Pomeranz, respectively. The Indians nabbed White with the 15th pick in 2009 and added Pomeranz as the fifth overall selection in '10. White ascended to the Majors this season and Pomeranz projected to bring his knee-buckling curve and overpowering heater to the big leagues as soon as '12.
White and Pomeranz now figure into Colorado's blueprint for the future.
From Bob Mayer and Chuck Bartlett -- the area scouts who tracked and recommended selecting White and Pomeranz, respectively -- to Grant and other members of the Indians' player development and scouting departments, it hurt to watch such top-flight talents dealt away to another ballclub.
"Obviously, from a baseball perspective," Grant said, "I completely understand what we did and why we did it, and I support it thoroughly. To be able to add a front-of-the-rotation starter [Jimenez] that's under control for another 2 1/2 years, that opportunity was too good to pass by.
"But from a scouting standpoint and a development standpoint, yeah, it was difficult to lose those two players for sure. ... With all the effort, with everything that's put into those guys, yeah, there's definitely an emotional attachment to them.
"But we take solace in the fact that it takes good players to get good players. We obviously drafted good players and were able to bring back a guy who has the potential to be a front-end starter for us right now."
Jimenez joins a talented young rotation that also currently includes Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin, Fausto Carmona and Carlos Carraso. Behind that group on the depth chart are two capable arms in David Huff, who the Indians hope has turned a corner this year, and Jeanmar Gomez.
Huff and Gomez, however, have enough Major League experience to make it difficult to still consider them pitching prospects. They are big league options currently pitching at Triple-A Columbus, but they do not fall into the category of untested arms.
Asked to name Cleveland's new top starting pitching prospect -- now that Pomeranz and White are no longer in the discussion -- Atkins was hard-pressed to name just one.
Atkins rattled off a laundry list of arms -- Austin Adams, Clayton Cook, Mike Rayl, Felix Sterling, Scott Barnes, Mike Goodnight, Elvis Araujo, Matt Packer, Zach McAllister and T.J. McFarland, among others. He mentioned Huff and Gomez as well, and added that Hector Rondon and Jason Knapp are out with injuries.
This does not include the assortment of arms gathered in the most recent First-Year Player Draft, either.
"There's a long way to go in some cases," Atkins said. "But there's a lot of confidence that many of those guys will be Major League contributors."
Right now, the Indians do not boast the type of pitching prospect that drops fans' jaws or has scouts drooling. What Cleveland does have is a wide variety of arms that project to reach the Majors at some point, and the ballclub is hoping a handful will exceed expectations.
Maybe someone like the Double-A Akron's 24-year-old Adams, who is a converted shortstop now trying to harness a powerful fastball that has been clocked at 100 mph. Or perhaps a youngster like the 20-year-old Araujo, a 6-foot-6 lefty who had 39 strikeouts in 44 innings in the Arizona League.
There are plenty of candidates for career breakthroughs.
"There's a lot of depth," Atkins said. "We're hopeful that some of them will overachieve."
With Jimenez now in the Major League rotation, which consists of a group that could be together for the next few years, the Indians certainly have time on their side.
White and Pomeranz were knocking on the big league's door. Now Cleveland is holding out hope that a few of its farmhands will be in a similar position soon enough.
"Hopefully out of that mix of prospects," Atkins said, "we have a couple of guys that slide into our rotation for a long time."