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Indians notebook: Weekly Prospect Rankings (Week 2)

Come June 13, the Spokane Indians will wear uniforms that bear the Spokane Salish language version of their name. (Images courtesy of Spokane Indians)
Come June 13, the Spokane Indians will wear uniforms that bear the Spokane Salish language version of their name. (Images courtesy of Spokane Indians)

While there aren’t any new additions to the Spokane Indians weekly prospect rankings, there is a new No. 1. And a great deal of movement. Six of last week’s 10 prospects are in different spots in this in week’s edition.

As usual, these rankings are based on three criteria:

1.    How well they are playing with the Indians.

2.    Upside.

3.    What people around the Rangers organization are saying.

This list is supposed to be updated every Tuesday, but it was delayed due to the Indians clinching a playoff berth and landing four players on the All-Star team earlier this week. From now on, this list will be updated every Thursday.


No. 1 — Tyler Ferguson | Right-handed pitcher (Last week: 2)

As it stands now, Ferguson’s slider is too good for the short-season Single-A ball. Pitching coach Joey Seaver thinks it might even be ready for the major leagues.

Not many pitchers have been able to touch his deadly out-pitch, and his 41 strikeouts are a testament to that. Ferguson had control problems with the AZL Rangers in 2015, but he’s seemingly fixed that and is now one of the most exciting arms in Texas’ farm system. He sits at No. 29 in the’s Top 30 team prospect rankings.

His fastball sits around 96 mph and his changeup can still put hitters off balance, despite it being a little fast for an off-speed pitch — it hovers around 90 mph.

ERA: 2.05

Hear it from the skipper (Tim Hulett):

“Tyler has been fantastic. He’s really come into his own. I think he’s shows why he’s a great pitcher commanding the zone with just a wipeout slider.”

No. 2 — Chad Smith | Outfielder (Last week: 3)

Smith’s slump did not last long. The 18 year old hit .363 in the Indians last series with Boise and is now at .286 for the season.

As long as he continues to produce, his athleticism and upside at the plate will carry him far along the minor league system. He’s not a fantastic defender, but a solid corner outfielder.

Slash line: .286/.361/.397

Hear it from the skipper:

“He’s a young guy that’s survived well where there a lot of college guys and he’s done a great job. He’s struggled a little bit here lately, but he’s been so good up to that point that’s a little expected.”

No. 3 — Blaine Prescott | Second baseman (Last week: 1)

Prescott falls only because Ferguson and Smith are seen as having higher ceilings, and he’s cooled down a bit since his average peaked to .305 on July 11.

He’s blazing fast and has surprising power at the dish. Prescott’s cut down on his strikeouts since being punched out 21 times in his first 16 games. Coaches have been impressed with his range at second base, but errors have been an issue — he leads the team with 11.

Slash line: .279/.344/.449

Hear it from the skipper:

“Blaine’s a grinder. He shows up everyday. You know what kind of at-bats you are going to get out of him. You know he’s going to play hard and he’s going to be ready to play everyday. You wish you had nine of those guys.”

No. 4 — CD Pelham | Left-handed pitcher (Last week: 4)

Pelham started his first game as a professional on Sunday, giving up two runs in three innings. The original plan was transition Pelham into being a starter in spring training, but injuries derailed it.

Pelham has a lively fastball that hangs in the upper 90s and is developing a collection of off-speed pitches. He’s still raw, but has loads of potential.

ERA: 3.20

Hear it from the skipper:

“We need him to be good at throwing his secondary pitches, so that’s part of his development is learning how to use his secondary pitches. For him, he’s been around the strike zone and shown a lot of promise.”

No. 5 — Tyler Phillips | Right-handed pitcher (Last week: 5)

Phillips is slowing figuring it out. He’s given up three earned runs in his last three innings.

The Rangers are excited about the 18-year-old Phillip’s potential. He can throw multiple pitches with great success. Prototypical starter.

ERA: 5.28

Hear it from the skipper:

“Tyler has had a couple of good outings, some not so good outings. But his last outing was pretty good, he’s back on track. His first outing was exceptional as well. He’s a big arm with a lot of stuff out there. For a young guy to survive in this league says a lot about him.”

No. 6 — Xavier Tuner | Third baseman (Last week: 6)

Minor injuries have been a problem for Turner. But it hasn’t slowed down his confidence at the plate.

He’s leading the Northwest League in batting average at .347. He’s deceivingly athletic and fast, despite being listed at 230 pounds. If he were to lose 10-20 pounds, his stock as a prospect would skyrocket.

Slash line: .347/.418/.463

Hear it from the skipper:

“He’s been a surprise defensively. I think he’s done an exceptional job playing third base. Offensively, he kind of got off to a slow start. But there was a week and a half there where he was like the best hitter in the game. We want to see that guy all the time.”

No. 7 — Seth Spivey | Catcher (Last week: 7)

Seth Spivey has been a rock in the Indians lineup all season. He leads the Northwest League with 30 RBIs and was key down the stretch in the Indians playoff push, hitting .325 in the last 10 games of the first-half season.

His hitting abilities will likely take him to the AA or AAA level. One of the most entertaining Indians to watch hit during batting practice. He needs to make a leap behind the plate as a defensive catcher in order to be a viable big league option.

Slash line: .286/.391/.397

Hear it from the skipper:

“Seth brings a lot of value to our team because we can throw him to the three hole whenever he’s in the game. That’s a tough spot. You get pitched tougher, situations are different and Seth has really handled it well. What Seth does well is he’s a hitter, he’s a professional hitter. He brings a lot to the table. Guys can learn from him and see what he’s doing. He’s transitioning to catcher, he’s back there working hard every night.”

No. 8 — Charles LeBlanc | Shortstop (Last week: 9)

LeBlanc’s bat was key during the Indians first-half playoff push. After starting the season hitting .208 in his first 14 games, his batting average has risen to .280. He had three hits in Spokane’s win over Boise on Monday, the game which eventually won the Indians the first-half title.

The Rangers have been impressed with LeBlanc’s range at shortstop, although he is still adjusting to playing defense in the minor leagues. The Rangers fourth-round pick in 2016 has a smooth swing and excels at hitting to the opposite field.

Slash line: .280/.374/.374

Hear it from the skipper:

“He’s starting to swing the bat better. He put so much pressure on himself early on to do too much, and now he’s back to just playing his game.”

No. 9 — Johan Juan | Right-handed pitcher (Last week: 10)

Juan was so impressive in Spokane’s win over Boise on Monday, manager Tim Hulett didn’t see any point of taking him out. The La Romana, Dominican Republic native threw four scoreless innings and earned the save in the win that eventually gave them the league first-half title.

Juan has an outstanding changeup combined with a sneaky fastball. He’s efficient on the mound, and his quick pace can get hitters flustered. But that might not work at the higher levels.

ERA: 0.47

Hear it from the skipper:

“He might be a surprise to you guys, but he’s exactly who we thought he would be. He can close for you, he pounds the strike zone, he has three pitches you can use. When he’s out on the mound I feel very comfortable where were at in the game.”

No. 10 — Alex Kowalczyk | Catcher (Last week: 8)

With loads natural power, Kowalczyk is a treat to watch in batting practice. He’s seen limited playing time with four catchers on the roster, but his hitting prowess has been noticed. When he squares up a fastball, he can hit the ball a long ways.

He’s been solid defensively, but the knock on Kowalczyk is that he can be robotic at times behind the dish.

Slash line: .282/.308/.437

Hear it from the skipper:

“He’s done a good job. He goes out there, competes and is a guy that’s really coachable. He’s willing to learn, he wants to get better and he can take it, and apply it really quick. That’s the thing I’m noticing about Alex.”

On the cusp: Preston Scott, Darius Day, Jacob Shortslef, Luis Terrero. updated prospect rankings

Two Spokane Indians players and the team’s opening day starting pitcher was included in’s midseason Top 30 team prospect rankings.

Ferguson makes his first appearance, checking in at No. 29. Phillips, who was previously at No. 29, slides down one spot to No. 30. Michael Matuella, who is rehabbing in Surprise, Arizona after being shut down for a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow, falls from No. 7 to No. 18.

Elio Castillo promoted

Spokane shortstop Elio Castilo is headed to Advanced-A High Desert, the team announced. He was hitting .327 in 14 games for the Indians before the call up.

Game notes:

Last night: The Indians hung on and beat Tri-City 7-5 in the second game of a three-game series. Luke Lanphere guided Spokane to victory, pitching five gritty innings. Read story.

Tonight: Spokane looks to complete the sweep of Tri-City, with first pitch scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Follow @joshhorton22 on twitter for live updates. 

Josh Horton
Josh Horton is a summer intern at The Spokesman-Review and is covering the Spokane Indians baseball team.

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