Scouting Report On Prospects In Trade

Matt LaPorta

The Indians are getting a lot of potential in return for C.C. Sabathia. So says a scout for another MLB team who is familiar with the Milwaukee Brewers farm system. The Tribe got slugger Matt LaPorta, left-hander Zach Jackson, right-hander Rob Bryson and either infielder Taylor Green or outfielder Mike Brantley as a player to be named. It could be a good deal, if two or three of them develop.

"LaPorta can flat-out mash the ball," the scout said late Sunday, adding that he would openly give his opinions on the prospects involved as long as no mention of his name nor his big-league affiliation was published.

"Whether he has a position or not is another story. In the American League, the Indians can use him at DH, especially if Travis Hafner's injury is more serious than they are letting on. But he's not ready yet. Maybe next spring or the middle of next year.

"For a big guy with a big swing, he's got decent plate coverage. He's got good wrist action in his swing, likes the ball out over the plate. You can jam him, but you better JAM him. You don't throw it far enough inside, he'll take you deep."

The scout likes Bryson and Green, but isn't as high on Jackson.

"The thing with Jackson is this," he said. "The Indians have a real good group of coaches in their system and find a way to get things across to players. Jackson ain't ever going to be Randy Johnson, but he's got decent stuff.

"His two-seam fastball is more of a sinker and when he's getting it over the plate, that's when he's most effective. He's better off just showing his four-seamer out of the zone, then coming back with a changeup or slider.

"He's leveled off after a couple good years in the Blue Jays organization awhile back. Maybe the Indians can get him back on track."

Jackson, 25, has struggled since being acquired from Toronto after the 2005 season -- when he went a combined 16-8 across three levels in the Blue Jays' system.

He made his big-league debut in 2006, getting his first hit in an interleague game off the Indians' Paul Byrd. In eight games including seven starts for the Brewers that year he went 2-2 with a 5.40 ERA.

He was 11-10 with a 4.46 ERA a year ago at Triple-A Nashville and this year with the Sounds is only 1-5 with a 7.83 ERA. Nevertheless, the Brewers called up him when injuries hit their staff and he compiled a 4.91 ERA in two brief relief outings.

Bryson probably has a strong upside, according to the scout.

"The Bryson kid has a good fastball, usually in the low 90s, but his best pitch is a nasty slider," he said. "He gets a lot of strikeouts with it. They move him between starting and the bullpen. I like him better as a starter, but the Indians might groom him as a closer."

Bryson, 20, was drafted in the 31st round in 2006 as one of the final draft-and-follow picks before that procedure was eliminated by Major League Baseball.

Signed days before the 2007 draft, the lefty went 3-0 with a 2.67 ERA and eight saves in 18 games including four starts in rookie ball, posting tremendous numbers last year. In 54 innings, he gave up 49 hits and only 12 walks while striking out 70.

At West Virginia this year, Bryson has not been as successful at the higher level, going 3-2 with five saves and a 4.25 ERA. Once again, he's been bounced between the bullpen and the rotation, making five starts and working in relief 17 times. In 55 innings, he's allowed 43 hits and 20 walks, but has kept up his strikeout rate with 73.

"Braddock ... I don't know as much about him because when I saw their team, he was out with an injury," the scout said. "From what I have seen, he's a big guy who uses his leverage well. When he keeps his sinker low, he's a good pitcher.

The Indians may get Green in the deal, too, as a player to be named. Some stories have said that the Indians want to see if Green can readapt to playing second base. He played there in college and in his first year of pro ball in 2006, but the Brewers moved him to third base.

"He's a stick and I don't know if he has the footwork to play second," the scout said. "Cleveland always tries to get a guy like him to play there, thinking they'll get the next Jeff Kent. Me, I'd rather have my guys up the middle catch the ball and help my pitchers that way. Maybe this kid can go back to second, but I don't see him having the agility you need over there.

"At the plate, he's going to strike out a lot because he gets after it. He's not a big guy, but he's got some gap power."

Picked in the 25th round in 2005 out of Cypress College, where Akron Aeros player-coach Shaun Larkin preceded him, Green hit only .221 with one homer and 23 RBI in 61 games -- all at second base in rookie ball in 2006.

Last year, he played three games at first, three at second and 104 at third. Maybe the change agreed with him offensively, because he had a big year at Class A West Virginia, hitting .327 with 14 homers and 86 RBI.

Moved up to High A Brevard County this year, he has hit .297 with 10 homers and 50 RBI in 78 games. He's displayed good discipline, drawing 50 walks to his 49 strikeouts.

In 60 games at second base two years ago, Green made 10 errors. In 104 games at third last year he had 23 errors and he has made 20 errors in 67 games at third this season.

LaPorta, who was a catcher in college, moved to first base, and then to the outfield (primarily in right this year), has only one error since turning pro. That may be the result of him not having much range at all, however.

In 112 games as a pro since being the No. 7 overall pick in last year's draft, LaPorta has hit 32 homers with 97 RBI and a .294 average in Class A (2007) and Double-A (this year).

At 6-2, 215 pounds, the 23-year-old is built along the lines of Indians first baseman Ryan Garko (6-2, 220), another converted catcher.

If they don't like what they see in Green, the Indians could opt for Brantley, a 21-year-old outfielder. The left-hander was drafted in the seventh round in 2005.

Thus far in his brief pro career, Brantley has displayed good plate discipline and outstanding speed on the bases and in the field. He does not have any power at the plate, nor does he have a very good throwing arm, so he's pretty much limited to being a slap-hitting left fielder -- though one who could eventually serve as a good leadoff or No. 2 man in the lineup.

In 277 games in the lower levels of the minors before this season, Brantley had a .308 average with two homers and 117 RBI. He had scored 158 runs and was successful on 75 of 96 stolen base attempts.

In his first 74 games at Double-A Huntsville this season, Brantley batted .324 (99-for-306) with four homers and 34 RBI, 62 runs and 25 steals in 31 attempts. He had drawn 39 walks and struck out only 18 times -- bringing his career totals to 188 and 133, a particularly excellent ratio.

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