Judson Ryan Morris showed improvement in his second pro season and began to display the potential that made him the Indians' fourth-round pick as a high schooler in 2006. He pitched well early in 2007, moved up a level to Lake County, and debuts on the Indians Ink list of Top 100 Prospects at No. 69.
"The big difference was better command, better poise," player development director Ross Atkins said. "There's plenty of work to be done, but Ryan started to add some things to his game last year and hopefully will continue."
In nine games including eight starts at age 18 two years ago, Morris was a rather unimpressive 1-5 with a 4.61 ERA in rookie league ball.
Sent to the same level to start 2007, he went 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five starts for the Gulf Coast League Indians, giving up only 13 hits and eight walks while striking out 22 in 25 innings. Moved up to Lake County, he went 0-2 with a 5.22 ERA in nine starts, but held the opposition to a .212 batting average in 39.2 innings.
Morris is more of a finesse pitcher and should show improvement as he refines his breaking ball and simply gains the baseball experience necessary to win without being flat-out overpowering.
The Ryan Morris File
Born: Jan. 10, 1988 in Mt. Pleasant, SC
Position: Starting pitcher
Acquired: Fourth-round draft pick in 2006 from South Mecklenburg (NC) HS
2008 Projection: No. 1 or No. 2 starter at Lake County.
2007 & MINOR-LEAGUE CAREER
|2007 GCL Indians||3||0||1.80||5||5||25.0||13||8||22|
|2007 Lake County||0||2||5.22||9||9||39.6||31||23||31|
No. 70 Isaias Velasquez
It's fielding first with this Panamanian prospect, who debuts on the annual Indians Ink list at No. 70 after a solid first season in America for the Gulf Coast League Indians.
Former Indians third baseman Travis Fryman, recently named manager at short-season Mahoning Valley, spent a great deal of time working with Velasquez and other young infielders at 2007 spring training, and came away impressed.
"I love this guy," Fryman said. "He reminds me of (five-time All-Star) Edgar Renteria, and that's a good thing. He's not as tall, but has some of the same mannerisms. He sets up well for a ball, gets behind it and has the proper fundamentals. He can put his bat on the ball, too."
Velasquez must start hitting it with more authority, however. In 653 at-bats over two seasons in the Dominican Summer League and one in the GCL, he has zero homers and only 50 RBI. But he has a .274 composite average with 127 runs and 53 stolen bases, so if he can develop some doubles-power into the gaps (he's totaled only 23 of those), he has a chance to advance.
A look at Renteria's numbers in the low minors a decade ago show that he needed time to develop, too. He hit only .239 with one homer over his first 986 at-bats in pro ball.
Velasquez batted .323 during the month of July in 2007, bolstered by an 11-game hitting streak in which he went 15-for-36 (.417) with four doubles, five runs and five RBI.
He played all four infield positions last season, seeing the most time at third base after playing primarily at second base earlier in his career.
The Isaias Velasquez File
Born: July 5, 1988 in Panama City, Panama
Position: Second base
Acquired: Non-drafted free agent, 2004
2008 Projection: Mahoning Valley
2007 & MINOR-LEAGUE CAREER
|2007 GCL Indians||47||159||44||.277||0||18||22||16||29|
CLEVELAND INDIANS' TOP PROSPECTS
66. Gregorio Rosario, RHP
67. Adam White, OF
68. Ronald Rivas, SS
69. Ryan Morris, LHP
70. Isaias Velasquez, 2B
Rosario, acquired from Seattle for right-hander Jason Davis last June, is a lanky right-hander with good stuff but an erratic delivery. White, drafted out of West Virginia in the ninth round last June, is the fastest player in the organization. He's a solid outfielder and if he gets on base enough (he hit .260 at Mahoning Valley), could be an impact player on the bases. Rivas is a graceful fielder who needs to beef up his frame and his batting average.