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Cleveland Indians Top 20 prospects for 2016

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Outfielders Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier headline an Indians system full of exciting young pitching at the lower levels.

Bradley Zimmer
Bradley Zimmer
Elsa/Getty Images

Cleveland Indians Top 20 prospects for 2016

The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders for the book, so order early and order often!

All of these grades are preliminary and subject to change.

QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS

Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don’t intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.

Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.

Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don’t make it at all.

Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for the full analysis about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.

1) Bradley Zimmer, OF, Grade B+: Age 23, hit .308/.403/.493 in High-A then .219/.313/.374 in Double-A, combined for 16 homers, 55 walks, 131 strikeouts, 44 steals. Had some adaption issues in Eastern League but I think he figures it out, broad skills and tools, speed, power, defense.

2) Clint Frazier, OF, Grade B+:
Age 21, hit .285/.377/.465 with 36 doubles, 16 homers, 68 walks, 125 strikeouts, 15 steals in High-A. Terrific bat speed and got to his power more often in the second half, improved plate discipline with lower strikeout rate. Still some swing/miss there but can be an explosive hitter and made considerable progress. Intense player.

3) Mike Clevinger, RHP, Grade B+:
Age 24, Tommy John survivor stolen from Angels in 2014, posted 2.73 ERA with 145/40 K/BB in 158 innings in Double-A, command has improved tremendously over last three seasons and he has the stuff to back that up. Should be ready for rotation trial sometime in 2016. I will post full comment in discussion thread tomorrow.

4) Bobby Bradley, 1B, Grade B+:
Age 19, hit .264/.357/.518 with 27 homers, 57 walks, 150 strikeouts in 409 at-bats in A-ball. Enormous power, strikes out a lot but can work a count and is not just a brute-force masher, has some pure hitting skills to go with it. Not much of a glove but a special bat.

5) Rob Kaminsky, LHP, Grade B+/B:
Age 21, snared from Cardinals for Brandon Moss, 2.24 ERA with 83/33 K/BB in 104 innings in A-ball, 2.16 GO/AO. Main concern is role/workload but his stuff is just fine and he knows how to pitch. Makeup a big plus for 2013 first-round pick. Check out his blog: robkaminsky.com.

6) Justus Sheffield, LHP, Grade B+/B:
Age 19, posted 3.31 ERA with 138/38 K/BB in 128 innings in Low-A. Excellent pitchability matched with low-90s fastball, good curve, slider, developing change-up, throws strikes, future number three starter, perhaps more.

7) Triston McKenzie, RHP, Grade B/B-:
Age 18, compensation pick bought away from Vanderbilt, posted 0.75 ERA with 17/3 K/BB in 12 innings, just four hits in rookie ball. Supremely projectable at 6-5, 165, could easily develop mid-90s heat and already has good secondary stuff and feel for pitching.

8) Juan Hillman, LHP, Grade B/B-:
Second round pick in 2015, age 18, posted 4.13 ERA with 20/5 K/BB in 24 innings in rookie ball. Similar to Sheffield a year ago, another polished high school arm, low-90s fastball, curve, change.

9) Brady Aiken, LHP, Grade B-/B
: Age 19, unsigned Astros first round pick in 2014 re-drafted by Indians in first round in 2015, recovering from Tommy John surgery. IF HEALTHY, has the best combination of stuff and command on this list. However, it is a mistake to assume full Tommy John recovery given the circumstances. Let’s see how he comes back first. A successful rehab will get him into Grade A territory.

10) Adam Plutko, RHP, Grade B-:
Age 24, extremely polished UCLA product, posted 2.39 ERA with 137/28 K/BB in 166 innings between High-A and Double-A, throws four average pitches for strikes. Does not have the upside of the younger pitchers but is close to the majors and has a great track record of success.

11) Tyler Naquin, OF, Grade B-:
Age 24, hit .300/.381/.446 between Double-A and Triple-A, can take a walk, steal a base, show occasional pop, play defense. Perfect fourth outfielder and ready soon.

12) Francisco Mejia, C, Grade B-:
Age 20, hit .243/.324/.345 in Low-A, tools to be an excellent defender and decent hitter with some power but a long way off, still polishing his game in all respects. High upside, high risk.

13) James Ramsey, OF, Grade C+:
Age 24, hit .243/.327/.382 with 12 homers, 53 walks, 128 strikeouts in 440 at-bats in Triple-A. Similar to Naquin but older, with more power and less speed, also a good defender, strong makeup, also a potential fourth outfielder.

14) Jesus Aguilar, 1B, Grade C+:
Age 25, hit .267/.332/.439 with 19 homers, 47 walks, 115 strikeouts in 510 at-bats in Triple-A. Two strong power seasons at that level, nothing left to prove in International League but defensive limits, right-handed profile make it tough to slot him on most rosters.

15) Nellie Rodriguez, 1B, Grade C+:
Age 21, hit .275/.357/.495 with 17 homers, 51 walks, 122 strikeouts in 396 at-bats in High-A but just .118/.200/.269 (with four homers) with 37 strikeouts in 93 at-bats in Double-A. Similar profile to Aguilar, hits right, huge power, strikes out a lot, younger but might get stuck as AAAA bat.

16) Shawn Armstrong, RHP, Grade C+:
Age 25, ready to help in the pen, 2.36 ERA with 80/26 K/BB in 50 innings in Triple-A, 16 saves, zero homers. 2.25 ERA with 11/2 K/BB in eight big league innings. Low 90s with good slider, should be fine reliever.

17) Yandy Diaz, 3B, Grade C+:
Age 24, Cuban defector, hit .309/.403/.402 with 78 walks, 70 strikeouts in 495 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A. Excellent strike zone judgment and I think he can get to some power eventually. Favorite sleeper of many who watch the systemclosely.

18) Mark Mathias, 2B, Grade C+:
Age 21, third round pick from Cal Poly this year, hit .282/.382/.408 in New York-Penn League, excellent strike zone judgment (35 walks, 36 strikeouts) with doubles power. Scouts don’t seem to like his glove but the early defensive numbers are good for what that’s worth. Eventually the numbers and the scouting reports will converge, one way or another.

19) Erik Gonzalez, SS, Grade C+:
Age 24, hit .255/.292/.373 with nine homers, 18 steals, 26 walks, 103 strikeouts between Double-A and Triple-A. Strong arm, good range, can handle shortstop, has some power and speed but impatience, low OBP likely make him a utilityman.

20) Shawn Morimando, LHP, Grade C+:
Age 23, 3.18 ERA with 128/65 K/BB in 159 innings in Double-A. 88-93 fastball, decent changeup and breaking ball, could blossom as fourth starter if he sharpens his command, though pattern has been slow growth, not big breakthrough.

OTHER GRADE C+: Sean Brady, LHP; Mitch Brown, RHP; Yu-Cheng Chang, SS; Tyler Krieger, INF; Luis Lugo, LHP; Gabriel Mejia, OF; Ryan Merritt, LHP

OTHERS OF NOTE: Greg Allen, OF; Jeff Johnson, RHP; Thomas Pannone, LHP; Mike Papi, OF-1B; Luigi Rodriguez, OF; Casey Shane, RHP; Ka’ai Tom, OF; Jonas Wyatt, RHP

There is a lot to talk about with the Indians system and I will be in the comments thread with a discussion Sunday. I particularly want to talk about some of the "Other Grade C+" guys.