Today we continue our summer reviews of the pre-season Top 20 Prospects lists with the Cleveland Indians.
This is a review of the pre-season list.
It is not a new list.
These are the pre-season grades.
This list was originally published December 20, 2014
1) Francisco Lindor, SS, Grade A: Solid major league debut, hitting .289/.324/.395 with five homers, 14 walks, 41 strikeouts in 228 at-bats. Strong defense drives fWAR value to 1.7 in 57 games. He should continue to improve from this successful base.
2) Bradley Zimmer, OF, Grade B+: Hitting .298/.397/.498 on the season split between High-A and Double-A, no drop in production after promotion, with 16 homers and 39 steals. Power, speed, on-base ability, defense, everything looks good.
3) Clint Frazier, OF, Grade B+/B: Slow start but has been on fire for several weeks, boosting numbers to .288/.382/.474, 32 doubles, 15 homers, 60 walks, 110 strikeouts in 437 at-bats in High-A at age 20, excellent wRC+ at 150. All that bat speed is turning into game power, strikeouts are trending down, walks trending up. He’s figuring it out.
4) Francisco Mejia, C, Grade B: Hitting .256/.340/.371 with nine homers, 37 walks, 64 strikeouts in 340 at-bats in Low-A at age 19. Defense is raw but the tools are there, will need time to refine them.
5) Bobby Bradley, 1B, Grade B: Hitting .261/.348/.537 with 26 homers, 46 walks, 131 strikeouts in 352 at-bats at age 19 in Low-A. He’s got strikeout issues but power looks outstanding and his production has been excellent for the pitching-dominated Midwest League.
6) Justus Sheffield, LHP, Grade B-/B: Another 19 year old with his career off to a good start, 3.86 ERA with 119/33 K/BB in 110 innings in Low-A. Throws three quality pitches for strikes and has been particularly effective over the last four weeks.
7) Giovanny Urshela, 3B, Grade B-: Hitting .230/.277/.340 with five homers, 12 walks, 41 strikeouts in 200 major league at-bats. Good glove at third, hasn’t hit much yet but that may come in time.
8) Tyler Naquin, OF, Grade B-: Hit .348/.419/.468 in Double-A (141 at-bats) then .270/.358/.443 in Triple-A (174 at-bats), 13 steals and 24 doubles combined. Should be a quality fourth outfielder.
9) Mitch Brown, RHP, Grade B-: Dominant on days when his control is working, ineffective on days when it is not, unfortunately balancing out to disappointing numbers overall since he’s had more bad days than good (4.99, 89/63 K/BB in 124 innings, 127 hits in High-A). Durable horse who stays healthy and is young at 21, but he doesn’t have the stuff to thrive without sharper command.
10) James Ramsey, OF, Grade C+/B-: Hitting .234/.315/.372 with 12 homers, 48 walks, 122 strikeouts in 406 at-bats in Triple-A. Will battle Naquin for fourth outfield role.
11) Nellie Rodriguez, 1B, Grade C+/B-: Hitting .262/.345/.476 with 33 doubles, 18 homers, 53 walks, 132 strikeouts in 424 at-bats between High-A and Double-A. Brute force bat who can beat any park with his power, provided he makes enough contact.
12) Yu Cheng Chang, INF, Grade C+/B-: Hitting .232/.296/.370 with nine homers, 24 walks, 90 strikeouts in 332 at-bats in Low-A. Big jump from AZL where he hit .346 last year, has shown some pop but production limited by contact issues. Strong arm.
13) Mike Papi, 1B-OF, Grade C+: Former University of Virginia star struggling to hit pro pitching, batting .235/.362/.342 with 33 doubles, two homers, 71 walks, 104 strikeouts in 366 at-bats in High-A. Drawing walks, as expected, but homers have been almost zero, which was NOT expected after college track record and scout reports of plus power.
14) Jesus Aguilar, 1B, Grade C+: Hitting .256/.316/.414 with 15 homers, 35 walks, 95 strikeouts in 445 Triple-A at-bats. Hit .304/.395/.511 at the same level last year. This has happened before: A) guy dominates Triple-A, B) doesn’t earn major league job, C) slumps in second Triple-A year. A very common historical pattern, perhaps due to psychological effects of players pressing to prove themselves.
15) Erik Gonzalez, SS, Grade C+: Hit .280/.304/.421 in Double-A (yay!) but .219/.271/.272 in Triple-A (boo!), combining for eight homers, 14 steals. Good glove but not in Lindor’s class, likely a utility guy or trade bait.
16) Austin D. Adams, RHP, Grade C+: 3.96 ERA with 18/12 K/BB in 25 major league innings, 28 hits. Plausible middle relief option if he can tighten command.
17) Grant Hockin, RHP, Grade C+: Tommy John surgery.
18) Luis Lugo, LHP, Grade C+: 4.34 ERA with 100/45 K/BB in 104 innings in High-A, 108 hits, at age 21. Good size and arm strength, results don’t quite match natural talent yet but has time at age 21.
19) Adam Plutko, RHP, Grade C+: Excellent season, 2.21 ERA with 115/22 K/BB in 142 innings, 105 hits between High-A and Double-A. Doesn’t throw hard but has full arsenal of pitches and knows how to use them.
20) Cody Anderson, RHP, Grade C/C+: 1.89 ERA with 54/14 K/BB in 71 innings in Double-A/Triple-A led to big league promotion, 4.31 ERA with 20/8 K/BB in 48 innings until going on DL with oblique injury. I think he’s a fourth/fifth starter.
The Indians are an inadequate 55-64 and in fifth place in the American League Central. Despite this disappointment, there is more good news than bad on the player development front. Francisco Lindor has established himself as a quality major league shortstop who will continue to improve. Most of the other top prospects have performed well and several should be ready for trials sometime in 2016, including Bradley Zimmer, Tyler Naquin, James Ramsey, Nellie Rodriguez, and Adam Plutko. Clint Frazier is in the middle of a breakout summer in High-A.
Deadline trades added a pair of prospects: slick-fielding shortstop Eric Stamets from the Angels, and lefty Rob Kaminsky from the Cardinals. Stamets is a utility type but Kaminsky is actually an excellent prospect, among the top LHP prospects in baseball in my view. Getting him for a fading veteran like Brandon Moss is quite a coup.
The 2015 draft went well too. Brady Aiken is a gamble due to the Tommy John surgery, but if he recovers properly he could be a top-of-the-rotation arm, a huge payoff. Supplemental first rounder Tristan McKenzie has exceptional projectability, while second rounder Juan Hillman was receiving first round buzz at one point. Getting all three of those arms was another coup. Infielder Luke Wakamatsu was a third round talent who fell to the 20th round but still signed.
Other players of interest include RHP Mike Cleavinger (3.00, 125/38 K/BB in 138 innings in Double-A), LHP Sean Morimando (2.97, 108/57 K/BB in 136 innings in Double-A), LHP Sean Brady (3.77, 110/24 K/BB in 129 innings in Low-A), OF Greg Allen (.270/.365/.389 with 40 steals, 50 walks, 53 strikeouts in Low-A) and OF Luigi Rodriguez (.293/.335/.492 with 24 steals until going on suspension list for PED this month). RHP Shawn Armstrong has been strong in Triple-A (2.53, 72/24 K/BB in 46 innings, 14 saves) and is ready for a big league trial. All of these guys have seen their stock rise this year.
Overall, the Indians farm system looks on the upswing. There is power, there is speed, there is defense, and there is pitching.