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Cleveland Indians Top 20 prospects for 2017

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This is a very deep farm system with a mixture of hitting and pitching on the way up.

Francisco Mejia
Francisco Mejia
Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Cleveland Indians Top 20 Prospects for 2017

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. All of these grades are subject to change as the winter progresses. The final grades will be finished sometime in February when all 30 teams are complete.


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. 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) Francisco Mejia, C, Grade B+/A-: Age 21, hit .342/.382/.514 between Low-A and High-A with 11 homers, 28 walks, 63 strikeouts in 407 at-bats; excellent throwing arm and caught 44% of runners trying to steal on him; posted incredible 50-game hitting streak; an impatient hitter but doesn’t strike out much, approach was more refined than in ’15; more home run power should come; defense needs more polish but has tools to be an excellent defender and already has the throwing down; ETA: late 2018.

2) Bradley Zimmer, OF, Grade B+: Age 24, hit .250/.365/.425 with 15 homers, 38 steals, 77 walks, but 171 strikeout in 468 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A; broad range of tools and skills, above-average speed, throwing arm, and raw power he has yet to fully tap; draws walks even when having contact issues, helping his OBP; may not hit for high averages but should be strong secondary average contributor; ETA: late 2017.

3) Triston McKenzie, RHP, Grade B+: Age 19, posted 1.62 ERA in 83 innings between short-season A and Low-A, 104/22 K/BB, 58 hits; excellent pitching instincts, athletic, and stuff is picking up, fastball into low-90s now with more possible; curveball and change-up already very good, may have three plus pitches eventually with command to make everything work in synch; could be a number two starter; a personal favorite at Minor League Ball. ETA: late 2019.

4) Bobby Bradley, 1B, Grade B+: Age 20, hit .235/.344/.466 with 29 homers, 102 RBI, 75 walks, 170 strikeouts in 485 at-bats in High-A; huge left-side power, at least a 60 and perhaps more, with patient approach; obviously has contact issues which could hamper batting average at higher levels, though high walk rate helps with OBP; mediocre glove at first base could improve to average eventually but bat will have to carry him; I think it will; ETA: 2019.

5) Brady Aiken, LHP, Grade B/B+: Age 20, first round pick in 2015 coming off Tommy John surgery; posted 5.85 ERA in 46 innings between rookie ball and short-season-A, 57/21 K/BB, 52 hits; strikeout rate is promising; threw better late in the season; was in upper-80s at first but in low-90s by fall instructs; curveball and change-up should be solid with more innings; key now is building up workload and strength, can still be a number two starter if recovery continues properly. ETA: 2020.

6) Rob Kaminsky, LHP, Grade B: Age 22; posted 3.28 ERA in 137 innings in Double-A, 92/48 /BB, 1.70 GO/AO; fastball has lost a bit over the last couple of years and now sits in the upper-80s, which has lowered his stock somewhat; however he still has a good curveball and workable change-up, throws strikes, and gets plenty of ground balls; I still think he can be an effective inning-eater. ETA: 2018.

7) Greg Allen, OF, Grade B: Age 23, sixth round pick in 2014 from San Diego State, hit .295/.416/.413 with 45 steals, 77 walks, 78 strikeouts in 491 at-bats between High-A and Double-A; speedy switch-hitter, 60-65 runner and uses it well, excellent defensive outfielder with deceptively strong and accurate arm; draws walks and makes contact easily; there may be some Michael Brantley-esque sneaky power in this bat at some point. ETA: 2018.

8) Juan Hillman, LHP, Grade B/B-: Age 19, 4.43 ERA in 63 innings in short-season A, with 47/24 K/BB, 66 hits allowed; velocity down from high school in upper-80s, still showed promising curveball and change-up and usually threw strikes although command within the strike zone could wobble; remains athletic and projectable; was strong early but looked tired down the stretch in August; I still like his chances to be a mid-rotation starter. ETA: 2021.

9) Yu-Cheng Chang, SS, Grade B-: Age 21, signed out of Taiwan in 2013, hit .259/.332/.463 with 13 homers, 30 doubles, 45 walks, 110 strikeouts in 417 at-bats in High-A; solid-average tools with raw speed slightly ahead of raw power; solid with the glove, though some worry that if he slows down a bit with age he’ll have to move to another spot; at present he is quite reliable for his age and has more offensive potential than most middle infielders. ETA: 2019.

10) Nolan Jones, 3B, Grade B-: Age 18, second round pick in 2016 from high school in Pennsylvania, hit .257/.388/.339 in rookie ball with 23 walks, 49 strikeouts in 109 at-bats; rated a very advanced high school hitter, showed ability to take walks in pro debut but needs to make better contact and tap his raw power more often; arm and range should work at third with more reps; should eventually hit for both power and average. ETA: 2021.

11) Will Benson, OF, Grade B-: Age 18, first round pick in 2016 from high school in Georgia hit .209/.321/.424 with six homers, 10 steals, 22 walks, 60 strikeouts in 158 at-bats in rookie ball; impressive athlete with above-average power, speed, and throwing arm; hitting skills somewhat raw but could be a 20/20 player if everything comes together; more likely a long-term development project than a rapid riser. ETA: 2022.

12) Yandy Diaz, 3B, Grade B-
: Age 25, Cuban, hit .318/.408/.446 with nine homers, 71 walks, 86 strikeouts in 444 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A; polished hitter with very good feel for hitting, consistently puts bat on ball for hard contact; home run power not strong and given his age you wouldn’t think a lot more would come, but I think it is possible it still may do so; above-average glove at third base. I like him. ETA: 2017.

13) Erik Gonzalez, SS, Grade B-: Age 25, hit .296/.329/.450 with 31 doubles, 11 homers, 12 steals, 19 walks, 88 strikeouts in 429 at-bats in Triple-A; hit .313 in 16 major league at-bats; excellent throwing arm, above-average speed, tools clear if you see him play; has power too but very aggressive approach could hamper OBP in the majors; versatile with the glove, can play infield as well as outfield without hurting you, could make very good super-utility player despite OBP questions; ETA 2017.

14) Adam Plutko, RHP, Grade B-: Age 25, 11th round pick in 2013 out of UCLA; 3.73 ERA with 130/46 K/BB in 162 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, 151 hits; not overpowering with fastball around 90 but very good change-up and solid-average curve/slider plus sharp command keep him competitive; classic fourth starter/inning-eater type with mound presence and pitchability. ETA 2017.

15) Tyler Krieger, 2B, Grade B-/C+:
Age 22, fourth round pick in 2015 out of Clemson, hit .299/.377/.417 with 57 walks, 21 steals in 482 at-bats between Low-A and High-A; switch-hitter with gap power and good plate discipline with some speed; tools and instincts fit best at second base; physical upside is limited but he has a lot of polish. ETA 2019.

16) Shawn Morimando, LHP, Grade C+
: Age 24, 19th round pick in 2011; went 15-5 in 27 start between Double-A and Triple-A with 119/57 K/BB in 152 innings, 141 hits; low-90s fastball, average breaking ball, very good change-up, typical fourth starter profile but could also slot in relief where his fastball plays up a notch; needs some additional command tightening and another half-year in Triple-A. ETA 2017.

17) Ryan Merritt, LHP, Grade C+:
Age 24, 16th round pick in 2011; 3.70 ERA in 143 innings in Triple-A with 92/23 K/BB, 156 hits; threw 11 shutout innings in the majors followed by post-season heroics; ultimate finesse lefty with fastball that tops out at 90, adds in good change-up and cutter; stuff is a tick behind Morimando but his control is much better, also a potential fourth starter. ETA 2017.

18) Shawn Armstrong, RHP, Grade C+:
Age 26, drafted in 18th round in 2011; excellent 2016 season in Triple-A with 1.84 ERA, 72/29 K/BB in 49 innings, just 27 hits; fastball up to 97 along with a hard breaking ball; excellent strikeout rates at all levels (357 Ks in 263 innings) though command can wobble; nothing left to prove in minors, waiting for a clear shot at a job. ETA 2017.

19) Nellie Rodriguez, 1B, Grade C+:
Age 22, 15th round pick in 2012 from high school in New York; hit .250/.352/.474 with 26 homers, 75 walks, 186 strikeouts in 492 at-bats in Double-A; consistent and persistent producer at every level with 60-65 power and a strong batting eye, though contact issues will inhibit batting average; glove limited to first base; has been young for his levels. ETA 2018.

20) Shane Bieber, RHP, Grade C+: Age 21, fourth round pick in 2016 from University of California Santa Barbara; posted 0.38 ERA in 24 innings in New York-Penn League with stellar 21/2 K/BB; should follow Adam Plutko path with 90 MPH fastball, solid slider and change-up, excellent command and control; the Indians have a good track record at getting the best out of this type of pitcher. ETA 2019.

OTHER GRADE C+: These players are interchangeable with slots 17-20.

Tim Cooney, LHP (claimed on waivers from Cardinals); Aaron Civale, RHP; Andrew Calica, OF; Matt Esparza, RHP; Oscar Gonzalez, OF; Cameron Hill, RHP; Logan Ice; C; Leando Linares, rHP; Luis Lugo, LHP; Mark Mathias, 2B; Gabriel Mejia, OF; Julian Merryweather, RHP; Thomas Pannone, LHP; Dorssys Paulino, OF; Francisco Perez, LHP; Ka’ai Tom, OF

GRADE C: Jesus Aguilar, 1B; Dylan Baker, RHP; Mitch Brown, RHP; Ulysses Cantu, 3B; Conner Capel, OF; Willi Castro, SS; Joseph Colon, RHP; Perci Garner, RHP; Jeremy Lucas, C;
Connor Marabell, OF; Micah Miniard, RHP; Mike Papi, OF; Dan Salters, C; Eric Stamets, SS; Samad Taylor, 2B; Luke Wakamatsu, SS

This is an incredibly deep system right now; with an impressive mixture of hitting and pitching and a very, very large number of Grade C+ prospects. Let’s discuss in the comments section.