Being a small-market team, the Cleveland Indians have had to build their success through the draft and player development.
Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis, Shane Bieber and Cody Allen were all drafted and developed by the Indians.
Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer were both brought to Cleveland via trade, as young pitchers who the Indians have developed into front-line aces.
Jose Ramirez, perhaps the Indians best player, was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2009 for just $50,000 at the age of 17.
Though acquired differently, one constant among the above names is that the Indians player development has been vital to their success.
Lindor and Bauer were high draft picks, and Bieber is a former Top-100 prospect, but the Indians system has done a spectacular job of molding young players into productive major leaguers.
Despite their recent track of success, the Indians market isn't going to increase anytime soon. If they want to sustain their success, their player development system will need to continue to develop players from within their own system, even outside of high draft picks and top prospects.
Here are a few of those names who could be the next wave of unexpected producers in Cleveland.
Single-A Sleeper Prospect: Gregori Vasquez
In a day where high strikeout rates and upper-90s fastballs are the name of the game in baseball, one Indians prospect is quietly producing in the exact opposite way.
Gregori Vasquez, a 20-year old right-handed starting pitcher from the Dominican Republic, has put together a string of consistent seasons in the Indians farm system.
In his first four professional seasons, Vasquez has never had an ERA above 3.60. Vasquez has walked just 64 in four seasons combined, while keeping his WHIP below 1.25 every season.
This season, Vasquez has done much of the same. With a 5-5 record and team-leading 3.59 ERA, Vasquez has consistently cruised through the 2018 season.
However, Vasquez has only struck out 73 batters in 110 innings, and has allowed ten home runs. Clearly Vasquez can get outs, but his stuff needs to improve, as the higher he rises through the minors, the tougher its going to be to get outs with below-average stuff.
But for now, its worked out well for Vasquez. who is a serious sleeper given his age and good track record.
Honorable Mention: Kyle Nelson
Drafted in the 15th round of last season’s draft out of UC-Santa Barbara, 22-year old Kyle Nelson has emerged as a weapon in the later innings, recording a 3-1 record with a microscopic 0.76 ERA. Nelson posses deadly ‘stuff’, as he has recorded 51 strikeouts in 35.1 innings, and is yet to allow a home run.
TIED GAME! Jodd Carter rips an RBI double inside the third base bag and it's 4-4!— Lynchburg Hillcats (@LynHillcats) July 25, 2018
BOT 8 pic.twitter.com/AnePf8SIzP
High-A Sleeper Prospect: Jodd Carter
Contrary to the previous sleeper, the Indians High-A sleeper has been in touch with modern-day baseball trends.
The Lynchburg Hillcats’ Jodd Carter has produced in 2018 thanks to a high home run/extra-base hit rate, while striking out at a high rate.
Carter, a 2014 24th-rounder from Hawaii, has hit a team-leading ten home runs in 2018. Carter has been a quality run producer, driving in 49 runs while scoring 51.
The 22-year old right fielder has stolen 11 bases on the season, but has struggled with his plate discipline, striking out 93 times in 334 at-bats.
However, as aforementioned, its almost customary in baseball to succeed despite a high strikeout rate. If Carter continues to produce runs at the plate, as well as develop his power stroke even further, the strikeouts won't matter as much, as seen with Joey Gallo, Javier Baez, Yoan Moncada and other high-strikeout power hitters.
Honorable Mention: Tanner Tully
A 2016 26th-round pick from Ohio State, 23-year old lefty Tanner Tully has been somewhat consistent in his first full season in High-A. Tully holds an impressive WHIP of 1.37, but has struggled to stay out of trouble, as opponents are hitting .307 against him. As a high-strikeout lefty, Tully has serious upside out of the bullpen.
#Indians current minor league leaders in (SB)— Indians Prospective (@indiansPro) July 23, 2018
Andrew Calica (Akron) 22
Todd Isaacs (Lake County) 21
Todd Hankins (Columbus) 15
Ernie Clement (Lynchburg) 15
Tyler Krieger Akron) 14
Mitch Longo (Lynchburg) 14 pic.twitter.com/Cgim4GtBct
Double-A Sleeper Prospect: Andrew Calica
Every team needs a catalyst at the top of their order. While the Indians have veteran outfielder Rajai Davis, Davis’ career is on the decline, and the Indians will need a replacement.
A rising option to fill Davis’ void is Akron RubberDucks centerfielder Andrew Calica.
Calica is an on-base machine, hitting .282 with 43 walks at the top of the RubberDucks lineup.
Calica leads the team with 64 runs scored, and leads all Indians minor leaguers with 24 stolen bases. Additionally, Calica has flashed a touch of power despite his speed, hitting five home runs and 16 doubles in 326 at-bats this season.
Another pick out of UC Santa Barbara. Calica, who has stolen 53 career stolen bases in the minor leaguers, could make an impact as soon as late next season as a late-inning defensive replacement and pinch runner in Cleveland.
Honorable Mention: Sean Brady
Starting pitching depth is vital for contending teams, especially down the stretch run. The Indians could have some depth in Brady, a 2013 fifth-rounder, who recorded a 4.32 ERA in 21 starts in Double-A in 2018. Despite his consistency, Brady has struggled to strike batters out, k’ing just 75 in 114.2 innings.
Triple-A Sleeper Prospect: Mike Papi
The Columbus Clippers are filled with former major leaguers and young players who have lost their prospect status, so it took a little bit of digging to find a sleeper.
However, the Indians might have one in Mike Papi, the Clippers right fielder.
Papi, who played at the University of Virginia, is hitting .255 in 67 games this season.
Papi has hit just five home runs and has driven in just 20, but the 25-year old missed time due to injury.
Papi can play the outfield, where the Indians have a serious lack of depth at the major league level. While the Leonys Martin acquisition will help the depth, a healthy Papi can provide the much-needed depth for the Tribe once the rosters expand in September.
Especially with the injury to Bradley Zimmer, the Indians could use some pop in the final stretch run for the postseason.
Honorable Mention: Cole Sulser
A constant in this article has been relief depth, which any contending team certainly needs come September. Cole Sulser, a 28-year old Dartmouth product, has had a great season out of the bullpen in Triple-A, recording a 3.71 ERA with 67 strikeouts in 36 games. Even after the acquisitions of Brad Hand and Aaron Cimber, the Indians will almost certainly need depth in the major league bullpen.