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Cleveland Indians Top 20 prospects for 2018: mid-season review

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Checking in on Cleveland

Cleveland Indians v Kansas City Royals
Shane Bieber
Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images

Continuing with our mid-season organization reviews, we turn our attention to the Cleveland Indians farm system

This list was originally published January 4th, 2018 and revised March 14th, 2018.

*****THIS IS NOT A NEW LIST******

THIS IS A REVIEW OF THE PRE-SEASON LIST

THESE ARE NOT NEW GRADES

1) Francisco Mejia, C-3B, Grade A-/B+: Age 22, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2012, hitting .286/.337/.440 in Triple-A; traded to San Diego Padres for Brad Hand in July; reports on hitting remain strong, Indians seemed down on his glove behind the plate but Padres have installed him as the regular catcher with El Paso; personally I think he can be an average catcher with more reps and that’s enough given his bat.

2) Triston McKenzie, RHP, Grade A-/B+: Age 21, compensation round pick in 2015, handled with caution due to sore arm early in the year but back in action now and effective, 2.86 ERA in 79 innings in Double-A, 76/24 K/BB, 57 hits; stock holding.

3) Willi Castro, SS, Grade B/B+: Age 21, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2013; hitting .264/.317/.396 in Double-A, traded to Detroit Tigers in Leonys Martin deal in July; eight homers, 15 steals; slugging .630 since the trade, reliable defense, stock holding.

4) Shane Bieber, RHP, Grade B/B+: Age 23, fourth round pick in 2016 from UC Santa Barbara; hittable but overall performing reasonably in first major league trial, 4.37 ERA in 68 innings, 71/15 K/BB, but 81 hits; assuming good health I think he will make necessary adaptions and be an above-average starter eventually.

5) Bobby Bradley, 1B, Grade B: Age 22, third round pick in 2014; hitting .217/.300/.459 in Double-A/Triple-A with 25 homers, 48 walks, 130 strikeouts in 434 at-bats; no change in profile, big power with a decent walk rate but high whiffs, low batting average, no reason to think the basic outline will change, question is if he can manage .240 or so in the majors, stock dropping.

6) Nolan Jones, 3B, Grade B/B-: Age 20, second round pick in 2016 from high school in Pennsylvania; hitting .278/.399/.465 with 18 homers, 77 walks, 114 strikeouts in 374 at-bats in Low-A/High-A; glove is improving, is tapping his power now without losing the strike zone, looks good overall, stock ticking up.

7) Yu-Cheng Chang, SS, Grade B-: Age 23, signed out of Taiwan in 2013; hitting .246/.320/.400 with 11 homers, 40 walks, 130 strikeouts in 410 at-bats in Triple-A; tools for shortstop and polish has improved, some real power in the bat but contact/OBP will be questions when he reaches the majors.

8) Will Benson, OF, Grade B-: Age 20, first round pick in 2016 from high school in Georgia; hitting .171/.319/.339 with 17 homers, 74 walks, 11 steals, 136 strikeouts in 369 at-bats in Low-A; Midwest League observers praise his power but wonder if he’ll hit enough for it to matter; holds a career average of .198 in 729 at-bats; still young of course.

9) Aaron Civale, RHP, Grade B-: Age 23, third round pick in 2016 from Northeastern University, 4.18 ERA in 99 innings in Double-A, 72/19 K/BB, 110 hits; could be more dominant if switched to bullpen where his slider would work well.

10) Conner Capel, OF, Grade B-: Age 21, fifth round pick in 2016 from high school in Texas, hitting .250/.341/.370 in 392 at-bats in High-A, seven homers, 15 steals, 55 walks, 92 strikeouts; traded to St. Louis Cardinals for Oscar Mercado; broad tools but inconsistent with using them.

11) Greg Allen, OF, Grade B-: Age 25, sixth round pick in 2014 from San Diego State University; hitting .250/.287/.326 in 184 major league at-bats, eight walks, 40 strikeouts, 11 steals in 12 attempts; more patience and higher OBP would make the speed more useful, will hang around in reserve role even if that doesn’t happen.

12) Tyler Freeman, SS, Grade B-: Age 18, compensation round pick in 2017 from high school in Rancho Cucamonga, California; destroying the New York-Penn League at .381/.428/.566 with 11 steals in 226 at-bats; unsure if he plays second or short long-term but the bat looks excellent at this point, stock rising.

13) Johnathan Rodriguez, OF, Grade C+: Age 18, third round pick in 2017 from Puerto Rico, hitting .294/.373/.405 in Arizona Rookie League, eight steals, 20 walks, 40 strikeouts in 163 at-bats; long way off but switch-hitter with power/speed potential cannot be ignored; good sleeper for breakout in ’19 or ‘20.

14) Ka’ai Tom, OF, Grade C+: Age 24, fifth round pick in 2015 from University of Kentucky; hitting .242/.325/.403 with 12 homers, 13 steals, 39 walks, 91 strikeouts in 380 at-bats in Double-A; not a great year but not terrible, broad outlines of multi-category potential are here but may wind up as a tweener/role player.

15) George Valera, OF, Grade C+: Age 17, signed out of Dominican Republic in July 2017 for $1,300,000; got into six games in rookie ball and went 6-for-18 (.333) with a home run, then broke his hamate; scouting reports praise feel for hitting, power, and throwing arm; he was off to a good start before getting hurt.

16) Ernie Clement, 2B-SS, Grade C+: Age 22, fourth round pick in 2017 from University of Virginia; hitting .294/.368/.372 with two homers, 16 steals, 40 walks, just 31 strikeouts in 374 at-bats between Low-A, High-A, and Double-A; contact approach with a bit of doubles power, plus speed, versatile glove is best at second but playable at shortstop and the outfield, probably a good role player.

17) Ryan Merritt, LHP, Grade C+: Age 26, missed time with knee injury but back now, 4.47 ERA in 52 Triple-A innings with 35/2 K/BB, that’s right, two walks; no change in profile, has pinpoint location of marginal stuff.

18) Shawn Morimando, LHP, Grade C+: Age 25, bothered by sore shoulder most of the year, 5.77 ERA in 34 innings between Triple-A and rookie rehab; was released for roster management reasons and signed by the Toronto Blue Jays; future depends on health.

19) Eric Stamets, SS, Grade C+: Age 26, hitting just .199/.270/.324 in Triple-A; excellent glove; I have felt his bat could and would improve but that’s not happening at all this year.

20) Mike Rivera, C, Grade C+: Age 22, sixth round pick in 2017 from University of Florida, hit just .195/.411/.268 with three homers, 15 walks, 10 strikeouts in 41 at-bats in Low-A before going down with a leg injury; power/patience as expected but is below Mendoza Line as a pro with .182 mark, granted that’s just 88 at-bats and he’s been hurt.

OTHER GRADE C+:

Brady Aiken, LHP; Hasn’t pitched this year.

Aaron Bracho, SS; On 60-day DL in rookie ball

Matt Esparza, RHP; Just 8.2 innings due to injury.

Marcos Gonzalez, SS; Hitting .318/.411/.458 in rookie ball; very solid so far, stock moving up.

Oscar Gonzalez, OF: .292/.310/.435 with 13 homers, 12 walks, 107 strikeouts in 462 at-bats; interesting to watch, big raw power, looks like a hitter but that BB/K ratio is awful; just 20 years old and can improve.

Eric Haase, C; Hitting .236/.291/.442 with 18 homers, 30 walks, 127 strikeouts in 398 at-bats in Triple-A; another power hitter with contact questions; defense behind the plate is excellent.

Juan Hillman, LHP; 5.64 ERA in 112 innings in High-A, 92/46 K/BB, 124 hits; looks terrific on the right day but there have been more wrong days.

Quentin Holmes, OF; 80-runner but can’t tell how much it matters with just five at-bats in rookie ball this year.

Rob Kaminsky, LHP; 2.70 ERA in 20 innings in Double-A, 16/15 K/BB; looking like a forgotten man at this point but might emerge as a LOOGY eventually.

James Karinchak, RHP; Nice bullpen campaign, 1.44 ERA in 44 innings, 74/32 K/BB, just 28 hits, 14 saves between Low-A, High-A, and Double-A; walks need to come down but profiles well in relief.

Tyler Krieger, 2B; Hitting .274/.329/.368 with five homers, 17 steals, 35 walks, 82 strikeouts in 424 at-bats in Double-A; competent with glove at 2B and OF but looking like a 26th man right now.

Jean Carlos Mejia, RHP; Fine season in Low-A, 2.56 ERA in 88 innings, 93/20 K/BB, just 72 hits; stock ticking up.

Julian Merryweather, RHP; Injured

Elijah Morgan, RHP; 3.16 ERA in 128 innings in Low-A/High-A, 138/29 K/BB, 106 hits; wants to be the next Shane Bieber.

Francisco Perez, LHP; 3.99 ERA with 100/51 K/BB in 129 innings in Low-A, 112 hits; lefties who strike people out bear watching

Zach Plesac, RHP; 3.93 ERA with 117/34 K/BB in 133 innings between High-A and Double-A, 131 hits; command and bloodlines stand out.

Gregori Vasquez, RHP; 4.03 ERA in 132 innings in Low-A, 82/38 K/BB, fits in pen long term I think.

Luke Wakamatsu, INF: Hit just .197/.302/.269 in 193 at-bats in High-A before landing on DL

***************

The Indians dipped into the farm system for trades but there’s still a lot of talent here, with McKenzie remaining one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. Thinking ahead to the 2019 list, expect high rankings from 2018 draftees Noah Naylor and Ethan Hankins, right-hander Lenny Torres, infielders Raynel Delgado and Richard Palacios.

Holdover prospects Sam Hentges (LHP) and Luis Oviedo (RHP) will also see a strong stock boost, particularly Oviedo.