Cleveland Indians 2018 Top 50 Prospects

Cleveland Indians Top 50 Prospects for 2018

All of Cleveland is excited as the Indians will once again be on all short lists of teams with a legitimate chance to win the 2018 Series. Excitement is building over the franchise’s minor league prospects as well. While not developing as many top tier prospects as those franchises rated at the top, the Indians have consistently been improving their minor league outlook the past several seasons. They now boast a number of young players that may be in position to help the major league club in the foreseeable future. Here’s a look at my Indians Top 50 Prospects.

Prospects1500 Tiers:
Tier 1: Players with high expectations of both making the majors and playing at an All-Star level for a number of years
Tier 2: Players with an above average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 3: Players with an average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 4: Players who have the potential of making the majors, or have high likelihood of making the majors but providing minimal impact (e.g. middle reliever, low-ceiling UT guys)
Tier 5: Players who are worth keeping an eye on, but likely to never make a team’s 40-man roster






Tier 1

1. Triston McKenzie, RHP
Age: 20
2017 Highest Level: A+
McKenzie was outstanding in 2017. He compiled a 3.46 ERA and 1.05 WHIP while striking out 186 in 143 innings. He is able to consistently throw all pitches for strikes. His fast ball and curve are already plus pitches and he demonstrated improvement with his change-up in ’17. Still only 20 years old, McKenzie has dominated more experienced hitters since signing with the Indians as the 42nd overall pick in the 2015 amateur draft. At this point in his career, McKenzie projects to becoming a #2 starter in the Majors.

2. Francisco Mejia, C
Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: MLB
One could argue that Mejia could or should be listed above McKenzie. Many rank Mejia above McKenzie. They are currently the only two Tier 1 prospects in the organization, and each has a high ceiling. Mejia, of course, captured the national spotlight in 2016 with his 50 game hitting streak, the longest in the minors in 62 years. He got a brief look in Cleveland in 2017 with 13 ABs. He hit .297 with AA Akron with an OPS of .835. He hit well in the Arizona Fall League (.365 with a .873 OPS). Mejia is a switch hitter who makes great contact, striking out only 53 times last season. His defensive skills have improved with error and passed rates lowered in ’17. The Indians have also started working Mejia at 3B. If he is able to become a reasonably strong fielding Third Baseman, it will certainly enhance his ability to find playing time in Cleveland. 2018 represents an opportunity for Mejia to make additional strides with the Indians, and perhaps offer a significant contribution to the big club.

Tier 2

3. Bobby Bradley, 1B
Age: 21
2017 Highest Level: AA
Bradley slugged 23 home runs and knocked in 89 for AA Akron last year, following up his 2016 campaign with Lynchburg (A+) when he hit 29 deep flies with 102 RBI. He reduced his strikeouts in ’17 to 122 in 467 Abs, down from 2016’s 170 in 485. 2018 will be about reducing that number even further without sacrificing the power. Bradley also needs to work on improving his ability to hit left handed pitching before he has a chance to reach the big leagues.

4. Nolan Jones, 3B
Age: 19
2017 Highest Level: Short Season A
The Indians’ 2016 2nd round pick impressed in 2017 slashing .317/.430/.492. He is expected to fill out (currently 6’4 & 185) and improve upon his power numbers (4 home runs in 218 ABs with Mahoning Valley in ’17). He has drawn praise for his ability to manage the strike zone and has outstanding bat speed. He has very limited range at Third Base and could eventually be moved to 1B. Expect Jones to take positive steps up the organizational ladder in 2018 & 19.

5. Shane Bieber, SP
Age: 22
2017 Highest Level:  AA
Bieber’s remarkable ability to command the strike zone resulted in 162 strikeouts with only 10 walks issued in 173 innings between A, A+, and AA ball in 2017. He allowed only 8 HRs as well. The 2016 4th Round Pick from UC Santa Barbara finished the year with a combined ERA of 2.86. He is able to throw all secondary pitches (curve, change-up, and slider) for strikes, and velocity on his fastball increased to 90-94 in ’17. If Bieber’s 2018 season resembles what happened in ’17, it won’t be long before he appears in Cleveland.

6. Yu-Cheng Chang, SS
Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: AA
Chang has an excellent power bat (24 HRs in 2017) for a middle infielder. He is a serviceable defender at shortstop, but is clearly blocked in Cleveland. Not a tremendous defensive SS, he could develop into a utility role with the Tribe, or be offered to other clubs in a trade. Chang will be working to improve upon his ability to get on base (.220 batting average and .317 on base pct). To do so, he must reduce his strikeouts (134 in 440 AB).

7. Willi Castro, SS
Age: 20
2017 Highest Level:  A+
Castro slashed .290/.337/.424 at A+ Lynchburg last year. The 6’1 165 switch hitter from Puerto Rico also stole 19 bases. He has the physical tools to remain a shortstop, but must further develop his defensive skills to stay there (25 errors each of the past two seasons).

8. George Valera, OF
Age: 16
2017 Highest Level:  N/A
Some may think I’m insane to list an untested player this highly, but given the skill set Valera possesses, I could not rationalize placing him in Tier 3. Though born and raised in Queens, NY, Valera was rated the #5 international prospect when signed by the Indians for $1.3M in 2017. He has been compared to a young Robinson Cano. With his smooth left handed swing, Valera has good power and hits to all parts of the park. Expect Valera to appear at or near the top of all prospect lists within the next couple years.

Tier 3

9. Aaron Civale, SP
Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: A+
In 2017, Civale struck out 141 and walked only 14 in 164.2 innings between Lake County (A) and Lynchburg (A+). Civale has walked 14 hitters. He features an outstanding slider and keeps the ball low in the zone, resulting in lots of groundball outs. Civale was a 3rd Round pick in the 2016 draft, our of Northeastern University.

10. Will Benson, OF
Age: 19
2017 Highest Level: SS

I like Benson more than most. The 14th overall pick in the 2016 draft, and at 6’5 & 225, Benson is an elite athlete. He struggled with his long swing 2017, resulting in 80 Ks in just 202 AB. If he can make the necessary adjustment so his swing, Benson has a great chance to rise rapidly through the rankings/ He is so big and strong (compared to an athletic Frank Thomas, and a bigger Jason Heyward) that he could shorten his swing and lose none of his power. At Mahoning Valley (SS) in ’17, Benson slashed .238/.347/.475. His speed and athleticism enabled him to steal seven bases in just eight attempts.

11. Tyler Freeman, SS
Age: 18
2017 Highest Level: Rookie
The Tribe’s compensation round pick in 2017 (71st player selected), Freeman performed well in the 2017 Arizona Rookie League. He hits very well to the opposite field. He slashed .297/.364/.414 in 128 AB in ’17. Freeman has a line drive bat, and is expected to hit for average with gap power. He may eventually be moved to 2B.

12. Conner Capel, OF
Age: 20
2017 Highest Level: Low A
After hitting no home runs in the 2016 Arizona Rookie League (153 ABs), Capel surprised all with 22 dingers at Lake County of the Midwest League. To improve, Capel must learn to cut down on strikeouts (108 Ks while walking only 43 times in 439 AB) and learn to better utilize his tremendous speed. He stole 15 bases in ’17 but was thrown out 10 times.

13. Greg Allen, OF
Age: 24
2017 Highest Level: MLB
Allen experienced a difficult season at AA Akron. Almost two months of his season was lost to injury, and he saw his OPS drop from .825 in 2016 to just .700 in ’17. Nevertheless, his outstanding defense and excellent base running skills helped earn him a late season call up to Cleveland, where he appeared in 25 games, hitting .229 in his 35 At Bats. His ability in CF will provide Allen with a shot at spending additional time with the big club this season.

14. Mitch Longo, OF
Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: A+
Longo is a guy who seems to get no respect. He is rarely referenced on any prospect sheets, and I’ve never seen his valued this highly. In 2017, the former 14th Round Draft pick slashed .361/.431/.530 at Lake County. When he was promoted to High A Lynchburg, all he did was hit .563 in his limited time there. He was successful in 20 of his 21 steal attempts. No one seems to fully appreciate his talents. No one seems to think he has a chance of reaching the Majors, but if Longo continues to hit as he has since coming out of Ohio University, he may surprise all of his doubters.

15. Quentin Holmes, OF
Age: 18
2017 Highest Level: Rookie
Despite his struggle sat the plate in 2017, the Indians still have big expectations for their top 2017 draft pick (55 overall). Quentin Holmes slashed only .182/.220/.289 in his 159 Rookie League At Bats. He also struck out 61 times while walking only 8 times. Holmes is far too talented to not improve those numbers in a dramatic way. He has been compared to Adam Jones, and is one of the fastest humans playing baseball. His speed is off the charts (3.99 seconds home to first & 6.15 60 yard dash).

16. Eric Haase, C
Age: 25
2017 Highest Level: AAA
The 25 year old Haase may have turned a corner in his career in 2017. After slashing .208/.265/.438 with AA Akron in 2016, Haase exploded with 27 HR and a slash line of .260/.352/.578 in ’17 with Akron + two games with AAA Columbus. Haase has been invited to open the Spring Training season with the big club, but will likely to open the regular season in Columbus. If he continues his 2017 ways, he may be asked to join the Tribe before season’s end.

17. Ryan Merritt, LHP
Age: 25
2017 Highest Level: MLB
Merritt has a shot at going north to Cleveland when Spring Training concludes. He was simply outstanding in 2017. Primarily with AAA Columbus, Merritt posted an 11-5 record, a 3.00 ERA, and registered 89 Ks compared to only 26 walks. He then threw 20 2/3 earnings with Cleveland, winning two games with an ERA of 1.74. The 25 year old’s opportunity is now. He must impress in Arizona in February and March in order to join the Indians in April.

18. Brady Aiken, LHP
Age: 21
2017 Highest Level: Low A
Another former top prospect that the Indians hope gain regain his previous luster is Brady Aiken. Once the very top pick in the draft, Aiken has struggled since coming back from Tommy John surgery. He threw 132 2017 innings, walking 101 batters while fanning 89. His ERA was 4.77, and his WHIP was 1.78. The only good news was that Aiken remained healthy throughout the season while throwing for Low A Lake County. Interestingly, Aiken allowed two or fewer earned runs in 16 of his 25 starts last year. This gives hope to all rooting for Aiken that he may be able turn those numbers around in 2018.

19. Julian Merryweather, RHP
Age: 26
2017 Highest Level: AAA
Another Spring Training invite is Julian Merryweather. Merryweather was very solid at AA Akron (3.38 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 52 Ks and 10 BB in 50.2 innings), but was hit hard when promoted to Columbus (6.57 & 1.67 in 78 IP). He is likely headed back to the Columbus Clippers where he will look to produce as he did for Akron in ’17.

20. Jean Carlos Mejia, RHP
Age: 21
2017 Highest Level: Low A
Small sample size, but remarkable start for the 21 year old Mejia. I’m reluctant to list a Reliever this high, but in 37 innings between rookie ball and Low A Lake County, Mejia struck out 50 while issuing only 10 free passes. His combined ERA was 1.22, and his WHIP a microscopic 0.74. In 22 2/3 innings at Lake County, Mejia allowed only six hits, and gave up no earned runs. He converted 9 save opportunities.

21. Elijah Morgan, RHP
Age: 21
2017 Highest Level: SS
Morgan was outstanding at SS Mahoning Valley in his pro debut. Coming out of Gonzaga as the club’s 8th round pick in the 2017 draft, Morgan threw 35 innings, going 3-2 with a ERA of 1.03 and a WHIP of 0.94. He walked only 9 batters while striking out 58.

22. Johnathan Rodriguez, OF
Age: 18
2017 Highest Level: Rookie
Rodriguez was picked in the 3rd Round Pick in the 2017 Draft (#102 overall). He is a switch hitting OF from the Carlos Beltran Academy in Puerto Rico. He stands 6’3 and weighs 180. In 96 Rookie League At Bats, slashed .250/.381/.333. He’s a strong kid with great bat speed, and has a powerful arm from right field.





Tier 4

23. Shawn Morimando, LHP
Age: 24
2017 Highest Level: AAA
Morimando put up respectable numbers at AAA Columbus in ’17. He went 10-9 with a 4.41 ERA and a WHIP of 1.47. He struck out 128 batters and walked 57 in 159.1 innings. Morimando must keep the ball in the yard better in 2018. He gave up 22 dingers in ’17.

24. Oscar Gonzalez, OF
Age: 19
2017 Highest Level: SS
In 2016, Gonzalez slashed .303/.342/.566 in 40 games at the Rookie level. In 2017 at Mahoning Valley, those numbers were reduced to .283/.301/.388. He will likely be found in Lake County (Low A) in 2018.

25. Ernie Clement, 2B
Age: 21
2017 Highest Level: SS
2017 4th Round Pick Clement, from the University of Virginia, is a good contact hitter. He struck out only 12 times in 175 2017 AB at Mahoning Valley. Keep an eye on his development in 2018.

26. Gabriel Mejia, OF
Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: Low A
Mejia was a .300 hitter in each of his first 3 professional seasons but at Low A Lake County saw his numbers drop to .229/.286/.268 in 2017. He swiped 12 of 16 the bases he attempted to steal. I anticipate a return to the Midwest League for Mejia in 2018.

27. Sicnarf Loopstok, 1B
Age: 24
2017 Highest Level: A+
Loopstok had a slash line of .249/.346/.456 in 2017, and bashed 17 homers. It was far and away his impressive season since being drafted in 2013. Loopstok also helped his cause by playing in the field as catcher, first base, third base, and outfield.

28. Ka’ai Tom, OF
Age: 23
2017 Highest Level: A+
Tom was the Indians’ 5th round pick in 2015, coming out from the University of Kentucky. In 2017, while playing all three outfield positions for A+ Lynchburg, Tom scored 68 runs, knocked in 65 more, hit 10 HR, 7 triples, and stole 23 bases. Tom should get an opportunity to show what he can do at AA Akron in 2018.

29. Rob Kaminsky, LHP
Age: 23
2017 Highest Level: AA
Kaminsky was limited to just five innings pitched in 2017. Cleveland traded Brandon Moss to acquire Kaminsky from the Cardinals in 2015. He was a 1st Round Draft Pick back in 2013, and was once a Top 100 prospect. Hopefully, Kaminsky will regain his health and the talent that made him a top prospect will re-surface.

30. Gregori Vasquez, RHP
Age: 20
2017 Highest Level: SS
The young Vasquez dominated at Mahoning Valley with an ERA of 2.38 and a WHIP of 1.06. He struck out 57 batters and walked 13 in 75.2 innings of work.

31. Aaron Bracho, SS
Age: 16
2017 Highest Level: N/A
Bracho was signed for $1.5M, out of Venezuela, in July 2017. Scouts believe project him to become very solid hitter with good gap power. It is likely he will end up playing 2B.

32. Mike Papi, OF
Age: 25
2017 Highest Level: AAA
Papi attained an OPS of .756 in 2017 while hitting 12 HR for AA Akron and AAA Columbus. The versatile Papi played 1B, LF, and RF.

33. Luke Wakamatsu, SS
Age: 21
2017 Highest Level: Low A
The 21 year old switch hitting SS hit 12 HR, stole 13 bases and posted a .697 OPS in his first professional season while at Low A Lake County. He has excellent defensive skills at his position.

34. Eric Stamets, SS
Age: 25
2017 Highest Level: AAA
Stamets has a chance to become a solid utility player for the Tribe. In ’17, he hit 16 HR, stole 10/10 bases, and had an OPS of .798. Stamets played defensively at 2B, 3B, and SS.

35. Dorssys Paulino, OF
Age: 23
2017 Highest Level: AA
Paulino spent 2017 with AA Akron. He slashed .257/.349/.365. These numbers were down from Paulino had accomplished in 2016 while at the A level. A second year in Akron appears likely for Paulino.

36. Marcos Gonzalez, SS
Age: 17
2017 Highest Level: DSL
Gonzalez has posted solid numbers (.691 OPS) in the Dominican Summer League. In 2018, he may get a chance to show what he can do on American soil.

37. Cameron Hill, P
Age 23
2017 Highest Level: AAA
Hill performed well in 2017, going 4-4 with a 3.18 ERA and 1.14 WHIP with 50 Ks and 16 walks in 62.1 at AA Akron. He was promoted to Columbus at the season’s end and will probably be pitching for the Clippers this coming season.





Tier 5

38. Sam Haggerty, 2B
Age: 23
2017 Highest Level: A+
Haggerty spent all of 2017 at High-A Lynchburg and improved on his 2016 Low-A performance.  The stat that stands out is his leading the Carolina League in SB with 49 in 62 attempts in only 112 games.

39. Jodd Carter, OF
Age 21
2017 Highest Level: A+
The young Hawaiian outfielder had a nice ’17 campaign at A+ Lynchburg slashing .296/.326/.390 with 11 HR and 14 SB.

40. Li-Jen Chu, C
Age: 23
2017 Highest Level: Low A
Chu surprised many with his 2017 performance, .269/.338/.426 with 17 HR in 465 AB. We’ll see if he can repeat these numbers against a higher level of pitching in 2018.

41. Erik Gonzalez, SS
Age: 26
2017 Highest Level: AAA
Gonzalez, now 26, remains on the prospect list despite his age. His skills as a utility infielder, and his slash line of .256/.286/.431 for AAA Columbus are just enough to keep him on this list.

42. Logan Ice, C
Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: Low A
Ice hit 11 long flies in 2017. His ability to hit from each side of the plate as a Catcher helps his name to continue to appear on lists such as this one. But he must improve his slash of .228/.320/.370 for his name to remain there.

43. Ulysses Cantu, 1B
Age: 19
2017 Highest Level: SS
While at Mahoning Valley, Cantu slashed .254/.317/.359 in 209 AB. He has raw power but his lack of mobility will make it tough for him to advance to the majors unless he learns to hit well enough to force the Tribe or another team to wish to employ him as a DH.

44. Dalbert Siri, RHP
Age: 22
2017 Highest Level: Low A
Siri’s has stuff that is difficult to hit, evidenced by his 64 K in 40.2 2017 innings. However, he also walked 26 batters. When promoted this season, and facing more experienced hitters, he must learn to control the strike zone if he hopes to move up on lists such as this one.

45. Argenis Angulo, RHP
Age: 23
2017 Highest Level: A+
As with Haggerty, maybe a bit old for High-A but Angulo definitely impressed last year in Lynchburg’s bullpen, closing out 15 of 17 games, adding 68 K in 55 IP. Will be interesting to see if Angulo gets an opportunity to pitch at the Double-A level in 2018.

46. Mark Mathias, 2B
Age: 23
2017 Highest Level: AA
Mathias endured a shoulder injury throughout much of the 2017 season. He managed only 2014 At Bats with an OPS of .636. In 2016, Mathias slashed .747. Hopefully, he stays healthy year and resumes his climb up the minor league ladder.

47. James Karinchak, RHP
Age: 21
2017 Highest Level: SS
The Indians selected Karinchak with their 9th round pick in the 2017 draft. His fastball can reach 96, and he also possesses a good 12 to 6 curve. In ’17 at Mahoning Valley, Karinchak struck out 31 while walking 9 in 23.1 innings. His ERA was 5/79 and his WHIP 1.67.

48. Tyler Krieger, 2B
Age: 23
2017 Highest Level: AA
The memory of Krieger’s impressive 2016 pro debut (.299 between Lake County and Lynchburg) faded a bit in 2017 as he slashed only .225/.303/.337 for AA Akron. He will likely get another chance to attack AA pitching in 2018, hopefully with better results.

49. Juan Hillman, LHP
Age: 20
2017 Highest Level: Low A
Hillman, the Tribe’s 2nd Round Pick in 2015 has seen his ERA rise each year from 4.13 to 4.43 to 6.08. He has a great change-up, but must command the strike zone much better if he is to advance in the Cleveland system. Hillman also allowed 22 HR in just 135.2 innings worked.

50. Emmanuel Tapia, 1B
Age: 21
2017 Highest Level: Low A
Tapia only hit .213 for Lake County in 2017 after 2 seasons at Short Season Mahoning Valley, but he did mash 29 home runs.   His 205 total bases was 10th in the league, but he struck out 180 times and that’s not going to help him advance through the system.

*Editor note: Yonathan Mendoza and Ronny Rodriguez, both originally included on this list, have been removed since they became free agents following the 2017 season.  Sam Haggerty and Argenis Angulo have been added in their place.

3 Comments

  1. FYI #39 Yonathan Mendoza signed with Seattle in November as free agent. #34 Ronny Rodriguez signed with Detroit in December as free agent.

    IMHO Sean Brady (LHP) and Leandro Linares (RHP) should be part of the list.

    • Donovan & we noticed that and it has been fixed. Both Mendoza and Rodriguez have been removed from the list. Added to replace them are #38 Sam Haggerty and #45 Argenis Angulo. Thanks!

  2. Donovan,
    I just joined a 16-team dynasty league and have an awful team. We can have up to 50 minor leaguers so the top dozen or so of the Indians’ prospects are taken. Was curious what you thought about ceiling and ETA of Civale and Morgan. Also see Hentges listed in Roto’s top 200 but not on the list here. I know this stuff is highly subjective but is that because of his TJ last year? Any other under-the-radar guys you like a lot?
    thanks,
    jeff

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