Baseball America is maybe the best-known prospect evaluation organization in the world, with a well deserved reputation for knowing their stuff. Among their annual projects is a ranking of each minor league's top talents. That prospect recently got underway, starting with the short-season leagues. The New York-Penn League list is not yet out, so we can't yet know which (if any) of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers will be ranked, but the Arizona League list is out, and no team did as well as the Indians on that list.
Here are the top five players from the Arizona League:
- Alex Jackson, of Mariners
- Grant Holmes, rhp, Dodgers
- Bobby Bradley, 1b, Indians
- Justus Sheffield, lhp, Indians
- Spencer Adams, rhp, White Sox
Not only are the Indians the only team with two of the top five prospects (keep in mind, 13 MLB teams have an affiliate in the Arizona League), but they're also the first team to have a third prospect listed, with Yu-Cheng Chang coming in at #12.
Bradley was Tribe's 3rd round pick, and right now it's a little hard to believe he fell that far. 18 years old, he hit .361/.426/.652, with 8 HR and 50 RBI in 39 games. He won the Arizona League's triple crown while leading the team to a championship.
An excerpt from the full writeup at BA:
The lefthanded-hitting Bradley made consistent hard contact, with above-average bat speed and impressive power to all fields. He is strong yet athletic for his size and could get even stronger as he matures.
Sheffield was the #31 overall pick this year, the compensation pick for losing Ubaldo Jimenez. His 4.79 ERA in Arizona wasn't impressive, but his 12.6 strikeouts per 9 innings were, and scouts clearly like what they see from the 18-year-oldsouthpaw.
His heater is an above-average pitch that comes out of his hand effortlessly, and he complements it with a changeup which projects as above-average. His curveball needs work but also could be an above-average pitch in time.
Chang, an 18-year-old shortstop, was signed in 2013 as an amateur free agent from Taiwan (for $500,000). He hit .346/.420/.566 in Arizona, placing second behind only Bradley in OPS. He spent almost as much time at third base as he did at shortstop, and there's a good chance he ends up being moved there fulltime in the next year or two.
Chang quickly became a favorite among AZL scouts for his refined skills, especially at the plate, where he showed a compact, quick swing, a good feel for the barrel and more power than expected with a pull-heavy approach.
None of these guys are going to arrive in Cleveland next year or the year after that (and probably not for another couple years beyond that), but they're doing very well for their age, and could be in Lake County by the end of 2015.