Baseball Prospectus released their Top 101 Prospects list for 2016 yesterday as a preview for their annual Essential Guide and it featured only two Cleveland Indians prospects: Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier. Seeing these two on the list is no surprise, but it may come as at least a bit of a disappointment that no other Tribe farmhands made the cut.
Zimmer comes in at No. 23 overall on the list, just behind Pittsburgh Pirates outfield prospect Austin Meadows. Baseball Prospectus loves his polish and potential, although they note he does not have the ceiling of others near the 23 slot. Here is their full analysis:
Zimmer struggled in his first taste of Double-A this season, but the Indians' 2014 first-round pick can take some positives away from his first full year as a pro. His defense in center field improved to the point where he may be at least average there over the middle term, and his solid-average power continued to show up in games, even against more advanced arms. While he doesn't have the vaulted ceiling of some of the other prospects in this area of the list, Zimmer is a polished player on both offense and defense, and all of his tools grade out at average or better. If he continues to improve in center field, his broad base of skills would make him a first-division starter there, and if forced to a corner, his plus arm and sufficient pop would still qualify him to play every day.
The only other Indians player to make the list, Clint Frazier, lands at 53 overall. Frazier’s biggest drawback remains his swing-and-miss rate, but his bat speed and raw power make him a tantalizing prospect worthy of any top list. Also worth noting in their full analysis, which can be seen below, they managed to sneak a "ginger" in there as a natural part of the breakdown. Well played, BP. Well played.
If you remember nothing else about Frazier, highly regarded 2013 prep bat, you probably remember that he had near-elite bat speed and bright red hair. In 2016, he still swings a fast stick and is still very ginger. The plus-plus bat speed and lift from his swing plane translated into real over-the-fence power in the Carolina League last season, and he cut his strikeout rate to a more acceptable level. There is still too much swing and miss in the zone from Frazier, and questions linger about his pitch recognition and whether he will be able to play center field in the majors, but oh man does that bug-zapper bat speed seduce.
One strange thing about the rankings is that Frazier was not even the No. 2 Indians prospect, according to Baseball Prospectus’ own rankings released earlier this month. Instead, they have 2015 first-round pick Brady Aiken as the second prospect behind Bradley Zimmer. Many found it odd that Aiken was the No. 2 prospect to begin with, so it makes sense that Frazier would make the Top 101 list over him, but it makes his No. 2 status even stranger.
Outside of Aiken, I thought Justus Sheffield or even Bobby Bradley had a small chance of making the list. Both of those players made huge strides in 2015; if they keep up the production they could easily make it next year. You can only ignore 20+ minor-league home runs so many times.