Over the past two months, the Let’s Go Tribe community has discussed, debated,
yelled at each other, and voted on who should be the top 20 Cleveland Indians prospect for the upcoming season. A couple came down to tiebreaker votes, a few were total blowouts, and almost no one wanted to see James Ramsey make the list. Regardless, the list is now complete so let’s take a look at what we are left with.
Alongside each prospect will be where Baseball Prospectus (BP), Baseball America (BA), Minor League Ball (MiLB), and have each prospect ranked on their respective lists (MLB Pipeline will be added when they finally get around to releasing their 2016 list), as well as a quick write-up on the player, and/or a select quote from the comments sections. Because the majority of you provided great insight, and I would hate for it to be wasted alone in the comment section of a months-old post.
1. Bradley Zimmer, 23, OF (BP: 1, BA: 1, MiLB: 1)
2015 (AA): 214 PA, 6 HR, 12 SB, .219/.313/.374, 102 wRC+
A no-brainer as the Indians No. 1 prospect, Bradley Zimmer could make his major-league debut as early as 2017. In the Baseball Prospectus annual, his ceiling and floor are jokingly compared Grady Sizemore. In other words, best case scenario: He is Sizemore 2.0. Worst case scenario, he is Sizemore 2.0. I'll take that.
2. Clint Frazier, 21, OF (BP: 3, BA; 2, MiLB: 2)
2015 (A+): 588 PA, 16 HR, 15 SB, .285/.377/.465, 147 wRC+
Clint Frazier was overwhelmingly chosen as our No. 2 Indians prospect, winning 65 percent of the vote. The fiery red head does not have a bat quite as refined as Zimmer, but his bat speed and rocket arm in the outfield make him another tantalizing outfield piece for the Indians.
3. Mike Clevinger, 25, RHP (BP: n/a, BA: 7, MiLB: 3)
2015 (AA): 158.0 IP, 2.73 ERA, 3.02 FIP, 22.7 K%, 6.3 BB%
Donald Dinnie, on choosing Clevinger over Brady AIken:
I can say that because Clevinger has excelled at the highest level in the minors, because he has the pro body and major league pitches, and because Aiken isn’t a sure thing to recover 100%. Admitted that TJ is common and that it’s been successful in the majority of cases, it’s still not a sure thing. Aiken has pitched one inning since 2014. The only way that Aiken can be as good as Clevinger is now is if he makes a full recovery and makes it to AAA without any more setbacks and with normal progress. If that happens, I’d be thrilled. Remember, Clevinger has improved beyond projections as a pro. Aiken would have to be as good as he’s been projected just to keep up. Maybe I’m just higher on Clevinger than most. A prospect that is major league ready, projects to be a strong #3-SP or a good #2-SP (think Danny Salazar), has to be considered a better prospect than any just out of high school pitcher. Jameson Taillon was/is every bit as good a prospect as Aiken and the Pirates have been offering him in trade discussons. Adam Miller was arguably better than both and look at what happened to him.
4: Bobby Bradley, 19, 1B (BP: 5, BA: 5, MiLB: 4)
I voted for Bradley. My reasons: He is showing Stanton-like power numbers, though in A ball, at the age of 19. That is something we have needed for 15 years now and while he does K A LOT, he still hits for decent average. Some scouts are saying by the end of 2016 he could be the biggest power hitter in the minors. I think his future impact will be much more valuable to the team than Clevinger (who is my #4) because our dire need isn’t pitching, but extreme power. I think his ceiling is higher than Clevinger’s, too, something like 40+ HR, .270/.370/.600. Put him between Zimmer and Frazier and you’ve got one of the best middle of the orders in baseball.
5: Rob Kaminsky, 21, LHP (BP: 6, BA: 9, MiLB: 5)
2015 (Cardinals A+): 94.2 IP, 2.09 ERA, 2.51 FIP, 20.1% K%, 7.1 BB%
Rob Kaminsky could very well have the best curveball in all the minor leagues, depending on which scout you ask. His ceiling is not the highest in the Indians farm system, but he still profiles as a middle-of-the-rotation starter. Not bad for the half season of Brandon Moss he cost the Indians.
Zaza Braggins, on choosing Kaminsky over Justus Sheffield:
[...] I don’t disagree with you about the importance of scouting, and that’s why I have such a high opinion of Kaminsky. If it were just based on stats, I’d rank him much lower, because I don’t buy his style of getting outs translating as well as Sheff’s. I’ve seen older scouting stuff for both Sheff and Kaminsky, including the Kiley McDaniel stuff giving them identical overall scores that I mentioned above. I haven’t seen much detailed stuff produced since the end of the season though. Only John Sickels’ list, which had Kaminsky and Sheffield as 5/6 with identical grades. Dan Farnsworth’s long installment on the Tribe season should be coming out fairly soon on Fangraphs- he’s going alphabetically by city and just released the Cubs’ stuff today.
I’m really not trying to stoke a Kaminsky vs Sheffield war here, and hope you won’t keep interpreting my observations as such.
6: Justus Sheffield, 19, LHP (BP: 4, BA: 4, MiLB: 6)
2015 (A): 127.2 IP, 3.31 ERA, 2.99 FIP, 24.9 K%, 6.9 BB%
It only took Justus Sheffield one year in the minors to capture the attention of scouts. He has also gained the interested of the Let's Go Tribe community, enough for him to voted as the Indians' third pitching prospect in a close vote.
A vote for Sheffield is a vote for Justus!
7: Brady Aiken, 19, LHP (BP: 2, BA: 3, MiLB: 9)
While I personally would not have had Brady Aiken as the Tribe's No. 2 prospect as Baseball Prospectus had, I was a little surprised to see him so low on our (and Minor League Ball's) list. The Tommy John surgery is an obvious deterrent to many people, but if Aiken can come back healthy he will easily be one of the best in the Indians' system.
8: Tyler Naquin, 24, OF (BP: n/a, BA: 6, MiLB: 11)
2015 (AAA): 218 PA, 6 HR, 6 SB, .263/.353/.430, 127 wRC+
Tyler Naquin has potential as a solid fourth outfield option, but he will need to show some kind of power to be an everyday option. Baseball Prospectus projects Naquin to bat with a .248/.307/.374 slash if he were to make a major-league debut this year. However, a debut will open happen if he can stay healthy.
9: Adam Plutko, 24, RHP (BP: n/a, BA: n/a, MiLB: 10)
2015 (AA): 116.1 IP, 2.86 ERA, 3.37 FIP, 19.4 K%, 5.0 BB%
This is where things started to really get difficult in the voting. Adam Plutko, Yandy Diaz, and Triston McKenzie are all arguably worthy of a top-10 spot in our list, but space was running. Plutko ultimately won, and his polished arm could have an impact on the Indians as soon as this season. He will also be competing out of Spring Training as a non-roster invitee.
10: Triston McKenzie, 18, RHP (BP: 7, BA: 8, MiLB: 7)
2015 (R): 12.0 IP, 0.75 ERA, 1.73 FIP, 39.5 K%, 7.0 BB%
Rounding out our top 10 was Triston McKenzie, the lanky 18-year-old who the Tribe selected with their supplemental draft pick in 2015. At 18 and with a 6-foot-5, 165-pound frame, McKenzie has some growing to do, which could result in more velocity. He already has good control of his secondary pitches, which he utilized to overwhelm his opponents in rookie ball last season.
[...] Triston McKenzie: Like Justus Sheffield last year, McKenzie fails to crack my top 10 simply because of his youth and lack of track record. Drafted 25 picks after Brady Aiken, the Tribe liked the 17 year old McKenzie well enough to offer him a signing bonus of $2.3M ($800k overslot, just $200K short of Aiken’s bonus) to lure him away from a commitment to Vanderbilt. And like Sheffield, he signed. Man, the Vandy staff must hate us! And there is a lot to like in young Triston: at 6’5 and a reed-thin 160 lbs, he already commands and delivers a low 90’s fastball towards the plate with a smooth delivery that seems remarkably compact considering his length. He supplements that with a tight curve and a nascent changeup. Given his athleticism and intelligence, pitching coaches look at those long levers that are near spectrally apparent in McKenzie’s windup and project easy power as he matures, and it is that ceiling that prompted the extra bonus money. McKenzie would be ranked a little lower if he did not prove that he is already advanced for his age, dominating AZL hitters in short post-draft outings, punching out 17 and walking 3 in 12 innings, giving up mere 4 hits. With a #1 starter ceiling, McKenzie’s job for now is simply to put on weight and absorb instruction as well as calories. An outside shot to make the Lake County rotation in April, more likely he stays in extended and joins the MV or LC rotation later in the year.