MLB.com has finally updated their Top 30 prospects list for the Cleveland Indians, and it features a certain power-hitting first baseman as the No. 3 prospect behind Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier. That first baseman is Bobby Bradley, obviously, who got everyone's attention last year with an Indians organization-leading 27 home runs. Following that, this is a pretty solid list.
Brady Aiken comes in at No. 4 on MLB.com's list, the same place he was last year. Aiken is now the organization's top pitching prospect, with Rob Kaminsky dropping to No. 10. Last season, after coming over from the St. Louis Cardinals, MLB.com had Kaminsky as the Indians top pitching prospect and No. 3 overall prospect. That was a bit of a surprise to see him so high, given the amount of talented arms in the system, and somewhere around No. 10 is a much more accurate placement.
Other pitchers now ahead of Kaminsky include Mike Clevinger, Triston McKenzie, and Justus Sheffield. Clevinger took a huge leap from his No. 15 position in last year's rankings, all the way up to No. 7 in this lastest list. MLB.com scouts love his fastball and slider combination. They note that the change in Clevinger's delivery since coming over from the Los Angeles Angels as the biggest factor in his rise to the Top 10. Clevinger could easily debut sometime in 2016.
Justus Sheffield, now rated as the Indians' No. 5 prospect, did not move up far from the No. 6 designation last season, but he had a great year in 2015, with a 3.31 ERA in 26 games playing in Class-A ball.
The highest-rated catcher in the organization, Francisco Mejia, rose from No. 11 last year to No. 8 this year. Mejia, a 20-year-old switch-hitter, already has good power potential from both sides of the plate. His defense behind the plate, according to MLB.com, rates as at least average. But there is room for improvement.
The biggest rise is shortstop Yu-Cheng Chang, who barely made last year's list at No. 29 but is ranked as the Indians' 13th overall prospect this season -- second-highest shortstop behind Erik Gonzalez (No. 12). Chang is a bit of jack-of-all-trades type of player; while he does not have a particular tool that stands out, he is good at just about everything. He has played a mix of shortstop and third base in the minors. If he has any chance of making it on the Indians, it will likely be playing in the hot corner, as Francisco Lindor has shortstop locked down for the foreseeable future.
Another big jump is third baseman Yandy Diaz, who went from No. 28 last season, to No. 14 in these rankings.
Now that those pesky words are out of the way, let's break down some charts. Here is when the Top 30 prospects are expected to debut, according to MLB.com's own ETAs. Listed below each year is the player(s) expected to debut, as well as their position and ranking in MLB.com's list in parenthesis.
|M. Clevinger (RHP, #7)||B. Zimmer (OF, #1||B. Bradley (1B, #4)||B. Aiken (LHP, #4)|
|T. Naquin (OF, #9)||C. Frazier (OF, #2)||J. Sheffield (LHP, #5)||T. McKenzie (RHP, #6)|
|E. Gonzalez (SS, #12)||R. Kaminsky (LHP, #10)||F. Mejia (C, #8)||J. Hillman (LHP, #11)|
|Y. Diaz (3B, #14)||M. Papi (OF, #18)||Y. Chang (SS, #13)||L. Wakamatsu (SS, #20)|
|A. Plutko (RHP, #15)||N. Rodriguez (1B, #19)||M. Mathias (2B, #17)||C. Shane (RHP, #30)|
|S. Morimando (LHP, #16)||L. Lugo (LHP, #26)||W. Castro (SS, #21)|
|S. Armstrong (RHP, #24)||T. Krieger (SS, #22)|
|J. Ramsey (OF, #27)||G. Allen (OF, #23)|
|R. Merritt (LHP, #28)||D. Baker (RHP, #25)|
|D. Paulino (OF, #29)|
The best thing to keep in mind here is that these are rough estimates, at best. You never know what kind of setback a player will have, or when a given player will surge ahead of his projection. James Ramsey was initially projected to debut 2015, but his poor showing in Triple-A stopped that from happening, despite the Indians desperately needing another outfielder or two throughout the season.
Yandy Diaz may have an ETA of 2016, but him actually seeing the majors in 2016 is questionable, especially given the fact that the Indians recently signed Juan Uribe. Diaz should start the year in Triple-A, however, and if he proves to be too much for that level of competition maybe he will get a mid- to late-season call-up. Crazier things have happened.
The immediate takeaway from this ETA chart is that 2017 is going to be a hell of a year. Three Top 10 players are expected to debut, including 2/3 of a potentially great outfield. And surely, at least a couple of those pitchers with a 2016 ETA -- Mike Clevinger, Adam Plutko, Shawn Morimando, and Ryan Merritt -- are not going to see major-league player time in 2016; meaning they could be coming in 2017 instead.
Next, let's break down groups of players by position, starting with the outfielders; arguably the strongest single position in the Tribe farm system. If you did not already know, most scouting -- including from MLB.com -- is done on a 20-80 scale where 20-30 is below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average, and 70-80 is well above average.
Looking at the Indians outfield, they essentially have a crop of average to above-average players. The big thing that stands out is Frazier's hit power rated at 60, which is actually downgraded from the 65 he received in last year's report. Frazier's tremendous bat speed is his best asset, and it lends itself to a lot of home run potential, if only Frazier can trim down his strikeouts -- he whiffed 125 times in 2015.
Next up, infielders.
If you want a general idea of how hard it is to have a high rating in this scale, keep in mind that Bobby Bradley only has a 60 in power. Francisco Mejia has a tremendous arm behind the plate, which shows in his 70 rating. With the exception of Yandy Diaz, Willi Castro, and Tyler Krieger, this is a pretty solid group of power hitters, as well.
And finally, pitchers.
Mike Clevinger -- who went from being ranked 15th last year to 7th this year -- received a five-point boost to his slider and overall ratings. The two pitchers closest to being major league ready, Clevinger and Plutko, are both right-handers, but the rest of this list is very lefty-heavy. Aiken, Hillman, and McKenzie were the Tribe's top three picks in last year's draft and they all grade out with average to above average fastballs.
The ratings also show something we already know about Adam Plutko -- he does not have the greatest stuff, but he controls what he has extremely well. Last season he walked only 28 batters in 27 starts between High-A and Double-A. He is participating in big league Spring Training camp, but will likely start the season in Double-A or Triple-A.
As a bonus here is a collage of all the best zoomed-in, out of context faces that MLB.com uses for player profiles because I find them hilarious for some reason.