Were it not for some guy by the name of Francisco Lindor, the Cleveland Indians could possibly be turning to Erik Gonzalez as their future shortstop. It would not be quite the bright future that the Tribe now enjoy with Lindor, but there are worse fates than being stuck with Gonzalez.
Gonzalez is losing some of that new prospect sheen at 24 years old, but he has the defensive ability to still be a piece in a bigger trade or even a future utility infielder for the Indians similar to Jose Ramirez. Although he showed some offensive ability in 2014 when he hit for a .357/.390/.473 slash (141 wRC+), he has never gotten on base at a prolific rate in his minor league career. He will need to rely mostly on making solid contact and the ball finding gaps when he reaches the majors unless he suddenly gains the ability to draw more walks.
The Indians added Gonzalez to their 40-man roster back in November of 2013 in order to protect him from the Rule 5 draft that year.
John Sickels of Minor League Ball had Gonzalez ranked as the Indians No 19 prospect, just ahead of Shawn Morimando. Gonzalez received a C+ grade from Sickels, who praised his defense at shortstop, but noted his poor approach at the plate as his biggest limiting factor.
WHO SHOULD BE THE NO. 18 PROSPECT FOR 2016?
(ages listed are for 2016 season)
Jesus Aguilar, 1B (Age 25)
2015 (AAA): 570 PA, 19, 0 SB, .267/.332/.439, 121 wRC+
Had short stints at the major-league level in 2014 and 2015, but still considered a prospect as he not exceeded 130 at-bats. Shows great power potential but has yet to put it all together in the majors.
Mark Mathias, 2B (Age 21)
2015 (A-): 294 PA, 2 HR, 5SB, .282/.382/.408, 137 wRC+
Tore up Low-A ball in his first season since being drafted out of Cal Poly in the 2015 draft. Great plate approach but defense is still an unknown.
Mike Papi, OF (Age 23)
2015 (A+): 505 PA, 4 HR, 6 SB, .236/.362/.356, 117 wRC+
Supplemental pick of the 2014 draft who showed a great approach at the plate after a slow start in 2015.
James Ramsey, OF (Age 26)
2015 (AAA): 503 PA, 12 HR, 3 SB, .243/.327/.382, 107 wRC+
Once a promising future outfield for the Indians (or at least a trade piece), but may be a dreaded "AAAA" player as he has struggled to make it out of Triple-A. Potential fourth outfielder who could debut as soon as 2016.
Ryan Merritt, LHP (Age 24)
2015 (AAA/AA): 171.0 IP, 4.05 ERA, 3.22 FIP, 15.6% SO, 2.8% BB
Has been a success at each level despite perceived limitations. May not be a top-of-the-rotation starter, but looking more and more like an MLB starter, and that's worth something, right?