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MLB Draft 2016: Cleveland Indians middle infielder system depth

We continue our MLB Draft 2016 coverage with a look at the depth of middle infielders in the Indians farm system.

And I would've gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for that meddling Francisco Lindor!
And I would've gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for that meddling Francisco Lindor!
Rob Tringali/Getty Images

Currently, the Cleveland Indians have two incredible players in the middle infield, and they look to be there for years to come. Jason Kipnis, the All-Star second baseman, signed a six-year extension with the Tribe back in 2014, and rising superstar Francisco Lindor, the defensive wizard manning shortstop, made his debut in the majors just last season. It's hard to imagine any prospects upsetting this duo, especially if they both keep playing well. Both players were drafted by the Cleveland Indians (Kipnis in the 2nd round of the 2009 draft and Lindor in the 1st round of the 2011 draft) and look to be franchise players for the foreseeable future.

Kipnis and Lindor are prime examples of how well the Cleveland front office has done in terms of identifying and drafting talent across the diamond. In recent drafts, the focus shifted away from the middle infield and towards the outfield and the pitching depth.

MLB Pipeline Top 30 prospect 2B/SS

#* Player Position Handedness Age Level Acquired ETA*
12 Erik Gonzalez SS Bats: R Throws: R 24 AAA Signed 8/26/08 (Dominican Republic) 2016
13 Yu-Cheng Chang SS Bats: R Throws: R 20 A+ Signed 6/3/13 (Taiwan) 2018
17 Mark Mathias 2B Bats: R Throws: R 21 A+ 2015 Draft, 3rd Round (93) 2018
20 Luke Wakamatsu SS Bats: S Throws: R 19 Rookie 2015 Draft, 20th Round (604) 2019
21 Willi Castro SS Bats: S Throws: R 19 A Signed 7/2/13 (Dominican Republic) 2018
22 Tyler Krieger SS Bats: S Throws: R 22 A 2015 Draft, 4th Round (124) 2018

*according to MLB Pipeline

In the 2015 draft, the Cleveland Indians didn't take a position player until the 3rd round when they took Mark Mathias. Tyler Krieger came next in the 4th round, but after that, it took all the way until the 16th round to draft another middle infielder. Between the emergence of Kipnis and Lindor as well as some international signings here and there, the Tribe hasn't placed an emphasis on drafting players for the 2B or SS position. The top MI prospect in the system currently is SS Erik Gonzalez, and he may have been up in Cleveland right now if he wasn't blocked by Francisco Lindor.

Of the players drafted in 2015, Tyler Krieger is doing the best as the 2B in Lake County. So far, he has slashed .323/.401/.414 in 152 plate appearances. He is a little old for A-ball, but it's encouraging to see him doing well in his first year of professional ball.

In addition to the draft picks from last season, the Tribe has also signed a couple of players internationally from the Dominican Republic as well as Taiwan. Willi Castro made his start in Lake County this year, and he's off to a solid start, slashing .285/.302/.424 in 150 plate appearances, whereas Yu-Cheng Chang is doing even better in Lynchburg, slashing .287/.344/.485 in 153 plate appearances.

It's not likely that either Kipnis or Lindor will be displaced anytime soon, but it is possible. It has been discussed (on these boards, at least) that Kipnis could potentially move positions in the future, which would open up a hole at 2B. But, with the emergence of Jose Ramirez as a potential everyday player, there are still players blocking the current MI prospects.

Other notable 2B/SS

Player Position Handedness Age Level
Yhoxian Medina 2B Bats: R Throws: R 26 AAA
Ivan Castillo SS Bats: S Throws: R 20 AA
Todd Hankins 2B Bats: R Throws: R 25 AA
Eric Stamets SS Bats: R Throws: R 24 AA
Ordomar Valdez 2B Bats: S Throws: R 22 AA
Claudio Bautista 2B Bats: R Throws: R 22 A+
Paul Hendrix SS Bats: R Throws: R 24 A+
Sam Haggerty 2B Bats: S Throws: R 21 A

Yhoxian Medina was drafted in the same year as Lindor, but he is 4 years older and is just now making it to Triple-A. The future for Medina, at least in Cleveland, doesn't look great in terms of making it to the majors as there are several players in front of him.

There's a fairly large surplus of middle infielders in Akron right now. Eric Stamets and Todd Hankins are both old for the Double-A level, and neither have really been able to adjust to Double-A pitching in order to make the jump to Triple-A. Ordomar Valdez, on the other hand, are both fairly young for AA, but neither has had enough playing time to determine whether or not they will continue to advance through the system.

Overall outlook

The Indians look like they may be lacking in the middle infield department, but that's more a product of their previous drafts working out extremely well. The Tribe may look to invest in some top-tier middle infield talent just to prepare for if/when Kipnis' contract expires. The team shouldn't need to worry about shortstop for a long, long time, and that's exactly what you would expect given Lindor's pedigree and, more importantly, how he has played thus far at the major league level (remember, he's only 22). Of course, you can never have too much pitching, so the Tribe may continue to stock their farm system with promising pitching prospects, but it wouldn't be surprising if they look to fill out the middle infield a bit come June.