If there was any position currently on the Cleveland Indians roster that could use a jolt of youthful energy, it would be the outfield. While the Tribe has one of the best left fielders in the game with Michael Brantley, the center field and right field positions are much more of an uncertainty. Unfortunately, left field is now a question mark as well with Brantley's failure to bounce back from offseason shoulder surgery.
Currently, the Tribe is holding down the fort with a combination of aging veterans (Rajai Davis, Marlon Byrd), a pair of players still new to the positions (Lonnie Chisenhall and Jose Ramirez) and a rookie who's bouncing between the AAA and the big league club (Tyler Naquin).
MLB Pipeline Top 30 prospect OF
|1||Bradley Zimmer||CF||Bats: L Throws: R||23||AA||2014 Draft, 1st Round (21)||2017|
|2||Clint Frazier||RF||Bats: R Throws: R||21||AA||2013 Draft, 1st Round (5)||2017|
|9||Tyler Naquin||CF||Bats: L Throws: R||25||AAA||2012 Draft, 1st Round (15)||2016|
|18||Mike Papi||RF||Bats: L Throws: R||23||A+||2014 Draft, CBA (38)||2018|
|23||Greg Allen||CF||Bats: S Throws: R||23||A+||2014 Draft, 6th Round (188)||2018|
*according to MLB Pipeline
Thankfully, the top two prospects in the Indians system are Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier, a pair of players worth getting extremely excited about. Both Zimmer and Frazier present a five-tool skill-set and Frazier in particular looks almost major league ready. Zimmer has shown improved power this season but at the expense of more strikeouts and lower batting average. He's also battled some minor injuries along the way. Frazier's approach has continued to evolve positively at the plate each season since he's been drafted.
Tyler Naquin has held his own in his brief time with the club this year after making the team out of spring training. He was recently sent down for starting pitcher Mike Clevinger to continue working on his approach at the plate since he's been striking out significantly more than he's walked thus far.
Further down on the farm, prospects Mike Papi and Greg Allen have been solid this season for Lynchburg. Papi already has a career high in home runs with seven on the year while Allen is leading the organization on stolen bases with 21. Allen has been a great tablesetter for the Hillcats and is currently second in the Carolina League in runs scored with 36. Papi has a great eye, walking at just about the highest rate of any player in the Tribe system, but has been streaky at the plate thus far in 2016.
Frazier and Zimmer are expected to debut with the Indians in 2017, but if Frazier continues at the rate he's going, he might force the organization's hand and earn a September call-up.
Other notable OF
|Bryson Myles||LF||Bats: R Throws: R||26||AAA|
|Taylor Murphy||RF||Bats: L Throws: R||23||AA|
|Luigi Rodriguez||RF||Bats: L Throws: R||23||A+|
|Anthony Santander||OF||Bats: S Throws: R||21||A+|
|Ka'ai Tom||CF||Bats: L Throws: R||21||A|
|Conor Marabell||OF||Bats: L Throws: R||22||A|
|Nathan Lukes||CF||Bats: L Throws: R||21||A|
|Gabriel Mejia||CF||Bats: S Throws: R||20||A-|
Bryson Myles has been average to above average in the Tribe system, but he's not likely anything more than a placeholder and isn't expected to contribute much to the major league club, although he did hit his first career Triple-A home run yesterday (in only his sixth game at Columbus).
Taylor Murphy has put himself on the radar by hitting and continuing to hit everything at every level. The corner outfielder hasn't knocked a bunch of balls out of the park, but his overall 2016 slash of .270/.369/.389 is above replacement level.
You haven't head much from Luigi Rodriguez this season because he's currently serving a suspension for banned substances. He put himself on the map after an excellent 2015 campaign but who knows how much of that season was tainted by illegal PEDs?
The biggest area of depth right now for Tribe outfielders might be in Lake County where the trio of 2015 draft picks Ka'ai Tom (5th round), Nathan Lukes (7th round) and Conor Marabell (25th round) are tearing the cover off the ball and keeping top speedster Gabriel Mejia (Dominican Republic FA 2013) stuck at Mahoning Valley.
The future is extremely bright for the Tribe outfield. Naquin seems to be a serviceable fourth outfielder while Zimmer and Frazier are the future of the organization and the team has a ton of surprising depth along the way. Don't forget All-Star Michael Brantley is currently locked up in a deal through 2017 with a club option for 2018. With the way our outfielders are currently hitting down on the farm, we may have discovered a couple diamonds in the rough. Strap in folks, the Tribe outfield looks to be very good for a very long time.