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Cleveland Indians 2015 draft in review

Who were the hits and misses of the Tribe's 2015 draft that featured Brady Aiken, Tristen McKenzie, Juan Hillman, and more?

Tony Lastoria/IBI

Yesterday and today, I'm reviewing the last two drafts, where many feel the Indians really started turning things around in their minor league system. If you want to turn back time for immediate reactions to this draft, you can find the original LGT review here.

1 (17). Brady Aiken. LHP. Age 18. $2.5MM bonus.
Originally the #1 pick in the 2014 draft but unsigned, Brady Aiken was still on the board at #17 and despite having undergone Tommy John surgery, the Indians took a shot on him.

Here is Indians Amateur Scouting Director Brad Grant's take at the time:

"Our scouts did a really good job and spent a lot of time evaluating Brady over the past two years. We’re very excited to have the opportunity to select a player as talented as Brady with the character of Brady as well. With Brady, we have a big, 6-4, left-handed starter, a player that’s up to 95 with his fastball, very good life to it, plus curveball, a feel for his slider, a changeup and a very good strike thrower."

"I'm not going to get into the specifics of it (the state of Aiken's elbow) but we did our due diligence with him and feel good about where we are with him." Source.

Aiken has not yet pitched in the Indians system due to recovery from the Tommy John surgery, but he was back throwing already this past January. If all goes well, he's expected to debut this summer for the AZL Indians.

1A (42). Tristen McKenzie. RHP. Age 17. $2.3MM bonus.
Drafted out of Royal Palm Beach High School in Florida, McKenzie is loaded with potential due to his long, lanky frame and incredible ability to rack up strikeouts. He's only throwing in the low 90's at the moment, but the upside was strong enough for Fangraphs to rank him as the third-best prospect in the Tribe system.

In a brief stint in the Arizona rookie league last year, McKenzie struck out 17 batters in 12 innings while surrendering only one run on four hits. He's expected to open the 2016 season with the A- Mahoning Valley Scrappers next month.

2 (59). Juan Hillman. LHP. Age 18. $825K bonus.
The godson of former reliever Tom Gordon, Hillman has electric stuff and already carries a solid knowledge of the art of pitching due to his upbringing. Hillman currently sits in the 89-92 range for his fastball and has above average secondary pitches to compliment it. He pitched 24 innings for the AZL last year, striking out 20 and only walking five, although he gave up 26 hits and 11 runs as well. Scouts like his potential and he was rated very highly on many prospect lists heading into the 2016 season, where he's expected to at least start in the AZL.

3 (93). Mark Mathias. 2B/RHH Age 20. $550K bonus.
The first position player drafted by the Indians in 2015, Mathias made an immediate impact at Mahoning Valley, batting .283 while showcasing a disciplined approach at the plate (36 strikeouts and 35 walks). He skipped Lake County and began 2016 in High-A Lynchburg. After a very slow start, he has adjusted at the plate and raised his average on the season to .243. While he isn't much of a power hitter, Mathias has racked up 12 doubles already this year, tying him for seventh overall in the Carolina League.

4 (124). Tyler Krieger. 2B/SH. Age 21. $400K bonus.
After missing all of 2015 with a shoulder injury, Krieger has been a revelation for Lake County in his first taste of minor league ball. He hasn't shown a ton of extra base hitting yet, but Krieger is top 15 in the Midwest League in batting average (.315), walks (20) and stolen bases (11) and contributed greatly to Lake County's high-powered offense. One pause for concern is his strikeout rate (24%) but if he can whittle that down, he has a bright future.

5 (154). Ka'ai Tom. CF/LHH. Age 21. $250K bonus.
Blaze Ka'ai Tom not only had the best name in the 2015 Indians draft but he also can hit the cover off the ball. Tom made an immediate impact with Mahoning Valley last season and is leading Lake County in batting average (.333) after one full month of play with Lake County in 2016. Tom has showcased an elite eye at the plate (17 walks vs 11 strikeouts) and appears to be on the fast track for advancement through the system if he can continue playing this well.

6 (184). Jonas Wyatt. RHP. Age 17. $253K bonus.
Wyatt was spectacular in his first eight games for the AZL Indians after being drafted last year, striking out 20 in 16.2 innings while only giving up three runs on eight hits. It was just a small sample size, but Wyatt already can hit 96 on the radar gun with plenty of room for growth in regards to power. He's not as refined as the top three young pitchers, but his potential is through the roof.

7 (214). Nathan Lukes. OF/LHH. Age 20. $130K bonus.
Lukes hit well in a brief appearance at Mahoning Valley last year and has continued to hit well at Lake County this year, proving to be an on-base machine for the Captains with a .313 batting average and already picking up 20 walks on the young season. He hasn't showcased the power necessary for a corner outfield position, but his speed is through the roof, already picking up 12 steals and five triples this year.

8 (244). Justin Garza. C/LHH. Age 21. $170K bonus.
Similar to Brady Aiken, Garza underwent Tommy John surgery prior to the 2015 draft after a slight tear in his UCL during what was a strong season for Cal State Fullerton. The Indians tried to draft Garza out of high school and failed to sign him so they clearly liked him. Garza did his first bullpen session last month and will hopefully pitch sometime this season.

9 (274). Devon Stewart. RHP. Age 22. $5K bonus.
A college senior, Stewart had a respectable season last year for Mahoning Valley, striking out 19 batters in 22 innings of relief while carrying a 3.68 ERA. He's expected to repeat at Mahoning Valley and will be hoping to pitch himself into a promotion if he can improve.

10 (304). Billy Strode LHP. Age 22. 5K bonus.
A left-handed reliever, Strode was excellent last season in his debut with Mahoning Valley (1.71 ERA) and has been just as good this year despite sparing use at Lake County (1.69 ERA). Strode appears to have back end stuff and was the closer for Florida State during his time there.

12 (364). Ryan Perez. LHP. Age 21. $80K bonus. 
The infamous switch pitcher, Perez appears to be putting his focus into pitching with his left arm as a professional. He was awful last season out of the pen for Mahoning Valley (6.48 ERA, 2.08 WHIP) and will need to showcase major improvement this year if he wants to remain in the system.

13 (394). Daniel Salters. C/LHH. Age 22. 
The second best offensive catching prospect in the Indians system behind Francisco Mejia, Salters had a strong debut season with Mahoning Valley last year and has improved upon that with his performance for Lynchburg in 2016. Salters has drastically risen his walk rate while keeping his strikeout rate low. He'll likely have a rocket strapped to his back due to his slightly advanced age and it appears he can keep up wherever they send him.

14 (424). Matt Esparza. RHP. Age 20.
Esparza has settled into the Lake County rotation this year and has shown promise due to his high strikeout rate and low walk rate. His issue is hits, as he's given up 46 in 2016 in 45.1 innings thus far. If he can command the corners of the zone better, he could become a solid pitching prospect for the Indians.

18 (544). Anthony Miller. 1B/LHH Age 20.
After batting .226 in his 2015 debut for the AZL, Miller skipped a level and stayed right at the same batting line for Lake County this year (.228). He has struck out a whopping 36% of his at-bats this season and really needs to improve at the plate or he's going to stall out in a hurry.

19 (574) Todd Isaacs. OF/RHH. Age 19.
saacs did not hit particularly well for the AZL Indians last year (.214) and he's expected to stay right where he was until he can showcase some development in his offensive game.

20 (604) Luke Wakamatsu. SS/SH. Age 18. $290K bonus
The biggest surprise signing of the Indians' 2015 draft, Luke, the son of Royals bench coach Don Wakamatsu, signed with the Indians despite being more of a Hail Mary pick in the 20th round. Wakamatsu projects to be one of the more talented offensive players in the Indians 2015 draft and batted a respectable .267 in his brief stint at the AZL last year. He's been reportedly crushing the ball in extended spring training and will begin his 2016 campaign at one of the two Tribe half season affiliates next month.

21 (634) Brock Hartson. RHP. Age 21.
Used primarily as a piggyback long reliever and spot starter, Hartson has impressed thus far in his first two seasons in the Indians organization. Hartson has showcased improved control in 2016 but is also being hit more as he's kept the ball in the strike zone. That being said, other than one particularly rough outing in a double header, he's been effective out of the pen for Lake County in 2016.

23 (694) Chad Smith. RHP. Age 19.
This is a strange situation. I saw the Indians signed him last June, but now he's currently pitching for Ole Miss, the college he committed to after one season in junior college.

24 (724) Sam Haggarty. 3B/SH. Age 21.
Haggarty was switched over to third base from second after being drafted and after a decent offensive debut for Mahoning Valley last year, he has not hit very well in 2016 for Lake County (.218). He'll have to improve his production if he wants to remain in the system.

25 (754) Conor Marabell. OF/LHH. Age 21.
An absolute steal, Marabell has flourished in his first opportunity to play full season ball at Lake County. He's primarily played the protection role behind Francisco Mejia and has delivered in spades to the tune of a .305/.365/.436 line while only striking out in 12.8% of his plate appearances. If the outfield at Lynchburg wasn't so crowded, he'd probably have been promoted already.

28 (844) Jake Goihl. C/RHH. Age 22.
Goihl hit poorly for Mahoning Valley last season (.145/.158/.218) and is likely on a short leash for 2016 depending on how many catching prospects are drafted this year.

29 (874) Christian Meister. RHP. Age 21.
Meister has been effective out of the bullpen and has seen three levels already but will need to get his walks down (5.3BB/9 for Lake County this year) if he wants to become a reliable option.

36 (1084) Ryan Colegate. RHP. Age 21.
Colegate did not pitch well for the AZL Indians last year out of the bullpen (7.45 ERA, 1.97 WHIP) and will need to drastically improve to keep his spot on the roster.


A+: 2 (Mark Mathias, Daniel Salters)

A: 10 (Tyler Krieger, Ka'ai Tom, Nathan Lukes, Billy Strode, Matt Esparza, Anthony Miller, Brock Hartson, Sam Haggarty, Conor Marabell, Christian Meister)

A-: 4 (Tristen McKenzie, Devon Stewart, Ryan Perez, Jake Goihl)

AZL: 5 (Juan Hillman, Jonas Wyatt, Todd Isaacs, Luke Wakamatsu, Ryan Colegate)

DL: 2 (Brady Aiken, Justin Garza)

Signed players/Still in the organization (24/23)