Adam Plutko dropped a few spots compared to his lofty number nine ranking last year, but it certainly wasn't due to performance. Honestly, it instead speaks more about how great some of the young talent throughout the farm was last season.
Plutko began 2016 in Double-A Akron where he performed admirably, earning a promotion to Triple-A after 13 starts thanks in part to a solid 3.27 ERA and a 3.01 FIP. In his first taste of Triple-A, Plutko was solid, though unspectacular, averaging six innings per start for Columbus and finishing with an ERA of 4.10 and a 3.97 FIP.
An 11th round draft pick in 2013, Plutko was the ace of a national championship-winning UCLA Bruins staff and he's blown through the Tribe minor league system relatively quickly thanks in part to his excellent control and command of four pitches, including a fastball that tops out around 94 miles per hour.
The former teammate of Trevor Bauer even earned a cup of coffee with the Cleveland Indians late in the season, appearing twice in total, both in relief, and he'd probably like to forget his second MLB appearance as Miguel Cabrera welcomed him to the big leagues with a two-out three-run bomb.
Plutko has been positively compared to Josh Tomlin throughout his ascent through the minor leagues and he will likely begin 2017 in Triple-A, providing solid depth for the Indians starting rotation alongside Mike Clevinger, Ryan Merritt, Cody Anderson and Shawn Morimando should anyone get injured, suspended etc. (knock on wood).
WHO SHOULD BE THE NO. 17 PROSPECT FOR 2017?
Shane Bieber, RHP (Age 21)
2016 (A-): 24.0 IP, 0.38 ERA, 1.90 FIP, 24.7 K%, 2.4 BB%
2016 fourth round draft pick, solid pitch repertoire and excellent command (similar to Josh Tomlin) make him an intriguing prospect. Fastball sits in the low 90s paired with a slider and changeup. Could find himself in Lake County in 2017 as a 22 year old.
Willi Castro, SS (Age 19)
2016 (A): 548 PA, 7 HR, 16 SB, ..259/.286/.371, 90 wRC+
2016 (A+): 9 PA, 0 HR, 0 SB, .222/.222/.222, 18 wRC+
Switch-hitting short stop out of the Dominican Republic. Spent the majority of 2016 in A-ball, strikeouts spiked as did his power. Good speed on the bases, hardly walks at all.
Aaron Civale, RHP (Age 21)
2016 (A-): 37.2 IP, 1.67 ERA, 2.59 FIP, 20.0 K%, 5.7 BB%
2016 third round draft pick, a power arm transitioning from the relief role to starting. His innings were limited in his pro debut due to the college season, but he should be ready to stretch out in 2017.
Matt Esparza, RHP (Age 22)
2016 (A): 100.1 IP, 3.14 ERA, 2.92 FIP, 27.2 K%, 5.5 BB%
2016 (A+): 39.0 IP, 3.92 ERA, 3.98 FIP, 18.8 K%, 8.2 BB%
Excelled in first full season in Indians system, struck out 12 batters in one Class-A game. Made it to High-A late in season, likely to start 2017 with Lynchburg Hillcats.
Oscar Gonzalez, OF (Age 18)
2016 (R): 155 PA, 8 HR, 4 SB, .303/.342/.566, 148 wRC+
2016 (A-): 4 PA, 0 HR, 0 SB, .000/.250/.000, 12 wRC+
Highly promising young Dominican player who broke out big with an MVP season for the AZL Indians last year. High strikeout rate is a concern but still very young.
Tyler Krieger, 2B (Age 22)
2016 (A): 299 PA, 3 HR, 15 SB, .313/.385/.427, 141 wRC+
2016 (A+): 257 PA, 2 HR, 6 SB, .282/.369/.405, 118 wRC+
A high-average hitter with a good amount of speed on the base paths. Doesn't strike out a lot and walks at a decent clip. Could find himself in Akron at some point in 2017.
Mark Mathias, 2B (Age 22)
2016 (A+): 490 PA, 5 HR, 9 SB, .274/.359/.405, 115 wRC+
2016 (AA): 16 PA, 0 HR, 0 SB, .067/.125/.133, -35 wRC+
2015 third-round pick skipped Single-A Lake County and had an expected slow start to 2016, but finished with 40 doubles and improved every month. Played third base when Krieger was promoted.
Gabriel Mejia, OF (Age 21)
2016 (A-): 293 PA, 0 HR, 28 SB, .322/.378/.375, 129 wRC+
Signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2013. Has yet to hit a home run in his professional career, but continues to be a threat on bases after swiping 28 bags in 2016 (second best in New York-Penn Leagu). First season where he struck out significantly more than he walked
Shawn Morimando, LHP (Age 24)
2016 (AA): 93.1 IP, 3.09 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 19.0 K%, 9.4 BB%
2016 (AAA): 59.0 IP, 3.51 ERA, 3.88 FIP, 18.2 K%, 8.3 BB%
2016 (MLB): 4.2 IP, 11.57 ERA, 9.79 FIP, 18.5 K%, 18.5 BB%
Could be a back-of-the-rotation starter or a reliever. Fastball sits in the low to mid-90s. Secondary pitches, including slider and changeup, are good compliments. Command is an issue moving forward.
Nellie Rodriguez, 1B (Age 22)
2016 (AA): 579 PA, 26 HR, 1 SB, .250/.352/.474, 129 wRC+
Continued to mash as he spent a full season in Akron. Strikes out at an alarming rate, but also saw an uptick in walks last season. Drove in 85 RBI to lead the RubberDucks in 2016