After weeks of voting and much debate in the comment sections, we've reached the conclusion of our annual top prospects vote. Finishing out the list in the #20 spot is Mark Mathias, the right-handed hitting second baseman who finished up 2016 in Akron.
Drafted in the third round in the 2015 draft, Mathias skipped Lake County and went straight to Mahoning Valley to start his professional career. After a solid season in which he walked and struck out at almost the same rate (right around 12%) and owned a slash line of .282/.382/.408 (wRC+ of 137), he began the 2016 campaign in Lynchburg with the Hillcats. After a slow start, he continued to improve over the course of 115 games and eventually got promoted to Akron late in the season. Before leaving Lynchburg, Mathias hit 39 doubles (good for second on the team) and producing a wRC+ of 115 with a slash of .274/.359/.405. His walk rate dipped a bit (down to 9.8%) while his strikeouts increased (17.8%), but his power rose a tick as well.
Mathias had a brief stint in AA to end 2016, but he played in only 5 games and had just one hit; the one hit was a double that brought his season total across both A+ and AA to 40. Round numbers are fun.
When Mathias was drafted out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, he was brought in because of his ability to hit well. Across the board, scouts were impressed with his approach at the plate and his ability to drive the ball (not necessarily for power). So far in his professional career, he has lived up to what scouts thought he would do. He was also thought to be able to move around the diamond a bit defensively, and while he primarily played second base, he did get some reps in at both short stop (158.0 innings) and third base (209.0) while in Lynchburg.
As much as I hate to say it, Jason Kipnis most likely will not be a career player for the Cleveland Indians. When he leaves at the end of his contract, as mentioned in yesterday's post, Tyler Krieger could be primed to take over as the starting second baseman for Cleveland. That being said, at 22 years old, Mark Mathias could still find his way onto the major league ball club in a few years if he continues to drive the ball into the gap with authority as he's done thus far.
HONORABLE MENTIONS 2017
2016 11th round draft pick was an advanced bat out of college who absolutely tore up Low-A and Single-A pitching in his first taste of pro ball.
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.
2013 ninth round pick had a breakout 2016 where he led all Indians full season starting pitchers in ERA. Was promoted to High-A Lynchburg mid-season and performed even better than in Lake County
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.
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.