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Four Indians crack the MLB Pipeline top 100 prospect rankings

Two Tribe prospects exploded up a combined 84 spots after impressive 2016 campaigns

Minor League Baseball: Arizona Fall League-Fall Stars Game Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With a new year, it was time for MLB Pipeline to issue its first big update of 2017 and that began with a brand new top 100 prospects rankings list, which they debuted last night on a live video stream.

When it was all said and done, four Cleveland Indians prospects cracked the top 100, and the player who came in first for the Tribe might be a bit of a surprise. Here’s the updated Indians list and a comparison to where they were ranked the year before:

22.) Bradley Zimmer OF, Age 24 (2016 rank: 25)

Zimmer showcased an improvement in power and walk rate in 2016, but his strikeouts will always be a concern as they soared up well over 30 percent of plate appearances after he was promoted to Triple-A Columbus. That being said, the 2014 first round draft pick put on a great performance in the Arizona Fall League and was named one of the top three outfielders during his stint, which saw him lead the league in runs and come in second in home runs.

40.) Francisco Mejia C, Age 21 (2016 rank: 85)

Nothing will vault you up the rankings faster than a 50-game hitting streak. Francisco Mejia had an absolutely monstrous 2016 season, which didn’t slow down despite appearances in multiple All-Star games and a midseason promotion to High-A Lynchburg. He was added to the 40-man roster at the end of the season to prevent losing him in the Rule 5 Draft and could be making the jump to Double-A very soon if he continues to progress.

57.) Triston McKenzie RHP, Age 19 (2016 rank: 96)

McKenzie flat out embarrassed hitters in his debut season at Low-A Mahoning Valley last year to the tune of a 0.55 ERA after his first nine starts. After a quick promotion to the Single-A Lake County Captains, the 2015 first-round compensatory pick resumed dominance, even increasing his strikeout rate to nearly two per inning. McKenzie will continue to get promoted until more experienced hitters can figure him out and that could get him to the upper levels sooner rather than later.

95.) Bobby Bradley 1B, Age 20 (2016 rank: 67)

A 2014 third-round pick, Bobby Bradley set career highs in home runs (29), runs batted in (102) and walks (75) in his MVP-winning year at High-A Lynchburg. Unfortunately, he also set a career high in strikeouts (170) while his batting average tumbled down to a career low .235. Bradley is still incredibly promising considering he was one of the younger players at High-A and he’ll be one of the youngest at Double-A this upcoming season, but he will definitely need to improve his strikeouts and contact rate as he develops.

Dropped off: Brady Aiken (2016 rank: 64)

Aiken made his professional debut in 2016 after recovering from Tommy John surgery with mixed results. The 2015 first-round draft pick saw his velocity tumble and he had some issues with his command during stints in the AZL Rookie League and Low-A Mahoning Valley, but he did appear to get stronger as the season wore on. We’ll learn a ton more about his potential this year now that he should be fully healed and (hopefully) back to his pre-surgery form.

Former Indians Prospects

And just in case some of you were interested, I also looked into a pair of players who were traded midseason in the blockbuster Andrew Miller deal (which helped get the Indians to the World Series).

24.) Clint Frazier OF, Age 22 (2016 rank: 15)

Frazier had an amazing start to 2016 while with the Indians but started to tail off before he was traded and really struggled in Triple-A, batting .228/.278/.396 with Scranton before being placed on the disabled list. He’ll be looking to bounce back strong this year.

79.) Justus Sheffield LHP, Age 20 (2016 rank: 78)

Sheffield was good with the Indians in 2016 but exploded into a dominant starter with the Yankees High-A club after being traded, putting up a 1.73 ERA over five starts and slightly increasing his strikeout rate to over one batter per inning. Sheffield was promoted very late in the season to Double-A, and he actually started against the Indians club Akron in the championship game which saw Akron win the Eastern League title.

2017 Outlook

It stunk to lose two great prospects, but the Indians still have a ton of depth in their system, particularly at left-handed starting pitching and in the outfield. If Brady Aiken can bounce back, he’ll explode into the top 100 once again and several young players like Nolan Jones, Will Benson and others are loaded with potential and could break out at any moment. There are still plenty of signs of optimism, Tribe fans!