I’m not about to go back and examine every single top prospect poll that Let’s Go Tribe has ever conducted for the sake of this intro, but I’m almost positive this is the most two-person race we have ever had.
Brady Aiken won the right to be named our No. 6 prospect with a mere 48 percent of the vote, but Greg Allen came in right behind him at 45 percent in a very presidential election-type race. Playing the part of every non-major party in the United States, Will Benson, Nolan Jones, and Yu-Cheng Chang came nowhere close with a combined 19 votes. Not percent. Votes. Brady Aiken had 128 votes.
Anyway, enough gawking over the hilariously lopsided results. Brady Aiken won and it’s about damn time. At No. 6 overall, Aiken actually moved up a slot from last year when he finished behind Justus Sheffield, Rob Kaminsky, and Mike Clevinger to be the fourth overall pitcher and seventh overall prospect.
The story of Aiken’s rise and fall as a draft prospect is already well documented: He was taken first overall by the Houston Astros in the 2014, an arm injury that required Tommy John surgery showed up, and a year later the Indians took him 17th overall. He still did not pitch a full season in 2016, though he did post 46.1 innings between rookie ball and Low-A.
Statistics at this point do not paint the full picture for Aiken. He’s working back from a major injury and still in the deepest depths of the organization. His time to shine is not for a few years, but if he can live up to that No. 1 overall draft potential, the Indians had a steal in 2015. There were some rumors of early returns not looking good, but those rumors are flimsy, to say the least.
What numbers Aiken did post in the minors this season ranged from expected to exciting. His walk rate was much higher than it should be — 3.22 walks per nine in High-A — but he also struck out nearly a quarter of the batters he faced.
At this point, Aiken is all ceiling and potential. We still don’t know what he looks like operating at full speed over a full season, but the 20-year-old’s fastball-curveball-changeup combination could have him set up to be a great left-handed pitcher in the future.
WHO SHOULD BE THE NO. 7 PROSPECT FOR 2017?
Greg Allen, OF (Age 24)
2016 (A+): 432 PA, 4 HR, 38 SB, .298/.424/.402, 139 wRC+
2016 (AA): 174 PA, 3 HR, 7 SB, .290/.399/.441, 138 wRC+
Former sixth-round pick who could debut in late 2017. Led all of minor league baseball in runs in 2016 and won the minor league gold glove for center field.
Will Benson, OF (Age 18)
2016 (R): 184 PA, 6 HR, 10 SB, .209/.321/.424, 112 wRC+
The 2016 first round pick flashed solid power, speed and drew plenty of walks in his professional debut, although needs work on his strikeouts and contact rate.
Yu-Cheng Chang, SS (Age 21)
2016 (A+): 477 PA, 13 HR, 11 SB, .259/.332/.463, 117 wRC+
Had a nice rebound year in 2016 after suffering some injuries in 2015. Was one of the youngest players invited to the Arizona Fall League, where he batted .303.
Erik Gonzalez, IF (Age 25)
2016 (AAA): 460 PA, 11 HR, 12 SB, .296/.329/.450, 122 wRC+
2016 (MLB): 17 PA, 0 HR, 0 SB, .313/.353/.313, 83 wRC+
Blocked at SS by Francisco Lindor and likely to be passed as a utility player by Yandy Diaz. Still a capable major-leaguer who could find a permanent home somewhere in a trade.
Nolan Jones, 3B (Age 18)
2016 (R): 134 PA, 0 HR, 3 SB, .257/.388/.339, 118 wRC+
2016 second round pick, Jones walked at almost a 20% clip in 2016, his first season in rookie ball. Has the potential to be a solid all-around player both at the plate and in the field.