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Cleveland Indians 2016 draft in review

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Who were the hits and misses of the Tribe's 2016 draft that featured Will Benson, Nolan Jones, Logan Ice and more?

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As we continue our coverage of the upcoming 2017 MLB draft, I’ll be reviewing the last two Cleveland Indians drafts, which have added considerable depth to their minor league system.

Just FYI, the age listed below is the age of the players when they were drafted just under one ago, so just add one year for their current age.

1 (14). Will Benson. OF/LHH. Age 17. $2.5MM bonus. (Interview)

The Indians drafted Benson 14th overall in the first round out of Westminster High School in Atlanta, Georgia. Here’s what Indians scouting director Brad Grant had to say about the 6’5 physical specimen at the time:

"We see Will as a five-tool right fielder. He's still young at 17 years old. He's an unbelievable athlete, a basketball player as well as a baseball player. He's a guy we feel is going to hit for average and power. He's got power to all fields and they travel a long way. On top of that, he's a solid-average runner with a plus arm. He's a very special person as well and we're excited about his personality and his ability to get better."

Benson spent his entire first season in the AZL rookie league where he showcased an elite walk rate (12 percent), some major power (six home runs) and surprising speed (10 steals), but that was offset by a lousy strikeout rate (32.6 percent) and a pretty low batting average (.209).

He is expected to begin the 2017 season in Low-A Mahoning Valley.

2 (55). Nolan Jones. 3B/LHH. Age 18. $2.25MM bonus.

Drafted out of Holy Ghost Prep in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, many were surprised to see Nolan Jones drop to the Indians in the second round, especially considering many had him graded as a potential top 15 overall pick. Here’s what Brad Grant had to say about Jones:

"He's gotten stronger since the spring and has continued to grow. He was a hockey player in the past and his brother, a professional hockey player, put him on a weight-training program and he gained about 25 pounds. He's a guy we feel is going to hit and hit with power."

Like, Benson, Jones walked at an elite rate (17.2 percent) and struck out at a horrific rate (36.6 percent) but unlike Benson, the power wasn’t there yet as he failed to hit a home run. He did have seven extra base hits with five doubles and two triples, batting .257 for the AZL Indians, but that was inflated by an unsustainable .459 BABIP.

Still just 19-years old, Jones is expected to begin the 2017 season next month in Low-A Mahoning Valley.

2A (59). Logan Ice. C/SH. Age 21. $850K bonus. (Interview)

A solid defensive catcher, Ice was taken out of Oregon State as a mature college player with a patient hitting approach. The patience has definitely been there in his first two seasons, averaging about a 14 percent walk-rate, but the offense is still a work in progress.

Ice started hot this year for full-season Lake County, batting .288 over through the first four weeks, but he’s cooled off over the last month which has seen his average drop to .212. That being said, his strikeout rate has dropped significantly from 24.7 percent to 18.6 percent. He’s definitely the number two catching prospect in the system at this point and he has his hands full with a pretty frenetic Lake County rotation.

3 (92). Aaron Civale. RHP. Age 21. $625K bonus.

The first pitcher drafted by the Indians in 2016, Civale was on a limited innings count last year when he started for Low-A Mahoning Valley due to his hefty amount of work during the college regular season.

The restrictions were taken away this year and he has looked terrific, tossing four quality starts for Single-A Lake County as well as striking out 10 in a game he only lasted 5.2 innings. He was promoted to High-A Lynchburg just two a few days ago and has yet to make his debut there.

4 (122). Shane Bieber. RHP. Age 21. $420K bonus. (Interview)

After pitching in the 2016 College World Series, Shane Bieber, like Aaron Civale, was on a limited innings count for Mahoning Valley last year, where he absolutely dominated.

Bieber had the shackles removed when he debuted in Lake County this year and he again, has been spectacular. He only walked one batter and struck out 31 through his first five starts, earning a quick promotion to High-A Lynchburg, where he’s been excellent as well, holding a 3.38 ERA for the Hillcats while striking out 20 and walking two (one intentionally).

5 (152). Conner Capel. OF/LHH. Age 19. $361.3K bonus.

The son of former big-league reliever Mike Capel, Conner Capel was drafted out of Seven Hills High in Katy, Texas. Capel didn’t exactly light the world on fire in his first taste of professional ball for the AZL Indians last year, but he must have done something right in the offseason because he was the only prep player to make the full-season squads out of Spring Training.

Capel hasn’t hit for average this year (.198), but he’s certainly hitting for power. Out of his 33 hits in 2017, 17 have been for extra bases including eight home runs, which is more than top slugging first base prospect Bobby Bradley, who has seven.

6 (182). Ulysses Cantu. 3B/RHH. Age 18. $270.3K bonus.

Originally expected to be a top three round selection, Cantu fell in the draft due to some nagging injuries, which kept him from playing his natural third base last year. He didn’t hit well in his pro debut (.202/.298/.248) but should have a clean slate for 2017 now that he’s (hopefully) back to full health.

7 (212). Michael Tinsley. C/OF/LHH. Age 21. $175K bonus.

Despite being a catching prospect out of college, Tinsley spent most of his time last year in the outfield for Lake County after being drafted. He didn’t have many opportunities in general, only playing eight games, but he showcased a decent eye with five walks and some above average speed with three steals without getting caught.

8 (242). Andrew Lantrip. RHP. Age 21. $125K bonus.

A shoulder injury has kept Lantrip sidelined since he was drafted. He underwent surgery this past April and is expected to miss the entire 2017 season.

9 (272). Hosea Nelson. OF/LHH. Age 19. $125K bonus. (Interview)

Nelson showcased excellent speed last year with 13 steals in 13 attempts, but a monstrous 39.8 percent strikeout rate held him back while playing for the AZL Indians. He’ll likely begin 2017 in the Mahoning Valley outfield. .

10 (302). Samad Taylor. 2B/SH. Age 17. $125K bonus.

Taylor was by far the most successful prep player offensively for the AZL Indians last year, batting .293/.359/.397 and transitioning to pro ball quickly. Drafted out of Corona High School in California, Taylor was an excellent table-setter last year, scoring 25 runs in just 32 games. He’ll begin 2017 as the starting Low-A Mahoning Valley second baseman.

11 (332). Andrew Calica. OF. Age 22. $100K bonus.

Andrew Calica had a debut season for the ages, setting all kinds of records in his stint with Mahoning Valley after being drafted with a ridiculous slash line of .388/.491/.568 through 40 games. He was promoted to Lake County late in the year and hit well there, earning an aggressive promotion to High-A Lynchburg to begin 2017, the only position player out of the 2016 class to begin the season there.

Calica struggled out of the gate with Lynchburg, but he’s been putting things together and has not only significantly raised his walk-rate, but has also started hitting for much more power in the last month as well. His biggest issue is stealing bases as he’s been caught six times while swiping just five.

12 (362). Zach Plesac. LHP. Age 21. $100K bonus.

The nephew of former MLB pitcher Dan Plesac, Zach was spectacular in college, but underwent Tommy John surgery last April, which kept him from playing professionally last year. He’s been taking his rehab seriously and should debut at some point this year.

13 (392). Gavin Collins. C/3B/LHH. Age 20. $100K bonus.

Another catcher who was transitioned to a different position, Gavin Collins has spent a significant majority of his time at third base since the Indians drafted him, batting respectably at Mahoning Valley last year before debuting in Lake County about two weeks ago.

Things have gone smoothly for Collins thus far as he’s already hit two home runs in his first 10 games, and he’s also been used for spot catching duties when called upon.

14 (422). Mitch Longo. OF/LHH. Age 21.

An outfield prospect, Longo hit very well for Mahoning Valley last year (.333/.348/.429) but he had his 2017 debut delayed due to a broken hamate bone. Longo was able to squeeze in six games for Lake County, batting .333, before hurting his wrist again. He’s currently on the 7-day DL.

16 (482). Ben Krauth. LHP Age 22.

A soft-tossing former southpaw starter for Kansas, Krauth was used as a long-reliever after being drafted and he refused to give up a run in his first 11 appearances out of the bullpen last year spanning 30 innings. He was promoted twice, finishing the season in Single-A Lake County.

He began 2017 in Lake County where he’s again been excellent out of the pen, currently sporting a 1.86 ERA through 29 innings pitched, although he’s had to work around some command issues, walking 18 batters (while striking out 35).

17 (512) Trenton Brooks. OF/RHH. Age 20. $100K bonus

An outfielder taken out of Nevada college, Brooks looks like your typical outfield depth player at this point. He hasn’t hit particularly well yet and he debuted this year in Lake County about a month into the season.

18 (542) Raymond Burgos. LHP. Age 18.

Burgos underwent Tommy John surgery last August and will likely miss most of, if not all of the 2017 season. He has yet to pitch professionally.

19 (572) Dakody Clemmer. RHP. Age 20. $100K bonus

Clemmer has a very powerful arm, but not much command just yet. He didn’t put up very good numbers in 2016 for the AZL Indians out of the bullpen with a 7.71 ERA in 18.2 innings where he hit four batters, and he compounded things by failing a drug test this past December and receiving a 50-game suspension. The suspension begins when the AZL season begins, and he’ll basically miss the entire season since they only play 54 games.

23 (692) Michael Letkewicz. RHP. Age 22.

Letkewicz was used out of the bullpen for Mahoning Valley last year where he held hitters to a 1.74 ERA through 41.1 innings. He’s been very effective in 2017 as well for Lake County, currently sporting a 2.14 ERA and striking out 21 batters in 21.0 innings thus far.

24 (722) Skylar Arias. RHP. Age 18.

Arias pitched pretty well for the AZL Indians as a young arm, but like Clemmer, he failed a drug test. He was given a 56-game suspension and will basically miss the entire 2017 season.

25 (752) Jonathan Laureano. 3B/RHH. Age 20.

Laureano hit extremely poorly last year (.104/.143/.143) in limited game time, and he’ll have to improve significantly if he wants to stick around.

26 (782) Tanner Tully. LHP. Age 21.

A former starting pitcher for Ohio State, Tully primarily has been used in the piggy-back role paired with another starter, but he’s also been given spot start opportunities both last year and this season for Single-A Lake County.

This year through 10 games including two starts, Tully has tossed 41.2 innings while holding a 2.81 ERA and has struck out 44 batters while walking just five. There’s always going to be a place for a durable left-handed pitcher who can throw strikes.

28 (842) Jamal Rudledge. RHP. Age 21.

Rudledge hit very poorly (.109/.128/.152) in limited playing time last year for the AZL Indians and he was released from his contract about a month ago.

30 (902) Ryder Ryan. RHP. Age 21.

After a decent debut for the AZL Indians last year as a reliever, Ryan skipped Low-A completely and has been downright brilliant this year as one of the most dependable bullpen options for Single-A Lake County. He currently is sporting a 0.91 ERA through 18.1 innings, has given up just eight hits and has struck out 21. Ryan could be getting promoted soon if Lynchburg needs some bullpen options.

Summary

A+: 3 (Aaron Civale, Shane Bieber, Andrew Calica)

A: 9 (Logan Ice, Conner Capel, Gavin Collins, Mitch Longo, Ben Krauth, Trenton Brooks, Michael Letkewicz, Tanner Tully, Ryder Ryan)

A-: 2 (Michael Tinsley, Jonathan Laureano)

Rookie: 5 (Will Benson, Nolan Jones, Ulysses Cantu, Hosea Nelson, Samad Taylor)

DL: 3 (Andrew Lantrip, Zach Plesac, Raymond Burgos)

Restricted: 2 (Dakody Clemmer, Skylar Arias)

Released: 1 (Jamal Rudledge)

Signed players/Still in the organization (25/24)