With eight and a half teams in its minor league system, the Cleveland Indians have over 200 players under contract heading into the 2019 season.
So it’s a bit unfair to stop counting prospects at just the top 20. Let’s Go Tribe readers finished their voting last month, but here are some prospects who just missed the cut and deserve some recognition as well.
Shao-Ching Chiang, 25, RHP
A Taiwan native signed internationally in 2011, Chiang is unlike most top Tribe pitching prospects due to the fact that his strikeout rate is about half as much as anyone else. Chiang prefers to rely on control and a strong sinker to force ground outs, which is a reason his numbers have improved as he’s moved up the ladder and had better defenses behind him. Chiang threw a no-hitter in 2017 and began last season red hot in Double-A Akron, sporting a 2.90 ERA with 54 strikeouts and 13 walks through 12 starts and 71.1 innings pitched. Chiang struggled after being promoted midseason to Triple-A Columbus with a 5.01 ERA and he’s expected to begin the 2019 season in Columbus.
Chih-Wei Hu, 25, RHP
Another Taiwan native, Hu was acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay this past November for 2018 27th-rounder Gionti Turner. Hu has a five-pitch arsenal and has spent parts of the last two seasons in Triple-A and the big leagues, sporting a 3.52 ERA and a 21/7 K/BB through 23 MLB innings. Hu will be decent starting pitching depth in 2019 and can also come out of the bullpen if necessary. Consistency this season will be important because bouncing between starting and the pen frazzled him a bit, as he had a stronger minor league season in 2017 than he did last year.
Zach Plesac, 24, RHP
Plesac didn’t play when the Indians drafted him in 2016 due to needing Tommy John surgery, but had some notable highlights in 2018, his first healthy season in the Tribe system. Standout moments included his incredible 74-pitch complete game shutout, one of lowest pitch counts for a Maddux in recorded history. Plesac also stepped up and performed well when called upon for spot start duty in Double-A, sporting a 2.45 ERA and striking out 21 batters and walking four in 22 innings pitched over four starts. Plesac’s regular season in High-A Lynchburg was up and down with a 4.04 ERA in 22 starts spanning 122.2 innings, but it was a solid overall first full season that he can build upon in Double-A this year.
Eli Morgan, 22, RHP
An eighth round pick out of Gonzaga, Morgan had the best change-up of any pitcher in the 2017 draft, and it was on full display in his first taste of full-season ball in 2018. Morgan doesn’t throw particularly hard, sitting 88-91 typically with his fastball, but the changeup is the difference-maker. Morgan was sensational in Single-A Lake County, earning a promotion after he struck out 56 batters in 44.1 innings while sporting a 1.83 ERA and 0.88 WHIP through eight starts. His numbers regressed a bit against tougher competition at High-A Lynchburg, but he still struck out 100 batters in 99 innings with a 3.91 ERA through 18 starts. Fatigue may have been a factor as he was sensational through July but fell off in August and September. Despite that, Morgan’s 156 strikeouts were second in the Tribe org in 2018.
Kirk McCarty, 23, LHP
Jean Carlos Mejia earned all the prospect love for finishing the 2018 season on a high note, but Tribe 2017 seventh-round pick Kirk McCarty was right there with him in regards to late season dominance. The reason McCarty hasn’t been noticed is the fact that he had a horrific start to the 2018 season, sporting an ERA over 10 through his first four starts. But something clicked for the Southern Mississippi alum. From mid-June to the end of the 2018 season, McCarty sported a 2.46 ERA with a whopping 97 strikeouts and 15 walks in 87 innings pitched with a 1.04 WHIP. The highlight start was July 7 when he struck out 11 batters in 6.1 shutout innings. His 161 total strikeouts led all Indians minor league pitchers in 2018. McCarty earned a late season promotion to High-A Lynchburg and didn’t miss a beat, sporting a 3.19 ERA and whiffing 29 batters while walking just four in five starts.
Yeffersson Yannuzzi, 22, LHP
It took some growing pains with control, but it seems Tribe 2015 international signing out of Venezuela Yefferson Yannuzzi is coming into his own. Yannuzzi was difficult to hit in the Dominical Summer League in 2016 and 2017, but he also walked 69 batters in 90.2 innings. Yannuzzi improved his command for his debut in the US last season, nearly cutting his walk-rate in half while striking out 10.71 batters per nine innings and sporting a 2.21 ERA with the AZL Indians. Yannuzzi performed well after being promoted to Low-A Mahoning Valley, although his walk rate did increase. He will go as far as his command of the strike zone will take him.
Raymond Burgos, 20, LHP
Taken by the Indians in the 18th round of the 2016 draft, Burgos missed the entire 2017 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery and finally made his pro debut in 2018. Standing 6-foot-5, Burgos has an imposing presence on the mound and a filthy slider, which he used to great effect in the AZL, striking out 58 batters in 52.1 innings pitched. Burgos gained confidence as the season wore on and put up his best two starts of the year in his final two appearances. He struck out 10 batters in 5.2 innings in his final start for the AZL Indians in the AZL playoffs, then earned a late season promotion to Mahoning Valley and had his best start of 2018, whiffing 9 batters in 5.2 shutout innings without allowing a walk. Burgos is a definitely a player to keep an eye on for breakout potential in 2019.
Carlos Vargas, 19, RHP
Vargas was the Indians’ biggest international signing in 2016 at $275,000 out of the Dominican Republic (this was before the rules changed for Valera, Rocchio etc). Vargas made his pro debut in 2018 with the AZL Indians and led all Indians pitchers in swinging strike rate at a whopping 34.6 percent. Vargas sits in the mid to upper 90s with his fastball and touches 100. Many view him as a huge potential 2019 breakout pitching candidate similar to what Luis Oviedo did this past season. Walks could be an issue as he surrendered 24 bases on balls in 34.1 innings pitched in 2018.
Henry Martinez, 24, RHP
Martinez was a shining star for Indians bullpen prospects in 2018, beginning the year in High-A Lynchburg and advancing all the way to Triple-A by season’s end. Martinez impressively struck out 12.86 batters per nine innings in Lynchburg, earning a quick promotion to Double-A, where he dropped his walk rate and spiked his ground ball rate while earning 11 saves as the team’s closer. Sitting in the mid to upper 90s with his fastball, Martinez is profiled as a rare power arm with a legitimate three-pitch mix and strike-throwing ability. Martinez is expected to contribute to the Indians’ bullpen in 2019.
Rob Kaminsky, 24, LHP
Kaminsky, a former first round pick by the St. Louis Cardinals, has been a cautionary tale with the Indians since he was acquired via trade in 2015, spending significant portions of the last four years on the disabled list. The Indians converted him to a reliever last year and he pitched well, sitting comfortably in the low 90s with his fastball and still possessing a nasty curveball. Kaminsky impressively posted a 2.86 ERA, but walks were an issue as he gave up 19 free passes in 28.1 innings.
James Karinchak, 23, RHP
A ninth round pick in 2017, Karinchak’s stock dropped due to health concerns and he did not have a great pro debut in the AZL that year, but he really turned it around last season. Karinchak debuted in full season Lake County, sporting a 0.79 ERA while striking out 20 batters in just 11.1 innings. After a promotion to High-A Lynchburg, he continued to dominate, whiffing 45 batters in just 27 innings with an ERA of 1.00. Karinchak finally faced hitters he couldn’t annihilate at Double-A where he had a 2.61 ERA and struck out 16 batters in 10.1 innings. As impressive as Karinchak’s strikeout arsenal is, he needs to improve his control as he walked 36 batters in 48.2 innings last season.
Ben Krauth, 25, LHP
Krauth has never had overpowering stuff, sitting in the upper 80s with his fastball, but he makes up for it with multiple plus offerings and has been one of the best multi-inning relievers in the Tribe system ever since he was drafted in the 16th round in 2016 out of Kansas. Krauth has held an ERA below 2.00 in all three seasons he’s pitched, most recently spending time in High-A Lynchburg with a spot appearance in Double-A. Last season, Krauth struck out 100 batters in 70 innings pitched over 39 appearances and held a 1.93 ERA for the season. He also held batters to a .191 batting average at High-A, where he was one of the Hillcats’ most reliable weapons out of the bullpen.
Dalbert Siri, 23, RHP
Signed by the Indians out of the Dominican Republic in 2014, Siri has back-end stuff, earning midseason All-Star nods in 2017 and 2018 at Single-A and High-A where he’s earned 29 saves the past two seasons. Siri sits in the mid 90s with his fastball and can tough the upper 90s, but his ascent will always be limited by his control. Despite striking out 71 batters in 47.2 innings last season, he also walked 29, which led to a 1.26 WHIP and an ERA of 2.45. Command may prevent him from reaching his potential in high leverage situations.
Kyle Nelson, 22, LHP
Kyle Nelson could not have had a more impressive 2018, leading all pitchers in the minor leagues with a ridiculous FIP of 1.11. Nelson spent most of his season with Single-A Lake County where he held an insane 0.76 ERA while striking out 56 batters and walking just two of them (one intentionally) in 25 appearances spanning 35.1 innings. Nelson was an All-Star for the Midwest League and was named an organizational All-Star by MiLB.com. He wasn’t quite as impressive at the end of the season when he was promoted to High-A, although his strikeout rate did increase over the 10 appearances with the Hillcats.
Adam Scott, 23, LHP
Drafted in the fourth round as a college senior in 2018, Scott followed the Nick Sandlin path to success, advancing to High-A in his professional debut with a stop at four separate levels. Scott sits in the low 90s with his fastball and showed solid strikeout stuff, whiffing opposing hitters at a 12.44 K/9 rate over the course of the season and finishing the year with four shutout innings of relief for Lynchburg.
Robert Broom, 22, RHP
Broom tore through the Tribe minor league system in 2018 after being drafted in the 10th round as an advanced college sidearmer. After just five appearances in the AZL, he was quickly promoted to Single-A Lake County, skipping Low-A entirely. Broom sits in the low 90s with his fastball and already has a plus breaking ball and slider. He held a 1.27 ERA in his 17 appearances at Single-A where he struck out 39 batters and walked 10 in 23 innings pitched.
Eric Haase, 26, C
A breakout player in 2017, Haase took a slight step back in 2018 as his strikeout rate and batting average dipped in his first full-season stint of Triple-A, but he still managed to hammer 20 home runs. Haase’s biggest improvement was actually his defense, where he threw out a career best 45 percent of opposing baserunners and was named the top defensive player in the Tribe system by MLB.com. Haase is currently competing with Kevin Plawecki for the back-up catcher position this spring.
Li-Jen Chu, 24, C
A bat-first catcher, Chu spent the majority of his 2018 season in High-A Lynchburg where he slashed .278/.351/.434 and hit 10 home runs overall. Chu’s development was delayed due to Tommy John surgery in 2015 and he only threw out 25 percent of would-be basestealers last season, but he showed his bat can play, hitting two home runs in a Spring Training game late last month.
Yainer Diaz, 20, C
Diaz was one of the most impressive hitters in the Arizona Rookie League last season, carrying a batting average over .400 until the final two weeks where a late slump dropped his season average to .355, which was still good enough for second in the league. He also threw out 40 percent of attempted base thieves. Diaz doesn’t have elite power, having hit just three home runs in the past two seasons, but he has excellent contact ability combined with improving patience at the plate.
Ernie Clement, 21, SS
One of the toughest players to strike out in the 2017 draft, the Indians took Clement in the fourth round in 2017. Clement had his full-season debut for Single-A Lake County last season, putting up decent numbers, but he really impressed when he was promoted to High-A Lynchburg, slashing .346/.425/.421 while striking out just seven times in 33 games played. Clement walked more often (41) than he struck out (35) last year and earned a late season promotion to Double-A. He also has made a strong impression with Indians manager Terry Francona during Spring Training this past month.
Jose Fermin, 19, 2B
The top international signing by the Indians out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, Fermin formed a nasty 1-2 punch at the top of the lineup alongside Tyler Freeman for Low-A Mahoning Valley in 2018. Like Freeman, Fermin was one of the toughest players to strike out in the low minors, whiffing just 26 times in 308 plate appearances (8.4 percent) but unlike Freeman, he also could draw walks, earning 39 free passes (12.4 percent). Fermin hit well, slashing .279/.391/.382 and played stellar defense at second base despite originally playing shortstop. Look for him to make his full season debut in April.
Marcos Gonzalez, 19, SS
The top international signing by the Indians in 2016, Gonzalez made his U.S. debut last season for the AZL Indians 1, impressively batting .305/.397/.458. over 35 games. Gonzalez saw a dramatic spike in his slugging percentage last season while also improving his contact rate, although his strikeout rate and walk rate both went in the wrong direction, as did his ability to steal bases (four SB and four CS in 2018). He is expected to play in Low-A Mahoning Valley this season.
Raynel Delgado, 18, 2B/SS/3B
A sixth round pick in 2018 out of Calvary Christian in Fort Lauderdale, Delgado took a huge overslot payment to sign and showed his price tag was worth it in his pro debut, slashing .306/.409/.382 in 46 games played for the AZL Indians 2 while splitting his time at second base, shortstop and third base. Delgado didn’t have the best strikeout rate (21.6 percent) but he had an elite walk rate (14.7 percent), showcasing a patience at the plate that most players his age don’t possess. He also stole 10 bases in 12 attempts. Of note, he played much better defense at second and third base than he did at shortstop.
Jose Tena, 17, SS
Tena was the best hitter for the DSL Indians in 2018, slashing .313/.367/.410 over 51 games. Tena hails from the Dominican Republic and was signed by the Indians in 2017 for $400,000. Tena showcased decent extra base ability with eight doubles, four triples and a home run while also limiting his strikeouts and walking at a respectable rate of 6.9 percent. Look for him to debut in the United States this season.
Jhonkensey Noel, 17, 1B
Noel is one of the most powerful young prospects in the Tribe system. Despite being just 16 years old to begin his professional career, he bashed 10 home runs in the Dominican Summer League, good for third overall in the league. His strikeouts were a bit of an issue (58 in 64 games, 22.3 percent) but he balanced that out by walking a respectable 9.6 percent of the time. Noel has power for days and if he can balance that out with improving his contact rate, he has the potential to be a very successful slugger.
Aaron Bracho, 17, SS
Bracho was the most expensive international signing by the Indians in 2017 at $1.5 million, but failed to make his pro debut after suffering an arm injury in Spring Training. Bracho healed and was able to play the fall instructional league and is expected to debut in the AZL this season as a switch-hitting shortstop.
Gabriel Rodriguez, 17, SS
Rodriguez was the top international signing by the Tribe in 2018. The 6-foot-2 shortstop out of Venezuela was inked for $2.1 million and was rated the No. 6 international prospect by MLB.com. He is widely considered one of the best overall hitters in the 2018 international class.
Junior Sanquinton, 16, SS
Sanquinton was signed by the Indians for $1.25 million out of the Dominican Republic. He was rated the No. 12 international prospect by MLB.com. The switch-hitter has plus power potential but scouting reports say he needs to adjust his overaggressiveness at the plate, which can lead to strikeouts. Both Sanquinton and Rodriguez are expected to make their pro debuts this year.
Conner Marabell, 24, OF
Marabell has consistently overperformed his 25th round draft position, breaking out in 2016 when he slashed .298/.346/.461 across Single-A and High-A, hitting a whopping 45 doubles that season. After falling back down to Earth in 2017, Marabell again had a strong season last year, slashing .296/.341/.481 over 89 games in Double-A Akron and earning an Eastern League All-Star nod before earning a late season promotion to Triple-A Columbus, where he struggled. Marabell should begin the season in Triple-A where he’s expected to be outfield depth for the MLB team in case of injuries.
Mike Papi, 26, RF
A former first round CBA pick in 2014, Papi has spent part of the last two seasons in Triple-A Columbus and is currently competing for an outfield job with the Indians. Papi had an elite walk rate of 15.9 percent in 2018, but it came with a career-worst 26.4 percent strikeout rate in his first full season at Triple-A. He also only his seven home runs in 2018, although he did miss over 40 games with an injury at the end of the season.
Tyler Krieger, 25, OF
After a horrific 2017, Tyler Krieger was moved from second base to the outfield last season and the results were exceptional. Krieger repeated at Double-A Akron last season and slashed .276/.332/.372 over 123 games played. He also dropped his strikeout rate five points to a career-best 17.0 percent. Krieger doesn’t possess much power, but he has decent speed with 19 steals in 2018. He’s expected to play in Triple-A this season, potentially moving back to second base due to the increase in outfield depth the Indians now have.
Andrew Calica, 25, OF
Calica put up strong numbers in his Double-A debut last season, slashing .278/.389/.375 with a career-high 11 percent walk-rate. Calica made great use of his .389 on-base percentage, swiping a career-best 27 bases in 32 attempts. A lack of power could hold him back, hitting just six home runs in 2018.
Alex Call, 24, OF
Daniel Johnson and Oscar Mercado received the prospect love after being acquired in trades last year, and Alex Call has fallen under the radar. Call was sent over from the Chicago White Sox for Yonder Alonzo in December. A third round pick by the Sox in 2016, Call had a tremendous rookie campaign but was slowed by injuries in 2017 and has yet to completely return to form, although he made it to Double-A last season anyways. Call hit double digit home runs for the first time last year and is looking to get back to his rookie form that at one point had him as one of the better prospects in the Sox system.
Mitch Longo, 24, OF
Longo’s 2018 season wasn’t nearly as insane as his 2017, but he was consistent, slashing .275/.337/.410 over 119 games played. Longo was always going to see some regression from his .416 BABIP in 2017, but he still put up a decent wRC+ of 112 for the Hillcats, doubling his triple and home run totals from the previous year. Longo also swiped 18 bases, although he was caught eight times.
Oscar Gonzalez, 21, LF
Gonzalez is a former AZL league MVP in 2016 and led all Indians full-season prospects in batting average last season at .292, although he only had an on-base percentage of .310 due to his abysmal 2.5 percent walk rate. On the bright side, Gonzalez dropped his strikeout rate for the third consecutive year while hitting a career-high 13 home runs. Defensively, Gonzalez has a cannon for an arm and racked up a career-high eight outfield assists last season. If he can learn to be more patient at the plate, his prospect stock would soar.
Steven Kwan, 21, CF
Kwan’s pro debut was delayed because his Oregon State Beavers won the College World Series, but he definitely impressed in limited action, slashing .350/.480/.450 in 13 games for the AZL Indians 1 before hitting .333/.429/.417 in four games after being promoted to Low-A Mahoning Valley. Kwan was a fifth round draft pick by the Tribe last year and his bat is clearly advanced, walking 11 times compared to just five strikeouts. Don’t be shocked if he begins 2019 in Single-A Lake County.
Korey Holland, 19, OF
The Indians took a flier in the 14th round on high schooler Korey Holland, who was rated as one of the top 200 players in the 2018 MLB draft, and managed to sign him by going overslot. Holland played 31 games for the AZL Indians2 and while he only hit .245, he balanced that with an elite on base percentage of .400 due to his incredible 19.2 percent walk-rate. Holland didn’t display much pop yet with just four extra base hits, but power will hopefully come as he spends time working with the Tribe strength trainers in the offseason. His elite walk-rate is difficult to teach and is a strong starting point that can be built upon.
Did I miss any of the Indians’ minor league players that you felt deserved a shoutout? Feel free to comment or share your opinion on the “best of the rest” below.