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Cleveland Indians 2017 draft in review

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Who were the hits and misses of the Tribe’s 2017 draft?

2017 Eighth round pick James Karinchak has already advanced to Triple-A
Mathew Carper

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 despite the lack of a first round pick.

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

2 (64). Quentin Holmes. OF/RHH. Age 17. $988K bonus. Interview

With no first round pick, it took until pick 64 in the second round before the Indians made a selection in the 2017 MLB draft. Here’s what Indians scouting director Brad Grant had to say about Quentin Holmes:

”The big attraction with Quentin is his speed. He’s a 70 runner (80 is the top grade). He also has the potential to be a plus defensive player and a very contact-oriented hitter. He was a fixture on the showcase circuit this summer and set the PG (Perfect Game) national 60-yard dash record with a 6.19. He’s a fun player to watch and a great person on and off the field.

To say Holmes has struggled thus far is an understatement. Holmes did not hit or run well in the Arizona Rookie League immediately after being drafted, then he lasted just one game in 2018 in a repeat stint in the AZL before getting injured

The Indians aggressively promoted Holmes to full-season Lake County this season to hopefully catch up with his fellow draft picks, but he is still hitting below the Mendoza line, slashing .190/.263/.304 although he’s shown some improved power and baserunning.

2A (71). Tyler Freeman. SS/RHH. Age 18. $816K bonus. Interview

Tyler Freeman has soared up the prospect rankings. Here’s what Brad Grant had to say about Freeman after he was drafted:

An unbelievable offensive-oriented player. He brings a lot of offensive tools to the game. He’s going to be out and be able to hit and then power should come in the future. He has upside at shortstop, but the thing that obviously stands out, though, is the bat.”

Freeman hit the ground running and hasn’t looked back. He was by far the best player in the New York Penn League in 2018 and he’s cemented himself as one of the top prospects in the Indians system after improving his walk rate while maintaining elite contact skills in his first taste of full season ball. He’s currently slashing .314/.407/.476 and could be in line for a promotion to High-A by midseason.

3 (102). Johnathan Rodriguez. OF/SH. Age 17. $450K bonus.

The youngest player taken in the 2017 draft, Rodriguez has spent his first two seasons in the Arizona Rookie League. In his repeat season last year in the AZL, Rodriguez showcased an improvement in power, doubling his amount of doubles and triples hit and hitting his first professional home run while maintaining a consistent strikeout rate from his first season. Rodriguez is expected to begin the 2019 season in Low-A Mahoning Valley.

4 (132). Ernie Clement. 2B/RHH. Age 21. $350K bonus.

Clement was widely known as one of the toughest players to strikeout in the 2017 MLB draft and he kept his strikeout rate low his first season and a half, impressively advancing from Single-A to High-A and then to Double-A in 2018.

Clement’s strikeout rate currently sits at 10.3% since he moved up to Double-A, where he’s been above league average with a 111 wRC+ this season. Clement also impressed Tribe skipper Terry Francona during Spring Training this year.

5 (162). Austen Wade. OF/LHH. Age 21. $293K bonus.

A contact-hitting outfielder, Wade has been average to above average at every level he’s played thus far. He hit particularly well in 2018 in his first taste of full-season ball with Lake County and he was off to a great start in 2019 with High-A Lynchburg this year when he hit the injured list in the middle of an 11-game hitting streak. This season, Wade is posting career best strikeout and walk rates.

6 (192). Mike Rivera. C/RHH. Age 21. $200K bonus.

A member of the 2017 national champion Florida Gator baseball team, Rivera is a solid defensive catcher but he’s had trouble staying healthy.

Rivera missed almost the entire 2018 season with a pair of injuries, and was struggling this season offensively at High-A Lynchburg before again hitting the disabled list this week.

7 (222). Kirk McCarty. LHP. Age 21. $250K bonus.

McCarty broke out in the second half of 2018, earning a promotion to High-A Lynchburg and was on the short list of top left-handed arms in the Tribe system. He led all minor league pitchers in strikeouts over the last two months of 2018, but his momentum was halted this season.

McCarty has yet to make his 2019 debut due to an injury, although he was recently pitching in extended spring training in Arizona. Hopefully he can return to the Lynchburg rotation soon.

8 (252). Eli Morgan. RHP. Age 21. $135K bonus. Interview

Morgan doesn’t have the filthiest stuff or the highest velocity, but he’s led all Indians minor league pitchers in strikeouts since he was drafted and has excelled at every level. Morgan earned Pitcher of the Week status three times in 2018, also earning a mid-season promotion to High-A Lynchburg.

Morgan began 2019 in Lynchburg but couldn’t be kept there too long because he was downright nasty, striking out 40 batters in six starts with a 1.87 ERA. His performance earned Morgan a promotion to Double-A Akron where he continues to excel with a 2.20 ERA through five starts, striking out 33 batters in 28 innings.

9 (282). James Karinchak. RHP. Age 21. $138K bonus.

A pre-draft injury allowed Karinchak to slide to the Indians in the ninth round and he’s made them look like geniuses thus far. After a slow start in 2017 in the rookie leagues, Karinchak was one of the Indians’ best minor league relievers in 2018, advancing from Lake County to Lynchburg to Akron on the back of his filthy strikeout arsenal and upper 90s heat.

Karinchak was has yet to allow a run in 2019, earning a promotion to Triple-A Columbus. He has struck out 32 batters in 13 innings this season and would likely be in Cleveland already if he hadn’t suffered a hamstring injury in mid-May.

10 (312). Jesse Berardi. 3B/LHH. Age 21. $131K bonus.

Berardi was an All-Star with Mahoning Valley the year he was drafted but struggled a bit in his first taste of full-season ball last year.

He’s bounced back this season while repeating at Single-A Lake County, slashing .283/.350/.409 over 45 games with a career-high 119 wRC+ and could expect a midseason promotion to High-A.

11 (342). Matt Turner. LHP. Age 17. $125K bonus.

Turner is still developing as a starting pitcher. He struggled in his first taste of the Arizona Rookie League but improved dramatically in his repeat season there in 2018, dropping his ERA to 3.75 and whiffing 36 batters in 36 innings while allowing just eight walks.

Turner is expected to factor in the Mahoning Valley starting rotation later this month.

12 (372). Dante Mendoza. RHP. Age 18. $100K bonus.

Like Turner, Mendoza was a prep arm the Indians were able to snag outside of the top 10 rounds and, like Turner, he repeated a season in the AZL after struggling his first time there. Mendoza whiffed 37 batters in 37 innings last season but also walked 20 and held a 4.58 ERA. He was traded to the Pirates in the offseason along with Erik Rodriguez and Tahnaj Thomas for Jordan Luplow and Max Moroff.

13 (402). Angel Lopez Alvarez. C/RHH. Age 20. $80K bonus.

Alvarez has struggled to hit consistently above the Mendoza line at any of his stops thus far in his career, although he impressively caught 18 of 27 attempted basestealers in 2018. He was placed on the injured list today for Single-A Lake County.

15 (462). Kyle Nelson. LHP. Age 20. $125K bonus.

Nelson has been a diamond in the rough for the Tribe. He was one of the best relievers in minor league baseball in 2018, sporting the lowest WHIP of all qualified pitchers in the minor leagues at 0.85 during his time in Lake County, where he was a midseason All-Star.

Nelson has yet to allow an earned run in 2018, beginning the season with 9.1 scoreless frames in Lynchburg and has continued his run with 12.2 scoreless innings after being promoted to Akron. He’s struck out 37 batters thus far in his 22.0 innings this season and sports a ridiculous 0.45 WHIP. He, like Karinchak, could be helping Cleveland sooner rather than later.

16 (492). Nick Gallagher. RHP. Age 21. $125K bonus

Gallagher debuted in 2018 as a long reliever and sport starter for Single-A Lake County. He’s improved his strikeout rate after being promoted to Lynchburg in 2019, but he’s walking too many batters, allowing 19 earned runs and walking 24 in his 35 innings pitched thus far this season.

17 (522). Pedro Alfonseca. OF/RHH. Age 20.

Alfonseca has yet to make an impact in the Tribe system. He only played two games in the AZL in 2017, then struggled to a .216 batting average in a repeat season with the AZL Indians last year. 2019 may be his last shot to prove himself.

18 (552) Dillon Persinger. 2B. Age 21. $125K bonus

Persinger was slightly above average during his stint with High-A Lynchburg in 2018, but he has struggled mightily in 2019, slashing just 182/.257/.258 through 17 games and is currently on the injured list.

19 (582) Josh Nashed. RHP. Age 20. $75K bonus

Nashed missed the 2017 after undergoing surgery for a fractured bone spur in his elbow. He resumed throwing but underwent Tommy John surgery in the fall of 2018. He was released by the Tribe this past March having never thrown a professional inning.

20 (612) Jonathan Teaney. RHP. Age 21. $125K bonus

Teaney posted impressive strikeout numbers in 2018 during his full-season debut, but he walked about seven batters per nine innings as well.

His strikeout rate and walk rates have dropped in 2019, and so has his ERA, from 5.94 to 3.05 despite moving up to High-A Lynchburg.

21 (642) Tyler Friis. 2B/SH. Age 22. $100K bonus

Friis hit well in his full-season debut in 2018, but struggled mightily after being promoted to High-A Lynchburg.

Repeating in Lynchburg to start 2019, Friis has taken his game to another level. He impressively slashed .291/.409/.418 through his first 15 games with the Hillcats this season and was leading the Carolina League in doubles when he was promoted to Akron.

Friis was slowed by an injury briefly after his promotion, but he has never hit better, cutting his strikeout rate in half to drop it below 10% while maintaining a 14% walk-rate while at Akron, where he currently sports a 129 wRC+.

22 (672) Clark Scolamiero. OF/LHH. Age 21. $75K bonus

Scolamiero has spent his first two seasons with Low-A Mahoning Valley, but his numbers were worse in his second season, dropping his walk rate while improving his strikeout rate as his wRC+ dropped from 102 to 91 despite hitting his first two professional home runs in 2018. This year will likely be make or break for him.

23 (702) Jordan Scheftz. RHP. Age 21. $100K bonus

Scheftz has yet to hold an ERA below 4.00 in his pro career and had a taste of full-season ball last year but was failed to earn the call this season. He’ll likely begin 2019 in Low-A Mahoning Valley where he’ll need to show improvement or be passed over by the loads of incoming talent.

24 (732) Riley Echols. RHP. Age 22. $5K bonus

Echols has bounced around multiple levels but has failed to make an impact thus far. He struggled in 2018, but has shown improved strikeout numbers thus far in 2019, earning a promotion to High-A Lynchburg.

25 (762) Chandler Ferguson. RHP. Age 19. $125K bonus

Ferguson pitched a grand total of 1.0 innings as a professional before hitting the injured list with a torn meniscus in his knee in 2017. He was released by the organization in September of 2018 without throwing another pitch.

26 (792) Tommy DeJuneas. RHP. Age 21. $75K bonus

DeJuneas put up decent numbers, pitching 20 games out of the bullpen for Lake County in 2018, but the Indians traded him to Houston for veteran right-hander James Hoyt in July of 2018. He currently sports a 4.44 ERA with the Astros High-A team.

28 (852) Michael Hendrickson. RHP. Age 21. $125K bonus

Hendrickson had an ugly debut in the AZL, sporting a 7.91 ERA over eight appearances and voluntarily retired prior to the 2018 season.

29 (882) Tre Gantt. OF/LHH. Age 21. $100K bonus

Gantt failed to hit above .200 at any level. He was used as organization filler depth in 2018, even getting one at bat in Triple-A Columbus, but was released prior to the start of the 2019 season.

30 (912) Zach Draper. RHP. Age 22. $5K bonus

Draper has been quite the pleasant surprise thus far. The college senior accepted his “take or leave it” offer from the Tribe and has posted above average numbers each season. Draper has dropped his ERA each year despite slowly advancing through the Tribe system from 3.56 to 3.10 to currently 1.62 in 2019 split between Lake County and High-A Lynchburg.

32 (972) Mitch Reeves. 1B/RHH. Age 22. $5K bonus

Another college senior, Reeves has hit well above league average at every level he’s played thus far, although his strikeout rate spiked this season in Single-A Lake County. That being said, he’s still slashing a respectable .253/.342/.391 with a 111 wRC+ this season.

33 (1002) Michael Cooper. 1B/LHH. Age 17. $125K bonus

A surprising college signing in the 33rd round, Cooper spent the majority of his first two seasons in the Arizona Rookie League. His batting average improved last year, but his walk rate, strikeout rate and power all got worse. Cooper is still young and could blossom as a 19-year-old at Low-A Mahoning Valley this season.

39 (1182) Josh Rolette. C/LHH. Age 21.

Rolette performed admirably in his first full season last year split between Lake County and Lynchburg, but he’s missed a decent amount of time in 2019. He currently serves as catcher depth at the lower levels of the system.

Summary

AAA: 1 (James Karinchak)

AA: 2 (Ernie Clement, Eli Morgan, Kyle Nelson, Tyler Friis, Tanner Tully)

A+: 3 (Austen Wade, Mike Rivera, Kirk McCarty, Nick Gallagher, Dillon Persinger, Jonathan Teaney, Zach Draper)

A: 9 (Quentin Holmes, Tyler Freeman, Jesse Berardi, Angel Lopez Alvarez, Riley Echols, Mitch Reeves, Josh Rolette)

A-: 2 (Johnathan Rodriguez, Matt Turner, Pedro Alfonseca, Clark Scolamiero, Jordan Scheftz, Michael Cooper)

Traded: 2 (Dante Mendoza, Tommy DeJuneas)

Released: 1 (Josh Nashed, Chandler Ferguson, Tre Gantt)

Retired: 1 (Michael Hendrickson)

Signed players/Still in the organization (31/25)