Battle tested Ka’ai Tom is our No. 16 Cleveland Indians prospect, debuting in the LGT top 20 for the first time after posting career-best numbers at age 25.
A native Hawaiian, Tom was a fifth round selection out of the University of Kentucky by the Tribe in the 2015 MLB draft, but perhaps his 2019 performance shouldn’t have come as a surprise. He has posted above average wRC+ numbers every season in the minor leagues.
In his debut season in 2015, he had a 134 wRC+ in Low-A Mahoning Valley. He was off to an insane full-season debut with a 167 wRC+ in 2016 at Single-A Lake County before he sustained a season-ending injury diving back to first base. In 2017, he had a 114 wRC+ for High-A Lynchburg and he had a 103 wRC+ in Double-A in 2018.
That being said, his 2019 season was by far his most impressive. Tom began the season repeating at Double-A, but he forced the hands of the Tribe brass by posting a beastly slashline of .285/.386/.512, good for a 162 wRC+.
After hitting a career-high 12 home runs in 2018, Tom already had 14 home runs with Akron through 81 games, good for a career-high ISO of .227, more than 60 points higher than his previous best. Tom was promoted to Triple-A Columbus in early July and he didn’t slow down, slashing .298/.370/.564. The only reason his wRC+ didn’t improve was because everyone at Triple-A hit well last year and his numbers, while above average, weren’t in the 99th percentile. Tom’s ISO also improved to .266 with the Clippers and he powered the Clippers offense to an International League title thanks to four home runs in the postseason.
Tom finished the season with 60 extra base hits, 23 home runs, 10 triples and 27 doubles, although he had a career-low five stolen bases and posted a career-high strikeout rate of 25.1% in Triple-A.
The 5-foot-9 outfielder earned a non-roster invite to Spring Training for the 2020 season, although he is expected to begin the season in Columbus, where he’ll be one of the next men up if needed in the Tribe outfield.
Will Benson, OF (Age 21)
2019 (A): 259 PA, .272/.371/.604, 18 HR, 18 SB, 14.3 BB%, 30.1 K%, 172 wRC+
2019 (A+): 255 PA, .189/.290/.304, 4 HR, 9 SB, 12.2 BB%, 28.6 K%, 75 wRC+
Former 1st round pick dominated in his repeat stint at Lake County in 2019, one of only two MiLB players in 2019 to have a 20 HR, 20 SB season (besides Luis Robert). Struggled after midseason promotion, but did post career-low K% at High-A.
Yu Chang, SS (Age 24)
2019 (AAA): 453 PA, .253/.322/.427, 9 HR, 0 SB, 9.2 BB%, 23.7 K%, 88 wRC+
2019 (MLB): 49 PA, .178/.286/.274, 1 HR, 0 SB, 13.1 BB%, 26.2 K%, 50 wRC+
Slowed by injuries in 2019, but made his MLB debut and showcased improved patience against MLB pitchers. Potential full-time utility candidate for the 2020 season with room to grow.
Bryan Lavistada, C (Age 21)
2019 (A-): 240 PA, .335/.408/.483, 2 HR, 3 SB, 10.4 BB%, 11.3 K%, 165 wRC+
2019 (A-): 4 PA, .333/.500/.333, 0 HR, 0 SB, 25.0 BB%, 25.0 K%, 162 wRC+
Converted catcher drafted in the 15th round in 2018 has done nothing but impress both offensively and defensively since making his pro debut. Also threw out 35% of would-be basestealers in 2019.
Angel Martinez, SS (Age 17)
2019 (DSL): 261 PA, .306/.402/.428, 1 HR, 11 SB, 11.1 BB%, 11.1 K%, 134 wRC+
One of the top Indians international signings from 2018, Martinez was the top performer of Tribe DSL players in 2019, showcasing patience at the plate and speed on the basepaths.
Eli Morgan, RHP (Age 23)
2019 (A+): 6 GS, 33.2 IP, 32.8 K%, 4.1 BB%, 1.87 ERA, 2.70 FIP
2019 (AA): 18 GS, 102.0 IP, 24.1 K%, 7.26 BB%, 3.79 ERA, 3.75 FIP
2019 (AAA): 1 GS, 5.0 IP, 9.1 K%, 9.1 BB%, 5.40 ERA, 4.62 FIP
Morgan’s excellent control combined with the best changeup in the Tribe system allowed him to advance three levels in the 2019 season despite a lack of elite velocity. Morgan started extremely strong both in High-A and Double-A, but tailed off as the season wore on.
Luis Oviedo, RHP, (Age 20)
2019 (A): 19 GS, 87.0 IP, 19.0%, 10.5 BB%, 5.38 ERA, 4.41 FIP
Started a career-high 19 games in Single-A last season, but struggled with walks and a lowered strikeout rate. Features one of the best changeups in the Indians system.
Alexfri Planez, OF (Age 18)
2019 (R): 25 PA, .333/.360/.542, 1 HR, 0 SB, 4.0 BB%, 28.0 K%, 139 wRC+
Venezuelan gaining traction in prospect rankings due to size, age, athleticism and power potential. His 2019 season was cut short due to a hamate injury.
Nick Sandlin, RHP (Age 23)
2019 (AA): 15 G, 17.1 IP, 36.0 K%, 10.7 BB%, 1.56 ERA, 3.46 FIP
2019 (AAA): 9 G, 9.0 IP, 29.7 K%, 18.9 BB%, 4.00 ERA, 6.40 FIP
Sidearm-throwing reliever taken in the 2nd round of the 2018 MLB draft. Likely would have made it to the Indians if not for a pair of 2019 injuries, which slowed his ascent through the system.
Lenny Torres, RHP (Age 19)
Entered 2019 with huge expectations after dominant pro debut as 2018 1st round competitive balance pick, but underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the entire season. Is throwing off the mound and expected to return this season.
Carlos Vargas, RHP (Age 20)
2019 (A-): 15 GS, 77.2. IP, 21.9 K%, 7.4 BB%, 4.52 ERA, 3.36 FIP
Flamethrowing right-handed starter who can approach triple digits with a low to mid-90s slider. Improved control in 2019 saw him get hit more, but showed flashes of brilliance, like final 2019 start with 7.0 scoreless innings.
Who should be the No. 17 Indians prospect?
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