Triston McKenzie is our No. 2 Cleveland prospect for 2021, moving up one spot from 2020. He had previously been ranked No. 1 in 2019 and was No. 2 in 2018.
McKenzie was widely considered one of the best right-handed pitching prospects in baseball up until 2018, when he had a season marred by injuries. Concerns about his health issues were exacerbated when he missed the entire 2019 season due to a myriad of injuries again.
But the former 2015 first-round competitive balance pick kept grinding, and he showed up in 2020 ready to take the leap to the bigs.
Fans were stunned in late summer when, seemingly out of nowhere, Cleveland announced McKenzie would be making his major league debut Aug. 22 against the Detroit Tigers.
To say McKenzie lived up to the hype in his debut would be an understatement, as he put forth one of the best starts ever by a Cleveland pitcher to begin their MLB career, striking out 10 batters over six innings while allowing just one run, with his fastball topping out at 97 mph.
McKenzie earned a spot in the starting rotation after Mike Clevinger was traded and he performed admirably the rest of the season, finishing with a 3.24 ERA and maintaining his strikeout rates and walk rates from the minor leagues that helped raise his profile as a prospect to be feared.
One cause for concern was a drop in velocity as the season wore on, with McKenzie's fastball dipping to about 90 mph by his final start of the season, although the velo returned in a pair of bullpen appearances late in the season.
Looking forward, McKenzie appears to have a spot in the Tribe's starting rotation solidified even further after the trade of veteran Carlos Carrasco. It will be interesting to see how he performs over the course of s full season of pitching.
Daniel Espino, RHP (Age 20)
2019 (R): 6 GS, 13.2 IP, 30.2 K%, 9.4 BB%, 1.98 ERA, 4.20 FIP
2019 (A-): 3 GS, 10.0 IP, 40.0 K%, 11.1 BB%, 6.30 ERA, 2.60 FIP
2019 first-round pick struck out a third of the batters he faced in rookie ball and only got more deadly in Low-A as a 19-year-old. Fastball sits in upper 90s, occasionally touching triple digits. The first Tribe prep prospect to earn a promotion the season he was drafted since Francisco Lindor.
Tyler Freeman, SS (Age 21)
2019 (A): 272 PA, .292/.382/.424, 3 HR, 11 SB, 6.6 BB%, 10.3 K%, 138 wRC+
2019 (A+): 275 PA, .319/.354/.397, 0 HR, 8 SB, 2.9 BB%, 9.1 K%, 119 wRC+
The 2017 second rounder impressed mightily in his first taste of full-season ball, then impressed in 2020 Spring Training. One of the best pure hitters in the Tribe system, but power and patience at the plate still need work.
Bo Naylor, C (Age 20)
2019 (A): 453 PA, .243/.313/.421, 11 HR, 7 SB, 9.5 BB%, 23.0 K%, 110 wRC+
The 2018 first-round draft pick skipped Low-A entirely and debuted in full-season ball in 2019. Posted double-digit home runs, triples and doubles as a catcher. Younger brother of outfielder Josh Naylor.
Brayan Rocchio, SS (Age 19)
2019 (A-): 295 PA, .250/.310/.373, 5 HR, 14 SB, 6.8 BB%, 13.6 K%, 107 wRC+
One of the top shortstop prospects in the Tribe system. Advanced for his age and possesses the tools to be a big part of the Tribe's future, although he's yet to play full-season ball.
George Valera, OF (Age 20)
2019 (A-): 188 PA, .236/.356/.446, 8 HR, 6 SB, 15.4 BB%, 27.7 K%, 142 wRC+
2019 (A): 26 PA, .087/.192/.174, 0 HR, 0 SB, 7.7 BB%, 34.6 K%, 14 wRC+
Has impressed in a small sample size, and was invited to Cleveland’s expanded roster in Lake County in 2020, but needs to put together some at-bats during full-season ball this year to prove himself.
Who should be Cleveland’s No. 3 prospect?
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