Scouting Cleveland’s Prospect Additions from the Clevinger Deal

Early this morning, the Padres and Indians officially consummated a much-rumored deal surrounding starter Mike Clevinger, one significant enough to demand multiple pieces of analysis, the prospect-centric slice of which I’ll serve you here. The broad strokes analysis of Cleveland’s prospect package is that in addition to the big league pieces they received, they added 20-year-old shortstop Gabriel Arias, yet another candidate to be the club’s long-term shortstop in the event that Francisco Lindor is either traded or leaves in free agency, and two other prospects, Joey Cantillo and Owen Miller, who fit archetypes that the org has often targeted and developed well.

He doesn’t have the highest ceiling of the group (Arias does), but I think Joey Cantillo is the best prospect in the trade. He entered 2020 coming off a breakout 2019 during which, at age 19, he struck out 144 hitters in 111 combined innings at Low-A Fort Wayne and Hi-A Lake Elsinore. It was a meteoric rise for a teenager who was less than two years removed from being a 16th round pick ($300,000 signing bonus) out of a high school in Hawaii, and Cantillo’s strikeout totals were especially confounding because he doesn’t throw all that hard, only living in the 87-90 range, touching 92. How does he do it? This piece has some specifics about how a fastball with below-average velocity can still miss bats in the strike zone. Cantillo also has an impact changeup. From his scouting report on The Board, where you can already see how the new Indians prospects rank in the system:

Not only does it have bat-missing movement but Cantillo’s arm speed really sells hitters on the notion that they’re getting a fastball; A-ball bats flailed at it in 2019. The carry on his fastball enables Cantillo to compete for swinging strikes in the zone, and that, plus his ability to throw lots of competitively-located changeups mean he can work back into any count. His breaking ball usage is ahead of its quality, something that might change if Cantillo does start throwing harder and adds power to his curve. The breaking ball and development of velo are now the two variables driving Cantillo’s potential future FV movement, but for now I think he has the tools to go right at hitters and be a No. 4/5 starter.

Cantillo was a 2021 Pick to Click in anticipation of him throwing harder in 2020, something that may have already occurred at the Padres alternate training site. I think he’s a fair bet to be a No. 4/5 starter (hence his 45 FV grade) even if he never experiences a velo spike, but he’ll be a top 100 prospect if he does.

The splashier name in the trade is Arias because a) he’s been known and hyped for longer and b) he has a closer proximity to the big leagues than the others who are being swapped. Arias was part of San Diego’s huge 2016 international signing class, inking a deal just shy of $2 million. He quickly became the most promising of the young infielders the club signed that year and was pushed to full season ball late during his age-17 season, well out ahead of the others in his class. After a rough statistical 2018 as a very young player at Low-A Fort Wayne, Arias had a great 2019 on paper, hitting .302/.339/.470 as a 19-year-old at Hi-A Lake Elsinore.

Arias has very visually impressive physical ability. He is a no-doubt shortstop with a chance to be a plus defender there, and he has rare power for a player so likely to stick at that position. That brings me to the relevant section from his scouting report on the Padres list/The Board:

The Padres threw every developmental trick in the book at him during the offseason, including virtual reality training, to try to get him to better identify balls from strikes and chase less often. In a small spring sample, it appeared to be working. The importance of Arias’ approach extends beyond his on base ability to his power production. His swing is grooved, making the parts of the zone where he can do real damage limited, so for Arias to get to his power in games he’s not only going to have to recognize balls and strikes, but also learn what he can actually hit. It’s possible this will occur, and Arias will be a star if it does, but I think an Orlando Arcia trajectory, where there are growing pains and frustration amid flashes of spectacle, is more likely.

Because San Diego did not opt-in to the league’s video and data sharing agreement, I don’t have any way of knowing if Arias’ potential improvements have continued into this summer, and I don’t think the training environment is conducive to learning about this attribute anyway. The longer I analyze prospects, the more free-swinging players like Arias scare me, but between him, Tyler Freeman, and about a half-dozen other, younger shortstop prospects coming up behind them in the minors, I think it’s safe to say that Cleveland has their next everyday shortstop somewhere in the system, and Arias has the tools to be a star if he can actually improve his swing decisions.

Lastly, Owen Miller is the latest in a long line of physically generic, small Midwestern college infielders who, it turns out, can really hit. From his scouting report:

A minimalistic swing enables him to make high rates of contact, while the strength in Miller’s hands generates doubles power. It’s not an exciting, athletic style of hitting but on an inoffensive, fundamentally sound defensive shortstop, it’s a pretty interesting skillset. Barring a significant swing change, Miller’s offensive output will likely cap his ceiling in the 40/45 FV range, but for a third round pick who moves quickly, that’s a great outcome.

What’s particularly interesting about Miller here is that with Cesar Hernandez approaching free agency, Miller can be upper-level depth in the org without occupying a 40-man roster spot. Because he was drafted in 2018, Miller doesn’t have to be put on the 40-man until December of next year, so even though he’s a polished hitter with upper-level experience and could feasibly be called upon to provide above-replacement-level reps in the event that Cleveland’s middle infield is beset by injury, he doesn’t have to occupy a valuable 40-man spot until it is absolutely necessary.





Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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bigchuck
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bigchuck

No question about your statement that they have their future SS in the system. They draft SS’s every year. It’s a great strategy as the top athlete’s can adapt to any other position.

sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

There are 12 shortstops in their system–two 50s, five 40+, and five 40s. That’s pretty good!

jfree
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jfree

Makes for a hell of an infield shift

MikeS
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MikeS

It’s like the opposite of the Brewer’s philosophy with a 1B at every spot on the diamond.

sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

Hey now that’s just Smoak and Hiura. The other two positions are handled by non-first-basemen.

Now, the Mariners, who somehow had a game with Encarnacion at second base and Jay Bruce at first–and had actual other games where they played Healy at third base (that might have actually happened in that game too). And Tim Beckham was at shortstop too. That was pretty wild.