Top 22 Prospects: Cleveland Indians by Eric Longenhagen April 24, 2018 Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Cleveland Indians. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from our own (both Eric Longenhagen’s and Kiley McDaniel’s) observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this. All the numbered prospects here also appear on THE BOARD, a new feature at the site that offers sortable scouting information for every organization. Click here to visit THE BOARD. Top Prospects Series 20182017ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFGALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG Indians Top Prospects Rk Name Age High Level Position ETA FV 1 Francisco Mejia 22 MLB C/3B 2019 60 2 Triston McKenzie 20 A+ RHP 2020 50 3 Yu-Cheng Chang 22 AAA SS 2019 50 4 Bobby Bradley 21 AA 1B 2019 50 5 Shane Bieber 22 AA RHP 2019 45 6 Nolan Jones 19 A 3B 2021 45 7 Will Benson 19 A RF 2022 45 8 Eric Haase 25 AAA C 2018 45 9 Greg Allen 25 MLB CF 2018 45 10 Willi Castro 20 AA SS 2020 45 11 Conner Capel 20 A+ OF 2021 40 12 Elijah Morgan 21 A RHP 2020 40 13 Aaron Bracho 16 R SS 2023 40 14 Aaron Civale 22 AA RHP 2020 40 15 George Valera 17 R LF 2023 40 16 Tyler Freeman 18 R SS 2022 40 17 Luis Oviedo 18 R RHP 2022 40 18 Sam Hentges 21 A+ LHP 2021 40 19 Quentin Holmes 18 R CF 2023 40 20 Logan Ice 22 A+ C 2021 40 21 Jesse Berardi 22 A- SS 2021 40 22 Sam Haggerty 23 AA UTIL 2020 40 60 FV Prospects 1. Francisco Mejia, C/3B Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Dominican Republic Age 21 Height 5’10 Weight 180 Bat/Throw B/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 50/60 55/55 30/50 50/45 40/45 80/80 Mejia wasn’t/isn’t a lost cause as a defensive catching prospect, but his bat is almost ready for the big leagues. It’s that ability to hit that prompted a move to third base during the Arizona Fall League and, now, reps in left field to accelerate Mejia’s timetable to Cleveland. He certainly has the arm for wherever Cleveland wants to play him. It’s an 80-grade howitzer that elicited audible gasps from AFL crowds. His hands and footwork at third were predictably raw. Mejia’s swing isn’t graceful or attractive, but he finds ways to get the bat head to the baseball and hit the ball really hard, enabled by elite hand-eye coordination and bat control. He’s a little too aggressive at the plate, so the OBP and game power might both play down if he doesn’t become more selective — and we’re in wait-and-see mode on the defense — but there’s special offensive talent here. 50 FV Prospects 2. Triston McKenzie, RHP Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Royal Palm Beach HS (FL) Age 19 Height 6’5 Weight 165 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command 55/60 55/60 40/45 50/60 McKenzie is a unique pitching prospect. He’s most immediately notables for his extra-lanky frame, at something like 6-foot-5, 165 pounds. He also has elite extension and command along with general feel for his craft, allowing his above-average stuff to play as plus. Reports on the quality of McKenzie’s changeup vary wildly, and he’s still in extended spring training due to forearm soreness. It’s his first developmental hiccup. Even if the changeup doesn’t come, McKenzie has the athleticism and command to find ways to deal with lefties anyway. We’re still confident he’s going to be a good big-league starter, it just may take a little longer than you might expect given how he’s carved up the lower minors. 3. Yu-Cheng Chang, SS Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Taiwan Age 21 Height 6’1 Weight 175 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/45 55/55 45/55 50/50 45/50 50/50 Chang’s 24-homer output at Double-A in 2017 was a bit of a surprise, but his feel for impacting the ball in the air is real and he has enough raw power to hit with thump atypical of a shortstop. Most teams think he’s going to be a solid everyday player, with just enough arm and athleticism for shortstop, and plenty of stick. His ability to pick pitches that he can drive should enable him to get to his power even if he’s hitting .250-.260. 4. Bobby Bradley, 1B Video Drafted: 3rd Round, 2014 from Harrion Central HS (MS) Age 21 Height 6’1 Weight 225 Bat/Throw L/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/40 65/65 40/60 20/20 40/45 50/50 Like an increasing number of hitters in the big leagues desperate to recreate baseball’s turn of the century aesthetic, Bradley wields an imbalanced but promising offensive profile comprised of tremendous raw power and enough patience to make up for all the strikeouts. Bradley has now been this type of hitter up through Double-A, and his offensive profile is pretty stable. He turns 22 at the end of May and will likely spend much of 2018 at Triple-A. The presence of both Yonder Alonso and Edwin Encarnacion at the major-league level make Bradley a potential trade chip. 45 FV Prospects 5. Shane Bieber, RHP Drafted: 4th Round, 2016 from UC Santa Barbara Age 22 Height 6’3 Weight 195 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command 50/50 45/50 55/60 45/50 55/70 The big-league starters who’ve recorded the lowest walk rates since 2000 — a list that includes names like Greg Maddux, Brad Radke, and David Wells — authored figures around 4%. Bieber’s career mark as a pro is 1.5%. If there’s a guy with 80 command in the minors, this is probably it. There are two nits we’ve picked, however, that prevent us from actually assessing an 8 here. First, much of Bieber’s success has come against A-ball hitters. Second, his command has backed up late in starts a few times, dating back to college. But, generally, Bieber’s command enables his somewhat pedestrian stuff to play way up because he locates pitches in spots where it’s tough for hitters to interact with the ball effectively. He sits 90-95, has touched 96, mixes in the breaking balls to various locations, and works in more changeups later in starts. Bieber works away from righties, using his fastball and slider in sequence very effectively. He locates his slider in a spot that is equal parts enticing and unhittable, and this trait runs through a lot of the pitchers who exceed scouting expectations and make a big-league impact with just solid stuff. It’s an above-average pitch on its own but garnered an elite swinging-strike rate last year. The stuff, alone, projects to the back of a rotation, but Bieber’s ability to locate gives him a chance to be a mid-rotation arm. It’s possible he has elite command and becomes something more. 6. Nolan Jones, 3B Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from Holy Ghost Prep (PA) Age 19 Height 6’4 Weight 185 Bat/Throw L/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/40 55/60 30/55 30/30 40/45 60/60 Jones has managed to remain agile enough to continue projecting at third base as he’s grown into his big frame. His early-career numbers indicate he may have an elite eye for the strike zone, but what appeared to be a future 55/55 hit and power projection in high school is starting to look more like 40/55. The combination of power and OBP should still profile every day pretty comfortably, especially if Jones can stay at third. 7. Will Benson, RF Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from The Westminster Schools (GA) Age 19 Height 6’5 Weight 225 Bat/Throw L/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/40 65/70 30/60 55/50 45/50 80/80 Benson was drafted as a long-term developmental project. He has 30-plus-homer potential if he can find a way to harness the length of his levers and hit, and he remains the exact type of prospect he was in high school, though now we also know he can take a walk. Benson is a good athlete with good makeup, and it’s encouraging that he’s having on-paper success despite his clear issues. If everything works, out he’ll be a power-hitting corner outfielder who throws highlight-reel frozen ropes to third base. 8. Eric Haase, C Drafted: 7th Round, 2011 from Divine Child HS (MI) Age 24 Height 5’10 Weight 180 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/40 70/70 50/55 20/20 40/45 50/50 Haase is pretty polarizing around baseball because teams either think he’s a late-blooming everyday player who can catch, or they think he’s a Quad-A bat who can’t. He does swing and miss a lot, but he has a reasonable feel for the strike zone and huge raw power on par with Gary Sanchez and Jorge Alfaro, who lots of people didn’t or don’t think can catch, either. The reasonable comp is Evan Gattis, beard and all, which would still make Haase a valuable, if severely limited, big leaguer. 9. Greg Allen, CF Video Drafted: 6th Round, 2014 from San Diego State Age 24 Height 6’0 Weight 175 Bat/Throw B/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 50/55 40/40 20/30 60/60 50/50 55/55 Allen’s offensive tools are pretty fringey, but he can play all three outfield positions well, grinds out tough at-bats, runs well, and has great baserunning instincts. He’s going to be a good reserve or low-end regular outfielder for a long time, and he’s big-league ready right now. 10. Willi Castro, SS Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2013 from Dominican Republic Age 20 Height 6’1 Weight 165 Bat/Throw S/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 40/55 45/45 20/45 55/55 55/60 50/50 Castro is a twitchy little plus-running shortstop who could be an above-average defender and hit a little bit if he can tone down his aggressiveness at the plate. He turns 21 today, actually, and is already at Double-A, the level at which his plate discipline is likely to be exposed if he doesn’t exhibit improvement. He projects as an everyday shortstop and could be Cleveland’s most realistic trade chip this summer — both because Francisco Lindor exists and because the power-over-hit prospects ahead of him aren’t universally sought after while shortstops with bat-to-ball ability are. 40 FV Prospects 11. Conner Capel, OF Video Drafted: 5th Round, 2016 from Seven Lakes HS (TX) Age 20 Height 6’1 Weight 185 Bat/Throw L/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/45 55/55 40/50 55/55 45/55 60/60 Capel was a hitterish prep outfielder with a flat-planed swing and good timing who made a significant swing change that enabled him to hit for more power in 2017. He narrowed his stance to take a better stride back toward the ball and is creating more lift in his swing. Capel isn’t a smooth, graceful athlete, but he hits, has some power, and runs well enough to play a good corner-outfield spot. He’ll be an everyday player if he approximates last season’s offensive levels. 12. Elijah Morgan, RHP Drafted: 8th Round, 2017 from Gonzaga Age 21 Height 5’10 Weight 190 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command 45/45 50/55 60/70 45/55 Morgan went nuts in pro ball after he signed and struck out 58 hitters in 35 innings. He has a plus-plus changeup right now, and the rest of his stuff is good enough that we think he’s a likely, quick-moving big-league starter even though he sits only 88-91. 13. Aaron Bracho, SS Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Venezuela Age 16 Height 5’11 Weight 175 Bat/Throw S/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/55 45/50 20/50 55/50 40/45 50/50 Bracho had eyes on him when he was 14, when he impressed at the 2016 PG World Showcase in the states. The entirety of his defensive abilities (his hands, actions, arm strength) all likely push him to second base, but Bracho has a litany of promising offensive traits and would make for an interesting teenaged prospect at any position. His swing has natural loft, he has plus bat speed, he can move the barrel around (better from the left side), and he runs well. He’s an up-the-middle prospect with a well-rounded offensive profile. 14. Aaron Civale, RHP Drafted: 3rd Round, 2016 from Northeastern Age 22 Height 6’2 Weight 215 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command 45/50 55/60 40/45 45/50 50/60 Yet another of Cleveland’s seemingly endless supply of pitchability college prospects, Civale and his infinitesimal walk total carved up the lower minors in 2017. He raised his arm slot a bit and features a litany of average pitches with above-average command, his fastball peaking at 94. His command should allow him to pitch at the back of a rotation and allow the slider to play above its pure grade. 15. George Valera, LF Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic Age 17 Height 6’0 Weight 190 Bat/Throw L/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/60 45/55 20/45 50/45 40/50 40/45 Valera signed in July of 2017 for $1.3 million. Though not especially projectable physically, Valera has loose, quick wrists and a natural feel for airborne contact caused by collapse of his back side during his swing. He loads his hands low, allowing his bat to mirror the path of pitches and lift them in the air. He had arguably the best natural hitting ability in his J2 class; it will have to carry him, because he’s likely to play in an outfield corner. Valera has posted 40-grade run times this spring but also looks very comfortable in center field, and there’s a chance he’s one of these rare players who can make it work in center field despite poor footspeed. For now, though, he projects in a corner. 16. Tyler Freeman, SS Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Etiwanda HS (CA) Age 18 Height 6’0 Weight 170 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/55 45/50 20/55 55/45 40/50 45/45 Freeman has excellent natural feel for hitting and is adept at adjusting to breaking balls while they’re mid-flight, especially for such a young hitter. His swing is geared for line-drive contact, and it would bolster confidence in Freeman’s profile if he found a way to hit for more power or if he started quelling doubts about his ability to play shortstop. He’s not dramatically lacking in any aspect of defense, nor is he spectacular. If he can be a 50 at short and make a lot of contact, he’ll play a sizeable big-league role, but there’s not a lot of upside here unless the power or defense develop, or unless Freeman becomes an elite hitter. 17. Luis Oviedo, RHP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Venezuela Age 18 Height 6’4 Weight 170 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command 55/60 45/55 45/50 45/55 30/45 Oviedo has a strong frame that is less projectable than most teenage prospects, but he’s already working 91-94 and touching 97 — and it plays up due to good extension — so he doesn’t need to grow into much velocity. He features a bevy of viable secondary offerings, the most promising of which is an advanced changeup. He has been up to 96 in limited work this spring and is a long-term, mid-rotation prospect. 18. Sam Hentges, LHP Drafted: 4th Round, 2014 from Mounds View HS (MN) Age 20 Height 6’6 Weight 245 Bat/Throw L/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command 55/60 55/60 40/50 40/45 Hentges had all the traits for which scouts look in late-blooming pitching prospects. He’s huge, comes from a cold-weather location and, after Tommy John early in 2016, has now missed development time due to injury. When Hentges returned last year, his velocity was back in the 92-94 range, up to 97. He worked heavily with this fastball, but the curveball was plus when he’d throw it; his once-promising changeup feel is still there, but it hasn’t developed for obvious reasons. Hentges could probably be rushed to the big leagues as a reliever, but he has starter’s ingredients and could be a mid-rotation option if he’s given another few years to develop his command and a deeper repertoire. 19. Quentin Holmes, CF Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from McClancy HS (NY) Age 17 Height 6’3 Weight 175 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/40 45/50 30/40 70/70 40/55 40/40 Holmes was one of the youngest players in the 2017 draft and is a very gifted athlete with elite speed. The rest of his game is raw (his age and northeastern pedigree help explain why), and you have to project pretty heavily on his baseball skills to see an everyday player. The variables that influence those projections are makeup and athleticism, and Holmes has plenty of both; there’s just a very significant developmental distance between where he is now and where he’ll have to get in order to become a table-setting speed demon who plays a good center field. 20. Logan Ice, C Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from Oregon State Age 22 Height 5’10 Weight 180 Bat/Throw S/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/55 50/50 30/45 30/30 45/50 50/50 Ice is fine defensively and has a well-rounded offensive skillset. He’s a much better hitter from the left side of the plate than he is from the right side — a fact which, combined with some questions about his mobility and athleticism, project to push him into the larger half of a catching platoon. 21. Jesse Berardi, SS Video Drafted: 10th Round, 2017 from St. John’s Age 21 Height 5’10 Weight 185 Bat/Throw L/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/50 40/40 20/40 45/45 45/50 55/55 Berardi is a scrappy little shortstop with good power for his size and enough all-around ability to be competent at short and at the plate. He’s likely a utility player, but we consider him to be a high-probability one. 22. Sam Haggerty, UTIL Drafted: 24th Round, 2015 from New Mexico Age 23 Height 5’11 Weight 175 Bat/Throw S/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/40 45/50 30/40 60/60 45/50 45/45 Haggerty’s skills were masked by injury in college, and he’s turned into a fringe-to-average hitter with 45 raw power whose ability to reach base and do damage with his legs is aided by his tremendous eye for the strike zone. He’s a likely utility man with speed. Other Prospects of Note Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category. Guys with Upside Oscar Gonzalez, OF Johnathan Rodriguez, OF Marcos Gonzalez SS, Luke Wakamatsu, INF Emmanuel Tapia, 1B Makesiondon Kelkboom, INF Joseph Paulino, INF Jhon Torres, OF Pablo Jimenez, OF Alexfri Planez, OF Gonzalez has huge raw power, but we’re not yet confident enough in his ability to hit to place him on the main list. Wakamatsu has grown into his frame and remains a fine defensive infielder. He projects as a utility man. Tapia has big raw power but is first-base only, and the rest of the offensive profile is fringey. The rest of these guys, led by Rodriguez — who was the team’s third-rounder last year — are very young, projectable athletes who are in extended spring training. Rodriguez has a broad-shouldered frame and raw baseball skills. Gonzalez has a utility look to him but also hasn’t shown anything at shortstop in my looks yet because Bracho has been playing there when I’ve seen this group. The names listed are the ones who have piqued my interest so far, but Cleveland has such a deep, athletic group here in extended that there are probably more. Also, given the rate at which players this age (most of these guys are about 17 or 18) grow and change, this order is likely to change significantly throughout the summer. Because Cleveland is competitive, there’s a chance enterprising scouting departments can unearth someone really special by hitting Cleveland’s complex hard this spring. Future Bench Pieces Mark Mathias, 2B Ernie Clement, 2B Mitch Longo, OF Tyler Krieger, 2B Ka’ai Tom, OF Andrew Calica, OF Mike Rivera, C Sicnarf Loopstok, C Gabriel Mejia, CF Mike Papi, OF Gavin Collins, 3B Mathias has an the best chance to hit his way into an everyday job of anyone in this group. Clement is a 70 runner with some contact skills, but his overall profile is fringey and he’s a better defensive fit in center field due to his hands and actions. Longo hit well last year, but he’s a corner guy with 40s and 50s across the board. Krieger really struggled with swing length in the fall but could be a middle-infield utility man if he can correct it. Tom can play good outfield defense and put together competent at-bats. Calica is another bounceback candidate from UCSB (like Bieber) who was great as an underclassman and then went backwards as a junior. He could hit his way into fourth-outfield duty. Rivera and Loopstok have backup profiles. Rivera could be a 55 glove and 6 arm, while Loopstock has 55 raw power. Mejia can really fly but doesn’t do much else and will probably max out as a fifth outfielder. Papi and Collins could be bat-first bench guys at the corners. Relief Prospects Jordan Milbrath, RHP Dalbert Siri, RHP Julian Merryweather, RHP Tommy DeJuneas, RHP Zach Plesac, RHP Juan Mota, RHP Cam Hill, RHP Leandro Linares, RHP Argenis Angulo, RHP James Karinchak, RHP Sean Brady, LHP Jonathan Teaney, RHP The Pirates Rule 5’d Milbrath, then returned him. He has a plus sinker and slider. Siri goes 93-96, touching 98 — although minus a tick for extension — and has a 55 change. Merryweather would have been in the main section of the list if not for requiring TJ this spring. He’s up to 98 with a plus curve and changeup. DeJuneas is old for Low-A but also has a plus fastball/changeup combo. Plesac has a four-pitch mix, but the best of them is a 60 change. He’ll sit 90-94 as a starter, so there might be more in relief. Mota has swing-and-miss stuff but is far away from a strike-throwing perspective. Linares has a plus curve and average sinker. Angulo has a three-pitch mix led by a plus fastball and curve, but he has 30 command. Karinchak is 90-95 with deception. Sean Brady has a 70 curveball. Cam Hill is 91-94 with a 55 curve and change. Teaney’s 55 fastball and curve play well off each other, as his fastball comes in flat up in the zone. Starting Pitching Depth Shawn Morimando, LHP Jean Carlos Mejia, RHP Juan Hillman, LHP Brady Aiken, LHP Matt Esparza, RHP Morimando sits 88-91 with a bevy of 50/55 secondaries. Mejia is 90-94 with an average slider and change, though his change flashes 55/60. Hillman hasn’t grown into velo since high school and still sits 88-90 with a 55 curve and change. Aiken was 86-89, touching 93, last year with poor extension. His curveball and changeup are still good. Esparza is average across the board. Cistulli’s Guy Selected by Carson Cistulli from any player who received less than a 40 FV.Eric Stamets, SS Cleveland has benefited from the emergence of several modestly esteemed prospects in recent years. Neither Jose Ramirez nor Danny Salazar ever made a top-100 list, for example, and yet both have ascended to major-league relevance. Greg Allen and Yandy Diaz, meanwhile, both appear to feature profiles which — even in the absence of premium tools — might translate well to the highest levels. The current iteration of the organization features less in the way of such players. Connor Marabell, who occupied this space last year, remains a candidate for some kind of major-league opportunity, while Dorssys Paulino — who appeared here two years ago — is still just 23. Justin Garza, on the pitching side, is also one to monitor. For the moment, though, Stamets seems to present the best case for a role in the majors. A net positive at shortstop according to the publicly available metrics, Stamets exhibited unusual success on contact last year, producing an isolated-power mark (.204) almost 70 points better than the International League average. In light of his defensive skills, that sort of production isn’t really necessary for him to have value to a big-league club. It certainly doesn’t hurt, though. System Overview It’s becoming clear that Cleveland’s draft model places high value on younger prospects. Quentin Holmes, and Johnathan Rodriguez were very young for last year’s class. Triston McKenzie didn’t turn 18 until a few months after his draft. Will Benson, Bobby Bradley, Juan Hillman, Nolan Jones, and Justus Sheffield turned 18 shortly before theirs, while Sam Hentges was 17 on draft day. Et cetera. It also seems Cleveland is more willing to overlook a down junior year for college players and more heavily weigh how they’ve done over the entirety of their career (which is how they ended up with Shane Bieber) — or at least how they performed on the Cape the year before. These are the kind of patterns that help influence our mock drafts here at FanGraphs. This system is about average from the 40s and up, but the recent July 2 class really does look exciting out on the backfields here in Arizona, and I think teams who match up with Cleveland as trade partners this summer — just peeking at CLE’s 40-man, I’d say teams who can offer catching depth and lefty relief help are a start — would do well to see these guys as they’re developing. The number of teams with coverage dedicated to the complexes is growing but still much less than it should be.