Top 46 Prospects: Cleveland Indians

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 my own 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 of the numbered prospects here also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It can be found here.

Indians Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Nolan Jones 22.0 AA 3B 2021 50
2 George Valera 19.5 A CF 2022 50
3 Tyler Freeman 21.0 A+ SS 2022 50
4 Brayan Rocchio 19.3 A- SS 2022 50
5 James Karinchak 24.7 MLB RHP 2020 50
6 Daniel Johnson 24.9 AAA RF 2020 45+
7 Daniel Espino 19.4 A- RHP 2022 45+
8 Bo Naylor 20.2 A C 2022 45+
9 Lenny Torres 19.6 R RHP 2023 45
10 Triston McKenzie 22.8 AA RHP 2020 45
11 Luis Oviedo 21.0 A RHP 2022 45
12 Sam Hentges 23.8 AA LHP 2021 45
13 Ethan Hankins 20.0 A RHP 2023 45
14 Logan Allen 23.0 MLB LHP 2020 45
15 Emmanuel Clase 22.2 MLB RHP 2020 40+
16 Angel Martinez 18.3 R SS 2023 40+
17 Junior Sanquintin 18.4 R SS 2023 40+
18 Aaron Bracho 19.1 A- LF 2024 40+
19 Gabriel Rodriguez 18.2 R 3B 2023 40+
20 Carlos Vargas 20.6 A- RHP 2023 40+
21 Jose Tena 19.2 R SS 2024 40+
22 Scott Moss 25.6 AAA LHP 2020 40+
23 Alexfri Planez 18.8 R RF 2024 40
24 Nick Sandlin 23.4 AAA RHP 2020 40
25 Richard Palacios 23.0 A 2B 2022 40
26 Jose Fermin 21.1 A SS 2023 40
27 Bobby Bradley 24.0 MLB DH 2019 40
28 Eli Morgan 24.0 AAA RHP 2021 40
29 Kyle Nelson 23.9 AAA LHP 2020 40
30 Yordys Valdes 18.8 R SS 2024 40
31 Cody Morris 23.5 A+ RHP 2022 40
32 Will Benson 21.9 A+ RF 2022 40
33 Hunter Gaddis 22.1 A- RHP 2023 40
34 Jean Carlos Mejia 23.7 A+ RHP 2020 40
35 Yu-Cheng Chang 24.8 MLB 3B 2020 40
36 Adam Scott 24.6 AA LHP 2022 40
37 Ernie Clement 24.2 AAA SS 2020 40
38 Andres Melendez 19.0 R C 2022 40
39 Cam Hill 26.0 AAA RHP 2020 35+
40 Jared Robinson 25.5 AAA RHP 2020 35+
41 Bryan Lavastida 21.5 A C 2022 35+
42 Nick Mikolajchak 22.5 A- RHP 2023 35+
43 Steven Kwan 22.7 A+ CF 2022 35+
44 Jhonkensy Noel 18.8 R 1B 2022 35+
45 Victor Nova 20.4 R 3B 2023 35+
46 Johnathan Rodriguez 20.5 A- RF 2023 35+
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50 FV Prospects

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from Holy Ghost Prep HS (PA) (CLE)
Age 22.0 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr L / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 70/70 55/60 30/30 40/45 70/70

Jones has light tower power and has kept his sizable frame in check enough to have retained at least short-term projection at third base. His surface-level stats are strong, especially the OBP (he boasts a career .409 mark) because Jones walks at a career 17% clip. His splits against lefties are very troubling, such that some of my sources thought it would limit Jones’ role enough to move him toward the back of the overall top 100 list. I think the plate discipline will offset that enough that he’s a corner infield regular with among the highest three true outcomes percentages in the big leagues.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 19.5 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/50 55/60 25/55 50/45 45/50 55/55

Born and raised to the brink of adolescence in New York, Valera’s family moved to the Dominican Republic when he was 13. Injuries sustained in a car accident necessitated that metal rods be inserted in Valera’s father’s limbs, and the move was a way of providing him physical comfort in a warmer climate. It also meant Valera became an international prospect rather than an American high school draftee, and when he was eligible, he signed with Cleveland for $1.3 million.

As they’ve done with their advanced complex-level hitters in recent years, the Indians sent Valera to the Penn League, which is full of college pitching. He thrived for a month and then started to strike out a lot, whiffing in 28% of plate appearances overall. He has a sweet lefty swing with natural lift and he has considerable present power, but most of the industry sees him as a corner guy who has had strikeout issues the little he’s played away from Goodyear. I like his instincts in center field and think he has a shot to stay there, but teenagers built like this typically do not.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Etiwanda HS (CA) (CLE)
Age 21.0 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/60 40/45 20/30 55/50 45/50 45/45

A young, polished, but relatively unexplosive high schooler, Freeman was a bit of a surprise second rounder in 2017 but has quickly became more interesting as he started generating pro statistics. One trait that runs thick in Cleveland’s system is high-end bat-to-ball skills and Freeman has perhaps the best of all of them. He had the 16th-lowest swinging strike rate in the minors last year, one of four Cleveland hitters hovering around the 4% mark. The rest of the profile is very vanilla, but elite contact on a middle infielder has been enough to profile before.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Venezuela (CLE)
Age 19.3 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 150 Bat / Thr S / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/60 40/45 20/45 60/60 45/55 50/50

Rocchio’s 2019 triple slash line at Mahoning Valley (.250/.310/.373) is not all that impressive at first glance, but it was enough for a 107 wRC+ at the level, and Rocchio was just 18. The physical development that might lead to a real breakout (and his ascension up the top 100) has not yet materialized, and because Rocchio is a smaller-framed young man, it may never come. But even if it doesn’t, switch-hitting shortstops with bat-to-ball chops have a shot to profile everyday as long as the bat isn’t getting knocked out of their hands.

Drafted: 9th Round, 2017 from Bryant (CLE)
Age 24.7 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
80/80 55/55 40/40 40/45 96-98 / 99

Karinchak is a plug-and-play impact reliever right now, and he’s the sort of backend bullpen arm some teams are willing to pay a premium for. His fastball — 96-98 with plenty of spin, and a near perfect backspinning axis that creates elite vertical movement — generated a nearly 27% swinging strike rate in the minors last year.

45+ FV Prospects

Drafted: 5th Round, 2016 from New Mexico State (WAS)
Age 24.9 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr L / L FV 45+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/50 55/55 40/45 70/70 50/55 80/80

There are baseball executives who have comfortable everyday grades on Johnson, who has one of the more impressive collections of tools in the minors. The loudest of those are his elite arm strength, premium speed, and, to a lesser extent, above-average raw power that manifests as doubles in games because Johnson’s swing really only enables home run power to his pull side.

At one point, Johnson was so raw that some scouts wanted to see him on the mound, but he’s performed consistently all the way through Triple-A, slashing .284/.344/.460 as a pro. That’s close to the league-average line for outfielders, so why not include Johnson on the top 100? His relative lack of defensive instincts make him more of a fit in right field than in center and I think big league arms will be able to pitch to him in a way that limits his power output below the corner outfield average. His line may be elevated by Cleveland’s propensity for platooning, which would limit his role/output from a volume standpoint. I have Johnson as a second-division outfield regular or favorable platoon piece — almost always a 45 FV — and I’m rounding up a bit on his grade because his tools are so electric.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Premier Academy HS (GA) (CLE)
Age 19.4 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
65/65 55/60 50/55 40/45 40/50 94-97 / 99

Aside from some person-to-person variation on how to contextualize Espino’s prodigious arm strength, he is universally lauded by scouts. But their enthusiasm is almost always tempered by fear of the profile: a teenager with elite arm strength, a long-ish arm action, and a big, hulking upper body similar to Brady Quinn’s. If Espino continues on his current track, he’ll be an All-Star. In limited post-draft innings — one or two frames per outing for his first several pro appearances, then three to four for his final few — Espino sat 94-97 and touched 99 with two plus breaking balls and starter’s command. Whether he retains that level of heat over an entire season’s worth of innings on regular rest (he was 92-97 in longer starts before the draft) we simply don’t know, but there’s no reason to think Espino is any more of an injury risk than other teenage pitchers unless you twist your brain into knots and conclude that his velocity is somehow a negative. Even if he loses some gas with a pro innings load, Espino could still have three plus pitches at maturity and pitch near the top of a competitive rotation.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from St. Joan of Arc HS (CAN) (CLE)
Age 20.2 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr L / R FV 45+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/45 55/60 35/50 50/40 40/45 55/55

He had plenty of high-level amateur experience against good high school (and even some pro) pitching, but it’s still remarkable that the Indians felt comfortable sending 19-year-old Naylor, about nine months removed from catching Canadian high schoolers, to a full-season affiliate in 2019. More impressive still, though perhaps not surprising, was that Naylor responded and performed, slashing .243/.313/.421 (good for a 110 wRC+) while dealing with the physical toll of catching 80 games.

Not only has Naylor kept his body in check as a pro (Bo’s older brother, Josh, is a bigger guy who is limited on defense, and the amateur side of the industry was somewhat worried Bo might develop in a similar fashion), he’s actually more sculpted and athletic now than he was in high school, and he’s likely to catch, if unspectacularly, long-term. So long as that remains true, Naylor has a good chance to be an everyday player. His swing’s a little grooved, but it is electric and produces big power for anyone, let alone a catcher. If he gets to most of it in games, and he has so far (he had strong amateur statistical performance, as well), there’s plenty of room for him to profile even if he ends up as a 40 bat, which I think is possible considering the lack of barrel variability.

45 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Beacon HS (NY) (CLE)
Age 19.6 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/60 50/60 40/50 40/50 92-95 / 97

Torres checked a lot of amateur scouting boxes — the body, athleticism, stuff, and makeup were all lauded — and he was a model-friendly prospect due to his age, so while issues with fastball command caused some clubs to project him in relief, he was still a clear top two round talent. Perhaps Torres’ control is behind because, as a cold-weather amateur prospect, he hasn’t pitched all that much. He only threw around 40 innings during his senior spring, and bad suburban high school hitters in New York couldn’t catch his fastball. As a result, Torres had little cause to use his changeup during varsity play — some national evaluators would go whole starts without seeing it — but it flashed 55 or 60 during his showcase summer and was easy to dream on.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of Torres’ post-draft performance was how regularly he located his slider down and to his glove side. He has mid-rotation components if you’re willing to dream based on his athleticism, age, and geographic background, even coming off of last year’s surgery – the date of this list’s publication is a year and a few days removed from the TJ.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Royal Palm Beach HS (FL) (CLE)
Age 22.8 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/55 35/50 55/55 35/40 50/60 90-93 / 95

McKenzie’s TrackMan data on The Board is from the 2018 season since he did not pitch in 2019 due to lat and pec strains. It was his second straight injury-riddled campaign, as he missed the spring of 2018 with upper back issues, and performed beneath career norms when he returned (33% K% from 2015-’17, 24% in ’18), though in fairness to him, he was a 19-year-old pitching at Double-A for the first time. There was pre-draft consternation regarding McKenzie’s frame, which, much like Kevin Durant’s coming out of Texas, was so lean that it existed somewhere between “projectable” and “concerningly thin,” causing some scouts/teams to worry about durability.

In the five years since he was drafted, McKenzie has added five pounds of reported weight (he was listed at 160 on draft day, and is now 165); his fastball, at peak, was 90-93, touching 95 (88-92 in high school) and was 90-94 in camp this spring before the shutdown. The way his delivery and fastball work — it’s deceptive, creates flat angle at the top of the zone, and really carries — makes me think it’ll play at that velocity, and the same is true of McKenzie’s curveball, which has good depth despite bad spin rates. He needs to find a third pitch, and hasn’t really had a chance to do that for two years because of the injuries. At this point, I think it’s more likely to be a slider/cutter than a changeup, which I think would be further along now if it were going to work.

If he can’t find a third pitch, I’m not sure what the role is. McKenzie throws a ton of strikes, so you want him to start, but without a viable third offering that’s pretty tough. High-leverage relief types typically have a better two-pitch mix than even a healthy McKenzie does, so a single-inning relief role doesn’t seem like a great option, and the bulk relief role is often occupied by lower slot changeup guys, not overhand curveball types. I’m willing to bet on the athleticism here to fill in the blank.

11. Luis Oviedo, RHP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Venezuela (CLE)
Age 21.0 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/55 45/50 50/50 45/55 45/55 90-94 / 97

In about a year, Oviedo went from being asked about in several of Cleveland’s trade discussions to being passed on in the Rule 5; he’s the highest-ranked player on any prospect list who teams decided not to take in December. The reason? Oviedo’s velocity was all over the place in 2019. Depending on when scouts saw him last year, he was either up to 96 or sitting in the mid-80s, and was eventually shut down with lower back soreness. This spring, however, he was parked at 94 and up to 98. We’re not all that far removed from Oviedo striking out 61 and walking just 10 in 48 innings as a teenager in the New York-Penn League. At age 21, I have him valued where I have a bunch of the college power arms in the 2020 draft, which includes a bunch of guys with shorter or mixed track records. I had healthy Oviedo projected as a fourth starter. I’m in more of a wait-and-see mindset with the role, depending on how the velo and workload interact in the near future, but still think we’re looking at a valuable member of a pitching staff.

12. Sam Hentges, LHP
Drafted: 4th Round, 2014 from Mounds View HS (MN) (CLE)
Age 23.8 Height 6′ 8″ Weight 245 Bat / Thr L / L FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
65/65 55/55 45/45 35/40 91-95 / 99

He had a disappointing 2019, his second full year since coming back from a 2017 Tommy John, but Hentges has all the characteristics of a prospect who needs a long developmental runway and I still have him projected as an impact piece, even if that’s in the bullpen. Now two inches taller than when he signed, Hentges is a huge-framed 6-foot-8, comes from a cold-weather location (he’s not even the most famous Sam Hentges from Minnesota, as another is a hockey prospect for the Wild), and lost a year to surgery. That he’s still raw at age 24 really isn’t all that surprising, nor do I find it particularly concerning, though admittedly some of that confidence comes from knowing how hard Hentges was throwing in his three big league outings this spring before the shutdown; in those brief outings, Hentges was living in the 96-99 range after sitting 92 (peaking at 96) last year. Cleveland did not baby his innings after he returned from TJ and perhaps 2019 was a bit of a stuff hangover year for him. If he holds this new velo, even if he only does so out of the bullpen, that kind of fastball and Hentges’ breaking ball are enough to make him a big relief piece. He has crude changeup feel and it seemed to be a focus for him during his spring outings. There’s still a chance that comes along (remember, this guy has all the late bloomer traits) and Hentges can start, but the (healthy) floor of a lefty reliever who throws as hard as he does is still exciting even if he can’t.

13. Ethan Hankins, RHP
Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Forsyth Central HS (GA) (CLE)
Age 20.0 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 45/50 45/50 30/50 92-95 / 97

Hankins was the consensus top prep arm in the class during his pre-draft summer and was a dominant part of Team USA in the fall. At that point, he was commanding a lively 93-96 mph heater, a new, but already plus slider, and an at least average changeup that he didn’t need to use much. He looked a little rusty early during his senior spring, then walked off the mound with tightness in a shoulder muscle tied behind the joint. He returned over a month later and threw hard down the stretch, peaking at 97 mph in multiple open workouts for scouts after his school was eliminated from the playoffs. And that’s where Hankins’ velocity was in 2019. In 70-to-80 pitch outings, he sat 93-96, topping out at 97, albeit with worse control than he had as a high schooler. At various points as an amateur Hankins appeared to utilize either a slider or curveball, and now he uses both. They are better demarcated now then when he was an amateur and both flash plus when located. With Hankins’ arm slot, the secondary pitch that best mirrors his fastball (which has tailing action because of his slot) is actually the changeup.

Hankins has gotten a little soft-bodied since signing and I wonder if it has impacted his athleticism and control, but he was also working to tweak his lower half usage to help him get on top of his breaking ball, which might have affected his mechanical consistency last year. I’m not ready to explicitly project him in the bullpen but between the injury stuff and 2019 strike throwing, it’s objectively trending that way.

14. Logan Allen, LHP
Drafted: 8th Round, 2015 from IMG Academy HS (FL) (BOS)
Age 23.0 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / L FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/50 45/50 45/45 60/60 45/50 90-94 / 96

Allen had a rocky 2019 but still throws a ton of strikes, has been remarkably durable, is deceptively athletic, and has a plus changeup that mastheads a No. 4/5 starter’s four-pitch mix.

40+ FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Dominican Republic (SDP)
Age 22.2 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 206 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Cutter Command Sits/Tops
80/80 50/55 55/55 40/40 98-100 / 102

You probably already know about Clase, whose cutting fastball sit around 99 mph and touched 102.7 during a tongue-burning 23-inning big league cup of coffee last year. The Rangers pilfered him from San Diego, straight up, for Brett Nicholas. When Clase was announced as the PTBNL for Nicholas in May of ’18, he hadn’t yet pitched that year. By that fall he was sitting in the upper-90s with natural cut. His 40-man timeline and relative inexperience were likely part of why San Diego was willing to move him.

Cleveland acquired him as part of the Corey Kluber trade in the offseason. Since then, Clase hasn’t thrown a pitch but his evaluation has taken a hit. He was set to miss eight-to-12 months with a severely strained lat, then tested positive for the PED Boldenone, a chemical doppelgänger for testosterone. He’ll miss 80-games. I still have Clase projected in high-leverage relief but now he’s perhaps a whole extra year from the big leagues if the length of the season mimics that of his suspension.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 18.3 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr S / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/55 40/50 20/45 60/60 40/50 55/60

Of the many exciting 18-year-old shortstops in this system, Martinez’s speed and twitch give him the group’s best chance to stay up the middle of the diamond — he played 2B/SS/3B last year and has the arm strength for any of those, though I think it’s possible a lack of bend/flexibility pushes him to center. What’s most exciting about Martinez, though, is how advanced and potent both of his swings are for a teenage switch-hitter. He’s a shorter-levered guy, so both cuts are relatively short, which helps aid Martinez’s bat-to-ball ability. The wrists drive what is currently doubles power (because of his speed, some triples too), both in raw pop and approach. He has a pull-oriented approach as a righty hitter, and while Martinez can lift balls down-and-in as a lefty, his swing is mostly geared for all-fields line drive contact from that side.

This hitting style and Martinez’s relatively modest physical projection (he’s already a pretty ripped 6-feet) make me think the ultimate home run totals will be low but that Martinez will still slug. He has catalytic qualities on offense and a chance to play a premium defensive position.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 18.4 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr S / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/50 45/55 25/50 55/50 40/50 55/60

Cleveland has done a remarkable job of finding international prospects with both advanced bat-to-ball skills and interesting physicality. The stocky, 6-foot-1 Sanquintin is the latest. Scouts don’t typically project bodies like this to stay at short but Sanquintin’s explosive first step allays some of those concerns. His hands are fine, he has a strong arm, and I think he has a fair chance to stick at short. Sanquintin had one of the more advanced bats in his international class and has some present pop due to his physicality, with room for a little more. He has much better feel to hit from the right side of the plate but there’s enticing lift and whip from both sides. He has the tools of a switch-hitting shortstop with power assuming the left-handed bat control improves with time.

He was on this offseason’s Picks to Click list as someone who I think might blow up and be on next year’s top 100, though this is a prospect who might be adversely impacted by the long layoff since low-level players like Sanquintin probably won’t be playing until some kind of fall camp (if at all) and he’s a prospect whose build needs to be kept in check for him to stay at short.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Venezuela (CLE)
Age 19.1 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr S / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/55 50/50 25/55 50/45 30/45 45/45

It’s likely Bracho continues to develop as a second baseman to give him some chance of becoming a viable infielder, but I have him projected to left field based on the quality of his hands and actions. If there’s a reason to project on the defense it’s because Bracho just hasn’t had many pro reps at second base yet. Except for a little bit of Extended spring action, he missed all of 2018 with a broken arm and then lost a month of 2019 to an oblique injury. Based on what I’ve seen from Bracho, Shed Long Jr. and Nick Solak are two similarly-skilled potential precedents to watch to see how they’re deployed/hidden on defense in order to get their bats in the lineup.

Bracho can really hit. He’s patient and poised. He’ll take giant hacks in hitter’s counts and more measured ones when he’s adjusting to a breaking ball or just trying to put a ball in play. There’s not a lot of body projection here despite Bracho’s age. He’s got a square, 5-foot-11-ish frame and is already physically mature. The offensive profile is tied to the combination of approach and feel for contact, which should enable Bracho to hit for power in games even though he doesn’t project to have premium raw.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Venezuela (CLE)
Age 18.2 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/40 50/60 25/60 50/40 40/50 60/60

Rodriguez got very muscular very quickly and he was much more physical than almost the entire rest of the DSL, which is part of why Cleveland promoted him to the States for the final few weeks of the 2019 AZL season. There Rodriguez’s swing-happy approach was exposed and he struck out in about a third of his at-bats. With his added size and a new, early evaluation of his plate discipline, there’s a growing chance that Rodriguez is a low-OBP corner prospect, which is a difficult box to mash your way out of. But for now, he also has a non-zero chance to stay at short and hit for a ton of power. His bat speed and physicality are both impressive for a such a young player. There’s big ceiling here, but also extreme risk.

20. Carlos Vargas, RHP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 20.6 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/65 55/60 35/45 30/40 94-97 / 99

Vargas sat 93-97 as a starter last year but only generated a 7% swinging strike rate with the heater because it has tailing/sinker shape more adept at inducing weak contact than swings and misses. If he moves to the bullpen (which I think is very probable considering how violent and difficult to repeat his delivery is) and experiences a velo bump, then I think the velo will carry that pitch even with lackluster movement. If that’s the case, then he has a good shot at profiling in high-leverage relief. He’s a Fall of ’20 40-man add, so a move to relief may be accelerated by that consideration.

21. Jose Tena, SS
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 19.2 Height 5′ 9″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/55 40/50 20/50 55/55 40/50 55/55

Tena would be in the 40+ FV tier were he not so aggressive at the plate, but early indicators are that he suffers from Vitters’ Affliction, swinging so often because, for now, his excellent feel for contact is enabling an approach that’s less likely to be tenable at the upper levels. That feel for contact comes despite a sometimes noisy, wild swing that has Tena’s wheels spinning as he’s trying to run out of the batter’s box. That he has such strong, top-to-bottom plate coverage, even when he’s swinging out of his ass, makes him exciting from a contact/power potential combo standpoint. Might as well turn him loose and let him swing like that since it doesn’t seem to impact his quality of contact as much as what he decides to swing at does. The skillset and build evoke Rougie Odor.

22. Scott Moss, LHP
Drafted: 4th Round, 2016 from Florida (CIN)
Age 25.6 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/55 50/50 50/50 35/40 89-93 / 95

Moss has a starter’s repertoire but throws strikes at a reliever-y rate, which makes him a strong candidate for multi-inning relief. He lost two college seasons to Tommy John and its subsequent rehab, so some in the industry remain inclined to project on his command, but I have Moss graded as a 4 athlete and am less apt to do so.

40 FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Venezuela (CLE)
Age 18.8 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/40 50/60 25/55 45/45 40/50 60/60

Planez has big time pull-side lift in his swing, already has average raw power at age 18, and has a fairly projectable 6-foot-2 frame that portends more. He’ll reach down and barrel balls near his shoe tops and also crush center-cut mistakes. He’s too aggressive right now, his swing is somewhat grooved, and he probably has to move to a corner eventually, so my early assessment of the profile is that it’s very risky, enough that I think Planez needs to be a clear tier behind the Sanquintin/Rodriguez/Martinez group. But as far as teenage power projection bats go, this is a pretty good one.

24. Nick Sandlin, RHP
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from Southern Mississippi (CLE)
Age 23.4 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/45 50/55 50/50 50/55 50/60 90-93 / 95

Sandlin is one of the more interesting and entertaining pitchers in the minors, a four-pitch, slot-altering sidearm reliever with plus command. He sits 90-93 with thresher shark tail, and all of his secondaries play because of how readily Sandlin locates them. Last year, before he was shut down with a forearm fracture that required surgery, he was throwing as many as 30 pitches over two relief innings against Double- and Triple-A hitting. He has the command and repertoire depth to do that against big leaguers so long as his stuff is back coming off the injury.

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2018 from Towson (CLE)
Age 23.0 Height 5′ 9″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/60 40/40 30/40 65/65 45/50 50/50

Now 23, Palacios has still not had a full season of pro at-bats because he missed all of 2019 recovering from labrum surgery. According to a source with the org, he crushed his rehab and is a full go for if/when baseball resumes. Had he not gotten hurt, Palacios might have reached the upper levels last year. He was a polished college hitter who walked 52 times and struck out just 16 as a junior at Towson while also swiping an ultra-efficient 25 bases in 26 attempts, and he hit .360/.420/.538 against low-level pro pitching after he signed. He’s a nearly plus-plus runner and capable middle infield defender (probably at second) with premium hand-eye coordination and bat control. There was some concern that Palacios beat up on small conference pitching his entire career, and that he may not replicate that performance against pro pitching, a concern Palacios hasn’t yet had the opportunity to allay.

26. Jose Fermin, SS
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 21.1 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/60 30/35 20/30 55/55 50/55 55/55

Fermin had the eighth-lowest swinging strike rate in the minors last year, a measly 4%. He has a minimalistic swing and excellent hand-eye coordination, which have enabled him to run about an 8.5% strikeout rate the last two seasons. He’s also a capable defensive shortstop. Players like this often outperform eyeball-only evaluations and, heuristically, a hitter like this with almost elite bat-to-ball skills who also plays a premium position typically ends up in a higher FV tier than this. But in Fermin’s case, I think he lacks the power on contact to be an everyday player. I realize those can be famous last words when it comes to a profile like this one, but in this case I think the power is limiting and I have a low-variance bench infield grade on Fermin.

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2014 from Harrion Central HS (MS) (CLE)
Age 24.0 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/35 65/60 50/55 20/20 40/45 50/50

Bradley is a three true outcomes DH prospect who I think will have a front-loaded career in terms of production based on his build and athleticism. There’s a non-zero chance the strikeouts cause the power production to bottom out against big league pitching, in which case Bradley could take the Roberto Ramos 라모스 라모스 route to Asia.

28. Eli Morgan, RHP
Drafted: 8th Round, 2017 from Gonzaga (CLE)
Age 24.0 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/45 45/45 60/70 50/55 87-90 / 92

Morgan’s velocity bounced back from 2018’s career low and now, back in the 88-90 range and aided by some deception, his fastball is a viable big league offering. The impact pitch is Morgan’s changeup, which has disorienting angle and fade. I think he’ll live off of his strike-throwing (he has good breaking ball utility even though it’s not a nasty pitch) and changeup enough to be a fifth starter.

29. Kyle Nelson, LHP
Drafted: 15th Round, 2017 from UC Santa Barbara (CLE)
Age 23.9 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops
50/50 60/60 55/55 90-92 / 93

Nelson hides the ball really well, goes right at hitters, his fastball has very high spin for a pitch at this velocity, and he has a nasty, downward-breaking slider. He traversed three levels in 2019 and is a big league-ready relief piece.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2019 from McArthur HS (FL) (CLE)
Age 18.8 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr S / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/40 40/45 20/40 55/55 50/60 50/50

An acrobatic shortstop, Valdes was among the better infield defenders available in the 2019 draft. He was also one of its youngest prospects, and has shown above-average bat speed from both sides of the plate. He has underdeveloped feel to hit, but that’s typical of switch-hitters this young. Valdes is a well-built 5-foot-10 and so young that he’s very likely to get stronger as he matures. He has everyday tools, but needs significant offensive development.

31. Cody Morris, RHP
Drafted: 7th Round, 2018 from South Carolina (CLE)
Age 23.5 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/55 50/55 50/50 40/45 92-95 / 98

Morris was a power-armed prep righty in Maryland who was ushered toward college by a Tommy John, which he rehabbed during a redshirt first year at South Carolina. He performed well both seasons in Columbia, his inning total doubling from 2017 to 2018. Cleveland shut him down after the 2018 draft, then asked him to make 20 starts (a little over four innings per start) in 2019. Morris’ innings count is important because he was throwing really hard, especially early in the year, before wavering late. If he can hold that velo for a 120 innings, he’s a No. 4/5 starter, but until he proves it, I have Morris projected in a three-pitch middle relief role.

32. Will Benson, RF
Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Westminster Schools HS (GA) (CLE)
Age 21.9 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/35 70/70 40/60 55/50 45/50 80/80

Cleveland sent Benson back to the Midwest League to start 2019 and while his line looks much different, other than a BABIP regression and uptick in his pull%, his peripherals and batted ball profile were pretty much the same. He’s a three true outcomes prospect of note because he has an elite build and arm strength, but the contact issues are a ruby red flag.

33. Hunter Gaddis, RHP
Drafted: 5th Round, 2019 from Georgia State (CLE)
Age 22.1 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 212 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/50 50/55 50/55 40/50 90-93 / 96

Gaddis’ delivery features a scary head whack, but his arm angle creates tough angle on his stuff, especially his slider, which has nasty two-plane action. He can also pronate around a side-spinning changeup that flashes plus, bat-missing tail. He was up to 95 after the draft and has No. 4/5 starter stuff.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2013 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 23.7 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 240 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/55 50/55 45/50 50/55 90-94 / 95

Mejia was injured for all but 33 innings of 2019, his first on the 40-man roster. It means that he’ll be on some kind of innings limit in 2020, likely compressing his short-term role to middle relief, though I think he could eventually find his way into the back of someone’s rotation.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Taiwan (CLE)
Age 24.8 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/40 50/50 40/45 50/50 45/45 50/50

Chang’s batted ball profile took a weird turn in 2019, his worst offensive season as a pro. Typically a fly ball hitter, his groundball rate increased 10% points from 32% in 2018 to 42% last season. He’s become pretty stiff and upright in the batter’s box, which makes it hard for him to get underneath pitches and lift them. I still like the way his hands work, but he can only do damage in a limited slice of the zone with the swing he currently has. If his stride looks a little longer and more flexible this year, maybe he bounces back.

36. Adam Scott, LHP
Drafted: 4th Round, 2018 from Wofford (CLE)
Age 24.6 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/55 55/60 40/45 45/55 90-93 / 95

Scott was a 2018 fourth round senior sign, then spent most of his first pro season all the way up at Double-A. He was in the 88-92 range that year but his stuff ticked up in 2019, sitting 90-94 and touching 95 with the fastball while locating his wipeout slider to his glove side. He’s tracking like a quick-moving reliever, at least.

Drafted: 4th Round, 2017 from Virginia (CLE)
Age 24.2 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/60 40/40 30/35 70/70 40/40 50/50

Yet another prospect with premium bat-to-ball skills, Clement has struck out just 81 total times in parts of three pro seasons, and he has a 6% career strikeout rate since way back when he arrived in Charlottesville (7% if you just look at pro ball). While in college, a large swath of the industry thought Clement would play center field as a pro because his hands were not very good. Cleveland has developed him as an infielder and he remains below average there. I’d still like to see him in center but it’s getting late for that. He projects as a bench player (balls in play, sub for speed).

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Venezuela (MIL)
Age 19.0 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/50 45/50 20/35 45/40 45/55 55/55

Melendez was acquired during the offseason from Milwaukee for second baseman Mark Mathias. He is a very twitchy, athletic catcher with great defensive mobility. He also has advanced feel for contact and his relatively mature strength lets him hit for gap power. He’s not very projectable so it’s unlikely much power will be part of his profile at peak, but Melendez has a pretty realistic backup catcher outcome, and he has a puncher’s chance to be a low-end regular if he makes a ton of contact, which appears to be in play.

35+ FV Prospects

39. Cam Hill, RHP
Drafted: 17th Round, 2014 from Redlands CC (OK) (CLE)
Age 26.0 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
60/60 55/60 45/45 50/50 30/35 93-96 / 97

Hill’s stuff is nasty — his heater has huge carry, the breaking ball has big depth, and Hill even has a viable changeup — but his control puts him in the up/down relief bucket during his option years.

Drafted: 11th Round, 2014 from Cerritos JC (CA) (CLE)
Age 25.5 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Command Sits/Tops
50/50 55/55 50/50 45/45 92-95 / 96

A traditional velo/breaking ball reliever, Robinson’s secondary pitch of choice is his upper-80s slider, which he has refined his feel for locating in his mid-20s. He sits 92-96 with the fastball and also has a show-me curve. He could provide bullpen help this year.

Drafted: 15th Round, 2018 from Hillsborough Community College (FL) (CLE)
Age 21.5 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/45 50/55 35/40 30/30 30/45 40/45

I won’t call Lavastida a good receiver but it is amazing how inoffensive he is for someone who only began catching in 2018, in the month leading up to Cleveland drafting him. His hitting hands are pretty powerful, working in a lift-friendly circle (Lavastida inside-outs some balls he could pull but he’s strong enough to do damage anyway), and Lavastida struck out 12% of the time against Penn League pitching, which is a clear cut above the junior college arms he saw in 2018. He’s an interesting developmental sleeper.

Drafted: 11th Round, 2019 from Sam Houston State (CLE)
Age 22.5 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Command Sits/Tops
50/55 55/60 40/50 90-93 / 95

Mikolajchak bounced back and forth between the Sam Houston bullpen and rotation during his final two years there, looking best in relief and projecting there in a big league role. He was 90-95 with an above-average curveball after signing.

43. Steven Kwan, CF
Drafted: 5th Round, 2018 from Oregon State (CLE)
Age 22.7 Height 5′ 9″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/60 30/30 30/30 45/45 50/55 50/50

Kwan had the third-lowest swinging strike rate among qualified minor league hitters in 2019. He’s not especially toolsy (other than the contact skills) and relies entirely on instincts in center field, where he’s actually pretty good. He doesn’t have the power to play an everyday role, but he might find a niche one.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 18.8 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/45 55/65 25/60 30/20 40/55 55/55

He’s played about 20% of his pro games over at third base but he’s a long-term athletic fit at first. It’s a tough bar to clear, but Noel’s power is prodigious for his age, enough that I like him a little more than the teenage bats in the Others of Note section.

45. Victor Nova, 3B
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic (SDP)
Age 20.4 Height 5′ 9″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr L / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/55 45/50 20/40 45/40 35/45 50/50

Victor Nova is a powerfully-built 5-foot-9, has feel to hit, a somewhat advanced idea of the strike zone, and well-regarded makeup. He plays multiple positions — 2B/3B/OF — but not all that well. He’s an interesting bat-first flier who was taken on from San Diego in the three-team Trevor Bauer deal.

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2017 from Carlos Beltran Academy HS (PR) (CLE)
Age 20.5 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/45 45/55 30/50 50/40 40/50 60/60

Rodriguez was one of the youngest players in the 2017 draft and didn’t turn 18 until several months after he was selected. He was also, unsurprisingly, one of the rawest, and spent two summers on the complex in Arizona before finally kicking out to an affiliate in 2019. There Rodriguez hit pretty well (.247/.318/.424) for a 19-year-old in the Penn League. He’s stopped switch-hitting but is still a very young corner outfield prospect with considerable frame-based power projection and a chance to develop late as a hitter because of his age and previous dalliance with switch-hitting.

Other Prospects of Note

Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category.

Anthony Gose
Anthony Gose, LHP

Gose lost rookie eligibility back in 2012 as an outfielder, so he’s not eligible for this list, but he deserves to be mentioned because of the likelihood he impacts Cleveland’s bullpen this year. He was a two-way prospect who Philadelphia drafted in the 2008 second round, and Gose quickly reached Hi-A as a power/speed/arm center field prospect. He was traded to Toronto as part of the Roy Halladay deal in 2010. Some strikeout-related statistical yellow flags emerged once he reached the upper levels of the minors and his bat stalled out against big league pitching. Toronto traded him to Detroit for Devon Travis and things spiraled from there, culminating in a dugout confrontation with Toledo manager Lloyd McClendon in the middle of 2016. The following year, Detroit moved him to the mound. Gose was throwing very hard almost immediately (he was up to 97 in high school) but only pitched in 11 games at Hi-A all year. He elected free agency after the season and has since bounced around, first to Texas on a minor league deal, then Rule 5’d and returned by Houston, and then to Cleveland in 2019. He was touching 100 this spring, he has a plus curveball, and he had struck out nine in 5.2 innings before the shutdown. He could have a huge impact on Cleveland’s bullpen.

Young Hit Tool Sleepers
Jose Pastrano, SS
Jonathan Lopez, 3B
Christian Cairo, 2B
Joe Naranjo, 1B
Luis Durango Jr., OF

The most common Cleveland prospect trope is the contact-oriented infielder; here are several more. Pastrano signed for $1.5 million last year. He’s 17.7 on date of publication, and like a lot of the players in this system, he’s a switch-hitting infielder with advanced feel for contact and a medium frame. I’m a little lower on Pastrano than others because I think he’s a 4 athlete. Lopez was sent to Mahoning Valley at 19 and dealt with some injuries last year. He has a sweet lefty swing and I think he has had some of his playing time crowded out by other talented youngsters in this system. Cairo is Miguel Cairo’s son. I think he has a utility ceiling based on the tools. Naranjo was a SoCal pop-up bat who needs to get there by way of an elite hit tool. He doesn’t have much power projection so the contact has to carry the whole profile, à la Jake Bauers‘ prospectdom. Durango has a tweener fourth outfielder vibe but could be a regular if he ends up with a plus bat. He signed for $500,000 last year.

40-man Depth Arms
Jerson Ramirez, RHP
Jordan Stephens, RHP
Kirk McCarty, LHP
Raymond Burgos, LHP

Ramirez is 21 and was the last cut from the main section of the list. He’s only up to 95 coming out of the bullpen and the body is pretty maxed out, but I love how his arm works and how athletic he is, and think he might yet throw harder. I’m staying on Stephens to some degree. He was a 40 FV swingman type, then had a bad 2019. McCarty is another lefty whose fastball has huge carry and misses bats even though it’s 88-92. His breaking ball has vertical action. Burgos, the youngest of this group at age 21, throws strikes, has an average breaking ball, and a chance for an above-average changeup. The velo is a little light for the main section of the list.

Toolsy, but Contact/Profile Concerns
Quentin Holmes, CF
Oscar Gonzalez, RF
Yainer Diaz, C
Will Bartlett, 1B

Holmes can fly but still has very limited feel for baseball at just shy of age 21. Gonzalez is a big-framed corner outfield prospect with huge power and one of the least-selective approaches in pro baseball. Diaz is a college-aged catcher who was far too physical for the AZL, where he did most of his 2019 statistical damage. He does have above-average power but is also quite swing-happy and has a hole on the outer half. Bartlett, 19, has 55 raw but is a low probability, right/right first base fit.

System Overview

For a while there, it was clear Cleveland was willing to pay a talent premium for young big leaguers and near-ready prospects. Trading Tahnaj Thomas for Jordan Luplow and Jhon Torres for Oscar Mercado, among others, was at least partially motivated by the org’s competitive window with its 2017 core. Last year, the opposite started to occur. The Victor Nova and Andres Melendez acquisitions were motivated by 40-man space, but it was also the first time in a while that we got to see Cleveland’s pro department target low-level players.

The amateur arm of the org shows clear patterns of player acquisition, which I’ve gone on about ad nauseum for a while. They seem to end up with a lot of very young players (Jordan Brown, Raynel Delgado, Korey Holland), contact-oriented hitters (both domestic and international), pitchers with odd deliveries (there are several sidearmers in this system, and remember this org used a Rule 5 pick on Hoby Milner), and prospects who performed as underclassmen and regressed in their draft year.

We hoped you liked reading Top 46 Prospects: Cleveland Indians by Eric Longenhagen!

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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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Dewey24
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Dewey24

David, thanks for your excellent work. Your professionalism is one of best reasons to visit FanGraphs.

Uncle Spike
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Member
Uncle Spike

I mean Eric wrote this but I am a fan of David’s professionalism as well.

Dewey24
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Dewey24

E9
Thanks to Spike and apologies to Eric. Keep ’em coming Eric.