Top 49 Prospects: Cleveland Baseball Team

Below is an analysis of the prospects in Cleveland’s farm system. Scouting reports were compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. As there was no minor league season in 2020, there are some instances where no new information was gleaned about a player. Players whose write-ups have not been altered begin by telling you so. For the others, the blurb ends with an indication of where the player played in 2020, which in turn likely informed the changes to their report. As always, I’ve leaned more heavily on sources from outside the org than within for reasons of objectivity. Because outside scouts were not allowed at the alternate sites, I’ve primarily focused on data from there. Lastly, in effort to more clearly indicate relievers’ anticipated roles, you’ll see two reliever designations, both in lists and on The Board: MIRP, or multi-inning relief pitcher, and SIRP, or single-inning relief pitcher.

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 Future Value’s merits and drawbacks, read Future Value.

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.

Editor’s note: Josh Wolf and Isaiah Greene were added to this list following their trade to Cleveland as part of the Francisco Lindor deal.

Angel Genao was added to this list after he agreed to a deal with Cleveland on January 15.

Cleveland Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Nolan Jones 22.7 AA LF 2021 50
2 Triston McKenzie 23.5 MLB SP 2021 50
3 George Valera 20.2 A RF 2022 50
4 Brayan Rocchio 20.0 A- SS 2022 50
5 Tyler Freeman 21.7 A+ 2B 2022 50
6 Daniel Espino 20.0 A- SP 2022 50
7 Bo Naylor 20.9 A C 2023 50
8 Aaron Bracho 19.7 A- 2B 2024 45+
9 Gabriel Arias 20.9 A+ SS 2021 45+
10 Lenny Torres 20.3 R SP 2023 45
11 Angel Martinez 19.0 R SS 2023 45
12 Ethan Hankins 20.6 A SP 2023 45
13 Sam Hentges 24.5 AA SIRP 2021 45
14 Owen Miller 24.2 AA SS 2021 45
15 Carlos Vargas 21.3 A- SIRP 2023 45
16 Daniel Johnson Jr. 25.5 MLB RF 2021 45
17 Joey Cantillo 21.1 A+ SP 2022 45
18 Emmanuel Clase 22.8 MLB SIRP 2020 40+
19 Carson Tucker 19.0 R SS 2025 40+
20 Tanner Burns 22.0 R SP 2024 40+
21 Logan Allen 22.4 R SP 2024 40+
22 Petey Halpin 18.6 R CF 2025 40+
23 Junior Sanquintin 19.0 R SS 2023 40+
24 Nick Mikolajchak 23.2 A- SIRP 2023 40+
25 Josh Wolf 20.4 R SIRP 2024 40+
26 Cody Morris 24.2 A+ MIRP 2022 40+
27 Gabriel Rodriguez 18.9 R 3B 2023 40+
28 Isaiah Greene 19.4 R CF 2025 40
29 Hunter Gaddis 22.8 A- MIRP 2023 40
30 Bryan Lavastida 22.1 A C 2022 40
31 Richard Palacios 23.7 A 2B 2022 40
32 Jose Tena 19.8 R SS 2024 40
33 Trevor Stephan 25.1 AA SIRP 2021 40
34 Jose Fermin 21.8 A SS 2023 40
35 Milan Tolentino 19.2 R SS 2025 40
36 Raymond Burgos 22.1 A MIRP 2021 40
37 Bobby Bradley 24.6 MLB DH 2019 40
38 Alexfri Planez 19.4 R RF 2024 40
39 Angel Genao 16.7 R SS 2021 40
40 Yordys Valdes 19.4 R SS 2024 35+
41 Cameron Hill 26.6 MLB SIRP 2021 35+
42 Eli Morgan 24.7 AAA MIRP 2021 35+
43 Robert Broom 24.3 AA SIRP 2021 35+
44 Nick Sandlin 24.0 AAA SIRP 2020 35+
45 Scott Moss 26.3 AAA MIRP 2020 35+
46 Jean Carlos Mejia 24.4 A+ SP 2020 35+
47 Jhonkensy Noel 19.5 R 1B 2022 35+
48 Adam Scott 25.3 AA SIRP 2022 35+
49 Steven Kwan 23.4 A+ CF 2022 35+
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50 FV Prospects

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from Holy Ghost Prep HS (PA) (CLE)
Age 22.7 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 50/65 30/30 40/45 70

A high school shortstop who has almost exclusively been a third baseman in pro ball, Jones played first base and both outfield corners during Fall instructs. Defensive versatility is valuable on its own, and this was also a logical trial given Cleveland’s situation at the corner spots. Carlos Santana has departed, the club’s outfield was below replacement level in 2020, and one of the better hitters on the planet is already the club’s third sacker. But regardless of the circumstance, there is a contingent of scouts who think Jones has already outgrown third base. He’s stretched two additional (listed) inches since high school and now stands in at a long-legged 6-foot-4. Though his ridiculous arm enables him to make some tough plays, Jones’ size has an impact on his defensive footwork and mobility.

But ultimately, it doesn’t really matter where Jones plays, because he has a special offensive skillset that will likely profile anywhere. Not only does he have big raw power, but Jones has perhaps the best strike zone discipline in the entire minor leagues. He ran a 20% walk rate across a 100-game sample as a 21-year-old at Hi-A, then posted a 14.7% rate at Double-A (he had turned 22 by then) to wrap up 2019. Jones has the highest walk rate (17.9%) the last two years among minor leaguers who have reached at least Double-A, and there are only five other hitters his age or younger who are within three percentage points of him. That patience combined with high-end raw power (he has the fourth-highest max exit velo among prospects on The Board) that Jones hasn’t yet totally tapped into should enable him to be a cleanup-hitting force.

There’s some platoon-y, strikeout risk here. Jones struck out a lot his short Double-A trial and then in the 2019 Arizona Fall League. He’s not good against left-handed pitching and will need to be dropped in the lineup against lefties, and sometimes come off the bench. But again, Jones has elite feel for the zone and huge power. His skillset is a scaled down version of Adam Dunn’s or Joey Gallo‘s, and quite similar to Pat Burrell’s (other than the handedness). (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Royal Palm Beach HS (FL) (CLE)
Age 23.5 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/50 45/50 55/55 45/50 50/60 90-95 / 97

McKenzie’s big league debut was his first competitive game since 2018 due to multiple injuries (he missed the spring of 2018 with upper back issues, then did not pitch in 2019 due to lat and pec strains) and the global pandemic. Not only was he healthy, but he was throwing harder, at least for a little while. His fastball sat in the 90-93 range in 2018 and was 90-94 this spring as he prepared for the season. Then McKenzie was living in the 93-96 range in his first start and leaned on the fastball in big spots, often shaking off Roberto Pérez to get to it. Over the next few weeks, McKenzie’s velocity dropped in each subsequent start before it spiked again in a long relief role at the very end of the season. You could argue the injuries and fluctuating velocity are indications that the long-held industry apprehension regarding McKenzie’s durability has turned out to be correct. But it also would have been unreasonable to expect any pitcher to hold their velocity as they got deeper into their first extended action in quite a while. The action on McKenzie’s fastball also gives it some margin for error, velo-wise. And both his slider and changeup have evolved to complement the fastball/curveball combo that had headlined his arsenal as a younger prospect. Even though it’s still unclear exactly where his fastball velocity band will sit during the course of a whole season, I think McKenzie has the necessary other components to pitch in the middle of a rotation. (Alternate site, MLB)

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 20.2 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/45 55/60 35/60 50/45 45/45 55

A broken hamate and the pandemic have limited the performance sample by which to evaluate Valera. Since signing in 2017, he’s only played a total of 58 affiliated games and punched out in nearly 30% of his plate appearances. But let’s remember that he was one of the youngest players in the 2018 New York-Penn League (typically a league for college players — Valera was 18) season during which most of the strikeouts were accrued, and instead shift our focus to those who have seen Valera on the Arizona backfields, where he has easily spent the most time since signing.

There, including in the Fall of 2020, Valera has the best combination of feel for contact and power among his peers in this system. Among the other teenagers, Valera looks like a jazz bassist jamming with a group of teenagers who taught themselves the guitar using Blink-182 tabs. He has great in-the-box rhythm and timing, unloading on pitches with veteran anticipation. When Valera’s curt, all-fields uppercut swing connects just right, you’d swear you were watching a young Robinson Canó, and like Canó, Valera is going to hit some emphatic, picturesque dingers. While his swinging style will likely always cause him to whiff more than average, he has the most potent hit/power combination in this system and there are scouts who think he should be ranked first in the org. Because he has so little actual pro experience, he is likely to play a corner outfield spot — I liked Valera’s defensive instincts enough to keep him alive in center field on last year’s list, but folks who saw him this Fall only watched him in right, so center seems to less likely to me now –and due to his track record of swinging and missing, other scouts think he should slide behind the hit-first middle infielders ranked a few spots behind him here. It’s very important for Valera to have a full, healthy 2021 since he’s part of huge contingent of prospects who need to be added to the 40-man next offseason. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Venezuela (CLE)
Age 20.0 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 150 Bat / Thr S / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/60 30/40 30/40 60/60 60/70 50

There’s been no change to Rocchio’s evaluation since he neither played at the alternate site nor at instructs due to travel limitations going to and from Venezuela. I did update some of his tool grades based on continued discussion with scouts, including those who saw a bit of him before the March 2020 shutdown. Even though he’s only 20, I consider Rocchio a high-probability everyday big leaguer by virtue of his advanced feel for contact and exceptional shortstop defense. So fundamentally sound is Rocchio that Cleveland was willing to give him some big league spring training reps each of the last two years, when he was still just a teenager with mostly backfield experience. He looked comfortable, both in the field and at the plate, in that handful of games. He has great range, hands, footwork, and just enough arm strength for the left side of the infield, since it’s enabled by the quickness of his actions. 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 he 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 like this tend to play every day. (At-home development)

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Etiwanda HS (CA) (CLE)
Age 21.7 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/70 40/45 20/30 55/50 45/50 45

I slid Freeman behind Rocchio (he ranked ahead of him last year) based on scouts’ looks at him this year, which indicated to them that he’s likely to play second base long-term, rather than shortstop. Ultimately, the carrying tool here is Freeman’s bat. He tracks pitches like a hawk tracks prey from a half mile in the sky and guides the bat head to them with rare consistency. For such a short-levered hitter, Freeman has great plate coverage. He’s able to dive and get the bat head to pitches out away from him, and he’s typically willing to hit the ball where it’s pitched in a refreshing, 20th-century way. He had the 16th-lowest swinging strike rate in the minors in 2019, one of four Cleveland hitters hovering around the 4% mark. Though unlikely to hit for power (based both on his lack of present power and limited physical projection), a potential plus-plus hitter who plays the middle of the diamond is an everyday player. They may need a one-year stopgap, but Freeman is likely to get the first shot to replace Cesar Hernandez at second. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Premier Academy HS (GA) (CLE)
Age 20.0 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
65/65 55/60 50/55 45/55 40/50 94-97 / 99

We still don’t know whether Espino can hold his prodigious velocity for an entire season’s worth of starter innings because the pandemic put a premature end to what would have been his first full slate. Instead he pitched manicured innings at the alternate site, then did some remote development before instructs, where Espino did not throw in games due to a minor shoulder injury. This comes after he was only allowed to throw 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 during those. 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 he 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, or that he strength trains excessively.

His arm action is atypical and quite long, similar to Madison Bumgarner‘s, but it works for Espino. If, like Bumgarner, Espino loses some velocity even before he reaches the majors, be it due to a pro workload or injury, I think he has a command-centric, four-pitch strike-thrower outcome. His changeup is much better than I gave it credit for last year, and realizing that during calls with scouts to prep for this list is why Espino is moving up a FV tier even tough he was kept at the alt site all year. He’s an All-Star talent with a risky profile. (Alternate site, at-home dev)

Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from St. Joan of Arc HS (CAN) (CLE)
Age 20.9 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr L / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/40 55/60 30/50 50/40 40/45 55

Naylor is tracking like a power-hitting everyday catcher. Still just the age of a junior college player, he has thus far kept what scouts thought might be a high-maintenance body in check. In fact, Naylor looked as lean and twitchy as ever in the Fall. While remaining agile, he also showed he could produce on offense while dealing with the physical grind of catching, slashing .243/.313/.421 (good for a 110 wRC+) in the 2019 Midwest League while catching 80 games.

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. If he performs against Hi-A pitching early in 2021 and reinforces confidence in his ability to hit, he’ll move onto the Top 100. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

45+ FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Venezuela (CLE)
Age 19.7 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr S / R FV 45+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/55 55/55 25/55 50/45 30/40 45

Like Valera, it’s been tough to scout Bracho at an affiliate due to a combination of injuries and COVID. 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. That has made it hard to evaluate his defense at length. I had him projected in left field last offseason but scouts who I spoke to regarding his Fall performance unanimously think I should keep him alive at second base, albeit as a below-average fielder there. I should note that several of those scouts came from orgs whose philosophy regarding infield defense is more inclusive than average. Regardless, it’s fair to project on Bracho’s defense because he hasn’t had many pro reps at second base yet.

What’s important is that Bracho can really hit. He’s stout and strong and hits balls much harder than is typical for someone with a frame this compact. He’s patient and poised at the dish and clearly has an approach. 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, though his swing looks a little long at times. His bat head can take a deeper path to the bottom of the zone but it’s still usually on time because Bracho’s levers are so short. He’s quite polished for a hitter who won’t turn 20 until near the start of the 2021 season. 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 lack of affiliated data here probably means the max exit velo listed for Bracho on The Board is less than he’s capable of producing, and someone from outside the org told me they saw him hit a ball 450 feet over the batter’s eye at the Reds place during a Fall game. I’d like to see him perform in more than 35 games to stick him in the Top 100, so for now consider Bracho a likely mid- or post-season addition with a profile similar to that of Shed Long and Nick Solak, both recent top 100 types. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Venezuela (SDP)
Age 20.9 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 201 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/35 55/60 35/50 55/55 55/60 70

The splashiest name in the Mike Clevinger trade was 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 were acquired. Arias was part of San Diego’s huge 2016 international signing class, inking a deal worth 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 looks like a stud at five o’clock when he’s taking batting practice and infield, but his in-game swing decisions have been a problem, and were even during that statistically impressive 2019. The Padres threw every developmental trick in the book at him during the 2019-20 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 — Arias played some spring games in the place of Fernando Tatis Jr., who was one of several Padres to miss time with flu-like symptoms during the spring before baseball shut down. 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 him 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. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

45 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Beacon HS (NY) (CLE)
Age 20.3 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 threw just one in-game inning early during Instructional League, then did the rest of his Autumn work in bullpens on the side, which scouts did not have access to. So while I’d love to have found someone who saw his lone outing, I can’t, meaning his report is the same as last year’s. 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’ fastball command 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 a 2019 surgery that, combined with COVID, caused Torres to miss nearly two seasons. (Fall Instructional League…sort of)

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 19.0 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr S / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/55 40/50 20/45 60/60 40/50 60

I wrote last year that among the many notable teenage infielders in this system, Martinez’s speed and twitch give him the group’s best chance to stay up the middle of the diamond. That sentiment was again trumpeted by scouts who saw the huge Cleveland Instructional League contingent in Arizona in the Fall. (You should notice that group has begun to striate throughout the system rather than be grouped together.) Martinez is a bit tightly wound but has the requisite footwork, hands, actions, and arm strength to play shortstop. I think it’s possible the lack of bend/flexibility becomes more evident as he adds muscle, which may push him to center field. 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 his bat-to-ball ability. The wrists drive what is currently doubles power (because of his speed, there are 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 he will still slug. He has catalytic qualities on offense and a chance to play a premium defensive position. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Forsyth Central HS (GA) (CLE)
Age 20.6 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 50/55 50/50 45/50 30/50 92-95 / 97

Hankins had a strong showing on paper and video at the alt site, then looked visibly excellent in the Fall, appearing a little more svelte and really turning over an improved, power sink upper-80s changeup. His best two pitches remain his fastball, which several scouts saw up to 96 (I have him sitting 91-96, and 93-96 in separate outings), and a sharp mid-80s slider, which routinely shows plus. He also has a 12-to-6 curveball he can backdoor for strikes. It’s a starter’s toolbox of pitches, and Hankins will be a mid-rotation option should his velocity and slider bite, which have waxed and waned a bit during his time on the prospect radar, continue to look like they did in 2020. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

13. Sam Hentges, SIRP
Drafted: 4th Round, 2014 from Mounds View HS (MN) (CLE)
Age 24.5 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

Hentges spent 2020 at the alternate site, so his report remains the same. He had a disappointing 2019, his second full year since coming back from a 2017 Tommy John, but he 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 then 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), played both ways as an amateur, and lost a year of development 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 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 time 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. (Alternate site)

14. Owen Miller, SS
Drafted: 3rd Round, 2018 from Illinois State (SDP)
Age 24.2 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/55 50/50 30/40 45/45 45/50 55

Part of the Mike Clevinger return from the Padres, Miller is the latest in a long line of small, physically generic Midwestern college infielders who it turns out can really hit. 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 near the 45 FV range, but for a third round pick who moves quickly, that’s a great outcome.

Miller is arguably polished enough to play in the big leagues in 2021, and with Cleveland’s infield situation very touch and go with Cesar Hernandez leaving and Francisco Lindor primed to be traded, he may need to. If Cleveland ends up with a one-year stopgap, 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. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

15. Carlos Vargas, SIRP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 21.3 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/65 55/60 35/45 30/40 94-97 / 99

Cleveland did indeed put Vargas on their 40-man this offseason, a move that last year I would have guessed had coincided with him moving to the bullpen, where his control/command fit at the time. But based on scouts’ looks in the Fall, Vargas’ arm action has shortened up (the shift looks similar to Lucas Giolito‘s) and though I don’t consider it likely yet, he’s increased his chances of remaining a starter in the eyes of the industry. For the last couple of years, Vargas has been electric at times and maddening at others. I saw him up to 101 on the backfields in 2018 when his outings were between two and four innings in length, then he pitched at mostly 93-97 as a more traditional starter in 2019. During both years, Vargas’ command was very spotty. And despite the velocity, he 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. For him to have a real impact heater, I thought Vargas would need to move to the bullpen where he could sit 97-plus the whole time and rely on sheer velocity to miss bats, but now that his arm action has changed that may not be the case. The alteration may have an impact on literally everything about him — his breaking ball quality, his command, his fastball shape — and so far it seems to have already improved the demarcation between his two- and four-seamers. We won’t truly know until Vargas starts pitching in actual games, but it’s instructive that Cleveland added him to their 40-man rather than Luis Oviedo, who had similar issues and was also given a shorter arm action before the club lost him in the Rule 5 draft. (Fall Instructional League)

Drafted: 5th Round, 2016 from New Mexico State (WAS)
Age 25.5 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr L / L FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/45 55/55 40/45 70/70 50/50 80

Does it tell us anything about Johnson’s prospects that Cleveland was not willing to give him an extended look in their outfield even though they had one of the least productive jardinero groups in baseball? Johnson will come to spring training poised to compete with Bradley Zimmer, Jake Bauers, Josh Naylor and perhaps Nolan Jones for corner outfield starts against right-handed pitching. He is as tooled-up as any of those players, so gifted that at various points during his minor league career, some scouts and front office personnel have projected him (he was drafted by Washington and traded for Jefry Rodriguez) as an everyday player. The loudest of those tools is Johnson’s arm strength, followed by his speed and then, to a lesser extent, above-average raw power that manifests as doubles in games because his swing really only enables home run power to his pull side. Johnson has a career .284/.344/.460 line in the minors and has never produced a batting line below league average as a pro. So given the tools and performance, why isn’t he higher on this list? 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 and that Johnson’s relative lack of defensive instincts make him more of a fit in right field than in center. At one point Johnson was so raw as a hitter that some scouts wanted to see him on the mound, leading me to I hope there would be late development in some of these areas, but now that Johnson is 25, I think he’s likely to settle in as a platoon bat. (Alternate site, MLB)

Drafted: 16th Round, 2017 from Kailua HS (HI) (SDP)
Age 21.1 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr L / L FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/50 40/45 55/60 40/55 87-90 / 92

He was a Pick to Click of mine last offseason, but Cantillo hasn’t added any fastball velocity (he sat 87-89 in the Fall), so I can’t justify moving him into the Top 100 this offseason. I still think, even at a lesser velocity, Cantillo’s fastball will play fine because of its flat angle and the big carry created by how perfectly it backspins, but it needs to become at least a low-90s offering to have a shot to dominate (like Colin Poche’s fastball). It behooves Cantillo to add power to his breaking ball as well. Though it only needs to function as a pitch he can flip into the zone for a strike once in a while, it’s currently bending in at about 70 mph and that gives hitters too much time to adjust to it in mid-air. But Cantillo’s money pitch is his changeup, and his ability to locate it in consistently enticing areas. He’s still just 21 and his new org has a history of helping pitchers add velo, and for getting the most out of changeup/command pitchers, but until we see a velocity spike I’ll have Cantillo in the 45 FV tier. (Alternate site)

40+ FV Prospects

18. Emmanuel Clase, SIRP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Dominican Republic (SDP)
Age 22.8 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 206 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops
80/80 50/55 40/40 98-100 / 102

Due to both a severe late strain and a positive PED test, Clase (pronounced CLAH-say) didn’t pitch at the alt site (the suspension prevented it) and instead threw a little during instructs (he sat 97-98) and then tossed a single inning for Estrellas Orientales in LIDOM. He was throwing hard but looked out of shape. Rather than move him back into the 45 FV tier now that the (modified) duration of his suspension has concluded, I’m leaving him in the 40+ tier due to skepticism about his ability to be as explosive as one needs to in order to throw 99-102 without help. That kind of arm strength made Clase internet baseball famous for a minute during his tongue-burning, 23-inning big league cup of coffee in 2019. His cutting fastball sat around 99 mph and touched 102.7 during that stretch. He looked like a huge steal for Texas, which 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 from Texas as part of the Corey Kluber trade the following offseason. He still hasn’t thrown a pitch for a Cleveland affiliate. (Fall Instructional League, LIDOM)

Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Mountain Pointe HS (AZ) (CLE)
Age 19.0 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/45 45/55 20/50 55/50 45/50 60

It was fascinating to hear scouts who see pro players, specifically the very talented group of teenage shortstops in this system, describe Tucker after I had watched him among domestic high schoolers and discussed him with amateur scouts. After Tucker looked explosive but unpolished to my eye on the showcase circuit, then seemed to take a real leap during an abbreviated senior season, multiple scouts who saw him in Goodyear now consider him a high-floor, lower-ceiling player. It’s possible Tucker looks much different in the pro context, or that, like many of us, he was just weary from dealing with months of our earthly reality. I’m inclined to bet on what I saw with my own two eyes when Tucker was an amateur and continue to have him placed as a high-variance, high-ceiling talent. (Fall Instructional League)

Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Auburn (CLE)
Age 22.0 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/50 50/55 45/45 45/50 40/50 90-94 / 95

I’m a little lighter on Burns than the industry consensus, which tends to have him as a low variance 45 FV arm. I don’t think statistical success for SEC pitching necessarily translates to pro ball (see: Pilkington, Konnor) and Burns is a squat guy with a high-effort delivery whose stuff is just okay. He was up to 97 before his junior year but I have him sitting 90-92 and touching 95 during the college season, then throwing about that hard in a single-inning Fall outing with Cleveland. Burns does have a tight slider in the 78-81 mph range; his curveball velocity band overlaps with the slider a bit but it has distinct shape. He also throws a mid-80s changeup with sink, but worked very, very heavily off the fastball in college. I’d like to see his secondary usage increase in pro ball. Burns also has advanced pitchability elements, and he’ll vary his delivery home to mess with hitters’ timing. He profiles as a four-pitch rotation piece who’ll outpace my projection if he can either a) show he can execute all his secondary pitches consistently or b) add velocity. I think the former is more likely. (Fall Instructional League)

21. Logan Allen, SP
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2020 from Florida International (CLE)
Age 22.4 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / L FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/50 45/50 50/60 35/55 89-92 / 94

This is 2020 draftee Logan Allen. The other Logan Allen lost rookie eligibility in 2020; his report can be found on the Graduates tab of The Board. This Allen’s playerid number is sa3014444 and his birthday is September 5, 1998, for those of you who want to avoid guessing which one to click on when you search for him on the site. Allen was an undersized, pitchability high school lefty who worked 88-92, with mostly average secondary stuff and a changeup that flashed plus. He was a third or fourth rounder at that point, then posted fantastic numbers at FIU, on the Cape, and for Team USA, enabling Allen to move into the second round come draft time. Though his fastball only sits 88-91 at times, Allen is a great athlete (he played both ways in college) with a well-balanced, repeatable delivery and plus command projection, and he hides the ball well, which should enable him to work at that velocity without getting shelled. Cleveland has done wonders with many strike-throwing college pitchers with good command, and Allen has a shot to blow up if he starts throwing harder while focusing solely on pitching. (Fall Instructional League)

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2020 from St. Francis HS (CA) (CLE)
Age 18.6 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/55 35/45 20/40 60/60 45/55 60

Halpin’s profile seems to be right in the crosshairs of Cleveland’s draft model. He was a SoCal high schooler a tier below the glitzy Pete Crow-Armstrong group (Halpin was pushed to center field on the NorCal Area Codes team by the SoCal outfield depth), was young for the draft class, and has an impressive feel for contact, all of which seem to be drivers for the Cuyahoga contingent’s draft preferences. Though he’s wiry and skinny-looking, Halpin has sneaky pop because of how consistently he gets the bat head on the baseball. His amateur swing had a very upright front side through finish, and yet he was still able to drop the bat head and impact pitches toward the bottom of the strike zone, and in general he has great top-to-bottom coverage of the zone. He seemed to be working with a more open stance in the Fall and he had clearly added muscle during the 2020 layoff. That may alter the nature of his contact quality, but for now I have Halpin projected as a leadoff-hitting center fielder. (Fall Instructional League)

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 19.0 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 60

Cleveland’s young infield contingent has begun to spread throughout these rankings as their bodies mature and more light is shed on their likely defensive futures, and their showcase skills and hitting acumen are actually tested during in-game competition. Of all the teenage infielders, it’s Sanquintin’s profile that remains the cloudiest. There’s no scout consensus as to which infield spot he fits best, and both his left- and right-handed swings need to cleaned up to work but are really exciting because of his bat speed. He swings hard and shows power potential from both sides, but his hands are awfully noisy from the left, while his righty bat path sometimes chops downward in an ineffectual way.

But Sanquintin shows a crude knack for putting the bat on the ball and hitting it hard, and switch-hitters typically take a little longer to refine their swings. Sanquintin isn’t in the Ronny Mauricio mold where you can pretty easily see him adding 20 pounds while staying at shortstop. He’s a little more compact than that at a square-shouldered 6-foot-1, a little thicker and more physical than the typical 19 year old. He could end up at third base or as a big, strong, heavy-footed second baseman, or the cement might be dry on his frame and he stays at short. Either way, the important thing is that Sanquintin continue to refine his feel to hit from both sides of the plate, as switch-hitting infielders with power can basically play anywhere. (Fall Instructional League)

Drafted: 11th Round, 2019 from Sam Houston State (CLE)
Age 23.2 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 55/60 50/55 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 in 2019. Then Mikolajchak arrived for instructs in the Fall of 2020. I’ve spoken with scouts who bookended his Fall work and it sounds like he was 90-92 in his first outing, then wrapped up instructs sitting 95-97, which he was blowing past everyone. The two pitchers sounded so different that I had to make sure neither of the scouts I spoke to had the wrong player. There’s also evidence of a leap in Mikolajchak’s pitch data: more spin, more induced vertical movement on his fastball and a harder curveball. He now has an impact power pitcher’s fastball/curveball combo. After he threw four different pitches in college, he projects to work with three (his changeup looks good on paper but the scouts I spoke with didn’t see it in the Fall) out of a big league bullpen, and based on how vigorously the arrow is pointing up for him after his Fall in Arizona, he may move very quickly. (Fall Instructional League)

25. Josh Wolf, SIRP
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2019 from St. Thomas HS (TX) (NYM)
Age 20.4 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/60 35/55 50/60 40/45 30/45 92-95 / 97

Wolf was a 2019 high school draftee from Texas who had a velo bump between his showcase summer and senior spring, when he was suddenly 94-97 with a plus breaking ball at times. He does not have your typical starter’s build even though his on-paper measurables are pretty standard for a starter. He’s very narrow and spindly rather than strapping and broad. Plus, Wolf’s arm action is much longer than a starting pitcher’s typically is, but that’s something that Cleveland has been good at altering. That might aid Wolf’s changeup growth. He has nascent feel for locating the change, but not for creating action on it. I think a path to starting more likely means a developmental course that ends with Wolf having two distinct breaking balls. Based on his frame composition, atypical delivery, and style of pitching, I have Wolf projected in relief, but he has high-leverage stuff. (Fall Instructional League)

26. Cody Morris, MIRP
Drafted: 7th Round, 2018 from South Carolina (CLE)
Age 24.2 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 from 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 (at 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. During 2020 instructs he was parked in the mid-90s and up to at least 98, but again this was in a developmental setting. 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. (Fall Instructional League)

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Venezuela (CLE)
Age 18.9 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 25/55 50/40 40/50 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. (Fall Instructional League)

40 FV Prospects

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2020 from Corona HS (CA) (NYM)
Age 19.4 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/45 45/55 25/50 60/60 40/55 45

Greene was a 2020 draftee out of a SoCal high school, and he’s a frame-based projection prospect who may have had a bigger breakout senior year had the pandemic not squashed his pre-draft season. Teams and scouts who liked him best as an amateur thought he had pretty good feel for contact and were projecting on both his broad-shouldered, He’s an average athlete who struggled to get over his front side on throws from the outfield during my looks at him in 2019. That’s one of a few developmental things to watch as Greene traverses the minors. The big one, though, is his swing. As an amateur (again, going off my 2019 summer looks here) his swing was really long and needed pretty significant polish to be playable, but he wasn’t loading his hands quite as deep during his first pro instructs, and he had a better Fall than expected. It’s likely that Cleveland’s amateur report drove their desire to acquire Greene since he was a recent draftee who only saw instructs action. And in this regard Greene isn’t your typical Cleveland prospect in that he was a little older than the typical high school prospect and is already 19 and a half. However, since you’re reading this list, you know they have a penchant for SoCal hitters. Some scouts do not agree with me about the swing. They like Greene’s cut and had him in the late-first, early-second round mix. I had him in the third round as a higher variance sort, with the speed for center field (for now), considerable body projection (which might impact the range in center), and the need for a swing overhaul. (Fall Instructional League)

29. Hunter Gaddis, MIRP
Drafted: 5th Round, 2019 from Georgia State (CLE)
Age 22.8 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 212 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/50 50/55 40/40 55/60 40/50 90-93 / 96

Gaddis’ changeup grip and release is similar to Devin Williams‘, and the pitch sometimes has more than 15 mph of velocity separation from his fastball, which now resides in the mid-90s at peak, but was down in the low-90s in 2020. The changeup is his best pitch, and disappears beneath the bats of right-handed hitters when he releases it right. Gaddis can also create bat-missing depth on his slider, though it isn’t quite as consistent. He has a viable starter’s three-pitch mix, but the relative stiffness in his delivery, which includes a pretty violent head whack, pushes him toward a multi-inning relief role for me. (Fall Instructional League)

Drafted: 15th Round, 2018 from Hillsborough Community College (FL) (CLE)
Age 22.1 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/45 50/55 35/40 30/30 30/45 45

Lavastida continued to improve defensively and show ongoing signs of offensive competence during 2020 instructs, so with his 40-man deadline arriving in 2021, he’s no longer just an interesting developmental sleeper. He’s now a high-priority follow for teams (and for internal evaluation) throughout next season.

Though he squatted a few times at JUCO in the month leading up to the 2018 draft, Lavastida only totally moved from shortstop to catcher after he entered pro ball. 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 has had no issues adjusting to pro pitching while learning to catch. He struck out just 12% of the time against Penn League pitching in 2019. His defense may be challenged when he’s forced to catch real big league stuff with greater regularity, and because he was alternating between catching and DH during most of 2019 we don’t know whether Lavastida’s offense will be diluted by catcher’s bumps and bruises. But because he has a shot to both catch and be a viable offensive threat, Lavastida is a 2021 breakout candidate. (Fall Instructional League)

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2018 from Towson (CLE)
Age 23.7 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 30/30 60/60 45/50 40

Palacios will be 24 years old by the time he finally gets at-bats at a full-season affiliate since he missed all of 2019 recovering from labrum surgery. He took advantage of his rehab and looked absolutely jacked during instructs, his first action in nearly two years.

Had he not gotten hurt and were it not for the pandemic, Palacios might have reached the majors already. 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 a capable middle infield defender (probably at second, based on how his arm stroke works) with premium hand-eye coordination and bat control. He’s a line drive spray hitter without big game power, despite his impressive physique. 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 he hasn’t yet had the opportunity to allay. He was one of the older prospects at instructs but also hadn’t seen in-game pitching for quite some time, making him a very difficult contextual evaluation. It’s rare for contact-oriented hitters to be high variance prospects, but the layoff and injuries push Palacios into that bucket. (Fall Instructional League)

32. Jose Tena, SS
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 19.8 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 40/45 20/40 55/55 40/50 55

I had a hard time sourcing new opinions on Tena, who seemed lost in the shuffle of Cleveland’s huge shortstop contingent at instructs. His report is the same except to note that he is one of several prospects in this system who looks like they spent a lot of time working out during quarantine, and Tena’s center of gravity looks higher now than when he was in the 2019 AZL. He’d 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. (Fall Instructional League)

33. Trevor Stephan, SIRP
Drafted: 3rd Round, 2017 from Arkansas (NYY)
Age 25.1 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/60 55/60 40/45 40/50 90-94 / 97

Cleveland’s Rule 5 pick, Stephan, was at New York’s alt site all year. His cross-bodied delivery compares closely to that of Brewers righty Freddy Peralta, as both get way down the mound (Stephan gets nearly seven feet of extension on his fastballs) and have lower arm slots that make right-handed hitters very uncomfortable. He makes heavy use of a hard slider that at times looks like a cutter. It has enough movement to miss bats even if Stephan leaves it in the zone, and he’s been able to back foot it to lefties. He may add a curveball and try to work multiple innings down the line, but for now I have him in as a single-inning middle relief piece. (Alternate site)

34. Jose Fermin, SS
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 21.8 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 50

No change to Fermin’s blurb, as he’s the same guy. He had the eighth-lowest swinging strike rate in the minors in 2019, a measly 4%. He has a minimalistic cut 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 him. (Fall Instructional League)

Drafted: 4th Round, 2020 from Santa Margarita Catholic HS (CA) (CLE)
Age 19.2 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/50 30/40 20/30 55/55 45/60 55

As is the case with Petey Halpin, Tyler Freeman, and Joe Naranjo (in the honorable mentions), Tolentino was a SoCal high schooler with advanced feel for contact. Of that list, he’s the best defender by a long shot. In fact, he was one of the slicker infield defenders in the 2020 draft, regardless of demographic. I think Tolentino is much like Fermin, just a few years behind him, likely to be an infield utility man. (Fall Instructional League)

36. Raymond Burgos, MIRP
Drafted: 18th Round, 2016 from Pedro Falu Orellano HS (CLE)
Age 22.1 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/50 40/45 50/50 55/55 45/50 91-94 / 96

Burgos was a Day Three prep projection pick in 2016, and spent the first year and a half of his career rehabbing from Tommy John. Since returning, he has thrown a surprising number of strikes for a tightly-wound 6-foot-5 guy, and his velocity has been climbing for the last few years. He has a good changeup, a curveball he can locate consistently and that really plays against lefties because of Burgos’ length, as well as a distant fourth-pitch cutter/slider. Burgos had been among the Honorable Mentions on several past lists, pushed down due to either a lack of velocity or injury (he missed summer of 2016, all of ’17, and the back half of ’19). Since high school, he has gone from touching the upper-80s, to sitting 91-94 in 2018 and ’19 before he got hurt, to sitting 93-96 with tail and sink during parts of the Fall of ’20, but 90-92 at other times. Burgos was Rule 5 eligible this year, but was not selected as there were pitchers with comparable stuff but less volatility. I think a multi-inning relief role will balances Burgos’ repertoire depth with what seems like a lack of durability, and a short runway to build innings before next year’s 40-man deadline. (Fall Instructional League)

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2014 from Harrion Central HS (MS) (CLE)
Age 24.6 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 70/70 50/55 20/20 40/45 50

Bradley was at the alt site all year, so his report stays the same. He’s 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 route to Asia. He’ll compete with Josh Naylor, Franmil Reyes and the other Cleveland DH types next spring. (Alternate site)

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Venezuela (CLE)
Age 19.4 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

Planez did not come stateside for instructs due to travel difficulty coming from Venezuela, so his blurb remains the same as last year’s. He 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. (At-home dev)

39. Angel Genao, SS
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2021 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 16.7 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 150 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/50 35/45 20/45 50/50 35/45 45

Cleveland seems to prioritize switch-hitting, up-the-middle players in the international market and they have yet another in Genao, who has become much more physical in the months leading up to signing. His swing is crude from both sides but he’s a good athlete with a good frame.

35+ FV Prospects

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2019 from McArthur HS (FL) (CLE)
Age 19.4 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr S / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/40 40/45 20/40 55/55 50/60 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 and I think it’s more likely he ends up as a glove-first utility man. (Fall Instructional League)

41. Cameron Hill, SIRP
Drafted: 17th Round, 2014 from Redlands CC (OK) (CLE)
Age 26.6 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Command Sits/Tops
50/50 55/55 50/50 40/40 91-94 / 95

Hill threw more strikes than expected during his 2020 debut, which allowed him to succeed despite a downtick in velocity. His heater has natural cut at times and both of his breaking balls are consistently average and flash plus, the slider doing so more often than the curve. He’s an up/down reliever if he’s still parked in the low-90s, but might grab hold of a consistent bullpen spot if his velo bounces back into the mid-90s, which is where it was in 2019 (93-96). (Alternate site)

42. Eli Morgan, MIRP
Drafted: 8th Round, 2017 from Gonzaga (CLE)
Age 24.7 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/45 45/50 45/45 60/70 50/55 87-90 / 92

Sequestered at the alt site, Morgan’s blurb remain’s the same, though I’ll note here that his velocity once again held in the upper-80s in 2020. His 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. (Alternate site)

43. Robert Broom, SIRP
Drafted: 10th Round, 2018 from Mercer (CLE)
Age 24.3 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops
40/40 55/55 50/55 87-90 / 92

Those of you who are fans of nominative determinism, especially if you were disappointed by J.D. Hammer’s lack of breaking ball, will be glad to know that Robert Broom has a sweeping slider. Like most low-slot relievers, he has a tailing fastball and slider combination that relies on deception and location to succeed. So far, Broom’s has. He owns a career 0.90 ERA in 90 innings up through Double-A and he projects as a “look” reliever. (Fall Instructional League)

44. Nick Sandlin, SIRP
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from Southern Mississippi (CLE)
Age 24.0 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/45 50/55 50/50 50/55 50/60 90-93 / 95

The submarinering Sandlin had a ridiculous junior year at Southern Miss (144 strike outs and just 18 walks in 102 innings), his first as a starter since arriving at campus. He was thought to be one of the fastest-moving pitchers picked in the 2018 draft, and indeed Cleveland pushed him quickly through the system, assigning him to the Double-A bullpen to begin 2019, his first full pro season. He was quite good there, then moved to Triple-A for two weeks before he was shut down due to a forearm stress fracture that required surgery (he dealt with forearm issues earlier in the year, as well). He was back for the 2020 alternate site and instructs, and at the latter was back to sitting his customary 90-93, albeit with worse control than he had during his prospect peak. Sandlin’s slider has cuttery, lateral actions rather than meaningful vertical movement on its own or as it relates to his fastball. He may need to find another secondary pitch to garner swings and misses. He looks more like an up/down reliever now rather than one that stays on the roster in perpetuity. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

45. Scott Moss, MIRP
Drafted: 4th Round, 2016 from Florida (CIN)
Age 26.3 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/55 50/50 50/50 35/40 89-93 / 95

Sourcing Moss’ pitch data from the alternate site indicated he may have been going through a change to the way he throws his fastball (maybe a new grip or seam orientation), as his velocity band for that pitch is larger than usual. He may end up looking at little different next year, but he had been a low leverage long relief prospect because of his repertoire depth, unable to start due to a lack of athleticism and command. (Alternate site)

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2013 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 24.4 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 240 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/50 50/55 45/50 50/50 90-94 / 95

Mejia was injured for all but 33 innings of 2019, his first on the 40-man roster, then pitched at the alternate site in 2020. His velocity and stuff were the same there as they were on last year’s list. I like him as a sinkerballing spot starter. (Alternate site)

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 19.5 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 55/70 25/60 30/20 40/55 55

Noel has played some third base, but he’s only a realistic athletic fit at first. Because he’s of the right/right variety, he’ll need to hit and hit for power with annual statistical evidence of his proficiency to continue to stay on the prospect radar. Ordinarily I’ll have players like this, who are still far from the majors, in the Honorable Mention section of the list, but in Noel’s case the top end of his exit velocities are pretty ridiculous for his age. (Fall Instructional League)

48. Adam Scott, SIRP
Drafted: 4th Round, 2018 from Wofford (CLE)
Age 25.3 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/55 55/60 40/45 45/55 90-93 / 95

Scott was neither at the alt site nor instructs, so his report is the same. He 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. (At-home dev)

49. Steven Kwan, CF
Drafted: 5th Round, 2018 from Oregon State (CLE)
Age 23.4 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

There’s no change to this report. Kwan was one of the older players invited to instructs. He 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 every day, but he might find a niche bench role. (Fall Instructional League)

Other Prospects of Note

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

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

The most common Cleveland prospect trope is the contact-oriented infielder; here are several more. Durango, whose father played in the ’09 Futures Game, 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 and needed Tommy John in 2020. Pastrano signed for $1.5 million last year. He’s a switch-hitting infielder with advanced feel for contact and a medium frame but scouts who saw him in the Fall of 2020 didn’t think he had big-league explosion. 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. Frias is another short-levered, switch-hitting infielder with feel for contact. He’s been playing in the Colombian Winter League. 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 none all that well. He’s an interesting bat-first flier who was taken on from San Diego in the three-team Trevor Bauer deal. 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, and Naranjo still looked very raw in the Fall of 2020.

40-Man Depth Arms
Kyle Nelson, LHP
Jerson Ramirez, RHP
Juan Mota, RHP
Xzavion Curry, LHP
Kirk McCarty, LHP
Mason Hickman, RHP

Nelson will show you a 70-grade breaking ball once in a while but righty batters see the ball for a long time against him, even though he appears to hide it well. He only throws about 90 mph, and I think he’d need a third pitch to be more than a LOOGY. Ramirez, 22, throws fairly hard (up to 95) and is really athletic, but his body is maxed out. Mota will show you 93-96 with a plus slider but he has 30 control. Curry was drafted out of Georgia Tech with a shoulder injury. His fastball isn’t all that hard but has tough angle, and this org is good at making pitchers throw harder. The same is true for Hickman. His fastball has perfect backspin but he was only 87-89 when I saw him with Vanderbilt in the spring. McCarty’s report is unchanged from last year: he’s another lefty whose fastball has huge carry and misses bats even though it’s 88-92. His breaking ball has vertical action.

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

Diaz moves to the front of this group after a decent Instructional League showing. He has warts but hits the ball really hard. The others here don’t make enough contact to be on the main section of the list. Holmes has elite speed, Benson elite power and arm strength. Both of them are lauded for their makeup, but I just don’t think either will hit enough to play in the big leagues consistently. Benson might TTO his way there. Gonzalez swings at everything but has plus power. All of these guys are in their early-20s.

System Overview

As always, Cleveland has some clear talent acquisition tendencies that they execute well and combine with fantastic player development (especially on the pitching side) to keep this system flush with talent. It’s really what enables the big league club to compete even though the front office can’t spend a lot of money. Let’s talk through those tendencies. First, this org usually drafts younger high schoolers. The closer to 17 the player is on draft day, the more likely they are to be picked by Cleveland. This proclivity seems to also have a geographical bent, as the team loves to take high school hitters from areas of high talent concentration, especially Southern California. These high schoolers often have a contact-centric profile, though the club’s approach to acquiring bat-to-ball talent (usually that switch-hits) is more extreme on the international side, where other clubs think Cleveland keeps diligent statistics that drive their decision making.

Cleveland also seems adept at understanding which pitchers they can fix or optimize, not just through velocity training but through pitch design and repertoire usage. They’re great at drafting college performers and tweaking something about them that enables them to compete at the upper-levels of pro ball.

We need to talk about Francisco Lindor. Remember, I’m the guy who took him ahead of Mookie Betts during our site’s 2019 franchise player draft. It’s horrendous that the club should trade a bonafide superstar whose smile shines like Archimedes’ Mirror. But since it appears as though they will, let’s examine how they’ll need to do it. It’s likely one of Lavastida or Diaz will break out and need to go on the 40-man. Palacios will have a season to prove he should, too. The entire 2017 international class (Bracho, Rocchio, Tena, Valera, Planez) plus Tyler Freeman needs to be added. And Cody Morris, Joey Cantillo, and both sidearm relievers do as well.

Not all of those players will pan out in the next 11 months, and someone who is currently on the big league roster will likely be non-tendered next year. But there are just too many viable prospects whose 40-man timelines start next year for Cleveland to avoid a crunch. Any package in return for Lindor either needs to a) involve quality over quantity or b) involve several really young players nowhere near the 40-man, or else they’ll need to package some of their current and future 40-man guys in other trades over the next few months. Based on how Cleveland has operated when trading established big leaguers lately (and given how other teams are behaving in similar circumstances), I expect they’ll choose the second option.

Does that make any team a particularly good fit? St. Louis has a pretty sizable contingent of recent high school draftees, including model-friendly, power-hitting third baseman Jordan Walker. The Cardinals also have a glut of upper-level outfielders who might fit into Cleveland’s platoon-heavy strategy (Bader, Thomas, O’Neill, etc.). The Angels have also taken a lot of the younger high schoolers available in recent drafts (Kyren Paris, David Calabrese) but their financial situation seems precarious after the way their owner behaved last year. Perhaps then San Francisco’s young, deep international contingent (Marco Luciano might be untouchable but a few of Luis Toribio, Luis Matos, etc. could be enticing) and rumored financial health is a better fit, but they’re probably too early in the rebuild to start cashing in prospects, even if it is for someone like Lindor. Maybe. Regardless, it’s an unenviable needle to have to thread, no matter how well this org has played in recent years nor how sustainable their success appears to be.

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 Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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John Elway
3 years ago

Seems to me the Cleveland Baseball Team’s goal for 2021 is to win their division with a losing record, just like a certain Football Team just did.

Just neighing.