Baseball America ranked the top-10 prospects in the Cleveland Indians farm system. Here is another update on their 2017 campaigns.
The Cleveland Indians continue to defend their American League crown at the MLB level, while the stars of tomorrow develop in the organization’s farm system. Several of the players on this list hold the ability to immediately contribute at the big-league level.
In fact, some already have. Here is an update on Baseball America’s top-10 prospects in the Indians organization (stats through April 23, according to Baseball-Reference.com):
10- Greg Allen, OF
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Allen has cooled off after his torrid start to the 2017 season. After slashing .320/.393/.360 in his first 25 at-bats, he’s hitting just .200 in the last 10 games.
However, the 24-year-old outfielder continues to display his all-around game – swiping three more bags while maintaining a .359 OBP. Allen’s value in the field remains impressive – his current range factor (RF) of 2.67 would be the highest of his professional career.
2017 Stats: Akron RubberDucks (AA), G- 16, AB- 55, R- 10, HR- 0, RBI- 2, AVG.- 255, SB- 6, OBP.- 359; Last 10 games: AB- 35, R- 6, HR- 0, RBI- 2, AVG. 200, SB- 3
9- Erik Gonzalez, SS/2B
Gonzalez continues to be held back by his lack of discipline at the plate as he has just two walks in 16 games. Although, his bat did wake up during the past 10 games (Gonzalez hit .282 with two home runs and stole two bases), his versatility is his most coveted asset.
The 25-year-old has appeared in RF, LF, SS, 3B and 2B this season. With the Cleveland Indians sending Yandy Diaz back to Columbus, it will be interesting to see how the Triple-A Columbus infield shapes up.
2017 Stats: Columbus Clippers (AAA), G- 16, AB- 66, R- 6, HR- 3, RBI- 5, AVG.- .242, SB- 2, OBP.- 261; Last 10 games: AB- 39, R- 3, HR- 2, RBI- 4, AVG. 282, SB- 2
8- Nolan Jones, 3B
With no real news to report on Jones, here’s a scouting report from Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs:
"“He struggled to track and make contact in a short pro stint but still displayed terrific and promising strike-zone awareness. Jones’ swing allows both for quality contact and power output that should be corner-worthy once he fills out. He should also add some arm strength as he matures, giving him plenty for the left side of the infield. His footwork at third base is raw but he’s a promising athlete learning a new position as he adjusts to pro ball."
Originally a shortstop, it will be interesting to see how Jones develops at the hot corner.
2016 Stats: (AZL Indians), G- 32, AB- 109, R- 10, HR- 0, RBI- 9, SB- 3, AVG.- .257, OBP.- 388
7- Will Benson, OF
Again, with no real news to report on the Tribe’s Rookie-League talent, here’s Longenhagen again on Benson’s potential:
"“The ceiling here is astronomical. Benson has prodigious raw power that projects to plus-plus at maturity. He runs well now (arguably plus underway but more fringe to average from home to first) and should retain respectable speed as his body matures and thickens. I saw Benson throw a strike to third base from just shy of the warning track in the right-field corner during AZL play, and if he grows into any more arm strength it will be elite. He could be an above-average defender with an 80 arm in right field.”"
According to Fangraphs, Benson’s estimated-time-of-arrival is 2021, so it may be a few years before Tribe fans get to see the left-handed slugger in Cleveland.
2016 Stats: (AZL Indians), G- 44, AB- 158, R- 31, HR- 6, RBI- 27, SB- 10, AVG.- .209, OBP.- .321
6- Yu-Cheng Chang, SS
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Remarkably, Chang has managed to drive in seven runs on just six hits in his last 40 at-bats. While still producing, the RubberDucks’ starting SS has cooled off at the dish (his season slash line rests at .201/.277/.534).
Chang’s .278 average with runners in scoring position remains the reason his overall production hasn’t slipped. The 21-year-old continues to struggle in the field with five errors and a .936 fielding percentage. But there is a silver lining in Chang’s defensive performance as his range factor (RF) of 5.21 is the highest of his career.
The Indians sending former major-leaguer John McDonald to work with Chang on his range is beginning to pay dividends.
2017 Stats: Akron RubberDucks (AA), G- 16, AB- 58, R- 11, HR- 4, RBI- 14, AVG.- .207, SB- 1, OBP.- .277; Last 10 games: AB- 40, R- 5, HR- 1, RBI- 7, AVG.- .150, SB- 0
5- Bobby Bradley, 1B
Bradley consistently displays the raw power that makes him a highly-touted prospect, racking up two homers and nine RBI in his past nine games. His 13 walks are a large reason he reaches base at .349 clip for the Double-A Akron RubberDucks.
Bradley also has 15 strikeouts in his last 33 at-bats, which contributes to his .184 batting average. In fact, 37 of his 49 at-bats in 2017 have ended with a strikeout, home run, or walk. Right now, Bradley resembles the second-coming of New York Yankees 1B Chris Carter.
2017 Stats: Akron RubberDucks (AA), G- 15, AB- 49, R- 7, HR- 3, RBI- 11, AVG.- .184, SB- 0, OBP.- .349; Last 10 games: AB- 33, R- 4, HR- 2, RBI- 9, AVG.- .182, SB- 0
4- Brady Aiken, LHP
The left-handed Aiken made just one start since my last update, going 4.2 innings, allowing two earned runs, while fanning six and walking two. Aiken’s biggest problem is his control.
The former-first overall pick entered the April 19 start with 10 walks in 8.2 innings. Although his last start was not official, Aiken displayed positive signs moving forward throwing 40 strikes in 67 pitches. His raw potential will be interesting to track through the Indians farm system.
2017 Stats: Lake County Captains (A-Full), G- 2, GS- 2, W/L: 0-2, SO- 6, ERA- 4.15, WHIP- 2.31, AVG.- .323; Last start (April 19, Bowling Green Hot Rods, suspended due to rain): IP- 4.2, H-3, R- 2, ER- 2, BB- 2, SO- 6
3- Triston McKenzie, RHP
McKenzie continues to dazzle at Advanced-A Lynchburg. His April 18 start earned him his second win of 2017, throwing five shutout innings while striking out eight and walking just two.
McKenzie’s 4.5 K/BB ratio and .207 opponent batting average against Carolina League competition may earn him a promotion sooner than expected. The lanky-right handed pitcher has dominated at every level since his start in the 2015 Arizona league. His career MiLB ERA of 1.54 in 111 innings pitched signals a star in the making.
2017 Stats: Lynchburg Hillcats (A-Adv), G- 3, GS- 3, W/L: 2-1, SO 18, ERA- 1.72, WHIP- 1.02, AVG.- .207; Last start (April 18, Carolina Mudcats): (W, 2-1), IP- 5, H- 3, R- 1, ER- 0, BB- 2, SO- 8
2- Bradley Zimmer, OF
Zimmer is off to a slow start in his first full season at Triple-A Columbus. He struggled against International League competition last season, and that trend has continued. I don’t expect Zimmer to maintain his sluggish start as he’s too talented to let that happen.
His .299 OBP through 16 games is concerning though. Zimmer’s MiLB career OBP of .368 is a large part piece of what makes him so enticing as a prospect, especially when combined with his base-stealing ability (38 in 2017).
2017 Stats: Columbus Clippers (AAA), G- 16, AB- 61, R- 11, HR- 2, RBI- 5, AVG.- .230, SB- 5, OBP.- .299; Last 10 games: AB- 39, R- 7, HR- 2, RBI- 4, AVG.- .205, SB- 3
1- Francisco Mejia, C
All Francisco Mejia does is hit. His 2017 slash line of .356/.404/.511 highlights this known fact. The switch-hitting catcher also has a rocket for a throwing arm, gunning down five-of-six potential base stealers this season.
While Mejia hits for little power, his seven doubles this season have shown his ability to drive the gaps. That said, more power is shown hitting from the left side. With just seven strikeouts in 45 at-bats this season, his bat-to-ball ability should have Indians fans excited about the future.
2017 Stats: Akron RubberDucks (AA), G- 12, AB- 45, R- 5, HR- 0, RBI- 7, AVG.- .356, SB- 0, OBP.- .404; Last 10 games: AB- 38, R- 4, HR- 0, RBI- 6, AVG.- .342, SB- 0