Cleveland Indians prospect Triston McKenzie poised to be the next big thing?

Feb 24, 2017; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Detailed view of the indian Chief Wahoo logo on a Cleveland Indians baseball hat during photo day at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 24, 2017; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Detailed view of the indian Chief Wahoo logo on a Cleveland Indians baseball hat during photo day at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Cleveland Indians Low A prospect Triston McKenzie may be the Tribe’s next big thing when it comes to pitching prospects.

It was not until 2015 that the Lynchburg Hillcats became part of the Cleveland Indians‘ organization. Before 2015, the Hillcats were affiliated with the Atlanta Braves.

Ever since joining the Indians’ group of affiliates two years ago, the Hillcats have posted a winning record with 2016 being the biggest highlight year so far.

In 2016, the Hillcats went 84-56 and posted the best record in the Carolina League. Lynchburg is now 35-25 which is good enough for the second best record in the Carolina League so far in 2017.

More from Factory of Sadness

The Carolina League consists of 10 teams split into two different divisions; The Northern and Southern League.

When breaking down the league hitting stats, Lynchburg doesn’t stand out. As a matter of fact, the Hillcats rank in the bottom four in runs scored, hits, home runs, RBI, slugging percentage, and total bases. However, Cleveland’s affiliate does have a top three ranking  they have a top three ranking in league average.

So how have the Hillcats managed to have the second best record? As the cliché goes, defense wins championships. In 2017, defense has been Lynchburg’s strong point. Especially pitching.

Two pitchers in particular have led the way. One fans have probably heard of, the other probably not so much.

The first guy goes by Triston McKenzie… also known as the Cleveland Indians’ third best prospect according to McKenzie is a 19-year-old stud.

In 2017, according to, McKenzie has a 4-3 record in 11 starts. In those starts, he has posted a 2.51 ERA and leads the league in strikeouts with 84. Of those 84 strikeouts, 14 of them came against the Carolina Mudcats on May 9th.

McKenzie’s velocity sits in the low 90s. Being only 19 years old though, McKenzie has some time to add strength to his body, and tack on a few MPH to his pitches. Being 6’5, allows him to pitch almost everything downhill which in turn provides above-average control.

More from Cleveland Guardians

The other guy that is leading the Lynchburg Hillcats pitching is a 23-year-old from Hualien, Taiwan. His name is Shao-Ching Chiang and in addition to McKenzie, could be the next big thing.

Also per, in 11 starts for the Lynchburg Hillcats, Chiang has a 7-3 record which leads not just the team but also the league in wins. Chiang is still young, but from what we have seen so far this season, he has potential.

In the past Chiang has really struggled. In 2012 Chiang had an ERA over 9. Since then Chiang has really improved, as his record indicated such advancement in 2016 going 8-12.

Lynchburg Hillcats are led by their shortstops Ivan Castillo, Will Castro, and Yonathan Mendoza. All three of which are hitting over .280.

Castillo has only played in 16 games but is still hitting .313 with a .417 slugging percentage. Right now Castillo is on the 7-day disabled list after being sent down from the Akron RubberDucks.

Castro and Mendoza have been pretty comparable throughout the season. Castro is hitting .289, while Mendoza is hitting .281. Castro has driven in 26 RBI, launched 4 home runs, while posting a .412 slugging percentage and a .343 OBP.

Mendoza has played four fewer games than Castro but has driven in 22 runs, with a OBP of .372.

Next: 1997 is a reason for optimism

The Hillcats franchise is just a stepping stone for a lot of players going through the minor league system as they hope to one day play for Cleveland. Last season the biggest star for the Hillcats was catcher

Francisco Mejia.

2017 is still in its early stages, so the star this season has yet to be determined.