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2017 Cleveland Indians Midseason Top 10 Prospects



It has not been a cakewalk by any means, but the defending American League champions once again find themselves in first place in the AL Central.

Indians Midseason Top 10
1. Francisco Mejia, C
2. Triston McKenzie, RHP
3. Bradley Zimmer, OF
4. Bobby Bradley, 1B
5. Yu-Cheng Chang, SS
6. Nolan Jones, 3B
7. Will Benson, OF
8. Yandy Diaz, 3B/OF
9. Quentin Holmes, OF
10. Greg Allen, OF
A series of injuries to key starters Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, and Corey Kluber has prevented Cleveland from seizing the division, but the Indians received promising debuts from a handful of prospects to help make up for it. Bradley Zimmer has been a lightning rod both at the plate and in the field since his mid-May debut. Erik Gonzalez and Yandy Diaz have made contributions as well.

Kluber and Carlos Carrasco have led a solid rotation and kept it afloat even with a shoulder injury to Danny Salazar and steps back from Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin. Sophomore Mike Clevinger has been effectively wild during his starting tenure, and Ryan Merritt, Shawn Morimando and Julian Merryweather give the Indians starting pitching depth in the high minors should it be required.

If the Indians decide that more high-end talent is warranted, they have the high-end prospects to make a move. They have shown they aren’t afraid to trade high-ranking talents in the right deal, such as Clint Frazier in the Andrew Miller deal last year and the vetoed trade that would have sent Francisco Mejia to the Brewers for Jonathan Lucroy.

Before thinking about a repeat World Series berth, the Indians have to shake off the Twins, who raced out to the division lead early and have stubbornly hung around. For the second-straight year, the Indians have the chance to be active at the deadline and can make the moves necessary to make that happen.

1. Francisco Mejia, C Double-A Akron Age: 21

Mejia rocketed up the Indians’ ranks the past two years and the Eastern League isn’t proving to be a challenge either. He is sustaining an excellent batting average while three years younger than his competition, and his power is coming out with 10 home runs in half a season already. At this point, Mejia is simply refining the more subtle skills that come with catching so he can stick behind the plate, and he is now able to hold conversations in English. Already the Indians catcher of the future, it doesn’t figure to be long until Cleveland sees Mejia as the backstop of the present.


2. Triston McKenzie, RHP High Class A Lynchburg Age: 19

The slender righthander leads the Carolina League in strikeouts as a 19-year-old and is showing plenty of present stuff. While many debate his frame and whether he’ll add enough strength to hold velocity deep into games, McKenzie already sits comfortably in the low 90s with great feel for the zone and an above-average-to-plus curveball, and he’s holding strong near the 100-inning mark.


3. Bradley Zimmer, OF Cleveland Age: 24

Zimmer surfaced in the majors after a brief stint in Triple-A Columbus and immediately showcased himself as the most promising center fielder on the Indians’ roster. He’s already eclipsed the performance of every other Indians outfielder, is one of the fastest runners in the game and is playing exceptional defense in center field, cementing his status as the Indians center fielder for years to come.


4. Bobby Bradley, 1B Double-A Akron Age: 21

The hefty slugger has raised his stock by whittling his strikeout rate down more than six percentage points and showing vastly improved defense at first base. Bradley will always be known for his 70-grade raw power, but the rest of his game is catching up and should make for a solid major-league caliber position player for years to come.


5. Yu-Cheng Chang, SS Double-A Akron Age: 21

Chang might be the Indians most improved prospect despite a glaring .215 batting average. He added strength to his frame and now boasts at least above-average power without losing a step in the field. In fact, he’s become one of the Indians’ best fielding shortstops. His 28 percent strikeout rate is a concern, but his 19 homers and .495 slugging percentage make up for it.


6. Nolan Jones, 3B Short-season Mahoning Valley Age: 19

Jones has moved from shortstop to third base exclusively, where his plus raw power profiles well. His season just got started at Mahoning Valley and he is showing a good eye for the zone and some occasional pop, a solid starting point for his first full professional season. While he lacks the big raw tools of other prospects, his polish and discipline put him ahead.


7. Will Benson, OF Short-season Mahoning Valley Age: 19

Benson’s major concern has always been to be his bat-to-ball skills, and they have been problematic in his first pro season. The toolsy right fielder hit .169 with 33 strikeouts in his first 71 at-bats at Mahoning Valley, taking some of the shine off his prodigious raw power and elite arm strength.


8. Yandy Diaz, 3B/OF Triple-A Columbus Age: 25

Diaz has evolved into one of the Indians top prospects with his disciplined knowledge of the strike zone and fantastic contact ability. He received a chance at the major league level when Jason Kipnis went down with an injury, and while the surface results don’t excite, he did demonstrate a feel for the barrel and capable defense at multiple positions.


9. Quentin Holmes, OF Rookie-level AZL Indians Age: 17

The Indians made Holmes their top pick, No. 64 overall, in June and signed him for just under $1 million. Holmes is known for his plus-plus speed and potential as a pure center fielder, but his bat will need to warm up in Arizona before jumping to Mahoning Valley. He is young and coming from a cold-weather climate in New York, so a slow rise is to be expected.


10. Greg Allen, OF Double-A Akron Age: 24

Allen was primed to rise to Triple-A Columbus when Bradley Zimmer got promoted but went down with a hammate bone injury in May. Allen was having an uninspiring showing in his return to Akron, but should be roaming center field in Triple-A when he returns to health.


RISING

• RHP Julian Merryweather has been knocking on the Indians’ door since his late-May promotion to Triple-A Columbus. He attacks hitters with a 93-95 mph fastball and two potentially average secondaries. He could work in a starting or relief role in the majors, and he may flirt with triple-digits fulfilling the latter.

• RHPs Shane Bieber and Aaron Civale have succeeded as advanced college pitchers in the low minors and have arsenals are strong enough to hint at backend starter roles in the majors. Each commands a low 90s fastball, and Civale utilizes a solid curveball and Bieber relies on his slider and changeup.

• 3B Gavin Collins battled injuries in college at Mississippi State but is crushing the ball now that he is healthy. He consistently has competitive at-bats, rarely strikes out swinging and puts the ball in the air regularly, resulting in an .848 OPS at two levels.


FALLING

• LHP Brady Aiken has yet to find the velocity from his amateur days, sitting just 86-90 mph in stretches and throwing secondaries that project no better than average. It’s his first full season in the minors and he’s still just 20 years old, but the results haven’t been pretty.

• 2B Mark Mathias fell in the 2015 draft because of a right shoulder injury. He’s struggled at the plate this year (.212/.317/.308) but more concerning, he’s had issues with both of his shoulders that have required stints on the disabled list. His left shoulder has been the biggest issue this yea,r as he dislocated it in spring training and again on July 3.

• RHP Adam Plutko cruised through the low minors, but his plus control and fringy stuff hasn’t worked in Triple-A. His 6.22 ERA has been marked by 17 home runs allowed in 16 appearances.

• 1B Nellie Rodriguez has prodigious power but his strikeout rate has risen to an unsustainable 41 percent this year, which explains his .140/.239/.304 slash line at Triple-A Columbus.


HURTING

• LHP Rob Kaminsky pitched just five innings in early April at Double-A Akron and has been on the disabled list with forearm soreness since.

• LHP Tim Cooney hasn’t pitched in a game since 2015 after suffering a shoulder injury last year and is currently dealing with a strained flexor in his forearm.


GRADUATING

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Triston McKenzie Eyes 2020 After Lost Season

McKenzie probably would have made his big league debut when injuries struck the Indians' rotation—had he not been injured himself.

• RHP Shawn Armstrong has settled into a low-leverage relief role and gone 1-0, 4.26 in 16 appearances.

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