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Fastball: 60. Slider: 55. Changeup: 55. Curveball: 60. Control: 60. TRACK RECORD: The last few years have been up and down for McKenzie, but he finished 2020 on a decidedly upward trajectory. He made his major league debut three weeks after his 23rd birthday, excelled down the stretch and earned a spot on the Indians’ playoff roster. It was quite the turnaround after McKenzie missed all of 2019 with an upper back injury. Scouts have questioned McKenzie’s durability since the Indians drafted him 42nd overall in 2015 due to his rail-thin 6-foot-5, 165-pound frame, but he’s excelled when healthy. He won the high Class A Carolina League’s pitcher of the year award in 2017 and ranked second in the minors with 186 strikeouts. He reached Double-A the following year as a 20-year-old and put together a strong summer despite being one of the youngest players in the Eastern League. That performance carried into the big leagues in 2020, despite a 24-month gap between competitive games. McKenzie struck out 10 batters in six innings in his debut, the second-most in a debut in franchise history, and posted a 3.24 ERA over 33.1 innings down the stretch to help the Indians secure a playoff spot. SCOUTING REPORT: Even with his skinny frame, McKenzie’s fastball averages 93 mph and has reached 97. He holds that velocity well and while it dips in the middle of his starts, he shows the ability to reach back for more and finish strong. McKenzie’s fastball plays up and gets swings and misses thanks to tremendous extension out of his delivery and a high spin rate. McKenzie also has a good feel for spinning his curveball and gets good depth on the offering, making it an out pitch that draws consensus plus grades from evaluators. His slider and changeup both improved over the last year to help round out his arsenal. His slider was especially impressive and showed it can be an above-average, swing-and-miss offering. McKenzie commands the ball well and earns praise for his makeup and understanding of his craft. He may never fill out his lean frame, so learning how to manage a starter’s workload remains a point of emphasis and will be critical for him to reach mid-to-front of the rotation ceiling. THE FUTURE: McKenzie’s debut was everything the Indians could have hoped for, especially given the unique nature of his long gap between games given the delayed start to the 2020 season. He has a chance to be Cleveland’s next great homegrown starter and should open the 2021 season in the big league rotation.
Hitting: 60. Power: 60. Running: 50. Fielding: 50. Arm: 60. TRACK RECORD: The Indians viewed Jones as one of the best prep hitters in the 2016 draft and were surprised he was still available at No. 55, when they made him their second selection. He lived up to that reputation in pro ball, showing off his offensive ability at every stop and earning a selection to the 2019 Futures Game in Cleveland. Jones finished the season in Double-A and spent 2020 at the alternate training site before finishing at the instructional league. SCOUTING REPORT: Jones has an easy lefthanded swing and uses the whole field. He is a patient hitter and led all Indians minor leaguers in walks in both 2018 and 2019, though his patience also means he gets into deep counts and strikes out. He has plus raw power and has started to turn that into in-game production. Jones profiles at third base but has long faced questions whether he will stay at the position. He has plus arm strength and has worked hard to improve his glove work, infield actions and agility, especially ranging to his right. The Indians like their position players to be versatile and have started working Jones into the outfield and first base. THE FUTURE: Jones still needs seasoning before he reaches Cleveland. He’s closing in on the majors, and his offensive ability will get him into the lineup sooner rather than later.
Hitting: 60. Power: 40. Running: 50. Fielding: 50. Arm: 55. TRACK RECORD: Freeman has been a top hitter at nearly every stop since the Indians drafted him in the supplemental second round in 2017. He led the short-season New York-Penn League in batting (.352) and slugging (.511) in 2018 and climbed to high Class A Lynchburg in 2019, where he hit .319/.354/.397 as a 20-year-old at two stops. The Indians brought him to their alternate training site in Eastlake, Ohio in 2020 with most of their other top prospects. SCOUTING REPORT: Freeman stands out for his excellent hitting ability and natural feel for the barrel. He has a very aggressive approach and rarely walks, but when he swings, he makes contact. Freeman got stronger during the shutdown and started showing more power over the summer. His bat speed and ability to consistently square balls up give him double-digit home run power despite his modest size. Freeman was drafted as a shortstop and has improved his hands, infield actions and instincts. He’s still an average runner with average arm strength, which limits his range and may push him to second base. THE FUTURE: Regardless of where he ends up defensively, Freeman’s bat will stand out. He’s likely to get his first taste of Double-A in 2021.
Hitting: 55. Power: 50. Running: 50. Fielding: 55. Arm: 60. TRACK RECORD: Naylor compiled a long track record of success as an amateur, especially facing premier competition with the Canadian junior national team. That helped ease his transition to pro ball after the Indians drafted him 29th overall in 2018. Naylor held his own in the low Class A Midwest League in 2019 and spent 2020 at the alternate training site. Midway through the season, the Indians acquired his older brother Josh from the Padres in the trade that sent Mike Clevinger to San Diego. SCOUTING REPORT: Naylor had perhaps the best offensive performance of any prospect at the alternate site. He has an advanced hit tool thanks to his smooth swing, pitch recognition and approach. His solid-average power hasn’t always played in games, but he makes consistent hard contact and has the ability to drive the ball. Naylor is an above-average runner and his athleticism plays well behind the plate. He earns high grades for pitch framing and he threw out 37% of basestealers in 2019. Naylor still has work to do to refine his defense, but he’s shown enough to quell talk of a potential move to third base, where he played a lot as an amateur. THE FUTURE: Naylor will be just 21 in 2021 and remains ahead of the curve. He may see Double-A during the season.
Hitting: 60. Power: 55. Running: 50. Fielding: 50. Arm: 50. TRACK RECORD: The Indians made a splash internationally in 2017 and signed Valera, the fifth-ranked player in the class, for $1.3 million. He was born in New York and lived there until his family moved to the Dominican Republic when he was 13. After a broken hamate bone limited him to six games in 2018, Valera spent most of 2019 with short-season Mahoning Valley— where he was the youngest position player in the league— before a late-season promotion to low Class A Lake County. The Indians brought him to their alternate training site in 2020. SCOUTING REPORT: Valera has a loose, compact swing and keeps his bat in the zone for a long time. His feel for the barrel, bat-to-ball skills, pitch recognition and plate discipline all help him make consistent, hard contact and give him the kind of hitting ability the Indians covet. He has above-average raw power and gets to it in games, hitting eight home runs in 46 games as an 18-year-old in the New York-Penn League. Valera profiles as a corner outfielder with average speed and arm strength. THE FUTURE: Valera has proved advanced enough to handle challenging assignments. He has moved slower than anticipated between his injury and the canceled 2020 minor league season, but that could change in a hurry once 2021 begins.
Hitting: 50. Power: 55. Running: 40. Fielding: 70. Arm: 70. TRACK RECORD: Arias was one of the top prospects in the 2016 international class and signed with the Padres for $1.9 million. He stood out defensively from the start and broke out offensively in the second half of 2019 at high Class A Lake Elsinore, finishing fourth in the California League in batting (.302). The Indians acquired him at the 2020 trade deadline in the deal that sent Mike Clevinger to San Diego. SCOUTING REPORT: Arias is a good athlete with a lot of raw ability. The righthanded hitter has a smooth swing, and his wiry strength and bat speed give him above-average raw power. His plate discipline is not as advanced. He improved his strikeout rate in 2019, but still whiffed in 25% of his plate appearances and his walk rate halved at the same time. Improving his pitch recognition and approach at the plate will be critical to maintain his offensive progress. Arias has few questions defensively. He has advanced infield actions, clean hands and plus-plus arm strength. Despite his below-average speed, he has plenty of range and makes all the plays. THE FUTURE: Arias will likely head to Double-A in 2021. He’ll need to prove his offensive breakout is sustainable outside of the Cal League.
Hitting: 55. Power: 30. Running: 60. Fielding: 55. Arm: 50. TRACK RECORD: Aaron Bracho and George Valera were the headliners of the Indians’ 2017 international class, but Rocchio has proven a top signing as well. Signed for $125,000, Rocchio quickly moved to short-season Mahoning Valley in 2019 and held his own. He returned to Venezuela during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and was unable to return to the U.S. due to travel restrictions, but he continued playing in a makeshift league. SCOUTING REPORT: Rocchio doesn’t stand out physically but is nicknamed “The Professor” for his high baseball IQ and game awareness. A switch-hitter, he has a smooth, consistent swing from both sides of the plate and excellent pitch recognition. He’s an aggressive hitter and consistently barrels the ball. Rocchio is likely always going to hit for average over power, but as he physically matures his line drives may carry over the fence. Rocchio is a no-doubt shortstop defensively. He’s a plus runner and his hands and arm strength are good enough for the position, especially because his instincts and baseball IQ help his tools play up. THE FUTURE: Rocchio played his way to an accelerated track and even a lost 2020 season shouldn’t slow him much. Once he returns to the U.S., he’ll jump right back into the mix.
Fastball: 70. Slider: 60. Changeup: 50. Curveball: 50. Control: 50. TRACK RECORD: Espino was born in Panama before moving with his family to the U.S. when he was 15. He enrolled at Georgia Premier Academy and adopted a professional mindset that was readily apparent to the Indians after they selected him 24th overall in the 2019 draft. He became the first high school player the Indians promoted to short-season Mahoning Valley in his pro debut since Francisco Lindor in 2011, and he spent 2020 at the alternate training site. SCOUTING REPORT: Espino is shorter than what most teams look for in a righthander, but his excellent athleticism, explosiveness and flexibility helps him access his lower half. The result is a plus-plus fastball that sits at 96 mph and reaches 99. Espino throws both a curveball and slider, with the slider earning better grades as a potential plus pitch. He also throws a firm changeup that needs refining but has a chance to give him a fourth at least average offering. Espino has a long arm action but typically pitches with average control. He’ll need to refine his command as he faces more advanced hitters who are less susceptible to chasing his offspeed stuff. THE FUTURE: Espino will be just 20 when the 2021 season begins. The Indians will likely take a cautious tack with him, but he may force their hand.
Fastball: 60. Slider: 55. Changeup: 50. Control: 50. TRACK RECORD: Hankins was considered arguably the top high school player in the 2018 draft class before a shoulder injury cost him most of his senior season. The Indians drafted him with the final pick of the first round. After cautiously introducing him to pro ball, the Indians let him loose in 2019. He posted a 2.55 ERA in 60 innings between short-season Mahoning Valley and low Class A Lake County. He pitched at the alternate training site in 2020. SCOUTING REPORT: Hankins has a long, lean, 6-foot-6 frame and uncommon athleticism for a pitcher his size. His fastball typically sits in the mid 90s and can run up to 97 mph with plus life. Hankins has the makings of quality secondary pitches, but they’ll need to become more consistent offerings. His slider and changeup both have the ability to be above-average offerings and he also throws a bigger curveball, though it lags behind his other pitches. Hankins controls his arsenal well, but it will be important for him to maintain his delivery as he grows into his large frame. THE FUTURE: Hankins’ impressive first season was a reminder of his enormous upside. He and Daniel Espino make for an impressive 1-2 punch the Indians hope will stick together all the way to the majors.
Hitting: 55. Power: 50. Running: 55. Fielding: 50. Arm: 45. TRACK RECORD: The Indians went big on the 2017 international market and Bracho was a part of that, signing for $1.5 million out of Venezuela as a top 20 player in the class. He missed the 2018 season due to an arm injury, but made his pro debut in 2019 and hit .281/.402/.570 as he ascended to short-season Mahoning Valley. Like the rest of the Indians’ top prospects, Bracho spent 2020 at the alternate training site. SCOUTING REPORT: A switch-hitter, Bracho has a smooth, compact swing from both sides of the plate and produces good bat speed. He has an advanced approach and posted nearly as many walks (28) as strikeouts (29) in his pro debut. Listed at 5-foot-11, Bracho has more pop than his frame suggests and could end up hitting for at least average power. He hit eight home runs and slugged .570 in 38 games in his debut—big numbers for an teen middle infielder. Bracho was signed as a shortstop but has already moved to second base. His hands and range are good enough to keep him there, but he projects to be more of an offensive second baseman. THE FUTURE: It’s been apparent why Bracho had as much hype as he did as an amateur. Now that he’s healthy, he should be ready for his first taste of full-season ball in 2021.
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