The 2015 Cleveland Indians Top 10 Prospects

Announcement: For my analysis – including Ranking the Top 250 Prospects, Ranking the Farm systems, and in-depth commentary for over 900 minor leaguers – check out my book, The 2015 Prospect Digest Handbook, now available on Amazon!

 

For an explanation on the CAL, the Comparison And Likeness prospect classification system I derived, click here.

 

 

1.  Francisco Lindor, SS

Born: 11/14/93  Age: 21   Height: 5-11   Weight: 175   B/T: B/R                                                         
Top CALs: Tyler Pastornicky, Carlos Sanchez, Hak-Ju Lee, Jonathan Mota, Alen Hanson
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 18 A 567 .257 .352 .355 .707 .098 10.8% 13.8% 102
2013 19 A+ 373 .306 .373 .410 .783 .104 9.4% 10.5% 121
2014 20 AA 387 .278 .352 .389 .741 .111 10.3% 15.8% 109
2014 20 AAA 180 .273 .307 .388 .695 .115 5.0% 20.0% 88

Background: The heir apparent to Cleveland’s shortstop throne since the club made him the eighth overall pick in a loaded 2011 draft, Lindor has been as advertised – if not better. The Puerto Rican-born middle-infielder’s glove is already big league ready and he’s equipped himself well enough with the bat thus far to allow the club to push him aggressively through the minor leagues – a very un-Cleveland-like approach under the current regime. Splitting his time between Akron and Columbus, Lindor hit a respectable .276/.338/.389 while setting career bests in homeruns (11) and stolen bases (28).

Projection: The glove’s going to play no matter what. But there are clearly some questions about his offensive ceiling. His pitch recognition, the ability to put the bat on the ball, and foot speed are all better than average, but how much power will a wiry, quick-twitch 5-11, 175-pound middle-infielder expect to develop down the road – especially after posting a career .103 ISO? And the fact that CAL links Lindor to a bunch of light-hitting shortstops – Tyler Pastornicky, Carlos Sanchez, Hak-Ju Lee, Jonathan Mota, and Alen Hanson – isn’t very encouraging either. He’s not going to be a superstar, but has the potential to settle in as a .280/.335/.400-type hitter, capable of slugging eight to 10 homeruns, swiping 15 or so bases, and playing Gold Glove-caliber D.

Ceiling:  3.5- to 4.0-win player

Risk:  Low to Moderate

MLB ETA:  2015

 

2.  Bradley Zimmer, CF

Born: 11/27/92  Age: 22   Height: 6-4   Weight: 185   B/T: L/R                                                        
CALs: Josh Richmond, Jordan Parraz, Grant KayLucas Duda, Michael Conforto
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 21 A- 197 .304 .401 .464 .865 .161 9.6% 15.2% 157

Background: The younger brother of Royals’ top pitching prospect Kyle Zimmer, Bradley showed marked improvement in each of his three seasons with the University of San Francisco, posting triple-slash lines of .242/.274/.314, .320/.437/.512, and finally .368/.446/.573. The front office brass took the cautious approach with Zimmer after the draft, sending the toolsy outfielder to Mahoning Valley before a quick three-game stint in the Midwest League.

Projection: Prior to the draft I wrote,

“Incredibly toolsy for a bigger player – solid-average to slightly better power, sneaky speed, average-ish eye at the plate, and good plate coverage considering his frame. At his peak, Zimmer could be a more athletic version of Corey Hart — .290/.340/.510 with 25+ homerun- and stolen base-potential.”

Cleveland has the 6-foot-4 Zimmer masquerading as a center fielder, but he’s likely to get pushed to a corner spot – most likely right field – as he moves up the minor league ladder. He’s one of the club’s better collegiate outfield picks in recent memory.

Ceiling:  3.0-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  2017

 

 

3.  Mitch Brown, RHP

Born: 04/13/94  Age: 21   Height: 6-1   Weight: 195   B/T: R/R                                                        
CALs: Andry Ubiera, Fernando Perez, Stosh Wawrzasek, Bobby Hansen, Eduardo Aldama
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2012 18 R 27.7 3.58 4.99 8.5 23.2% 3.3 8.9% 0.98 54.3%
2013 19 R 52.0 5.37 4.80 8.3 20.0% 5.0 12.1% 0.35 68.0%
2013 19 A 15.7 11.49 7.23 10.3 22.5% 6.3 13.8% 2.30 49.3%
2014 20 A 138.7 3.31 3.64 8.2 22.2% 3.6 9.6% 0.39 69.8%

Background: Since C.C. Sabathia’s selection in the first round in 1998, Cleveland has drafted just seven high school-aged arms that would eventually appear in the big leagues: Fernando Cabrera, Derek Thompson, J.D. Martin, Aaron Laffey, Chris Archer, T.J. McFarland, and T.J. House. Only Archer has proven to be a better than average big league arm. So the bar’s set pretty low for Brown to be considered one of the better prep pitchers for the Indians since the late 1990s. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound right-hander rebounded after a poor 2013 season, one in which he was pushed back down to rookie ball after five horrific appearances with Lake Country, and finished the year with 8.2 strikeouts and 3.6 walks per nine innings in 138.2 innings of work.

Projection: Brown acquitted himself nicely in the Midwest League last season. He generates a lot of work on the ground – 50.5% groundball rate last season – and subsequently does a solid job keeping the ball in the park. His ceiling won’t match that of Archer’s, but it could settle as a nice #3/#4-type arm.

Ceiling:  2.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  2017

 

 

4.  Clint Frazier, CF

Born: 11/06/94  Age: 20   Height: 6-1   Weight: 190   B/T: R/R                                                         
CALs: Domingo Santana, Michael Burgess, Trayce ThompsonBubba Starling, Angel Castillo
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 18 R 196 .297 .362 .506 .868 .209 8.7% 31.1% 137
2014 19 A 542 .266 .349 .411 .761 .146 10.3% 29.7% 120

Background: Frazier will forever be tied to the hip of fellow Georgia prep outfielder Austin Meadows, who went to the Pirates four selections after the Indians nabbed the fiery-haired outfielder with the fifth overall pick. Right now the edge goes to Meadows. Frazier had a solid, unspectacular year for Lake County in 2014, hitting .266/.349/.411 while slugging 37 extra-base hits. And after back-to-back sub-.600 OPS months to open the season, Frazier found his groove, batting .280/.358/.457 from June 1 to September 1.

Projection: Scarier than Randy Johnson’s mullet back in the 1990s, Frazier’s strikeout rate more-or-less maintained status quo, which, in itself, is good news considering his bump up to full season ball. But even in his hot three-month stretch to close out the season he still K’d in over 30% of his plate appearances. Frazier’s ceiling as a toolsy, middle-of-the-order impact bat remains quite high, but the same could have – and probably was – said about Bubba Starling, Michael Burgess, and Trayce Thompson; all of whom CAL links him to. There’s a lot of bust potential here, though.

Ceiling:  3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk:  High

MLB ETA:  2018

 

 

5.  Bobby Bradley, 1B

Born: 05/29/96  Age: 19   Height: 6-1   Weight: 225   B/T: L/R                                                         
CALs: Destin Hood, Eddie Rosario, Jharmidy De Jesus, Gabriel Guerrero, Tyrone Taylor
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 18 R 176 .361 .426 .652 1.078 .290 9.1% 20.5% 192

Background: The success of Mississippi-born prep bats is about equivalent to the organization’s success with high school arms – not good. And the club decided to double down on Bradley and nab the first baseman, a position that isn’t heavily sought after in the prep ranks because of the perceived lack of athleticism. Then, of course, the lefty-swinging 18-year-old went all Barry Bonds on the Arizona Summer League competition, posting one of the best triple-slash lines of any incoming rookie: .361/.426/.652.

Projection: Bradley certainly seems like a steal in the third round at this point. Not only did he finish the year as the most productive bat in the league with an absurd 192 wRC+, but he paced it in average, slugging percentage (by nearly 100 points), OPS (by more than 100 points), and homeruns (8) while also showing a decent eye at the plate and surprisingly strong contact skills. Now a touch of bad news (potentially): while Bradley mashed against RHs to the tune of .407/.460/.770, he only mustered a .238/.340/.333 line against southpaws (40 PA). It’s an incredibly small sample size, but something to keep an eye moving forward.

Ceiling:  Too Soon to Tell

Risk:  N/A

MLB ETA:  N/A

 

 

6.  Luis Lugo, LHP

Born: 03/05/94  Age: 21   Height: 6-5   Weight: 200   B/T: L/L                                                        
CALs: Kendry Flores, Jeffry Antigua, Marcus Jensen, Victor Arano, Nick Gardewine
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2012 18 R 42.0 4.50 4.83 10.9 28.0% 4.5 11.5% 0.86 56.0%
2013 19 A- 50.3 1.97 3.12 5.4 15.5% 2.0 5.7% 0.18 74.6%
2013 19 A 14.3 3.77 3.34 8.8 23.0% 3.1 8.2% 0.63 68.2%
2014 20 A 126.3 4.92 3.86 10.4 27.1% 2.9 7.4% 1.14 61.1%

Background: How’s this for rarified company? Since 2006 Jake Odorizzi and Daniel Corcino have been the only two 20-year-old pitchers in Low Class A to throw at least 80 innings while averaging more than 10 K/9 and fewer than 3.0 BB/9. Lugo became the third to do that last year. The Venezuelan-born southpaw’s breakout season was masked by an inflated 4.92 ERA, but his true performance, according to FIP, stands at a 3.86 mark. Lugo finished third in the Midwest League in punch outs with 146, trailing a pair of older, more polished pitchers (Kyle Lloyd, 23, and Kevin Ziomek, 22). He also showed poise beyond his years as well, averaging just 2.8 walks per nine innings.

Projection: In term of size, projectability, and results, there really isn’t anything to dislike about Lugo. He handled his first foray into full season ball well, has historically missed a lot of bats, and the improved control he showed in 2013 carried over into last season. Even if his stuff doesn’t tick up in the coming years, Lugo could develop into a solid #4 starting pitcher.

Ceiling:  2.0- to 2.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate to High

MLB ETA:  2018

 

 

7.  Mike Papi, 1B/OF

Born: 10/19/92  Age: 22   Height: 6-2   Weight: 190   B/T: L/R                                                       
CALs: Riley Hornback, Antone DeJesus, Maiko Loyola, Jose Dore, Tim Kennelly
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 21 A 165 .178 .305 0.274 .579 .096 15.8% 19.4% 73

Background:  During my initial pre-draft analysis I likened the University of Virginia star to a current Indian, writing: “Quite frankly, Papi’s a Nick Swisher-clone – or at least pretty darn close to it.” I went on to compare the players’ final two collegiate seasons – .335/.481/.645 (Swisher) vs. .338/.484/.561 (Papi) – while explaining that the former Cavalier faced stiffer competition while using the deadened aluminum bats. Both players showed above-average, if not plus plate discipline and strong hit tools. And, of course, Papi brought a wet noodle into pro ball and hit .178/.305/.274 39 games in Low Class A.

Projection: On one hand it’s a pretty small sample. On the other hand, though, Papi was absolutely putrid during his debut. The plate discipline (15.8% BB-rate and 19.4% K-rate) falls in line with his track record, but he showed zilch for power and had few hard shots. Don’t give up on him just yet. The track record is too good, the plate discipline still strong. He may never hit for a whole lot of power in terms of homeruns, but should develop into a doubles machine down the road.

Ceiling:  2.0-win player

Risk:  Moderate to High

MLB ETA:  2018

 

 

8.  James Ramsey, OF

Born: 12/19/89  Age: 25   Height: 6-0   Weight: 190   B/T: L/R                                                       
CALs: Jeremy Hazelbaker, Kyeong Kang, Nate Tenbrink, Marvin Lowrance, Matt Esquivel
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 22 A+ 247 .229 .333 .314 .648 .086 13.4% 23.9% 89
2013 23 AA 416 .251 .356 .424 .780 .173 12.7% 26.0% 123
2014 24 AA 281 .300 .389 .527 .916 .226 11.0% 23.5% 161
2014 24 AAA 127 .284 .365 .468 .833 .183 10.2% 26.8% 130

Background: The way Justin Masterson pitched last season, let alone down the stretch, the Indians were lucky to get anything of note for him. Ramsey, a first round pick out of Florida State in 2012, obliterated the Texas League his second trip through, hitting .300/.389/.527 with 23 doubles and 13 homeruns en route to posting a hefty 161 wRC+. After the trade Cleveland pushed him to the Class AAA where he continued to torch the competition (.284/.365/.468 with a 130 wRC+).

Projection: Coming out of college the Cardinals pushed Ramsey straight into High Class A and he promptly struggled. Since then he’s fared much better. Unfortunately, he falls into the same category as Tyler Naquin – an everyday regular for non-contending teams and solid role player on a championship squad. He flashes better than average pop with a smidgeon of speed, and he destroys right-handed pitching so he should carve out a nice little big league career.

Ceiling:  1.5-win player

Risk:  Low to Moderate

MLB ETA:  2015

 

 

9.  Francisco Mejia, C

Born: 10/27/95  Age: 19   Height: 5-10   Weight: 175   B/T: B/R                                                       
CALs: Sebastian Valle, Carlos Perez, Onil Pena, Pablo Garcia, Hank Conger
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 17 R 113 .305 .348 .524 .872 .219 4.4% 15.9% 139
2014 18 A- 274 .282 .339 .407 .747 .125 6.6% 17.2% 119

Background:  Mejia set the prospect world abuzz and promptly fueled the hype machine as one of the more unheralded 2012 international free agent signings after his debut two years ago when he batted .305/.348/.524 in rookie ball. The switch-hitting backstop, who joined the Tribe for $350K, hit a more than respectable .282/.339/.407 en route to topping the league average offensive production by 19% as an 18-year-old as he made the successful jump into short season ball last year.

Projection: One of the old adages about baseball warns that there’s no such thing as a pitching prospect. Well, teenaged catchers can’t be far behind. The nuances of the position and physical toll often prove to be too much. But in his brief 96-game stretch in pro ball Mejia has shown solid average tools across the board with the chance to develop even further.  One thing to watch in 2015, which will likely be spent in Low Class A, is how his power plays.

Ceiling:  2.0-win player

Risk:  Moderate to High

MLB ETA:  2019

 

 

10.  Tyler Naquin, CF

Born: 04/24/91  Age: 24   Height: 6-3   Weight: 190   B/T: L/R                                                        
CALs: Lane Adams, Adron Chambers, Jared Hoying, Daryl Jones, Mike Daniel
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 21 A- 161 .270 .379 .380 .758 .109 10.6% 16.1% 132
2013 22 A+ 498 .277 .345 .424 .769 .147 8.2% 22.5% 115
2014 23 AA 341 .313 .371 .424 .795 .112 8.5% 20.8% 122

Background: “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” – Tony Robbins

In a nutshell, the former Texas A&M right fielder represents everything that plagued the Indians’ draft affairs in the mid-2000s – a low ceiling, high floor, polished collegiate player a la Jeremy Sowers, Trevor Crowe, and David Huff. For his part, Naquin has performed, well, like his aforementioned counterparts throughout their respective minor league treks – solid, yet uninspiring. His wRC+ totals once again fell between 115 and 132, just like it has at every other point in his career. He was knocked out mid-season by an errant pitch that required hand surgery, but finished the year with a .313/.371/.424 triple-slash line.

Projection: An everyday player for a non-contending team and a part-timer everywhere else. Naquin’s overall skill set is largely underwhelming. Coming out of college his hit tool was touted as a potential above-average to plus skill. But now that he’s entering his age-24 season with a .283 career average and more than 1,000 plate appearances under his belt it looks like a solid-average skill, nothing more. Oh, and let’s not forget his struggles against southpaws in his minor league career: .238/.334/.309

Ceiling:  1.0- to 1.5-win player

Risk:  Low to Moderate

MLB ETA:  2015

 

 

**All Stats Courtesy of FanGraphs**

 

 

 



About

After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.