Cream of the Crop – Cleveland Indians

Alex and Brenden will be creating their own top 20 prospects per organization. The methodology is simple: they develop their own top 20’s, average them together, then have friendly arguments about who should be higher or lower. The next organization up for them to review is the Cleveland Indians.

State of the System Address

Brenden –

This system surprised me a lot, to be honest. Much better than I anticipated and it’s because of the great job the Indians have done both in the international market and the draft in recent years. Not a top 5 or even top system yet but they have a lot of high upside talent in the lower minors that people are going to be talking about real soon. On top of that high upside talent (especially infield depth) they have 2 high impact guys on the doorstep of the majors with a couple more likely average MLB contributors as well that are close. This is an organization that I regard as one of the top developers of talent in the majors which is evident with the great jobs they have done with Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Bauer, and Kluber. With the nice talented crop they have at the lower levels I’m excited to see where this system stands in just a year or two.

Alex –

This is one of my favorite systems in baseball. Most of the talent is a few years away, but they have 20 plus high upside players and I really trust the player development within the system. They had one of my favorite drafts, as well as back to back amazing J2’s. Not top 5 now, but look likely to rise up prospects system rankings as we start to get clearer pictures of their players and other systems graduate top guys.

1. Nolan Jones 3B

Age – 20

HT/WT – 6’4″ 185lb

Handedness – L/R

Current Level – A+

Alex’s Take –

Jones is one of the players who really grew on me over the course of 2018. Coming into the year, I was wary of the extremely high BABIP’s and GB rates in his 16/17 seasons and the fairly long swing. However, Jones answered most of these questions in 2018. His BABIP became a more realistic .347 in A ball, but he still posted a solid .279/.393/.464 at the level. It came back up to .418 at A+, but that coincided with him using all fields extremely well and lowering his GB rate/improving his line drive rate. Jones has a fairly polarizing hit tool. He still has a long swing with a bit of a hitch and a big leg kick, which indicates he will always be a high swing and miss bat. However, he is damn near perfect at using all fields, hits the ball hard with sound GB/LD/FB ratios and shows a truly elite eye at the plate. Overall I think its a 50 hit. You are going to see a 25-30 % k rate in the pros, but he will take plenty of walks plus have a high BABIP.

The power is much less polarizing. The still tall, wiry and athletic Jones is starting to grow into his 60-grade raw power. This registers in his jump from a 10.5% HR/FB rate in 2017 to a 21.9% rate in 2018. Jones (SS in HS) is athletic for a big guy and has average speed in the 45-50 range currently, though, with his room to add about 30 pounds, that number will come down over time. Defensively, he has a cannon arm that will play at 3B or RF and even garnered him some attention as a prep pitcher. That being said, he struggles with the glove and is below average as a fielder at third. If the glove doesn’t improve he could be headed to RF or 1B. Either way, the bat plays (especially against righties) and Jones has the upside to be a Travis Shaw type player at the big league level.

Brenden’s Take –

Jones is poised to be an OPS monster. Jones has tremendous power and a great eye at the plate that is more than willing to take a walk. His lowest BB% so far in his professional career is 16.2%, which is insane. He posted a 20% walk rate in his 130 PA’s at A+ in 2018. I think his patience also can be a detriment to him at times. He often gets himself into too many 2 strike counts due to him being so patient which gets him into trouble against good pitchers. That then gives way to his higher strikeout rates because of the high amount of 2-strike counts he gets himself into.

Jones is still filling out physically so that doubles power he currently has is still in the midst of transforming to home run power. He did break out a bit with 19 homers across two levels in 2018. A big part of his power breakout this past year was his FB% jumped a bit from around 25% to 30%. He still needs to get the ball up in the air more to make the most of his power but he’s getting there. Jones also loves to use the entire field only pulling just over 30% of balls while also hitting it close to 40% the opposite way. He has the kind of swing and raw power where his power will hit it to all field and he won’t have to be pull-heavy to be a 30 homer guy. Defensively I think he will stay at 3B, with a strong arm he can make all the plays he needs there but a move to the OF isn’t out of the question. With Jones’ use of all fields and maybe taking a slightly more aggressive approach at the plate, I think he has all the tools to become a .280 hitter with 30 or more homers a year.

Ceiling – .285/.420/.550 35/3

Floor – .260/.400/.500 25/2

Expectation – .280/.410/.520 30/2

Risk – Moderate

ETA – 2020


2. Triston McKenzie RHP

Age – 21

HT/WT – 6’5″ 165lb

Current Level – AA

Alex’s Take –

I have a long history of love for Triston McKenzie. I remember watching him in 2016 and thinking “Man once he fills out, he could be the top arm in the game, he’s so polished ad his stuff is so good for his age”. Then thought the same thing watching him in 2017. The thing is, he just hasn’t filled out….at all. And 2018, he actually regressed a bit due to a forearm injury he hasn’t yet proven he’s fully recovered from. Durability was always the concern here, so the injury gives me extra pause when the velocity doesn’t fully come back yet.

All that being said, I still love “Sticks”. McKenzie whips his wiry arm to throw a fastball that lives 91-93 touching 96 with fantastic plane and extension. The heat was 88-90 post injury but still touched 96, so I will have faith it will be back in full this year. McKenzie’s swing and miss pitch is a high spin 60-grade curve with depth and shape. It’s a true swing and miss offering. His third pitch is a changeup, that to be honest, needs some work. It’s too close velocity wise to his heater and lacks much movement. The arm action mimics his heater well though and he sequences it well. Sequencing and polish is the name of the game for McKenzie, who is right up there with Brent Honeywell for highest floor arm in the minors. McKenzie has been advanced and polished at every level while being extremely young for each level. If he can truly fill out a bit and tap into to any of that extremely projectable frame, he has a high end 2 upside and if not, his floor is still a solid MLB pitcher.

Brenden’s Take –

McKenzie is a long-limbed pitcher with a great fastball. So far in his 4 seasons in the minors, he has yet to be challenged. Here are his ERA’s in his 5 stops in 4 years in the Indians’ organization: 0.75, 0.55, 3.18, 3.46, and finally 2.68 at the AA level in 2018. He did all of this while generally having K/9 over 10 except for 2018 where it dropped to 8.64 and doing a great job suppressing home runs with the highest rate being 0.88 HR/9. McKenzie has great arm speed and just has innate talent when it comes to spinning the baseball. His fastball, now approaching 95, is almost unhittable at the top of the zone when he is locating it well. He also shows great ability to locate his fastball to both sides of the plate and finishes them off with a curveball that flashes plus. The changeup has some promise as well as he throws it with the same arm speed and slot as his fastball creating deception.

McKenzie has all the looks of a front-line starter. My only concerns are with durability (as if that worry ever goes away with any pitcher). He is a really skinny kid at only 165 lbs and I’m not totally sure his frame can take on the necessary weight to prove durable without sacrificing some of his athleticism on the mound. Up until this year though it had been a non-issue but had to miss some time at the beginning of the year due to forearm soreness. He came back with little problems though but his K rate did drop from his previously stellar marks, so that is something to keep tabs on. The Indians have a great track record with developing young pitchers and McKenzie will more than likely bolster that track record and be a top of the rotation arm. Love this kid.

Ceiling – SP 2

Floor – High Leverage Reliever

Expectation – SP 3 flashing SP 2 upside at times

Risk – High

ETA – 2019


3. George Valera OF

Age – 18

HT/WT – 5’10” 160lb

Handedness – L/L

Current Level – R

Alex’s Take –

A broken hammate bone cut George Valera’s coming out party short after just 22 at bats, but had he been healthy, there would probably be a decent amount of people debating Valera vs. Wander Franco right now. An extremely polished J2 bat, Valera consistently drew comps to Juan Soto. That’s not to say he will be setting the world on fire by age 19, but you get the kind of ceiling this kid has. In his brief debut, he did nothing to dispel this comp, slashing a .333/.409/.556 line with equal BB/K and even injury his hamate like Soto. Speaking of which, hamate injuries have been known to linger and could sap a bit of Valera’s power in 2019.

But here’s what to love about Valera. He flashes the tools for a legit 60 grade hit, perhaps even higher at maturity. He uses all fields, has discipline well beyond his years and has a Robinson Cano level picture-perfect swing. It’s a thing of beauty. Despite his smaller stature, he has a wiry powerful frame and is young enough that a growth spurt is still possible. Even with his current frame, he shows 50-grade raw power possibility with a shot at 55 game considering his swing. He has Soto-esque average speed with an above average arm. Takes good routes in the outfield and should be capable in right field or left. He won’t steal many bases, but the upside for me is a 70 hit, 55 game power bat if he hits his true ceiling. That requires a lot of projection and a full recovery from injury, but that’s a true star player.

Brenden’s Take –

Valera was one of the most anticipated prospect debuts going into the 2018 season. He is regarded as a highly advanced hitter at the plate and was one of the top J2 signings in 2017. Prospect hounds across the US felt robbed when 6 games into his debut a ball hit is hand and broke his hamate bone. Valera did show off what many anticipated seeing from him in his small 22 PA sample at Rookie ball: .333/.409/.556 with a 13.6% BB and K rates. Obviously, this is an incredibly small sample size so can’t take these numbers seriously in any manner but they match what I see on tape and what many evaluators have said of him.

Valera’s swing is as smooth as it gets. The swing is so quiet and does a great job keeping his hands inside the baseball and letting the bat head stay in the zone for a long time. He is at home in the batter’s box and hitting is just second nature to him. I really can’t wait to see him in 2019 because I think the Indians have a really good player here. Valera has drawn comparisons to sudden rookie phenom Juan Soto, with the quiet swing and comfort at the plate I can see where the comparisons come from. Valera probably won’t reach the majors as quickly as Soto did but it wouldn’t shock me if he made a similar impact when he gets there.

Ceiling – .300/.400/.515 25/5

Floor – .270/.365/.475 15/2

Expectation – .290/.390/.500 20/3

Risk – High, only because of the limited professional playtime he has had so far.

ETA – 2021


4. Ethan Hankins RHP

Age – 18

HT/WT – 6’6″ 200lb

Current Level – R

Alex’s Take –

In my opinion, this is the highest upside player in the system and a top 5 upside arm in baseball. Coming into the year, Hankins was the top player on many draft boards and for good reason. A shoulder injury ruined most of Hankins season and kept him from truly showing what he’s capable of, but that just makes him a buy low for me. Hankins has the best fastball I’ve seen on a starter since Justin Verlander. It lives 93-96 (when healthy) and tops out at 98, but just 18 coming off an injury and a slim 6-6, projection easily says it will be touching triple digits soon. The velocity is nice, but not what makes the pitch special. It has the best run I have ever seen on a prep heater. Ever. True 80-grade pitch when he’s commanding it and that’s without the projection.

Hankins throws a curve, slider and change up as well. All 3 offspeed offerings flash 50-55 and the slider might have a ceiling of 60, but they are all inconsistent as he hasn’t had reason to throw them before with how dominant his fastball is. His command over these pitches will determine if he can reach his lofty ceiling. A competitor on the mound, Hankins has the edge of an ace when he’s on the mound and is capable of just truly taking over games when his command is on. Even when it’s off he flashes plus control and shows the repeatability to continue to develop both command and control. The unproven shoulder and lack of command in his secondaries keeps me from ranking Hankins as aggressively as I want to, but this is a rare case of true ace upside. If projection and command hit, we could be talking about a Forrest Whitley type 4-plus pitch with an 80 fastball arm. The floor is a Brady Aiken, but the Ceiling is Verlander here and I don’t say that lightly. You HAVE to watch this video of him at 17 dominating the Korean U-18 team in the world baseball cup.

Brenden’s Take –

The Indians might’ve gotten the steal of the draft with Hankins. A lot of people forget that Hankins was in pretty good position to be the first prep pitcher ever selected first overall at this point last year. Unfortunately, Hankins had some shoulder problems his senior season that raised a lot of concern and caused him to drop to the Indians compensatory pick. His fastball might be one of the best fastballs I have ever seen and this is coming from somebody who spent most of my formative years idolizing Justin Verlander’s fastball. He can hit upper 90’s and there is belief that he will eventually reach triple digits with it. The fastball has some wicked life to it and is unhittable at times. Please do me a favor and watch this video from Hankins start against Korea during the U-18 Baseball World Cup. It shows all 14 of his strikeouts, most of which were because of his truly 70-grade fastball. He even broke off a couple nice curveballs and I think a slider for good measure. His curve, slider and changeup all need some refinement but I think at worst they all have average potential. Hankins is an exceptional athlete which allows him to repeat his delivery and should see him develop good command of his stuff. As I mentioned with McKenzie, Hankins couldn’t have ended up in a better situation with the Indians. Hankins is a pitcher I’d be looking to grab in every FYP draft that I could get my hands on in.

Ceiling – SP 1

Floor – The shoulder injuries people worry about cripple him and he doesn’t make the majors

Expectation – SP 3 (almost want to put SP 2 but need to temper expectations until he gets more experience)

Risk – Very High

ETA – 2023


5. Brayan Rocchio SS

Age – 17

HT/WT – 5’10” 150lb

Handedness – S/R

Current Level – R

Alex’s Take –

Rocchio was less heralded than fellow J2 signings Valera and Bracho, but he was the talk of the Arizona League. After proving too polished for the Dominican Summer League, Rocchio, still jus 17 was bumped up to the AZL around the time when Valera was hurt and was arguably even more dominant. Rocchio put up a .343/.389/.448 slash line while flashing 55 grade glove work and an arm that should let him stick at SS. Looking at the 5-10 150 frame, it’s easy to write off Roochio’s power; but just 17 with a more projectable build than you’d expect for a 5-10 guy Rocchio already packs some pop. It’s easy to see 40-45 game power at maturity.

The bat and speed are the carrying tools here though, both grading as future 60’s for me. Rocchio displays excellent barrel to ball skills, striking out just 10.8% of at-bats in the AZL as one of it’s youngest players and increasing his BB rate from 4.5 in DSL to 6.3. He also gets the ball elevated, which should help him tap into game power as he fills out his frame. especially with the hard contact he makes. While Rocchio already possesses 60-grade speed that he projects to keep, his base stealing is still a bit raw, as evidenced by his 13 CS in 35 attempts over 60 games. He will need to learn to get better jumps and read pitchers slightly better, but steals will be a big part of the profile. The comp here is Jean Segura offensively, a high average 8-15 home runs and 25-30 steals. That’s a nice piece. With Rocchio already appearing on Fangraphs top 100 list at 87, the buy low window will be closing rapidly. Time to grab a share.

Brenden’s Take –

Brayan Rocchio was signed out of Venezuela in 2017 and every time I look up information about him they all start the same way. People rave about his makeup and his high baseball IQ that has earned him the nickname “The Professor”. Rocchio is a slick-fielding shortstop with soft hands that could stick there long term. The Indians have a lot of middle infield talent at the lower levels so he could change positions (he already saw some time at 3B and 2B) but should see development time at short until he gets closer to the majors. Rocchio displays a great hit tool that is enhanced by his advanced plate discipline and rarely swinging at bad pitches. At 17 years old, Rocchio proved he was advanced enough to dominate the Arizona League and slashed .343/.389/.448 with 14 SB and only striking out 10.8% of the time.

Rocchio is always going to be a hit over power kind of hitter but with his bat speed and frame I could see a 15 or so home run hitter at his peak, obviously only hitting 1 home run and an ISO of only .105 it takes some imagination but I don’t think it’s out of the question. Important to note that the Indians have somehow developed Lindor and Ramirez into 30 homer talents at the major league level so hard to count out anyone in this organization in terms of power potential. Something I’ve yet to touch on his Rocchio’s speed which is plus but he was also caught 8 times so he needs some refinement in that area. With his advanced hit tool and good defensive skills, Rocchio just screams fast riser to me. It honestly wouldn’t shock me if we see him debut at 20 years old.

Just a small note on another reason I love Rocchio is we share the same birthday. January 13th birthdays represent!

Ceiling – .300/.340/.415 15/30

Floor – Utility player with little power but provides solid average, defense, and speed

Expectation – .280/.320/.380 10/25

Risk – High

ETA – 2022


6. Luis Oviedo RHP

Age – 19

HT/WT – 6’4″ 170lb

Current Level – A

Alex’s Take –

Yet another arm that you can’t squint and see a potential #2 starter with a long ways to go to reach that ceiling. This system just seems to churn out top pitching prospects and Oviedo has every chance to be part of that line. At an extremely projectable 6-4 170, Oviedo already possesses a fatsball that lives in the 91-94 range but has been recorded as high as 97. As he adds weight, its possible it will continue to gain velocity. He greats great arm extension with the pitch and perceived velo is even higher. Oviedo has a traditional starter’s mix with a slider, curve and changeup. The change has decent tumbling movement when its on and plays up because of his fastball perceived velo. The slider flashes average and at times 55 and should be a decent pitch once he learns to command it. While the curve lags behind, it’s too early in his evolution as a pitcher to scrap it.

If you saw Oviedo earlier in the year, you would say he has great control, later in the year not so much. But at either time, it was clear he needed to add command to his pitches. There is still a lot of development left to do. For someone so capable of using his frame and stuff to get high swing and miss rates, Oviedo gives up a lot of hard contact when he’s hit, telling me he needs to learn to sequence better and command all 4 quadrants of the zone. The ingredients are there for a SP2 with 4 pitches and he’s in the right organization to get him there. He will be fun to watch in 2019.

Brenden’s Take –

Oviedo is a big framed right-handed pitcher who was the top pitcher in the Indians’ 2015 international class. I want to be really honest here, but I have fallen in love with Oviedo. He has four pitches that all can cause hitters problems and knows how to sequence. The fastball, now that he has filled out his frame a bit, is sitting mid-90’s with arm-side sink making it really tough on right-handed hitters and generating a ton of ground balls (50.4% in 2018 at A-). On top of the great fastball he has two distinct breaking balls. The slider is my favorite of the two showing great sweeping action and he loves to use it. He also displays a big curve ball that is also a good pitch for him. Both of these pitches generate a lot of swing and misses, helping lead to a 11.44 K/9 while at A- in 2018. A pitcher who both generates ground balls and swing and misses? You can see why I really fancy Oviedo. On top of all of this he has a good feel for his changeup which should develop into an average pitch for him. Put it all together you get a pitcher who has four pitches that can generate ground balls, strikeouts and can be effective against both righties and lefties.

For those of you that go to Fangraphs immediately after reading this, I’ll go ahead and tell you his 2017 season is going to jump out at you, and not for good reasons. He had a unsightly 7.14 ERA in 2017 but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Joseph Coblitz of The Sports Daily does a great job delving into Oviedo’s 2017 season and discovered that for the most part Oviedo was just unlucky. For ground ball pitchers like Oviedo they need good infield defenses behind them to be successful and by most accounts that was not the case in his stateside debut. If you look at his FIP and xFIP for 2017 his ERA should’ve been closer to 3.70 or so than the unsightly 7.14. Ovideo has a ton of talent but he does have trouble repeating his delivery leading to some inconsistencies with his command and control. In my opinion, it looks like it roots from some difficulty to repeating his arm slot and when his elbow starts to drop you can see the difference. Ovideo is a pitcher I’m willing to bet on because there aren’t many young pitchers like him with 4 good pitchers lying around.

Ceiling – SP 2/SP 3

Floor – Middle reliever with strikeout and ground ball capabilities

Expectation – SP 3

Risk – Very High

ETA – 2022


7. Lenny Torres RHP

Age – 18

HT/WT – 6’1″ 190lb

Current Level – R

Alex’s Take –

I’m a lot higher than most on Lenny Torres. He’s a high makeup kid who really impressed me when I was scouting Perfect Game events and the Tournament of Stars last year. One of the youngest players in the prep class, Torres was just 17 for the full season last year but that didn’t stop from being utterly dominant. in 15 1/3 IP across 6 short appearances, Torres pushed a 1.76 ERA with a 1.17 WHIP and 22K/4BB. He had a 1.88 GB to FB rate and of the fly balls hit, 62.5% were infield pop ups. Of balls put in play, nearly half were hit to opposite field, telling me hitters were well behind his fastball.

With an athletic 6-1 frame and freshly turned 18 there is still some projection left on Torres, although not on the level of a Hankins or McKenzie. But considering he is already living in the 93-95 range and touching 98 with a deceptive delivery that reminds me of a young Felix Hernandez but with a bit more speed to it, he doesn’t need the projection. Torres flashes a plus slider, that has 55-60 upside at its peak but is inconsistent as he hasn’t needed it to beat hitters yet. This will need to become more consistent for him to succeed. So will a running change up, that looks good in bullpen sessions but hasn’t made its way to games yet. In theory, the change could be another 55-grade pitch, but he has to learn how to use it and prove command. As he has been so fastball heavy, Torres has little to no sequencing history. Luckily, the Indians are likely the best in the biz at teaching this. If command and all 3 pitches come along, Torres has genuine top of rotation upside and could be a high end two a la Graterol. However, his lack of a proven third pitch and decent effort delivery make the bullpen a bit of a risk as well. Torres (technically Torres JR) is family oriented and wants to make it big to support his family, including Lenny Torres SR and shows absolutely top end work ethic and character. This gives me extra confidence he will put in the work necessary to reach his lofty ceiling. I love this kid.

Brenden’s Take –

Torres was one of the youngest players in the 2018 MLB draft class, turning 18 in October after being drafted at 17 years old. Torres is a raw pitching prospect who has already shows great abilities at his young age. He has a good pitchers frame with long limbs and still has plenty of projection left in his frame. His mechanics still need work but you can’t teach the arm speed and velocity he already possesses. At 17 years old he’s already throwing his fastball 93-95 typically but has reportedly touched 98 at times. With some projection left in his frame it’s reasonable to expect him to possible start sitting closer around 95 and touching triple digits. He currently pairs the explosive fastball with a low 80’s slider. The pitch is generally an average pitch but I’ve seen him throw a couple really nice ones away from right handed hitters that were simply unhittable. He didn’t have to throw a third pitch much while in high school so don’t have much information on a changeup (also read he was toying with a cutter).

His control is shockingly pretty good for a young arm but his command is lacking. He can generally throw the ball in the zone but struggles to hit his spots but as his mechanics get cleaned up with professional coaching this should improve. In his minor league debut, quite simply he was dominant. In 15 innings, he only gave up 3 ER and posted a 22:4 K:BB ratio. Overall, Torres has a great young arm and if he can improve his command and add a third pitch he should have mid-rotation potential. As a fallback, the fastball is good enough where he could become a nice bullpen arm as well if he doesn’t clean up his command and/or add a third pitch. For me, Oviedo and Torres are neck and neck here and I only slightly prefer Oviedo due to his full arsenal of 4 pitches compared to Torres’ small arsenal and need to develop a third pitch. Think both of these guys have a lot of potential to tap into though.

Ceiling – SP 2/SP 3

Floor – Middle relief, Both of us believe his fastball and slider are major league ready now which gives him a nice floor in the bullpen if he stays healthy.

Expectation – SP 3

Risk – High

ETA – 2023


8. Noah “Bo” Naylor C

Age – 18

HT/WT – 6’0″ 195lb

Handedness – L/R

Current Level – R

Alex’s Take –

Naylor is an interesting prospect because he has so many possible outcomes that seem likely. Drafted last year with the Indians top pick for well over slot value, the high school home run derby champ (over Nolan Gorman) was drafted as a catcher, but has a wide range of defensive possibilities. Naylor actually has decent present speed, but projects to be a below average runner at maturity like his brother Josh. However, a corner outfield spot is still a possibility if he fails as a catcher, as is first base and third base (where he started a handfull of games last year). Naylor has a strong arm behind the dish and showed better defensive skills than expected and it’s possible he could be an average everyday catcher defensively at maturity. Oddly enough for a derby champ, he’s considered a hit over power prospect with the making of a 55 hit, although I see similar power numbers. The bat would play at any position, but is especially potent behind the plate. However, staying behind the plate always slows down offensive advancements and Naylor will need quite a few years to develop at the position. My only real concerns here are a high pull rate and too many pop ups, but with great bat to ball skills and discipline, I’m not hugely worried by it.

Brenden’s Take –

Noah “Bo” Naylor is the younger brother of Padres’ prospect Josh Naylor. His brother is known for the plus power but Bo is better known for his plus hit tool that was considered by many as the best hit tool in his draft class. Bo had a solid debut in Rookie ball at 18 years old slashing .274/.381/.402. Would’ve liked to see him use the whole field during his debut, as he was pulling the ball 50% of the time. He was known for his all fields approach coming into the draft so there is reason to believe this is more of an anomaly and not a precursor of something more permanent. His power will never be stellar but should develop average or slightly above average power. Defensively he’s a good athlete that has a good chance to stay behind the plate. He did play a good bit of 3B in his prep days and there is some belief that Naylor could move there eventually but the Indians seem satisfied with him behind the plate. The Indians do have a track record of moving good offensive catchers away from the plate, Santana and Mejia come to mind, so it will be interesting to see if their tune changes on that front. If he stays at catcher, I could foresee a potential top 5 fantasy catching option with the plus hit tool with 15 or so homers and possibly a couple steals early in his career.

Ceiling – .280/.330/.465 20/8 Full time Starting Catcher

Floor – Backup catcher or utility player that moved away from catcher which hurts his potential fantasy value.

Expectation – .270/.325/.425 13/5 Full time starter either at catcher or somewhere else (catcher would be preferred)

Risk – High

ETA – 2022


9. Yu Chang SS/3B

Age – 23

HT/WT – 6’1″ 175lb

Handedness

Current Level – AAA

Alex’s Take –

Chang might win the “most likely to be a fan favorite” award for the entire minor leagues. The Taiwanese shortstop, who’s full name is Yu-Cheng Chang, is a hard-swinging plus defender who seems destined for either a utility role or a trade. Defensively, Chang is a capable SS but a plus 3B and can slide in at 2B if needed. Chang dominated the Arizona Fall League this year with a 337/396/523 slash with 4 home runs and 1 SB over 23 games (96 PA). More surprisingly, he had 7BB and just 16K in that period, clearly raising his value. Typically, Chang is a power over hit bat who puts almost everything he comes into contact with into the air, with just a 32.4% GB rate. He will use all fields (although he prefers to pull the ball) and could have a decent hit if not for his high K rates, which are going nowhere. While Chang does have 55 raw power, his flyball profile should make use of every ounce of it into game power and the plus defense should earn him at bats despite his below average hit tool. Chang also has average speed and should chip in 5-10 SB per year with full at bats.

Brenden’s Take –

Yu Chang was one of the top prospects to come out of Asia in 2013. Chang’s status has risen in recent years with his power blossoming, especially in 2017 where he hit 24 homers (declined to 13 in 2018). Chang has been developed primarily as a SS, but with Lindor entrenched at the 6 it was time to start adding to his versatility. He started playing some 3B and 2B and with his average speed and arm he can play all three of the positions well and could probably play some OF if needed. I think how much Chang hits will determine his role at the major league level. He has plus bat speed that can generate 20 home run pop and can steal a few bases but has struggled to hit for a high average in the minors, hitting .256 at AAA in 2018. He’s a patient hitter at the plate but similar to comments I made about Nolan Jones, it gets him into too many 2 strike counts and has too much swing and miss in his game and results in high K rates (27.8% in 2018). Chang should make his debut in 2019 and he will probably be used as a versatile IF and I’m not sure he will keep his average high enough where he can be an everyday player.

My partner Alex did get a look at him at 3B while at the AFL and reported very high marks defensively and with ridiculous exit velos. That changes my views on him a tad because if he can play plus defense that helps his value immensely because it will probably allow him to be a full-time player which will help his fantasy value. I still see a versatile defensive player down the line but should see a lot of playing time in the next couple of years.

Ceiling – .260/.340/.460 30/10

Floor – .230/.310/.440 15/5 Utility player

Expectation – .250/.325/.450 25/8 Full Time

Risk – Moderate

ETA – 2019


10. Tyler Freeman SS

Age – 19

HT/WT – 6’0″ 170lb

Handedness – R/R

Current Level – A-

Alex’s Take –

Freeman has a pretty simple profile. He’s a below average defensive SS, average 2B who lacks power, has average speed and a double plus hit tool. He can hit anything to any part of the park, goes with the pitch, fairly even GB/FB/LD. It’s a 60 hit and 55 speed. He doesn’t have it yet, but could grow into 40-45 power with his frame and bat speed and shows good instincts on the bases. He has insanely low walk and K rates, so how he fares against A+ and above level spin will be important to monitor, but he has the feel of a utility guy for me. If I was projecting him out now, Nicky Lopez is the guy who comes to mind.

Brenden’s Take –

Freeman is going to be one of those players that every team has that their home fans love but their rivals hate. He doesn’t have any plus tools but he does everything well and it all plays up due to his high IQ and motor. Love the bat though. He’s an aggressive hitter, looking to punish fastballs early in counts but isn’t so aggressive that he swings at breaking balls out of the zone. Right now his power is almost exclusively doubles power but he could start hitting some out of the yard when he matures physically. He’s never going to wow scouts with his tools but his numbers are going to constantly cause people to look his way. He’s being developed as a SS for now but I think as he progresses he will have to move to 2B because of his average speed and arm. As a Tigers’ fan, I can already tell you that I’m dreading the day Freeman is on the Indians because he screams Tiger killer.

Ceiling – .315/.365/.425 15/20

Floor – .280/.340/.400 8/15 Utility player

Expectation – .290/.350/.415 12/20 Full Time

Risk – Moderate

ETA – 2022


11. Carlos Vargas RHP

Age – 19

HT/WT – 6’3″ 180lb

Current Level – R

Alex’s Take –

“Raw talent” is the best way to describe Vargas, the crown jewel of the Indians 2016 J2 class. With a projectable 6-3 frame, lightning quick arm speed and a ton of question marks; Vargas makes for an interesting lottery ticket. Vargas has a high octane fastball that lives 94-96 and will touch 99 at times. Certain days it has arm-side run and other days its straight. When he commands it, it’s a clear 60-grade heater. He also mixes in a hard slider that lives 85-86 with sharp bite at the end. It will also flash 60 when it’s on, but lacks consistency. At times the slider will be overthrown in the 90 MPH range and act like a nasty cutter, which some scouts say might result in the development of another pitch. Later on in the year, Vargas started offering a fairly raw change up in the 90 MPH range that could be average in time.

Vargas has an easy delivery, but gets out of whack with his limbs, release points and lower half. This results in wild pitches and inconsistent command of pitches and will need to be improved for Vargas to come close to his ceiling. Assuming he is able to gain command with time, the development of the change (and possibly cutter) will determine whether Vargas is headed to the pen or rotation, but he has the upside to be an impact player at both spots. With 2018 being his first year pitching professionally, the Indians limited his innings and as a result, he only pitched into the 5th inning twice in his final 2 starts. The talk was that he was the best 18 year old in the Arizona league, to give a feel for his ceiling, but the floor is extremely low as well.

Brenden’s Take –

When you’re 19 years old and already have reports of touching triple digits and still have a lot of projection in your frame, you have my attention. Vargas has two plus (potential plus-plus) pitches when they are on and he has his mechanics in sync. The fastball as I noted is in the upper 90’s with his electric arm speed. The slider, which is 92-93, has terrific depth and is a true strikeout pitch for him. He also has a curveball and changeup but they are projects at the moment. If he wants to stick in the rotation, he will need to develop at least one of those pitches. If for some reason he can’t develop a third pitch but gains consistent-ish command of his fastball and slider, he could be a top tier closer. Vargas, as I mentioned, has a lot of room to grow and I think he could approach 220lb or so at his peak physique. Vargas probably has the highest upside of the pitchers in the system as he could become a top of the rotation ace or elite closer but could flame out if he can’t obtain consistent command of his stuff. Overall, Vargas might be the most fun young player to dream on for the Indians and Indian fans should be salivating over his potential.

Ceiling – Upside SP 3

Floor – Never Makes Pros

Expectation – High Leverage RP

Risk – High

ETA – 2023


12. Daniel Johnson OF

Age – 23

HT/WT – 5’10” 185lb

Handedness – L/L

Current Level – AA

Alex’s Take –

Recently acquired for catcher Yan Gomes, Johnson has exceptional speed and arm strength with plus raw power, but has had a hard time putting it all together. You could make a case for Johnson having one of the strongest OF arms in the minors and he will flash double plus speed. Defensively, that means he could become a true impact player and he is in the back of pitchers minds when he’s on base. This is evidenced by back to back years of 22 SB seasons.

The issue is, he can’t consistently get on base and his wing doesn’t let him consistently get to his power. He also lacks good plate discipline and will have high K and low walk rates. If he somehow fixes the discipline and contact issues, he could be a legitimate star. He has that in him to be a 25 home run/30 steal star defender. But it just seems much more likely he maxes out as a 4th outfielder due to the hit. His AFL appearance this year was a fitting description of him as a player. He slashed a dreadful 145/260/177 but had the highest recorded exit velo of any player, managed 3 outfield assists in just 17 games and stole 6 bases with zero CS in just 19 times on base total.

Brenden’s Take –

Johnson was recently acquired by the Indians in the trade that sent Yan Gomes to the Nationals. Johnson is a toolsy prospect with 70-grade speed, 70-grade arm, and above-average raw power. Johnson is an intriguing prospect to me mostly because of the tools but broke out in 2017 in the Nationals’ system unlocking his power (22 home runs across two levels) and being able to make the jump from A to A+ with ease while in mid-season. 2018 was a bit of a different story though. He missed some time due to injury (I have been unable to find any information on what the injury could’ve been) and struggled in his first taste of AA with his K rate rising to 23%. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that it’s possible that whatever his injury was that it could’ve lingered and affected him but it’s hard to say since by accounts it was never disclosed. Even though he struggled at times at the plate he did steal 21 bases.

Defensively, with his speed and arm, you would think he would be a natural fit in CF but he’s more of a corner OF (RF with the strong arm) due to his lack of instincts by most accounts. With his speed and arm, I think he has a nice floor as a 4th OF especially with potential 20/30 upside. I think 2019 will be an important year for him because it should shed some light on whether his drop in performance was due to a lingering injury or him not being up to par against more advanced competition, not out of the question for a potential 2019 debut if everything breaks right.

Ceiling – 275/335/475 20/20

Floor – 5th outfielder

Expectation – Platoon Outfielder

Risk – High

ETA – 2020


13. Oscar Mercado OF

Age – 24

HT/WT – 6’2″ 175lb

Current Level – AAA

Alex’s Take –

Acquired late last year from the Cardinals for Conner Capel and personal favorite Jhon Torres, Mercado is a CF/leadoff profile who’s nearly MLB ready. A willingness to take a walk, decent contact rates, plus CF defense and solid speed with an average hit tool indicate a very high floor for Mercado. I think he could be seeing time in the outfield from opening day as a platoon bat. A lack of much power with just an average hit limit the upside but you have a guy who will play impact defense and get on base, then is dangerous once he reaches. You need this kind of player on your team.

Brenden’s Take –

Mercado was once considered a top prep SS prospect when he was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. Mercado never unlocked his potential, offensively or defensively, while playing short in the Cardinals organization. In 2017, the Cardinals chose to evict him from his original defensive home and try him out in CF to see if that could somehow spark his potential. They were right. Mercado had things click and slashed .287/.341/.428 at the AA level in 2017 along with 38 steals and 13 home runs. Mercado has always been a threat on the bases (stealing 50 bases in 2015) but has struggled to hit. He continued his new found bat in 2018 and was eventually traded to the Indians at the trade deadline in an exchange of minor leaguers that was overlooked by most.

The thing I liked seeing from Mercado is the improvement on the base paths. While he was stealing 30+ bases every year, he was also getting caught about 20 times per year. In 2018, while in the Cardinal’s system was able to steal 31 bases and only got caught 8 times. Definitely an improvement. Mercado has a solid hold on the strike-zone and doesn’t strike often, but also doesn’t walk a lot. While he has developed into a good CF defensively, his future will be determined by his bat. I think if he can hit .270 or better while also getting on base around a .340 clip he could be a helpful top of the order hitter with his base stealing abilities. If he can only manage .260 or worse, I think at best he’s a 4th OF. I’m not quite certain he will hit enough to be an everyday starter but he seems to be a good cheap grab by the Indians.

Ceiling – 275/355/420 12/35

Floor – 4th outfielder

Expectation – 260/340/375 8/20

Risk – Low

ETA – 2019


14. Raynel Delgado SS/2B

Age – 18

HT/WT – 6’2″ 185lb

Handedness – S/R

Current Level – R

Alex’s Take –

The Indians stole Delgado, a top 3 round prospect by all accounts, in the 6th round for a 4X slot bonus of $900k last year. So far, its paid off big time. Drafted as a SS, Delgado lacks the agility to stick long term but with good instincts and a strong arm, he looks very capable at 2B and 3B. I think after some development he could be a plus defender at both spots. Offensively, Delgado shows plus bat speed and good barrel to ball feel. He also has advanced plate discipline, although he is a hard swinger and will miss occasionally. This showed in his 306/409/382 slash. The SLG will come up as he fills out and some doubles turn into home runs. Like most prep bats, there is a long way to go developmentally but he’s a decent reward bat who is very low risk for a 6th round prep.

Brenden’s Take –

Just another young middle infield prospect for the Indians, also they sure love switch hitting players don’t they? Delgado is a bat first prospect who showed power from both sides of the plate at showcases. He was also known to be a tad slow and that could be the determining factor that could move him away from SS long term (though in every other aspect seems like he could play there). Then he made his debut and young switch hitting shortstop known for his pop only hit 1 home run with a .075 ISO and a slugging percentage below his OBP (.382 vs. .409). He also stole 10 bases in his rookie ball debut. I think it’s a fair assessment that the SB numbers can probably be attributed to the below average defensive catcher talent and pitchers not well refined in the art of holding base runners but the lack of power is interesting.

On tape, Delgado is a player that loves to get out in front of the baseball and drive it to the pull side (represented well by his 41.7% pull rate in rookie ball). In this video taken by 2080 Baseball, you can see pretty clearly that he is often caught out on his front foot by off-speed stuff. It seems pretty safe to assume that he is going to need some work with pitch recognition (which is common for prep players). Another factor that hurt his power numbers was the fact that he hit nearly 56% of batted balls into the ground. Overall, I think his first taste of rookie ball is exactly that, just a taste. I think it’s more a case of a young player getting acclimated and not quite a true representation of the player he’s going to be, if these type of numbers continue then we may need to start reevaluating Delgado’s offensive profile.

Ceiling – 275/340/440 17/5

Floor – Never Makes MLB

Expectation – 265/335/430 14/4

Risk – High

ETA – 2023


15. Gabriel Rodriguez SS

Age – 16

HT/WT – 6’2″ 174lb

Handedness – R/R

Current Level – N/A

Alex’s Take –

With the Indians recent success with international prospects, you take notice when they dole out $2.1 million for a 16-year-old out of Venezuela. Reviews on G-Rod are that he’s mechanically sound both defensively and offensively, with good tools across the board. Already 6-2 175 at 16, with a normal growth path, Rodriguez will be big for a SS. Since his speed is just average (maybe a touch below) it’s likely he eventually slides over to third. But he has the mechanics to stay at short if he can develop first step quickness. Defensively he shows the raw tools for either position with good glove work and an above average arm. Offensively, Rodriguez has the makings of a 50 power tool that could increase if he projects physically as expected. With his quick wrists and simple bat path, G-Rod looks to have an above average hit tool as well with a long track record of hitting in scouted games. Noted for being a hard worker and truly loving the game, Rodriguez is very polished for his age and should be a quick riser by J2 standards. But he still has a long road to go.

Brenden’s Take –

Rodriguez was signed out of Venezuela in 2018 and was Baseball America’s No. 8 international prospect at the time of his signing. While he is a shortstop for now, I believe with his frame that 3B may become his home at some point. Baseball America deems him as a player that showed good improvement in power and speed. The power is pretty evident in the tape they have of him (though strictly pull side for now) but the speed didn’t look impressive. In their video, he ran a 60 and I have him just a tad over 7 seconds which is below average and with his frame that isn’t something I see to be improving. I wasn’t there personally so me taking a time measurement from a video will lead to some error but I estimate my time of him to be with in +/- 0.1 seconds, so at best he’s on the lower end of average speed, which is about 6.9 seconds. I love the bat as he has a smooth swing and utilizes a leg kick to generate hip rotation in order to drive the ball. In some game tape, he didn’t see over aggressive and showed some understanding of the strike zone. Young player with a projectable body, smooth swing, and displaying strike zone understanding at 16 years old, you can include me in the pretty large group of people that are excited to see this kid make his professional debut.

Ceiling – 300/370/480 20/5

Floor – Never reaches MLB

Expectation – 275/345/445 15/5

Risk – Moderate/High

ETA – 2024


16. Aaron Bracho SS

Age – 17

HT/WT – 5’11” 175lb

Current Level – N/A

Alex’s Take –

After bursting on the scene in 2016 with a monster performance in Perfect Game World Showcase, Bracho was a highly sought after player. Depending on the writer/site/scout Bracho, not Valera was the Indians top J2 prospect in 2017 and the Tribe did give him a larger bonus ($1.5 mil to Valera’s $1.3). Unfortunately, Bracho suffered an arm injury in extended spring training and missed the entire 2018 season, allowing fellow classmates Valera and Rocchio to shine. But don’t sleep on Bracho. The switch-hitting SS from Venezuela offers a surprising amount of pop for his size. I absolutely love the bat speed he shows and have seen him turn on inside balls and crush them in video. While his footwork leaves a bit to be desired defensively, Bracho is quick and has the making of a 60 arm in my opinion with his remarkable accuracy and above average throwing power. I think he’s a SS at this point until proven otherwise, but industry consensus is a 2B. Either way, he has the tools for a very high-end hit tool, above average speed, the bat speed for good game power and will play up the middle defensively. If he comes out fully healthy and ready to go in 2019, I think he can be a guy whose value skyrockets.

Brenden’s Take –

Bracho is another one signing of the big 2017 J2 class that also brought in Valera and Rocchio into the Indians system. Unfortunately, Bracho was never able to debut in 2018 due to some mysterious arm injury and only a few were able to get a good look of him in extended spring training. As I also mentioned with Rocchio, Bracho is just another young talented middle infield prospect in this system. Smooth swing from both sides of the plate. I love the way he’s able to manipulate the barrel of the bat and just never seems to mishit the baseball in batting practice.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any tape of him facing live pitching but based on swing alone, he has the looks of, at a minimum, a league average hitter. Obviously how he handles the strike-zone and more advanced pitching will play a big part in determining how far he goes there. I think he can develop some power because he has a good-sized frame and utilizes his lower half well but I think 20 home runs is about the best I can project at the moment. Defensively, it sounds like he’s a better fit at 2B down the line. He has average speed and a fringe-average arm so it looks like it’ll be a tall order for him to stay at short long term.

Ceiling – 310/365/500 25/18

Floor – Never Reaches MLB

Expectation – 280/340/460 18/15

Risk – High

ETA – 2023


17. Sam Hentges LHP

Age – 22

HT/WT – 6’6″ 245lb

Current Level – A+

Alex’s Take –

I feel like I’m SUPPOSED to rank Hentges higher than this, but just can’t quite bring myself to actually do it. Hentges has a 91-93 MPH fastball (fast for a lefty) that can touch 95 and has downhill plane that should get ground balls. He mixes the heat with a curve that flashes above average (though with little command) and an inconsistent change that flashes average when on. Mechanically, he’s a bit inconsistent for me. Command seems to come and go, as do release points and his spin. Too many times, I saw him out of sync between his upper and lower halves, which I think was a big part of his 4.0 BB/9. He’s also just starting to get a feel for sequencing his pitches. He has good raw stuff when it’s clicking and I like his frame. When his mechanics are right, I like the plane and extension he gets.

A cold weather state prep arm when he was drafted in 2014 and TJS comeback kid, it is understandable that he is a bit behind where he should be. But at 22 with 4 years of professional coaching from one of the best dev orgs, I would expect him to need less. If he’s able to make strides with his command, sequencing, mechanics, and consistency; he has the frame and stuff of a high IP SP3. So he deserves his spot on this competitive list, but he just has too many current flaws to rank any higher for me.

Brenden’s Take –

Big framed pitcher that uses his large frame to get downhill with great extension which increases his perceived velocity against hitters. 2018 was his first full season since undergoing TJS in mid-2016 and he didn’t disappoint, posting a 3.27 ERA across 118 innings with a 9.28 K/9. He has a good fastball that hits 95 but sits around 92-93 but with his length on the mound, it probably seems much faster to hitters. He also shows a plus curveball that lacks consistency. Hentges rounds up his arsenal with a cutter and changeup which are both solid weapons in the arsenal. Hentges has a well-rounded arsenal, big frame, but is still working to iron out his mechanics to become a more consistent pitcher. If he does that, I really like him as a potential mid-rotation guy.

Ceiling – SP3

Floor – Long Reliever

Expectation – SP4

Risk – Medium

ETA – 2021


18. Richard Palacios SS

Age – 21

HT/WT – 5’11” 180lb

Current Level – A

Alex’s Take –

Another solid middle infielder at the lower levels of this Indians system. Palacios had a legendary Jr year at Towson slashing 301/457/515 with 8 home runs, 25 steals with just 1 CS and a truly absurd 52BB/16K ratio. This lead to him going slightly under slot to Cleveland in the third round. Palacios then came out of the gates on an absolute tear in RK and Low A before coming back down to a still solid but more reasonable 300/317/425 line at A ball.

Offensively, Palacios shows the makings of an above average hit tool, with a 55 future grade by my eye. His power is fringe-average, but he did show more than I anticipated in his debut and I will be keeping an eye on it in 2019. I really like the speed. He’s a 60 runner but his instincts are a real separator for me. He just gets great jumps and reads situations well. I’m going to give him a 70 grade in terms of “game speed”. Defensively, he’s okay with the glove but the arm is fringe for me. I think he’s more 2B/LF than 2B/SS. With how stacked the Indians are with up the middle talent I think this could prevent him from breaking through with a big role. But he’s a gamer and if the power continues to trend like it did in 2018, I could raise that tool.

Brenden’s Take –

Palacios, the Indians’ 3rd round pick in 2018 out of Towson University, got off to one of the more ridiculous starts to a professional debut I’ve ever seen. After being drafted he started in rookie ball, where in 5 games he slashed .438/.591/.875 with an insane 281 wRC+. I don’t think I’ve seen a wRC+ value that high before. He didn’t slow down when he got promoted to A- where he slashed .411/.477/.589 with a 208 wRC+ in 20 games. Proving he was just too good for those leagues, he got promoted to A where finally he was slowed down a bit but still slashed a solid .300/.317/.425 in 20 games.

Palacios has a lot of MLB bloodlines with his brother, father, and uncle all were drafted. Palacios is a good athlete with quick hands and does a great job controlling the strike-zone. Similar to Rocchio, Palacios is lauded for his high baseball IQ. In addition to his on-base skills, he has plus speed and has the looks of a perfect table setter down the line. There is some raw power to him that could become average and hit double digits but he doesn’t sell out for the long ball. Defensively he was a SS in college but will move to 2B (played there almost exclusively in his debut) because of his fringy arm. Palacios with his debut alone has made some waves in the Cleveland system, and I’m curious to see what he can become.

Ceiling – 300/360/450 10/30

Floor – Quad A Utility Guy

Expectation – 275/350/400 7/22

Risk – Moderate

ETA – 2022


19. Will Benson OF

Age – 20

HT/WT – 6’5″ 225lb

Handedness – L/L

Current Level – A

Alex’s Take –

Benson is a divisive prospect. On one hand, it’s easy to see the power/speed/arm tool combo with his frame to get the Indians to reach for him at 14th overall in 2016. On the other hand, his hit tool is a legit 20 grade and that’s including his 16.2% walk rate. Let’s talk about the good first. Benson has a super athletic 6-5 225 frame at just 20 with 70-grade raw power, an above average arm in right with a decent glove and above average speed (although he will likely be a 50 runner when he’s mature). Gotta like that! He has also dropped his K rate from 33.9% in 2017 to 30.0% in 2018. He did that while bumping his BB rate from 13.1 to 16.2. Lowering the K rate while bumping up BB rate is a good sign.

And for the bad…he has the worst hit tool of any player that will be featured on any of these lists. Sure he dropped his K rate, but 30% before you even see quality spin is TERRIBLE. His .180 AVG was held down by a .218 BABIP…but the thing is, he has the profile of an incredibly low BABIP hitter. Extreme pull rate, even more extreme fly ball and pop up rates and you have a low BABIP hitter. Add in the massive holes in his swing and already 30% k rate and you have a legitimate sub-Mendoza type hitter. I want to like Benson and his raw tools are extremely impressive. With even a 40 hit, he could be a very useful player. But 40 is a looooong ways away for him. I could see him being a guy who randomly clicks at 25 and becomes a star, but the profile is just too risky at this point.

Brenden’s Take –

Are you interested in a player with an elite arm from the outfield, double plus power, plus a tremendous athlete even at 6’5″? Well, Benson is your man and I’m sure you’re sitting there wondering why isn’t he ranked higher than 19th? Because his hit tool might be a 20 on the 20-80 scale and that makes his profile that much harder to evaluate. The tools are loud but so is the swing and miss in his swing. His tools might be a jet engine but his swing and miss is as loud as the Superdome for a Saints home game (if you haven’t been for a Saints home game, it’s something else).

Honestly, his 2018 season is an incredible statistical marvel if you look at it. He only hit .180 but hit 22 homers. His 30% K rate is a big reason for that statline but couldn’t figure out how you hit 22 homers despite a .180 average but that stems from an insane 52.3% FB rate. If Benson can turn in a 40 hit tool (roughly .250 or so) then he could be an impressive player at the major league level with plus defense and 35 home runs or so. Benson is really similar to Royals’ prospect Matias in a lot of ways but Matias is actually more refined (which is really shocking to say).

Ceiling – 250/350/515 35/15

Floor – Never Makes AA

Expectation – Bench Power Bat

Risk – Very High

ETA – 2023


20. Nick Sandlin

Age – 21

HT/WT – 5’11” 175lb

Current Level – AA

Alex’s Take –

After an utterly dominant first two years as an RP at Southern Miss and a killer 2017 RP stint in the cape, Sandlin transitioned to a starter in 2018 going berserk with a 10-0 record with a 1.06 ERA, 0.71 WHIP and 144K/18BB across 102 IP. He then went back to RP post being drafted and made it all the way to AA in his dominant debut. Sandlin throws a traditional starter mix of 4 pitches and excels at sequencing. He could make the bigs in 2019 and has major closer upside.

Brenden’s Take –

Sandlin has experience both as a closer and in the rotation while with Southern Miss. Unfortunately, due to his smaller frame, the bullpen is his likely home in the majors. Equipped with a dangerous low-90’s fastball with arm-side run and sink, a wipeout slider, and an average changeup, Sandlin looks well equipped to go against professional hitters. His time may be coming sooner than you would think for the 2018 draftee. After being drafted, Sandlin sprinted through the minors advancing all the way to AA before finally being tested a bit. Sandlin was flat out dominating in the minors after being drafted and there’s a good chance we see him very soon in the big league pen.

Ceiling – Closer

Floor – 7th inning RP

Expectation – Fireman Role

Risk – Low

ETA – 2020


Honorable Mentions

Bobby Bradley/1B/21/AAA: “light tower power” was the phrase often associated with Bradley. Bradley has no doubt double plus raw power and knows how to get to it with high FB rates. But the loft in his swing that lets him get to his power combined with his plate discipline cause major swing and miss issues that make his utter lack of defensive value or speed much more pressing. With high launch angle and bottom of the barrel speed, you wouldn’t expect Bradley to be a high BABI guy and he’s not. Combine that with his high K rates and you have a guy who doesn’t project to hit for average. But you would expect a high SLG right? But over the last 3 years, Bradley has yet to top 466 SLG. Not bad, but not good enough to carry a low average DH type bat to the pros. The caveat here is that Bradley played last season at 21 and made AAA where he was 4.5 years younger than average. He still has time, but the bat needs to be special for him to get playing time given his limitations…and he seemed to regress last year. 2019 could be the season that determines if he is a quad-A type player or an MLB first baseman

Chie-Wei Hu/RHP/25/MLB: Besides having a fun name to say, Hu has 5 fun pitches including a solid cutter/Change combo and a rare palmball splitter. MLB ready know, Hu was good in his MLB debut as a reliever and could be a solid option in that role, but can also serve as a 4-5 starter if needed.

Eli Morgan/RHP/22/A+: The Gonzaga grad jumped onto numbers boards with a 2-0 start in 8 Starting nods at A ball last year w/ a 1.83 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 56k/8BB across 44 1/3 IP along with a double plus changeup. But then fell back to earth in A+. An undersized “pitchability” prospect, Morgan has an 88-91 and straight fastball that he commands well and plays off of his 65 change. He also throws a 50 slider. Despite good low-level results, looks like a changeup heavy RP long term.

Junior Sanquintin/SS/16/NA: SS/3B prospect who signed for $1.25 mil from the Dominican. Flashes average tools across the board with perhaps above-average power at maturity, but is a bit raw and inconsistent. Solid ceiling but like 7 years away.

Marcos Gonzalez/SS/19/RK: Contact first SS with below average power and fringe-average speed, but with a high upside glove. Could hit for average and play a good utility role.

Johnathan Rodriguez/OF/19/RK: Athletic, projectable right fielder with a long swing that brings down the profile but potential to grow into plus raw power and solid defense in right.


Photo credits to: MLB, MiLB, BaseballAmerica, PerfectGame

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