Want More? Complete Top 10 Prospects Rankings
Get it all: Subscribe to Baseball America
Go 30 deep: Order the 2016 Prospect Handbook!
|TOP 10 PROSPECTS|
|1. Bradley Zimmer, of|
|2. Clint Frazier, of|
|3. Brady Aiken, lhp|
|4. Justus Sheffield, lhp|
|5. Bobby Bradley, 1b|
|6. Tyler Naquin, of|
|7. Mike Clevinger, rhp|
|8. Triston McKenzie, rhp|
|9. Rob Kaminsky, lhp|
|10. Francisco Mejia, c|
Any thoughts the Indians had about entering the 2015 season as an under-the-radar contender were discarded in spring training when Sports Illustrated put Corey Kluber and Michael Brantley on the cover and picked Cleveland to win the World Series. The Indians managed to remain in the wild card race deep into September and finished 81-80, but ultimately it was the division-rival Royals who broke a long World Series drought.
The Indians' mediocre record in 2015 was disappointing, but the franchise ushered in a new era on June 14 when Francisco Lindor reached the big leagues. Though he had been the organization's top prospect since he was drafted eighth overall in 2011, the shortstop managed to exceed the hype in his debut and was the runner-up to Carlos Correa in AL Rookie of the Year voting.
Lindor's ascension to the big leagues also was a boon for the Indians pitching staff, because he helped improve the team's overall defense and thus fortify a talented, young rotation. Starters Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Kluber and Danny Salazar, all under the age of 30, combined to make 122 starts and record a 3.76 ERA. What's more, Indians starters led the majors in strikeout rate (8.9 per nine innings) for the second straight year.
With their young, controllable pitchers and core position players such as Lindor, Brantley, Jason Kipnis and Yan Gomes, the Indians have assembled pieces of a club that can be competitive. Now, they must figure out how to take the next step in a competitive division.
The Indians front office will have to figure it out without Mark Shapiro, who left the organization at the end of 2015 to become president of the Blue Jays. Shapiro had been with the Indians since 1992, serving as general manager for nine years and president for the last six.
As a result of Shapiro's departure, GM Chris Antonetti was elevated to president and Mike Chernoff was promoted to GM.
Antonetti and Chernoff have a strong farm system to work with as they look to fine-tune the major league roster. Bradley Zimmer, the 21st overall pick in 2014, excelled in his full-season debut and reached Double-A Akron. Bobby Bradley, a third-round pick in 2014, led the low Class A Midwest League with 27 home runs.
The Indians added another premium talent in the 2015 draft, when they selected lefthander Brady Aiken with the 17th overall pick. The No. 1 overall selection in 2014, Aiken failed to work out a deal with the Astros after a post-draft physical led to a disagreement about the health of his elbow. He had Tommy John surgery in March, but the Indians signed him for a little more than $2.5 million.
With a payroll that ranks consistently among the lowest in the game, the Indians must depend on homegrown players. The young core and recent player-development successes such as Lindor and Salazar suggest that the franchise is positioned to return to the playoffs.