Cleveland Indians Midseason Top 10 Prospects
SEE ALSO: Midseason Top 10 Prospects
The Indians came into the 2018 season as heavy favorites in the American League Central and at the All-Star break they held a 7.5 game lead in the division.. That doesn’t mean it’s been a smooth first half in Cleveland, however. The Indians’ 52 wins at the break were the fewest of any division leader, and their massive lead in the Central owes much to no other team in the division being above .500.
The Indians have gotten impressive offensive production from shortstop Francisco Lindor and third baseman Jose Ramirez, who both ranked in the top three in the AL in home runs at the break. Cleveland’s rotation has again been strong, anchored by Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger and Corey Kluber. Rookie Shane Bieber has joined the rotation and impressed in his debut and closer Cody Allen remains consistent at the back of the bullpen.
Aside from Allen, however, the Indians bullpen has been its biggest weakness. Lefthander Andrew Miller has been limited by injury and Cleveland has struggled to find a consistent combination in the bullpen. To that end, the Indians sacrificed No. 1 prospect Francisco Mejia to San Diego in exchange for All-Star closer Brad Hand and rookie reliever Adam Cimber. While a bitter pill to swallow, the Indians badly needed help for a relief corps that ranked 29th in MLB with a 5.29 ERA.
The Indians’ system is still deep in the middle of the infield and they still could tap into that depth for more veteran help to strengthen the team for another playoff run.
With Hand and Cimber now in tow, Cleveland enters the second half in a strong spot. If Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff can find a way to further strengthen the club for the stretch run, the Indians should again be well positioned for October baseball
1. Triston McKenzie, RHP
McKenzie was sidelined by a minor forearm injury for the first two months of the season that the Indians played very conservatively. He returned to action in June, making his Double-A debut. McKenzie has been solid in his first handful of starts and has even seen his velocity tick up a bit to hit the mid 90s. He’ll look to maintain that during the second half.
2. Shane Bieber, RHP
The system’s breakout star of 2017 picked up right where he left off. After a strong start to the season in the minor leagues, he made his big-league debut on his 23rd birthday and has continued to succeed in Cleveland. He’s still pitching with plus control in the big leagues and missing bats, traits that helped him quickly slide into the Indians’ rotation.
3. Nolan Jones, 3B
low class A Lake County
Jones moved up to full-season ball this season and has found success at the plate after a slow April in which he was hampered by knee soreness. He’s continued to hit the ball hard and doubled his home run total from last year in the same number of games. Jones’ strikeout rate has slowly been lowered to a tick under 25 percent, while his walk rate remains solid and he earns praise for his ability to control the strike zone.
4. George Valera, OF
Rookie-level AZL Indians
Valera, the Indians’ top signing in 2017 on the international market, has impressed early in his professional career. He skipped over the Dominican Summer League and debuted in the Arizona League less than a year after he signed. Valera combines impressive power with good hittability and is advanced for his age, but a hamate injury cut his pro debut short at the end of June.
5. Noah Naylor, C
Naylor, the younger brother of Padres’ prospect Josh Naylor, was the Indians’ top pick in this year’s draft, going 29th overall, and signed for slightly above pick value. The Canadian native stands out for his hittability and drives the ball to all fields. He has good athleticism and could play third base, but the Indians will keep him behind the plate where his above-average arm strength plays well.
6. Bobby Bradley, 1B
Bradley got off to a poor start to the season in Akron and hit just .114/.202/.228 in April. He’s since bounced back in a big way and he’s produced at about his typical level since the calendar flipped to May and he’s soared back to the top of the Eastern League home run leaderboard. The lefthanded hitter has started to see shifts and lefty specialists deployed against him, which he’ll need to adjust to as he continues to progress in pro ball.
7. Ethan Hankins, RHP
Hankins came into the spring as the top high school player in the draft class. But a shoulder injury interrupted his season and his stuff wasn’t the same once he got back on the mound. He fell to 35th overall, where the Indians signed him to a slightly above pick value bonus. When Hankins is at his best, he has a well-above average fastball with plus life.
8. Yu-Cheng Chang, SS
Chang impressed with a 24-homer season in 2017 at Double-A and while he won’t repeat that performance after this year moving up to Triple-A, he is putting together another decent year. Chang has mostly played shortstop this year and is turning in his most consistent defensive season. He’s also seen his first action at third base since 2014, as the Indians look to increase his positional versatility as he nears the majors.
9. Willi Castro, SS
Castro is again one of the youngest players in his level and is again holding his own. He hasn’t found his power stroke in Akron after last year hitting a career-high 11 home runs with high Class A Lynchburg, but, after a slow April, he’s found his footing offensively. He still needs work on his consistency defensively, but his tools give him a chance to stay at shortstop.
10. Sam Hentges, LHP
Level: High Class A Lynchburg
Hentges is in his first fully healthy season following Tommy John surgery and has already set a career high in innings pitched while running his fastball up to 96 mph and mixing in a plus breaking ball. Listed at 6-foot-6, 245 pounds, he gives hitters a tough look and can miss bats with his fastball.
More Is More For Bobby Bradley
The slugging first baseman feels stronger and more productive at the plate now that he has added back some of the weight he lost for 2018.
- RHP Eli Morgan last year was the best performer from the 2017 draft class and he’s continued that success, quickly reaching Lynchburg and flummoxing hitters with his plus changeup.
- SS Tyler Freeman also has stood out from the 2017 draft class thanks to his impressive bat-to-ball skills and advanced understanding of the game.
- OF Will Benson still shows impressive raw tools and he ranks among the Midwest League leaders in home runs, but he's struggled to find consistency at the plate in his first year of full-season ball and his strikeout rate remains above 30 percent.
- 2B/OF Tyler Krieger is repeating Akron with about the same disappointing stat line that he had last season and is now primarily playing the outfield for the RubberDucks.
- RHP Julian Merryweather underwent Tommy John surgery in March and is out for the year.
- LHP Ryan Merritt started the season on the disabled list due to a left knee injury that started bothering him during the offseason and continued to trouble him in the first half.
- OF Greg Allen struggled offensively when he was called upon to replace injured outfielders Tyler Naquin and Bradley Zimmer and he ultimately got sent back to Triple-A for more seasoning, but he figures to get back on track at the plate in the second half.
- SS Erik Gonzalez, who was out of options, won the utility infield job out of spring training and has held on to it, providing solid offensive production to go with his defensive versatility.