Cleveland Indians 2020 Top 10 MLB Prospects Chat

Image credit: George Valera (Photo by Bill Mitchell)



Teddy Cahill: Welcome to the Indians’ prospect chat. It’s a fun time to be talking about the system, so let’s get to it.

George (Shaker Heights):

     The buzz on the Indians system is that it is teeming with international prospects at the lower levels; the top-10 list reflects that (Valera, Rocchio, Bracho, Rodriguez). While simple luck is sometimes involved in things like this–Rocchio was only a $125,000 signing, after all–to what do you attribute this recent success? Is the organization doing anything differently?

Teddy Cahill: So, we are 100 percent starting with a question from my hometown. A lot of work has gone into the international side for the Indians and they are very much seeing the payoff from that work now. They overhauled the international department a few years ago, changing some of the personnel and some of how they go about their process. They took a lot of ideas that were working on the draft side and figured out how to apply them to the international market. So that’s a big part of it and Paul Gillespie, their international director, deserves a lot of credit. It’s also notable that the way MLB allocates international bonus pools changed at about the same time and in such a way that made it a little easier for small market teams to compete. I think the Indians’ own change is more important because spending money only matters if you’re spending it in the right way, but the system has helped a bit as well.

Elliot (Youngstown OH):

     The 2019 draft picks did not debut with flying colors. The pair of shortstops, Valdes and Cairo, were offensive duds. I know Valdes is rated a superior defender and it’s way too early to write these kids off, but what were your initial impressions?

Teddy Cahill: I wouldn’t worry about how they played this summer at all. It’s a big change moving into pro ball. Daniel Espino, obviously, hit the ground running at full speed, but most of these players haven’t been attending a school that literally uses a baseball as its logo and provided a pseudo-professional environment in high school. Further complicating it for Valdes is that he was one of the youngest players in the class. Valdes’ glove is really exciting right now, we’ll see how he develops as a hitter. Cairo has a lot of things going for him but right now is tough to figure out what he is. But he can contribute in a lot of different ways.

Ray Man (Your Mom):

     Thanks so much for the Chat! Which of the younger guys in the system not listed have the best chance/talent to make the move to the top 10 next year?

Teddy Cahill: Carlos Vargas and Angel Martinez. I thought Vargas might blow up this year. I think he might in 2020. I’m a big fan. Martinez has a little bit of Brayan Rocchio to him and I could see him making some noise in the AZL in 2020. Jose Pastrano could as well if he gets his professional career off to a good start in the DSL.


John (NJ):

     Was Logan Allen left off the list because he’s no longer a prospect? Or because he isn’t good enough to make it?

Teddy Cahill: Logan Allen is No. 11 on the list. I like him and the Indians like him. He’s going to pitch in Cleveland in 2020 and in likelihood graduate from prospect status then. If we slotted him in at No. 10 (or Nos. 8 or 9), it wouldn’t look wrong to me at all. But we went for the upside of Hankins, Bracho and Gabby Rodriguez for the final few spots.

Elliot (Youngstown OH):

     We all recognize that the Indians’ talent is deepest at the lower levels, but what are your ratings for players in the higher levels: among Daniel Johnson, Yu Chang and Bobby Bradley do any now project as quality major league regulars?

Teddy Cahill: They’re all in the top 30 and when you get your Prospect Handbook (avaliable for preorder now!) you’ll find Bradley ranked the highest of that trio. I think he has the best chance of the three to be a regular, but whereas in the past I’d been pretty confident about him as a regular, that confidence is slipping a bit now. Johnson, for me, looks more likely as a platoon player unless he improves a bit against lefthanders. There has long been talk about Chang possibly ending up as a utility infielder and I think that’s becoming more likely now.

Jared (Geneva OH):

     How fast do you think Espino could move up in the system and what are your thoughts on Fermin in the rule 5 draft?

Teddy Cahill: Espino put himself on an accelerated track last summer. He’s the Indians’ first prep player to advance past AZL in his draft year since Lindor did it. That’s not to compare him to Lindor in any way, but when you consider some of the high-profile high school players the Indians have drafted in between them, it’s impressive that Espino is the one to do it. So I’ve been a little bit thrown for a loop on Espino’s path because it’s going to be unlike anyone else currently in the system. I think he goes to Lake County to start next year and they may continue to be aggressive with him if he keeps performing.

Elliot (Youngstown OH):

     Luis Oviedo has an erratic start and an injured finish in 2019. Assuming someone else doesn’t opt for him in the Rule 5 draft, what are his Cleveland prospects going forward?

Teddy Cahill: Still a really high ceiling on Oviedo. I understand not protecting him because he hasn’t pitched above low Class A and ended the season on the IL. It would be hard to carry him for a full year in the big leagues. So, assuming he’s still with the Indians on Friday, they’ll look to get him back on track in Lynchburg. It was a disappointing season in some respects, but he’s still young, big and throws hard. Player development is difficult. I think he bounces back fine in 2020.

Rocchio Fan (Lindor’s replacement?):

     With superstar Francisco Lindor likely off the Indians roster come 2022, is Brayan Rocchio the air apparent? Lindor was a top 10 pick coming out of HS but he also didn’t show much power in the minors (23 HR in over 1600 ABs). Do you think Rocchio’s frame can fill out like Lindor’s can and have his power tick up to at least someone who can hit 12-15 HRs a year? Having already shown some in game power with how skinny he currently is makes me optimistic there might be some additional power gains to come.

Teddy Cahill: I don’t think Rocchio is the direct heir apparent. To get to the big leagues in the next two years, he’d have to really speed through four full-season levels. I think he’s probably the Indians next long-term shortstop, but I think you’re going to see a couple years of Tyler Freeman or some veteran shortstop before Rocchio is ready. His superior defensive ability would either push Freeman to second base or, if they went with a veteran, they could just move on to Rocchio.

Carl (San Antonio):

     How close was Alexfri Planez to making the top 10? Are his tools too raw to be considered still? Is he of the Kevin Alcantara mold? Is he a high ceiling upside guy?

Teddy Cahill: So, several of you seem v v excited about Alexfri Planez. He was not really in consideration for the top 10. The tools are loud, no doubt, and he’s a player to know. But you’re also talking about an 18-year-old who has played six games in the States and then missed all summer due to a broken hamate bone. Check back on him next year. He could definitely pop, but let’s pump the brakes a little bit on him this winter.

Nick (Ohio):

     Out of Carlos Vargas, Alexfri Planez and Angel Martinez, who has the highest ceiling and who is the safest bet?

Teddy Cahill: Vargas for ceiling, Martinez for floor. Planez more on the ceiling end than the floor.

Elliot (Youngstown OH):

     Cody Morris gave some signs of being another projectible major league starter with 111 K in 89 innings, although he issued an un-Bieber like 27 walks. What do you think about him?

Teddy Cahill: I like a lot about Morris and if you’re looking for the next less-heralded college pitching prospect who the Indians turn into a stud, you could do worse than him. The control is something that he needs to work on, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he broke out in 2020. He’s long had real upside.

Alex (Cleveland):

     I’ve seen George Valera and Brayan Rocchio ranked next to each other in multiple lists and flipped back and forth as who is ranked higher. What gave Valera > Rocchio when compiling the top 10? Would you agree although Valera has the higher offensive ceiling, Rocchio has by far the higher floor due to being able to stick at SS as an above average defender all while offering advanced hitting, speed, and at least current line drive power?

Teddy Cahill: More conviction in Valera being an impact player because of his high-end offensive ability led to him over Rocchio. We’ve also been completely consistent with that order throughout their careers to this point. I would not agree that Roccho has “by far the higher floor” because of his defense. In some ways, the bat makes for a higher floor for Valera. But, regardless, they’re two really talented players and it’ll be interesting to see how they are valued over the next few years as they approach the big leagues.

Zac (NYC):

     Of the three RHP in the top 10, who are you most confident will stick as a top of the rotation starter?

Teddy Cahill: None of them. With McKenzie missing a whole season, you can’t be particularly confident in him right now, though I still really love the upside. And Espino and Hankins are teenage righthanders in A ball. There’s a long way to go between that and leading a big league rotation. But Espino ranks the highest for a reason.

Mike (Boston):

     Do you like what you see from Aaron Bracho? Is he headed for a top 100 ranking or are we just overreacting to his rookie ball sample? I’ve read good things about his swing and feel for contact.

Teddy Cahill: He won’t be a top 100 prospect when our new ranking comes out this spring, but I think he has it in him to become one over the next few years. He was a high-profile signing in the 2017 class, so while what you’re reacting to rn is a rookie-ball sample, there’s more track record for Bracho than that. He’s behind Valera and Rocchio because they’re a level ahead of him for now, but I think he can get to that same level in time.

Cy Mature (Cooperstown Rehab):

     Thanks for answering our questions. Of all these Indian prospects, who has the highest ceiling as a hitter?

Teddy Cahill: Nolan Jones is No. 1 for a reason. His power is real and he has a really advanced approach at the plate. But if you mean from a batting average standpoint, that’s Tyler Freeman.

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