Cleveland Indians Top 10 Prospects

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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.

Last Year’s Indians Top 10 Prospects

1. Bradley Zimmer, of

Batting: 55
Power: 55
Speed: 55
Defense: 60
Arm: 55
Based on 20-80 scouting scale—where 50 represents major league average—and future projection rather than present tools.

Born: Nov. 27, 1992. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 185. Drafted: San Francisco, 2014 (1st round). Signed by: Don Lyle.

Year Player, Pos. 2015 Org.
2006 Adam Miller, rhp Pirates
2007 Adam Miller, rhp Pirates
2008 Adam Miller, rhp Pirates
2009 Carlos Santana, c Indians
2010 Carlos Santana, c Indians
2011 Lonnie Chisenhall, 3b Indians
2012 Francisco Lindor, ss Indians
2013 Francisco Lindor, ss Indians
2014 Francisco Lindor, ss Indians
2015 Francisco Lindor, ss Indians

Background: Zimmer was teammates with his older brother for a year at San Francisco before the Royals drafted Kyle fifth overall in 2012. Bradley developed into a star over the course of the next two years. Before his junior year, he played for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team—a roster that already has produced big leaguers from Michael Conforto and Kyle Schwarber to Carlos Rodon and Brandon Finnegan. When he was done with Team USA, Zimmer kept playing in the Cape Cod League and was named playoff MVP. The following spring, he hit .368/.461/.573 with seven home runs and 21 stolen bases. He became the second first-round pick in the Zimmer family when the Indians selected him 21st overall in 2014. It marked the third straight year the Indians used their top pick on a center fielder, but Zimmer, who signed for $1.9 million, could end up being more productive than Tyler Naquin (2012) and Clint Frazier (2013). He truly broke out in 2015, when he started in center for the U.S. at the Futures Game and advanced to Double-A Akron in the second half. He accomplished all of that despite playing for the final two months of the season with a hairline fracture in his right foot that wasn’t discovered until after the season.

Scouting Report: Zimmer has true five-tool potential and is capable of impacting the game in many ways. He has a smooth lefthanded swing and advanced understanding of the strike zone, enabling him to make consistent contact. He uses the whole field to hit and has had no trouble handling lefthanders in the minor leagues. Zimmer hit just 14 home runs in his college career, but he eclipsed that total with 16 in 2015, and the loft in his swing should translate into more home-run power as he continues to mature physically. He has above-average speed, which is enhanced by his keen instincts on the basepaths and the outfield. He has a good feel for stealing bases and swiped 32 bags in 78 games at high Class A Lynchburg to rank third in the Carolina League in 2015. Long and lanky, Zimmer looks a bit unconventional at times in the outfield but has all the tools to play center field. His reads and routes on flyballs have improved as he focuses on improving his defensive play. He covers ground well and has above-average arm strength, which could play in right field, if necessary. While at Lynchburg in 2015, Zimmer split time with Frazier in center field, but Zimmer logged the majority of games there and then played the position exclusively at Akron.

The Future: Zimmer’s broken foot derailed the Indians’ plans to send him to the Arizona Fall League, but the injury isn’t expected to have any lingering effects. After trading Michael Bourn to the Braves in August, the Indians have no long term commitments to a center fielder. Zimmer should begin 2016 back in Akron and, if he continues to progress, reach Triple-A Columbus during the season and be on track to take over an everyday spot in Cleveland at some point in 2017.

2015 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Lynchburg (Hi A) .308 .403 .493 286 60 88 17 3 10 39 37 77 32
Akron (AA) .219 .313 .374 187 24 41 9 1 6 24 18 54 12

2. Clint Frazier, of

Born: Sept. 6, 1994. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 190. Drafted: HS—Loganville, Ga., 2013 (1st round). Signed by: Brad Tyler. Video

Background: The Indians made Frazier, the 2013 Baseball America High School Player of the Year, the first prep position player Drafted that June, and then Signed him for a franchise-record $3.5 million as the fifth overall pick. His full-season debut at low Class A Lake County did not go smoothly after a pulled hamstring delayed his start to the year. He earned all-star honors at high Class A Lynchburg in 2015 and finished the year in the Arizona Fall League.

Scouting Report: Frazier stands out most for his power, which his exceptional bat speed helps to create. His 16 home runs ranked second in the Carolina League in 2015. Some swing-and-miss comes with his power, though he cut his strikeout rate dramatically in 2015, going from nearly 30 percent in 2014 to 21 percent the next year. The Indians helped Frazier make adjustments to his swing by quieting his hands, which helped him to make more consistent contact. His approach also has matured, and he does a better job of not allowing at-bats to get away from him. He is an above-average runner, and the Indians believe he can stay in center field. While Frazier was teammates with Indians No. 1 prospect Bradley Zimmer at Lynchburg in 2015, he spent more time in right field, where his above-average arm will play.

The Future: After his successful AFL campaign, Frazier is on track to begin 2016 at Double-A Akron.

2015 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Lynchburg (Hi A) .285 .377 .465 501 88 143 36 3 16 72 68 125 15

3. Brady Aiken, lhp

Born: Aug. 16, 1996. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 205. Drafted: HS—Bradenton, Fla., 2015 (1st round). Signed by: Mike Soper. Video

Year Player, Pos. 2015 Org.
2006 David Huff, lhp (1st round supp.) Dodgers
2007 Beau Mills, 3b/1b Did not play
2008 Lonnie Chisenhall, 3b Indians
2009 Alex White, rhp Braves
2010 Drew Pomeranz, lhp Athletics
2011 Francisco Lindor, ss Indians
2012 Tyler Naquin, of Indians
2013 Clint Frazier, of Indians
2014 Bradley Zimmer, of Indians
2015 Brady Aiken, lhp Indians

Background: Aiken emerged as the best high school talent in the 2014 class, and the Astros made him the No. 1 overall pick, agreeing to sign him for $6.5 million until a post-draft physical led to a difference of opinion about the state of his elbow. He ultimately turned down a reported $5 million, becoming the first No. 1 overall pick not to sign in more than 30 years. He chose to pitch for IMG Academy’s post-grad team, only to leave his first 2015 start with injury. He had Tommy John surgery six days later. The Indians selected Aiken 17th overall in 2015 and Signed him for a tick more than $2.5 million.

Scouting Report: Aiken had no physical problems leading up to the 2014 draft and, when he was healthy, had as much promise as anyone in the country. He jumped to the front of the draft class when his velocity increased as a senior. His fastball touched 97 mph and sat in the low 90s. He located the pitch well to both sides of the plate while mixing in a plus curveball, a promising changeup and a developing slider. Aiken’s curveball is his best secondary pitch thanks to its depth and sharp bite, while his changeup gives him a third potential plus pitch. He has a clean, fluid delivery, an ideal pitcher’s frame and plenty of athleticism.

The Future: Aiken’s rehab has progressed on schedule, and he began throwing off flat ground in September. He could reach short-season Mahoning Valley by the end of 2016.

2015 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Did not play—Injured 4 4 2.91 12 12 0 0 65 53 3 12 76 .221

4. Justus Sheffield, lhp

Born: May 13, 1996. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 196. Drafted: HS—Tullahoma, Tenn., 2014 (1st round). Signed by: Chuck Bartlett. Video

Background: The departure of Ubaldo Jimenez gave the Indians a second first-round selection in 2014. Ten picks after taking Bradley Zimmer, they selected Sheffield. He was committed to Vanderbilt, where he would have been teammates with his older brother Jordan but instead chose to sign for $1.6 million. After a solid pro debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League, he was arrested during the offseason in his hometown and pled guilty to underage drinking and aggravated criminal trespass. Sheffield received probation and the case could be expunged from his record. His full-season debut at low Class A Lake County went well, and the 19-year-old ranked second in the Midwest League with 138 strikeouts.

Scouting Report: On the mound, Sheffield offers an exciting combination of power stuff from the left side and athleticism. He has a chance to have three above-average pitches. His fastball sits around 93 mph and has been clocked as high as 96. His curveball is an out pitch, and he also shows good feel for his changeup, which has improved in pro ball. He does a good job of pitching down in the zone despite his 5-foot-10 stature. He has advanced pitchability and can throw strikes with his whole arsenal but still needs to refine his command.

The Future: Sheffield was young for his draft class and figures to be one of the youngest players in the Carolina League when he advances to high Class A Lynchburg in 2016.

2015 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Lake County (Lo A) 9 4 3.31 26 26 0 0 128 135 8 38 138 .264

5. Bobby Bradley, 1b

Born: May 29, 1996. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 225. Drafted: HS—Gulfport, Miss., 2014 (3rd round). Signed by: Mike Bradford. Video

Danys Baez, 1999 $4,500,000
Clint Frazier, 2013 $3,500,000
Jeremy Guthrie, 2002 $3,000,000
Francisco Lindor, 2011 $2,650,000
Drew Pomeranz, 2010 $2,650,000

Background: The learning curve for Mississippi high school hitters often is steep, but Bradley has had no such trouble. He hit the ground running after the Indians selected him in the third round in 2014, and he won the Rookie-level Arizona League triple crown that year. Despite an oblique injury that sidelined him for three weeks, his 27 home runs with low Class A Lake County were 11 more than his closest Midwest League rival.

Scouting Report: Bradley was one of the younger players in his draft class, but he is an advanced hitter with plenty of raw power. He creates excellent bat speed that turns into prodigious power. Like most young hitters, he gets pull-happy at times, but he can hit the ball out to all fields. He has a balanced swing and keeps the bat in the hitting zone a long time, enabling him to drive the ball the other way. He is aggressive at the plate but has an advanced feel for the strike zone. Though he struck out nearly 32 percent of the time in 2015, he should be able to cut down on his whiffs as he continues to see more offspeed pitches. He is a well below-average runner. Defensively, Bradley has an average arm and is limited to first base.

The Future: The Indians promoted Bradley to high Class A Lynchburg for the 2015 playoffs, and he will return to the Carolina League in 2016.

2015 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Lake County (Lo A) .269 .361 .529 401 62 108 15 4 27 92 56 148 3
Lynchburg (Hi A) .000 .111 .000 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 0

6. Tyler Naquin, of

Born: April 24, 1991. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190. Drafted: Texas A&M, 2012 (1st round). Signed by: Kyle Van Hook.

Background: Naquin ended his prolific career at Texas A&M with back-to-back Big 12 Conference batting titles and was Drafted 15th overall in 2012. He got off to a quick start in the minors but has been slowed by injuries in recent seasons. A broken hand cost him the second half of 2014 and delayed his start in 2015. He also spent time on the disabled list in 2015 with a concussion.

Scouting Report: When he’s been on the field, Naquin has produced. His feel for the barrel and quick wrists enable him to make a lot of contact and hit line drives to all fields. He has widened his stance as a pro, allowing him to hit for a bit more power, but his game is more about getting on base and using his above-average speed. Beginning with Naquin, the Indians Drafted three straight center fielders in the first round, and he is a superior defender than Clint Frazier or Bradley Zimmer. Naquin’s speed and instincts allow him to cover ground easily in the outfield and he has plus arm strength.

The Future: Naquin likely would have reached the big leagues already if he hadn’t been hampered by injuries, and he should be in line to reach Cleveland sometime in 2016. He has been used almost exclusively in center field in pro ball, but his speed and defensive ability figure to make him at least a fourth outfielder in the major leagues.

2015 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Akron (AA) .348 .419 .468 141 16 49 12 1 1 10 15 24 7
Columbus (AAA) .263 .353 .430 186 34 49 13 0 6 17 25 49 6

7. Mike Clevinger, rhp

Born: Dec. 21, 1990. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 220. Drafted: Seminole State (Fla.) JC, 2011 (4th round). Signed by: Tom Kotchman (Angels).

Best Hitter for Average Mark Mathias
Best Power Hitter Bobby Bradley
Best Strike-Zone Discipline Yandy Diaz
Fastest Baserunner Gabriel Mejia
Best Athlete Bradley Zimmer
Best Fastball Ben Heller
Best Curveball Brady Aiken
Best Slider Justus Sheffield
Best Changeup Adam Plutko
Best Control Ryan Merritt
Best Defensive Catcher Francisco Mejia
Best Defensive Infielder Erik Gonzalez
Best Infield Arm Erik Gonzalez
Best Defensive Outfielder Greg Allen
Best Outfield Arm Tyler Naquin

Background: The Angels Drafted Clevinger in the fourth round in 2011 and paid him $250,000 after he put together a big summer in the Cape Cod League. He had Tommy John surgery in 2012 and struggled to get back on track. By the time the Indians acquired him for Vinnie Pestano in August 2014, he looked like little more than a lottery ticket. Just a year later, Clevinger led all Indians minor leaguers with 145 strikeouts and emerged as a top starter at Double-A Akron. He threw 15 scoreless innings after being promoted to Triple-A Columbus for the International League playoffs.

Scouting Report: Clevinger was well regarded coming out of junior college and further impressed scouts in the Cape Cod League before signing with the Angels. But his mechanics changed in the minor leagues and his control suffered. The Indians helped him get back to throwing the way he did as an amateur, and he took off. Clevinger’s fastball sits in the low to mid-90s, and he’s been clocked up to 97 mph. His hard slider is his best secondary offering, and he also mixes in a changeup and a curveball. Though his control has never been especially good, he has the athleticism necessary to repeat his delivery and throw enough strikes.

The Future: The Indians’ most surprising breakout player in 2015, Clevinger will attempt to repeat that success in 2016 as he advances to Columbus.

2015 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Akron (AA) 9 8 2.73 27 26 0 0 158 127 8 40 145 .219

8. Triston McKenzie, rhp

Born: Aug. 2, 1997. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 165. Drafted: HS—Palm Beach, Fla., 2015 (1st round supp). Signed by: Juan Alvarez.

Background: In a strong year for Florida prep pitchers, McKenzie stood out in 2015 for both his amateur track record and projection. He struck out 157 batters in 91 innings as a senior while leading Royal Palm Beach High to the state semifinals. The Indians Drafted him 42nd overall and Signed him for $2,302,500, the second largest bonus for a player Drafted after the first round in 2015.

Scouting Report: McKenzie presented scouts with a difficult assignment before the draft. While he has excellent present stuff, he also is listed at a rail-thin 6-foot-5 and 165 pounds. While some scouts questioned how much weight his frame will ever carry, the Indians are confident he will grow into his body. They are encouraged in part by McKenzie’s work ethic and his dedicated program with renowned trainer Eric Cressey. If McKenzie does eventually fill out, there’s plenty to dream on. His fastball can reach 93 mph, but he more typically pitches in the upper 80s. He gets good depth on his curveball, and both it and his changeup have above-average potential. He is a good athlete and has an easy delivery that allows him to throw strikes with his whole arsenal.

The Future: McKenzie didn’t turn 18 until after he Signed and barely pitched after throwing so much as a high school senior. Still, he is advanced enough to handle an assignment to low Class A Lake County in 2016.

2015 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
AZL Indians (R) 1 1 0.75 4 3 0 0 12 4 0 3 17 .100

9. Rob Kaminsky, lhp

Born: Sept. 2, 1994. B-T: R-L. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 190. Drafted: HS—Montvale, N.J., 2013 (1st round). Signed by: Sean Moran (Cardinals). Video

Catcher Yan Gomes
First Base Bobby Bradley
Second Base Jason Kipnis
Third Base Giovanny Urshela
Shortstop Francisco Lindor
Left Field Michael Brantley
Center Field Bradley Zimmer
Right Field Clint Frazier
Designated Hitter Carlos Santana
No. 1 Starter Corey Kluber
No. 2 Starter Carlos Carrasco
No. 3 Starter Trevor Bauer
No. 4 Starter Danny Salazar
No. 5 Starter Brady Aiken
Closer Cody Allen

Background: The Cardinals selected Marco Gonzales with their first pick in the first round of the 2013 draft, then doubled up on lefties when they grabbed Kaminsky later in the round. He recorded a 1.88 ERA in 100 innings at low Class A Peoria in 2014 and was leading the Florida State League with a 2.09 ERA at high Class A Palm Beach in 2015 when St. Louis dealt him to the Indians for Brandon Moss at the trade deadline. He made two starts for his new organization before going on the disabled list with lower-back tightness.

Scouting Report: As an amateur, Kaminsky was known for his true 12-to-6 hammer curveball, but he became more of a sinker/slider pitcher as a pro. The Indians want him to get back to throwing his curveball more often. He isn’t overpowering and typically pitches with a fringy 88-90 mph fastball, though he occasionally reaches back for more velocity when he needs it. But he earns praise for his cerebral approach and does a good job of pounding the strike zone.

The Future: Kaminsky is on track to begin 2016 at Double-A Akron. His overall package gives him a good chance to develop into a back-end starter.

2015 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Palm Beach (Hi A) 6 5 2.09 17 17 0 0 95 82 0 28 79 .228
Lynchburg (Hi A) 0 1 3.72 2 2 0 0 10 13 0 5 4 .342

10. Francisco Mejia, c

Born: Oct. 27, 1995. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 175. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2012. Signed by: Ramon Pena.

Background: The Indians have challenged Mejia with aggressive assignments throughout his career, with the trend beginning when he made his pro debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League as a 17-year-old. He has been one of the youngest players at every minor league stop he has made, and he was one of three teenagers serving as an everyday catcher in the low Class A Midwest League in 2015. But the precocious catcher has always proven to be up to the task.

Scouting Report: Mejia has a good feel for hitting, and the switch-hitter consistently makes hard contact from both sides of the plate. His bat speed gives him surprising raw power for his size and he already has done a good job of tapping into it. Only one MWL catcher topped Mejia’s nine home runs in 2015. Like most catchers, he’s a below-average runner. Mejia has a rocket arm he used to throw out 34 percent of basestealers at Lake County in 2015, but he focused on developing other aspects of his defense and made strides. He has also improved his English, a key skill for him to develop a relationship with his pitchers.

The Future: Mejia still has a lot of work to do, and will have to become more consistent in all phases of the game, but his ceiling as an everyday catcher remains intact. He will advance to high Class A Lynchburg in 2016.

2015 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Lake County (Lo A) .243 .324 .345 391 45 95 13 0 9 53 38 48 4

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