The Indians have been stockpiling shortstops in their minor league system for the last few years.
This year, a full one-third of Cleveland’s Top 30 Prospects are shortstops, including three of the top 10.
Two of the shortstops who rank among the Top 10 Prospects are homegrown: Tyler Freeman and Brayan Rocchio. The other is 21-year-old Gabriel Arias, one of six players the Indians received from the Padres in the Mike Clevinger deal at the 2020 trade deadline.
San Diego signed Arias out of Venezuela in 2016. He didn’t show much power initially before breaking through in 2019 at High-A Lake Elsinore. He hit .302 with 21 doubles, 17 home runs, 75 RBIs and an .809 OPS.
Despite those numbers, Arias is better regarded for his defense at shortstop.
The 6-foot-1, 201-pound Arias has struggled with plate discipline in his three minor league seasons. But he projects to have the size and frame to hit for power. For now, lowering his strikeout rate—it was 25% in 2019—will be important.
“Arias is an exciting player,” Indians vice president of player development James Harris said. “He’s a good defender with a strong arm.
Indeed, Arias’ defense will probably be what gets him to the majors initially. His hands, arm and range all grade as above-average. How he adapts as a hitter as he reaches the upper minors will help determine how much impact he makes when he reaches the big leagues.
“We are excited about his offensive potential but would like to see him against advanced pitching,” Harris said. “We are looking forward to seeing him in Arizona in person in January.”
Where Arias begins the 2021 season remains to be seen, but the most likely destination is Double-A.
— The Indians further expanded their shortstop depth when they dealt Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco to the Mets in January. Cleveland brought back four players in the deal, including 25-year-old shortstop Amed Rosario and 22-year-old shortstop Andres Gimenez, who is coming off an encouraging rookie season in New York.
— The Indians selected righthanded-hitting outfielder Chris Roller from the Dodgers in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft. Roller, a 30th-round pick in 2017, slashed .274/.359/.455 at Low-A Great Lakes in 2019.
—The Indians lost two players in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft. Righthander Luis Oviedo was selected by the Mets with the ninth pick and then sold to the Pirates. Outfielder Ka’ai Tom was selected by the Athletics with the 16th pick.