Sign Up! Join our newsletters, get a FREE e-Edition
The Indians challenged Mejia with aggressive assignments at the outset of his career, and he reached full-season ball as a 19-year old in 2015. That season, he was one of just three teenagers serving as an everyday catcher in the Midwest League. He scuffled at the plate against the older competition (hitting .243/.324/.345), and he returned to low Class A Lake County to start 2016. While repeating the level, Mejia broke out. He authored a historic 50-game hitting streak that is the longest in the modern era of the minor leagues (dating to 1963). Mejia's streak, which began in late May and stretched into August, increased his notoriety, as did a promotion to high Class A Lynchburg and an appearance in the Futures Game, where he started behind the plate for the World team. He was also a popular name as the trade deadline approached, and the Indians nearly dealt him to the Brewers in an attempt to land Jonathan Lucroy at the trade deadline, but Lucroy exercised his no-trade clause to block the move. Mejia kept hitting, even with the off-field distractions, and his .342 average ranked sixth in the minors. He also led all qualified Indians minor leaguers in both slugging percentage (.514) and OPS (.896). Even before the streak, Mejia has long been known for his hitting ability. The switch-hitter consistently makes hard contact from both sides of the plate. He is a more productive righthanded hitter and has more power from that side of the plate, but can also do damage as a lefthanded hitter. Like many young hitters, he previously had a more pull-oriented approach at the plate. Part of his maturation as a hitter has been to become better at handling pitches on the outer half of the plate and using the opposite field to hit. His bat speed gives him more raw power than his lean, 5-foot-10 frame would suggest, but he more typically drives balls into the gaps than over the fence. He has an aggressive approach and doesn't walk much, but his excellent feel for the barrel prevents him from striking out often and he is comfortable working down in the count. Like most catchers, he is a below-average runner. Mejia has made strides defensively, but his bat is more advanced than his glove. Mejia has elite arm strength and soft hands, but his setup behind the plate still needs work to allow him to block balls and frame pitches more consistently. He is learning how to call games and is comfortable speaking English, a key skill for him to develop a relationship with his pitchers. Mejia often played second base as an amateur and some believe he could handle that position if he moved out from behind the plate. But he is just 21 and has the tools to become a capable defender with some further refinements. Mejia took a big step forward in 2016, but he will need to continue to improve as he advances to the upper levels of the system. He will likely begin 2017 at Double-A Akron. If he continues to progress, he should be in line to make his major league debut sometime in 2018.
Two years after the Royals drafted his older brother Kyle fifth overall, Zimmer became the second first-round pick in the family when the Indians selected him 21st overall. It marked the third straight year the Indians used their top pick on a center fielder. Zimmer had a breakout 2015, as he started in the Futures Game, advanced to Double-A Akron and earned a spot on the BA Minor League All-Star team. While his 2016 wasn't quite on the same level, he reached Triple-A Columbus in late July. Zimmer has the potential to be a five-tool player and is capable of affecting the game in many ways. He has a smooth lefthanded swing and a patient approach at the plate. His strikeout rate spiked in 2016, when he whiffed 30.7 percent of the time, up from 23.8 percent in 2015. At the same time, however, his walk rate also increased, albeit not as dramatically. Zimmer's swing has natural loft to it, and his strength and bat speed give him above-average power. He also has above-average speed, which is further enhanced by his keen instincts on the basepaths and in the outfield. His power-speed combination gives him a chance to be a 20-20 player, while also providing plus defense in the outfield. He has primarily played center field, where his ability to track down balls and above-average arm strength profiles well. The Indians' outfield situation is muddled beyond Michael Brantley, leaving the door open for Zimmer to take over a starting spot sometime during 2017. He appears destined for Columbus, however.
The 2015 draft was a strong one for Florida prep pitchers and McKenzie presented scouts with a difficult assignment that spring. He had an excellent amateur track record and impressive present stuff, but he was listed at a rail-thin 6-foot-5, 165 pounds. While some questioned how much weight his frame will ever carry, the Indians drafted McKenzie 42nd overall and signed him for $2,302,500, the second largest bonus for a player drafted after the first round that year. He rewarded them in 2016 by excelling at short-season Mahoning Valley and then low Class A Lake County. McKenzie stands out as much for his pitchability as for his stuff. He earns praise for his makeup and understanding of his craft. That, along with his control, helps his stuff play up even more. His fastball can get up to 95 mph, but he more typically works in the low 90s. More strength would help him maintain his velocity deeper into games. He uses his height to his advantage and pitches down in the zone. He gets good depth on his curveball, which is a swing-and-miss offering. His changeup lags behind his other two pitches but has the potential to be an above-average offering as he gets more comfortable throwing it Improving his changeup and getting stronger so that he can maintain his velocity deeper into games are his two biggest tasks going forward. McKenzie's combination of upside and advanced pitchability has many excited about his future. He could likely handle starting the 2017 season at high Class A Lynchburg, but he'll pitch nearly the entire season at age 19, giving the Indians time to can bring him along more slowly with an assignment to Lake County.
Aiken emerged as the best prep player for the 2014 draft, and the Astros made him the No. 1 overall pick. They agreed to sign him for $6.5 million before withdrawing the offer when a post-draft physical revealed an elbow issue. Aiken ultimately turned down a reported $5 million offer and chose to pitch for IMG Academy's postgrad team in 2015. He left his first start of the year and required Tommy John surgery. The Indians selected Aiken 17th overall in 2015, and he finally made his pro debut in 2016. Aiken was slow out of the gate as he returned to playing in competitive games for the first time in more than two years. His fastball velocity, in the upper 80s and reaching 91, was down from what it had been in high school, when he touched 97 mph and sat in the low 90s. But as the summer went on and he got stronger, his velocity ticked up, and he sat in the low 90s at instructional league. His curveball can be a plus offering and his changeup gives him a third promising pitch. At his best, he can locate his fastball well to both sides of the plate and has advanced feel. He has an ideal pitcher's frame, plenty of athleticism and earns praise for his makeup and maturity. After everything Aiken went through, he understandably had some hiccups at the outset of his pro career. After a normal offseason, he should be ready for an assignment to low Class A Lake County.
Competition in the Mississippi high school ranks is not as stout as in other parts of the South, but that hasn't held Bradley back. He won the Rookie-level Arizona League triple crown in 2014 by hitting .361 with eight home runs and 50 RBIs. He led the Midwest League with 27 home runs in 2015 and hit 29 more in 2016 to top the Carolina League--he also led in RBIs (102) and walks (75)--to claim the circuit's MVP award. Bradley was one of the younger players in his draft class and he has continued to be among the younger players in his leagues. His inexperience has been exposed at times, but his impressive raw tools shine through more often than not. 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. Both his strikeout and walk rates improved a touch last season, though he is still learning how to handle advanced offspeed offerings. He is a well below-average runner. Defensively, Bradley has an average arm and is limited to first base. Bradley will advance to Double-A Akron in 2017 for his first exposure to the upper minors. His power gives him the potential to become a middle-of-the-order hitter in the major leagues in time.
A prominent amateur player in Taiwan, Chang was one of the top amateur free agents to sign out of Asia in 2013. He has made steady progress in the minor leagues and earned all-star honors in the Carolina League in 2016. He reportedly received heavy interest in trade deadline talks and was set to be a part of the deal with the Brewers for Jonathan Lucroy that ultimately fell apart. Instead, he helped high Class A Lynchburg reach the Carolina League finals, going 14-for-28 in the playoffs. A switch-hitter, Chang has solid all-around offensive tools. He hits well from both sides of the plate and exhibits a good feel for the barrel. He has more power than his lean, 6-foot-1 frame suggests, and he is beginning to learn how to tap into it more often. His swing is more geared for hitting line drives, but he produced 51 extra-base hits in 2016, more than doubling his career total. Chang's arm and speed both grade as above-average. That, combined with his athleticism and infield actions, gives him a chance to stick at shortstop, where the Indians believe he can develop into a capable defender. Some believe he will outgrow the position, which would necessitate a move to second or third base. For now, Chang will continue his development at shortstop. He'll likely move up to Double-A Akron to start the 2017 season.
Benson began his senior year of high school by helping USA Baseball win the gold medal in the 18U World Cup in Japan. He ended it by being drafted 14th overall by the Indians. His spectacular senior year also included him leading The Westminster Schools to their first baseball state championship since 1975. He was a star basketball player for the Wildcats who earned second-team all-state honors as a forward. On the diamond, Benson stands out most for the elite bat speed his quick hands and strength produce. He turns that bat speed into well above-average lefthanded raw power. He is still learning how to get to that power more consistently and has worked to simplify his swing as a professional. When he struggles, he fails to use his lower half and his bat path gets too steep. He is an excellent athlete and runs well for his size, recording some plus times in the 60-yard dash, but he is slower out of the box and may lose a step as he physically matures. Benson has a plus arm and is a solid defender in right field. As a big, athletic, lefthanded-hitting outfielder from Atlanta, Benson is often compared with Jason Heyward, whom the Braves drafted 14th overall. Benson has a long way to go to reach that ceiling and will likely make his full-season debut at Class A Lake County in 2017.
Jones was regarded as one of the best prep hitters in the 2016 draft class, but he slipped to the second round, where the Indians were happy to be able to take him at No. 55 overall. He signed for $2.25 million, making him one of five players drafted after the first round to sign for more than $2 million. Jones has advanced consistency in his approach and contact skills, especially for a prep hitter from the Northeast. That helped him stand out on the showcase circuit in the summer of 2015, and continued to push him up draft boards in the spring. His easy lefthanded swing generates plus raw power now, but he projects to have more as he physically matures. He has plenty of room to add strength to his lanky frame as he begins to work in a professional training environment. He is an average runner. Jones was a shortstop in high school, but his size made it likely he would soon outgrow the position and profile better at third base. The Indians quickly moved him to the hot corner, and he should be able to develop into an average defender with steady hands and a plus arm at his new position. While he has the defensive tools to develop, it will be up to his bat to carry him through the minor leagues. Jones will join fellow 2016 first-day prep pick Will Benson at low Class A Lake County in 2017.
Gonzalez played every position but pitcher and catcher at the outset of his career as a result of the infield depth in the Indians system. When Francisco Lindor was promoted from high Class A Carolina in 2013, Gonzalez got a chance to fill the hole left at shortstop. He fared better than expected playing the position full-time and reached the big leagues in 2016. But with Lindor now firmly established as Cleveland's shortstop, Gonzalez returned to his roots as a utility player, and he appeared at four positions in 21 big league games. Gonzalez has made effective adjustments to his offensive game, enabling the righthanded hitter to incorporate his above-average speed and tap into the pop his bat speed and wiry strength produce. He is an aggressive hitter and rarely walks, limiting his chances as a top-of-the-order hitter. Gonzalez has outstanding defensive skills. His quickness and plus arm strength allow him to make highlight-reel plays at shortstop, but he is also prone to making mental mistakes. He's versatile enough to play anywhere in the infield and has gotten some work in the outfield as well. If he can develop more consistency, Gonzalez has the tools to be an everyday shortstop--just not for the Indians. Regardless, his versatility is an ideal fit for the big league roster.
Allen excelled on the field and in the classroom at San Diego State and was named the school's male student-athlete of the year as a junior. Since the Indians drafted him in the sixth round that year, he has made a smooth transition to pro ball and steadily climbed through the minor leagues, reaching Double-A Akron and ending the year with an assignment to the Arizona Fall League. Allen's game is built around his plus speed. He has good on-base skills, having led the high Class A Carolina League in on-base percentage (.424), and his approach at the plate is geared toward making contact, limiting his power potential. He is a disciplined hitter and walks about as often as he strikes out. He is a good baserunner and has led the Indians system in stolen bases in each of the last two seasons. Allen's speed plays well in the outfield, where he is a plus defender. He takes good routes, has an above-average arm and the speed to cover plenty of ground. Allen came to the organization at the end of a stretch where it had selected a center fielder with its top draft pick for three straight years. While that has made for a crowded organizational depth chart, his defense is a separator. He'll likely begin 2017 back at Akron and could push his way to the big leagues with another strong season.
The Indians haven't been heavy players in the expanding Cuban market, but in 2013 they signed Diaz for $300,000. His feel to hit has stood out in the U.S, as evidenced by a career .307 average with more walks than strikeouts as he climbed quickly to the high minors. Diaz hit .325 at Triple-A Columbus in 2016 to win the International League batting title and was named the circuit's top rookie. He has a good feel for the barrel and a disciplined approach, helping him make contact at a high rate. Diaz's approach comes at the detriment of power numbers, and he is still learning how to drive the ball--his nine home runs in 2016 were a career high. He has raw pop, but his approach is not geared to creating the loft necessary to hit homers. Diaz was primarily a second baseman in Cuba but moved to third base after signing with the Indians. He developed into an above-average defender at his new position, but the Indians began moving him around in 2016 to give him more versatility. He appeared at both second and third base and at all three outfield positions. Diaz's versatility gives him a chance to at least be a super-utility player, a role he could fill in Cleveland as soon as 2017.
A three-year starter at Oregon State, Ice broke out offensively as a junior in 2016 and shot up draft boards as a result. The Indians made him a supplemental second-round pick, the highest they have drafted a catcher since they picked Javi Herrera in the second round in 2003. Though Ice improved as a hitter during his college career, defense remains his calling card. He is a good receiver and works with pitchers well, quickly earning praise for his ability to manage a staff in pro ball. He has an accurate, average arm. A switch-hitter, Ice has a patient, disciplined approach at the plate, and he walked more than he struck out at OSU. He also has some juice in his bat but projects as a below-average hitter in the big leagues. Thanks to his defensive ability, Ice won't have to hit much to become a big league contributor. For now, he is advanced enough to handle an assignment to high Class A Lynchburg in 2017.
Mathias won the Big West Conference batting title as a Cal Poly sophomore in 2014 but was limited the following spring by a right shoulder injury that required labrum surgery. Since returning to full health, he has continued to build his reputation for hitting. Mathias rose to Double-A Akron in 2016, the year after being drafted. He has one of the best plate approaches in the organization because he controls the barrel well and is a patient, disciplined hitter. He has below-average power but does a good job of driving balls into the gaps, and he ranked third in the system with 40 doubles in 2016. Mathias has primarily been a second baseman, but he has the versatility to play anywhere in the infield, even playing 19 games at shortstop as a pro. He profiles best at second base, where he is a capable defender with above-average arm strength and speed. After getting a taste of the upper minors late in 2016, Mathias will return to Akron to open the 2017 season.
Before his sophomore year of high school, Hillman moved in with Tom Gordon, the former all-star righthander and the father of Hillman's prep teammate Nick Gordon. Tom became Hillman's legal guardian and mentor, and the lefthander credits their relationship for many of the strides he made during high school as he developed into a 2015 second-round pick. The Indians took things slowly with Hillman and assigned him to short-season Mahoning Valley in 2016, where he started strong before fading in the final month of the season. Early in the summer, Hillman's fastball sat 90-92 mph but backed up a tick later in the season. His changeup continues to be his best secondary pitch, but his curveball showed improvement and he can throw it for strikes. He has the makings of three average pitches with average control. He has good athleticism, a clean delivery and some projectability, giving evaluators plenty to dream on. Hillman's struggles at the end of the season illustrate his need to improve his stamina to withstand the rigors of a full pro season, as is the case with most teenagers. That will take on greater importance as he advances to low Class A Lake County in 2017.
Since signing Castro out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, the Indians have pushed him aggressively. He has been the youngest player on his team at every stop of his pro career, but he has held his own and earned a late-season promotion to high Class A Lynchburg in 2016. A switch-hitter, Castro sprays line drives from both sides of the plate. His power is more doubles pop now, but he projects to develop more as he physically matures. He has above-average speed, which he is still learning to harness. Defensively, he has good hands and infield actions at shortstop. He still needs to work to improve his consistency in the field after making 25 errors in 2016, but his tools give him a chance to stay at shortstop. Castro earns praise for his baseball acumen and confidence. He will return to Lynchburg to start 2017, when he will still be 19 years old.
Plutko pitched behind Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer in the UCLA rotation as a freshman, and he eventually succeeded them as the team's ace. He led the Bruins to the 2013 national championship and was named Most Outstanding Player in the College World Series. Plutko made a quick transition to pro ball and reached the major leagues in 2016, where he reunited with Bauer on the Indians' staff. He doesn't have overpowering stuff, succeeding instead with plus control and baseball IQ. Plutko's fastball sits around 90 mph but he can run it up to 94. Even with fringe-average velocity, Plutko's fastball plays up thanks to his ability to throw it for strikes to both sides of the plate. His changeup is his best offspeed offering, and his slider is the better of his two breaking balls. He does a good job of pitch sequencing and understands how to get the most out of his stuff. Plutko can't match the upside of the organization's top pitchers, but his approach gives him a chance to be successful in the big leagues. He will serve as rotation depth at Triple-A Columbus in 2017, in case a need arises in Cleveland.
Cooney made his major league debut in 2015, making six starts for the National League Central-champion Cardinals before an appendectomy in July ended his season. He was poised to play an even bigger role in 2016, but he was sidelined all season after he suffered a shoulder injury during spring training that lingered and eventually required surgery in July to remove a calcium deposit. Cooney missed the remainder of the season and was claimed by the Indians on waivers in November. Before his injury, Cooney's fastball sat around 90 mph and peaked at 92. He gets some late life on the pitch, which he locates well to both sides of the plate. His above-average changeup is his best offering and is capable of being an out pitch. His curveball is the better of his two breaking balls, but his slider is a viable fourth pitch. He pounds the strike zone with his whole arsenal, and has averaged less than 2.0 walks per nine innings as a professional. When he returns to full health, Cooney will add another lefthander to the mix for the Indians. He should be able to help them in the major leagues in 2017, either in the bullpen or as a starter.
Krieger started the first 101 games of his Clemson career at shortstop before suffering a shoulder injury during his sophomore season. He ultimately required labrum surgery and was limited to second base when he returned to the field midway through his junior season. After drafting him in the fourth round, the Indians shut him down for the rest of the 2015 season to give him more time to recover. That delayed Krieger's pro debut until 2016, when he started at low Class A Lake County and earned a midseason promotion to high Class A Lynchburg. He has above-average feel for the barrel that allows him to hit line drives to all fields. He doesn't provide much in the way of power, but his above-average speed leads to doubles and triples when he drives the ball to the gaps. Krieger's days as a shortstop are likely over, but he is a solid defender at second base, where his infield actions and hands play well. The Indians have enviable middle-infield depth, which could keep Krieger at Lynchburg to start 2017. With another solid showing, he should be in line to reach Double-A Akron later in the season.
Morimando, a 19th-round pick in 2011, steadily rose through the minors and made his big league debut in 2016. He has been a starter throughout his career but made his first two appearances for Cleveland out of the bullpen. Morimando's fastball sits in the low 90s with running life that makes it tough for hitters to square up. His slider rates as the best in the organization and gives him an out pitch. He also throws both a changeup and a curveball. Though he is slightly undersized, Morimando has proven to be able to handle a hefty workload, throwing more than 150 innings in each of the last three seasons. Whether he can continue in that role in the big leagues depends largely on his ability to improve his below-average control. He has averaged more than 3.0 walks per nine innings from 2014 to 2016. His stuff and makeup would also play well in the bullpen. For now Morimando will return to Triple-A Columbus to open 2017 in the rotation.
After spending his first two years at Northeastern in the bullpen, Civale moved to the rotation as a junior in 2016 and delivered phenomenal results. He ranked 10th in the country in ERA (1.73), 14th in strikeouts (121) and ninth in WHIP (0.93). The Indians selected him in the third round, making him the highest player drafted from Northeastern since Adam Ottavino went 30th overall to the Cardinals in 2006. Civale continued his impressive year with a strong pro debut at short-season Mahoning Valley. He fills up the zone with his low-90s fastball and is working to develop his changeup after never needing it in college. His hard, tight slider has a chance to be a plus offering, and he also throws a curveball. He repeats his delivery well and works down in the zone. Civale has the stuff and physical frame to continue to develop as a starter. He will probably begin 2017 at high Class A Lynchburg and could advance quickly through the system.
Bieber succeeded Dillon Tate as UC Santa Barbara's ace in 2016 and led the Gauchos to their first-ever appearance in the College World Series. After the Indians made him a fourth-round pick they limited his workload at short-season Mahoning Valley due to the length of his college season, but he dominated hitters in the New York-Penn League. Bieber does not have overpowering stuff and relies instead on his command and understanding of his craft. His fastball sits around 90 mph, and he can locate it to all four quadrants of the zone, while his slider and changeup give him a pair of average secondary offerings. His stuff all plays up thanks to his above-average control. Bieber repeats his clean, easy delivery and averaged 1.1 walks per nine innings during his college career. He is comparable to fellow Indians prospect Adam Plutko, who also hails from Southern California. Bieber is advanced enough to handle an assignment to high Class A Lynchburg to start 2017 and could move quickly up in the minor leagues.
Previously known for his incredible walk rate in the minor leagues and 2014 breakout season at high Class A, Merritt made his major league debut in 2016 and then jumped into the spotlight during the playoffs. After making four appearances in the big leagues (one start) during the regular season, he was pressed into action as the Indians' starter in Game Five of the American League Championship Series at Toronto. He threw 4.1 scoreless innings to help send Cleveland to the World Series for the first time since 1997. Merritt doesn't have overpowering stuff, instead relying on his command and feel for pitching to get outs. His fastball sits in the upper 80s (it peaked at 88 mph in Toronto) and he knows how to add or subtract velocity as necessary. He improved his curveball and added a cutter in 2016, but his above-average changeup remains his best offering. All of his stuff plays up thanks to his plus control. Merritt has issued 1.4 walks per nine innings during his minor league career. His ceiling is as a back-end starter, and he will always have to be fine with his command to succeed. He'll compete for a spot somewhere on the Indians' staff during spring training, with a return to the rotation at Triple-A Columbus likely if he doesn't break camp with the team.
Merryweather as a senior helped pitch Oklahoma Baptist to a third-place finish at the 2014 NAIA World Series and then became the highest drafted player in program history when the Indians selected him in the fifth round. After injuries marred his first full season in 2015, he broke out in 2016 by earning all-star honors in the Carolina League and a midseason promotion to Double-A Akron. Merryweather's fastball sits 93-95 mph and regularly touches 97. His changeup, which made significant strides in 2016, and his breaking ball are both average offerings. In addition to working on his changeup, Merryweather refined his delivery to allow him to repeat it more consistently and better leverage his 6-foot-4 frame. As a result, he threw more strikes and worked well down in the zone more often, helping him create a high number of groundball outs. Merryweather's arsenal gives him a chance to develop into a major league starter, but his stuff would also play well in the bullpen. For now, he'll likely return to the Akron rotation in 2017.
Drafted out of high school by the Nationals, Milner didn't sign and instead excelled at Texas in a swing role from 2010 to 2012, posting a 2.44 ERA in 188 innings. Signed for slot in the seventh round in 2012 by the Phillies, he reached Double-A as a conventional-delivery starter, but the Phillies dropped his arm slot to sidearm in 2015 and made him a reliever. His strikeout rate has spiked in that role, and he's been much more effective. Milner starred in 2016 at Double-A Reading after starting the year in Triple-A, but overall in 65 innings he struck out 76 strikeouts and just 15 walks in 65 innings. He was particularly tough on lefthanded batters in the Eastern League. They hit .230 with no home runs and 27 percent strikeouts against his 88-91 mph fastball and mid-70s curve. The Phillies didn't protect Milner on the 40-man roster and the Indians popped him in the Rule 5 draft, so he must stick on the 25-man roster if healthy or be offered back to Philadelphia. He will compete for a spot in the Cleveland bullpen as a left-on-left reliever.
Rodriguez played for Washington High in the Bronx, the same program that produced Manny Ramirez, whom the Indians drafted 21 years before snagging Rodriguez in 2012. He has shown impressive power as a professional, twice leading his league in home runs. He hit 26 at Double-A Akron in 2016, good for third in the Eastern League and among all Indians minor leaguers. Rodriguez produces plenty of raw power and does a good job of getting to it in games. His approach does come with a lot of swing-and-miss and his strikeout rate has gone up for three straight seasons, peaking at 32 percent in 2016. His approach has improved as a professional, however, and he knows how to work a walk. Rodriguez is a bottom-of-the-scale runner and has below-average arm strength, limiting him to first base, where he is an adequate defender. Righthanded-hitting first baseman make for a tough profile, but his power gives him a chance to buck the trend. Rodriguez will advance to Triple-A Columbus in 2016, staying one rung ahead of fast-rising fellow first baseman Bobby Bradley.
The Cardinals doubled up on lefthanders in the first round of the 2013 draft, selecting Kaminsky nine picks after top choice Marco Gonzales. Kaminsky spent two years with the Cardinals before they dealt him to the Indians at the 2015 trade deadline for Brandon Moss. Kaminsky spent his first full season with Cleveland at Double-A Akron, where he bounced back from an early-season back injury that sidelined him for three weeks in May to finish fourth in the Eastern League with a 3.28 ERA. Kaminsky returned from his injury physically stronger and with a slightly reworked delivery to help him avoid further back problems in the future. His velocity returned as well as he bounced back to his usual 89-92 mph fastball. Kaminsky has lowered his arm slot as a professional, adding deception, but also changing the shape of his breaking ball. Where it once was a 12-to-6 curveball, it is now more of a hard slurve, though he can manipulate the shape well. His changeup gives him a third serviceable pitch. He earns praise for his cerebral approach and does a good job of pounding the strike zone. Kaminsky will look to carry his second-half momentum into 2017 and is on track to advance to Triple-A Columbus.
The Indians' top target in the 2014 international class, Gonzalez signed for $300,000 that July. He made his U.S. debut in 2016 in the Rookie-level Arizona League and won MVP honors after leading the circuit in home runs (eight) and slugging percentage (.566). His performance earned him a promotion to short-season Mahoning Valley at the end of the season. Gonzalez has both plus power and arm strength. He's more power than pure hitter, and will need to improve both his pitch recognition and his approach at the plate as he faces more advanced pitchers. But he has power to all fields and plenty of bat speed, giving him the tools to develop. His average speed and plus arm give him a chance to play right field, but he primarily played left field in 2016. Wherever Gonzalez ends up defensively, his bat will have to push him through the minor leagues. He will likely advance to full-season ball and low Class A Lake County sometime in 2017 as a 19-year-old.
Miniard was considered to be the top prep pitcher in Kentucky when the Indians drafted him in the eighth round in 2014. He experienced a breakout in pro ball in 2016 by impressing at short-season Mahoning Valley to earn a promotion to low Class A Lake County for the season's final month. Miniard throws from a three-quarters arm slot, which, along with his 6-foot-7 frame, creates a tough angle for hitters. It also gives cutting action on a fastball that sits 93-94 mph and tops out at 97. He is still learning to harness his fastball and its natural movement to consistently throw quality strikes, but it makes the pitch difficult for hitters to square up. He also throws a low-90s sinker and a breaking ball that is shaped more like a curve but has the velocity of a slider. His changeup remains a work in progress. Miniard has the makings of a starter, but will need to refine his control and develop a viable changeup. He'll return to Lake County in 2017 to work on that.
Fermin ranked as the No. 28 prospect in the 2015 international signing class, and he stood out for the feel for hitting he showed in the International Prospect League before signing with the Indians for $500,000. He made his pro debut the next year in the Dominican Summer League, though injuries limited his time on the field. Fermin has a mature approach at the plate and good contact skills. He has a good feel for the barrel and hits line drives to all fields. He lacks present strength but doesn't project to hit for much power even as he physically matures. Fermin is a steady defender at shortstop with good instincts. His speed and arm strength are both average to slightly above-average, giving him a chance to stay at shortstop. While Fermin isn't overly flashy, his all-around skill set makes him an intriguing prospect. He will likely make his U.S. debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League as an 18-year-old in 2017.
The Indians signed Gonzalez for $250,000 in 2016, after he made significant improvements as one of the top performers in the Dominican Prospect League in the year leading up to his signing. He is a steady player with a chance to have about average tools across the board. He has a good feel for the barrel and a short, flat swing geared for hitting line drives. His power is mostly to the gaps now, with the chance to grow into more as he physically matures. He has average speed and arm strength. He already has good defensive instincts and soft hands, giving him a good chance to stick at shortstop. Gonzalez earns praise for his confidence and advanced tool set. He will likely make his pro debut in 2017 in the Dominican Summer League.