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BA Grade: 60. Risk: High Tool Grades: Hit: 60. Power: 60. Run: 50. Fielding: 50. Arm: 60. Track Record: Jones was one of the players the Indians targeted with their first-round pick in 2016. The team instead selected Will Benson 14th overall and didn’t expect to see Jones still on the board when they next picked at No. 55. But he remained available and the Tribe didn’t pass on the Pennsylvania prep product a second time, happy to be able to select one of the best high school hitters in the draft class. He’s lived up to that reputation in pro ball, showing off his offensive ability at every stop in the minor leagues. In 2017, Jones led the New York-Penn League in OPS (.912) as a 19-year old and has followed that up in full-season ball. He had a busy 2019, beginning the year with high Class A Lynchburg, where he played well enough in 79 games to be selected to the Carolina League all-star team. He also was selected for the Futures Game and the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars Game, and in July was promoted to Double-A Akron. His season came to an end in October when he re-aggravated an injury to his right thumb and had surgery to repair a ligament. He is expected to be back to full strength to start 2020. Scouting Report: Jones has an easy lefthanded swing and uses the whole field to hit. He is a patient hitter and has led all Indians’ minor leaguers in walks in back-to-back seasons (89 in 2018, 96 in 2019), though his patience also means that he often works in deep counts and will always strike out fairly often as a result. He has plus raw power and has started to turn that into in-game production. Jones fits the third-base profile but throughout his career has dealt with questions about his ability to stay at the position. He has plus arm strength and has worked hard to improve his defense and infield actions, especially when ranging to the right. He’s improved his footwork and agility, giving him a strong chance to stay at the hot corner. While the Indians generally work to add versatility to all their position players, Jones has played exclusively third base since he was in Rookie ball. Still, his athleticism and speed should play in the outfield if required. The Future: After his impressive 2019 and stint in the AFL, Jones is nearing the big leagues and will likely open 2020 with Triple-A Columbus. He’s a potential impact bat who also stands out for his work ethic. His impending big league debut and Jose Ramirez’s versatility gives the Indians options over the next couple of years, but even if Ramirez stays in the hot corner, Jones’ offensive ability is such that the team will find a way to get them both into the lineup.
BA Grade: 55. Risk: High Tool Grades: Hit: 60. Power: 40. Run: 50. Fielding: 50. Arm: 55. Track Record: Freeman turned in a stellar first full pro season in 2018 that saw him lead the New York-Penn League in a host of offensive categories, including batting (.352) and slugging (.511), as a 19-year-old. He followed that with an impressive 2019, earning a promotion to high Class A Lynchburg in his first taste of full-season ball. Despite being one of the youngest players in the Carolina League, he more than held his own after his promotion to Lynchburg and is now a career .319/.379/.441 hitter. Scouting Report: Freeman stands out most for his hittability and excellent feel for the barrel. He has a very aggressive approach at the plate and rarely walks, but when he swings, he makes contact. Thanks to his ability to consistently square balls up, he has doubles pop now and may be able to add more power as he physically matures. Freeman was drafted as a shortstop and the Indians are developing him at that position. He’s shown improvement with his hands, infield actions and instincts. He’s still an average runner with average arm strength, however, which limits his range and might ultimately push him to second base, especially in a system with as many high-end defensive shortstops. Regardless of where he ends up defensively, his bat will stand out. The Future: Freeman is on the leading edge of the Indians’ group of young middle infielders, meaning he can move quickly through the system. That probably means he’s ready for Double-A Akron in 2020.
BA Grade: 55. Risk: Very High Tool Grades: Hit: 60. Power: 50. Run: 50. Fielding: 55. Arm: 60. Track Record: Naylor, the younger brother of Padres first baseman Josh Naylor, compiled a long track record of success as an amateur, especially facing premium competition with the Canadian Junior National Team. That helped ease his transition into his first year of pro ball, when he found success as a 19-year-old in the Midwest League. Scouting Report: Naylor, like his older brother, has standout offensive tools, but he’s a different kind of hitter. He’s more hit over power, though he has solid pop as well. He has an advanced hit tool thanks to his smooth swing, pitch recognition and approach. His power showed up more in 2019 than it had previously, and he makes consistent hard contact and has the ability to drive the ball. Naylor is an above-average runner and his athleticism plays well behind the plate. He earns high grades for pitch-framing, and his strong arm helped him throw out 37 percent of basestealers, but teams were still very willing to test him, attempting 128 stolen bases in 85 games. Still, Naylor has proven himself enough defensively to largely quell any talk of him moving to third base, where he played a lot as an amateur. The Future: Naylor will continue to work on refining his defensive skills in 2020 at high Class A Lynchburg, when he will be just 20 years old.
BA Grade: 55. Risk: Very High Tool Grades: Hit: 60. Power: 55. Run: 50. Fielding: 50. Arm: 50. Track Record: The Indians made a splash on the international market in 2017 and signed Valera, the fifth-ranked player in the class to a $1.3 million deal. He was born in New York and lived there until his family moved to the Dominican Republic when he was 13. After a broken hamate limited him to six games in 2018, he spent most of 2019 with short-season Mahoning Valley, where he was the youngest position player in the league, before a late-season promotion to low Class A Lake County. Scouting Report: Valera has a loose, compact swing and keeps his bat in the zone for a long time. His feel for the barrel, bat-to-ball skills, pitch recognition and discipline all help him to make consistent, hard contact and give him the kind of hittability the Indians covet. He has above-average raw power and gets to it in games well, hitting eight home runs in 46 games as an 18-year-old in the New York-Penn League. Valera profiles as a corner outfielder with average speed and arm strength. The Future: As an amateur, Valera drew comparisons to Juan Soto. He’s not going to match Soto’s meteoric rise to stardom, but he’s proven to be advanced enough to handle challenging assignments. He’ll likely return to Lake County to begin 2020 and another mid-season promotion could be in the cards.
BA Grade: 55. Risk: Very High Tool Grades: Hit: 55. Power: 30. Run: 60. Fielding: 55. Arm: 50. Track Record: While the Indians made a big splash on the 2017 international market with the heralded signings of Aaron Bracho and George Valera, their move to ink Rocchio flew more under the radar. The Venezuelan native has quickly made his own mark, however. After a strong 2018 in Rookie Ball, he advanced to short-season Mahoning Valley, where he held his own as the third-youngest position player. Scouting Report: Rocchio doesn’t stand out physically but was nicknamed “The Professor” because of his high baseball IQ and game awareness when he was in the Rookie-level Arizona League. A switch-hitter, he has a smooth, consistent swing from both sides of the plate and excellent pitch recognition. He’s an aggressive hitter and consistently barrels up the ball. He’s likely always going hit be hit over power but as he physically matures he’ll start sending some of his line drives over the fence. Rocchio has largely answered any questions about his ability to stick at shortstop. He’s a plus runner, and his hands and arm are good enough for the position, especially because his instincts and baseball IQ help his tools play up. The Future: Rocchio is on an accelerated track and there’s no reason to slow him down now. He’ll head to low Class A Lake County for his first taste of full-season ball.
BA Grade: 55. Risk: Extreme Tool Grades: Fastball: 70. Slider: 60. Curveball: 50. Changeup: 50. Control: 50. Track Record: Espino was born in Panama before moving to the United States when he was 15. He enrolled at Georgia Premier Academy, where he was able to continue his education while also adopting a close to professional mindset. That approach was apparent when he arrived at the Indians’ complex in Arizona after they drafted him 24th overall. His performance and mentality allowed him to become first prep player the Indians have promoted to short-season Mahoning Valley during his pro debut since Francisco Lindor in 2011. Scouting Report: Espino was one of the best prep pitchers in the draft class and has big overall upside. He’s on the shorter end of what teams look for in a righthander, but his excellent athleticism, explosiveness and flexibility help him access his lower half in a way most pitchers his size cannot. That helps him produce elite velocity and his fastball reach 99 mph and sit at 96. He throws both a curveball and slider, with the slider earning better grades as a potential plus pitch. He also throws a firm changeup that needs refinement but has a chance to give him a fourth at least average offering. He has a long arm action but typically pitches with average control. He’ll need to refine his command as he faces more advanced hitters who are less susceptible to chasing his offspeed stuff. The Future: Espino has put himself on an accelerated track already and he’ll likely start his first full professional season with low Class A Lake County, where he and righthander Ethan Hankins will team up for a premium 1-2 punch the Indians hope will stick together all the way to Cleveland.
BA Grade: 55. Risk: Extreme Tool Grades: Fastball: 60. Curveball: 60. Changeup: 55. Control: 60. Track Record: McKenzie has ranked as the Indians’ top prospect the last two years but that standing has slipped after an upper-back injury cost him all of 2019. The Indians have been very cautious with him throughout his career, partially due to his rail-thin frame. But he’s always shown exceptional upside, and he pitched in the 2017 Futures Game and reached Double-A in 2018 as a 20-year-old. Scouting Report: There have long been questions about McKenzie’s durability. He suffered from some forearm soreness early in 2018, but his 2019 injury might speak even more to his durability because it may stem from a lack of strength in his shoulder. If he can avoid similar issues going forward, however, he should be able to get back to the high-end upside he’s also long shown. His fastball sits at 92 and can touch 95. It plays up thanks to long extension and high spin rate. He also has a good feel for his curveball, which can be an out pitch, and his changeup has the potential to be an above-average offering. He commands the ball well and earns praise for his makeup and understanding of his craft. The Future: After missing all of 2019, McKenzie needs to get back on the mound and show that he’s ready to pitch a full season. He’s still just 22 and hasn’t been challenged much yet on the field. If he can get back to the level he was at a year ago, he’ll soon again be in position to work himself into the mix for a spot in the big leagues.
BA Grade: 55. Risk: Extreme Tool Grades: Fastball: 60. Slider: 55. Changeup: 50. Control: 50. Track Record: The Indians were thrilled to draft Hankins with the final pick of the first round in 2018. Following his performance the previous summer and fall, he had been considered the best prep player in the draft class but a minor shoulder injury in the spring caused him to slide on draft day. After introducing him to pro ball, the Indians eased back on the leash during his first full pro season and in August sent him to low Class A Lake County. Scouting Report: Hankins has a long, lean frame and uncommon athleticism for a pitcher of his size. At his best, he ran his fastball up to 97 mph and typically sits in the mid 90s with plus life. He has the makings of quality secondary pitches, but they’ll need to become more consistent offerings.His slider and changeup both have the ability to be above-average offerings and he also throws a bigger curveball, though it lags behind his other pitches. Hankins controls his arsenal well, but it will be important for him to maintain his delivery as he grows into his large frame. The Future: Hankins’ impressive first full season was a reminder of just how big his upside can be. He’s set to start back with Lake County where he and Daniel Espino will make for an impressive 1-2 punch that the Indians hope will stick together all the way to the big leagues.
BA Grade: 55. Risk: Extreme Tool Grades: Hit: 55. Power: 50. Run: 55. Fielding: 50. Arm: 45 Track Record: The Indians spent big on the 2017 international market. Bracho, who was ranked as a top-20 player in the class, as well as outfielder George Valera and shortstop Brayan Rocchio were a part of that class and now rank as top-10 prospects for the club. Bracho was banged up at the outset of his career and missed 2018 due to an arm injury. He was back to full health in 2019 and made his professional debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League and earned a late-season bump to short-season Mahoning Valley, where he joined Valera and Rocchio. Scouting Report: A switch-hitter, Bracho has a smooth, compact swing from both sides of the plate and produces good bat speed. He has an advanced approach and walked more than he struck out in Arizona, a rarity for an 18-year-old with limited game experience. Listed at just 5-foot-11, he has more power than his frame suggests, and he could end up hitting for at least average power. Bracho was signed as a shortstop but he’s already moved to second base. His hands and range are good enough to keep him there, but he’s likely to be more of an offensive second baseman. The Future: After an impressive debut, it’s easy to see why Bracho had as much hype as he did as an amateur. He’s probably advanced enough to start 2020 with low Class A Lake County as Rocchio’s double-play partner, but the Indians middle-infield depth and his minimal game experience may lead to him coming back to Mahoning Valley to start the summer.
BA Grade: 55. Risk: Extreme Tool Grades: Hit: 55. Power: 50. Run: 50. Fielding: 50. Arm: 55. Track Record: The Indians’ 2018 international signing class wasn’t as big as the 2017 group that produced three of the club’s top-10 prospects, but in Rodriguez it has a true headliner. The Venezuelan native was the eighth-ranked player overall in the 2018 class and lived up to the hype with an impressive pro debut in 2019, earning a midseason promotion to the Rookie-level Arizona League. Scouting Report: Rodriguez stands out for his consistency and all-around tools. He has a short, simple swing and an advanced approach at the plate. As he physically matures, he figures to develop at least average power and he has already shown the ability to drive balls to all fields. He shows plenty of power potential during batting practice. The next step is to learn how to take it with him into games. His strong arm and instinctive actions will allow him to stay in the infield, likely at third base, if he does need to move. The Future: Rodriguez is advanced enough to follow an aggressive developmental track, much like the premium players in the 2017 class. That would likely mean he starts 2020 back in Arizona and will have a chance to advance to short-season Mahoning Valley later in the summer.
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