Join Now! Bundle Print + Digital + eEdition And Save $60/year
Mejia's precocious talent has been apparent since the Indians signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 2012 and sent him to make his professional debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League the following season. He had an eventful path through the minor leagues that included a historic hitting streak and nearly being included in a blockbuster trade before making his major league debut in September as a 21-year-old. Mejia broke out in 2016 and authored a 50-game hitting streak that is the longest in the modern era of the minor leagues (dating to 1963). Mejia kept hitting in 2017 as he advanced to Double-A Akron. He finished the year in the Arizona Fall League, where he was one of the circuit's leading hitters. Mejia has long been known for his hitting ability and the switch-hitter consistently makes hard contact from both sides of the plate. He has matured as a hitter to use the whole field to hit, instead of the pull-oriented approach he had when he was younger. 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 means he also doesn't strike out much and is comfortable working behind in the count. Mejia has made strides defensively and has elite arm strength and has become a good receiver. He has gotten comfortable speaking English, a key skill for him to work with his pitchers, and has developed more consistency behind the plate. For all his progress defensively, however, Mejia's bat remains ahead of his glove. Because he isn't far off from being ready for the big leagues offensively and because the Indians have a pair of excellent defensive catchers in Cleveland, Mejia went to the AFL to get experience at third base. He is naturally still learning the position, but he will continue to see action at the hot corner in 2018. Mejia will open 2018 with Triple-A Columbus, and if he continues to hit the way he has throughout his career he will find his way into the big league lineup sometime during the summer. His long-term future remains behind the plate, but his added defensive versatility will help him as he breaks into the major leagues.
McKenzie continued to build on his outstanding track record of success in 2017. He was named Carolina League pitcher of the year, pitched for the U.S. team in the Futures Game and ranked second among all minor leaguers with 186 strikeouts. He did it all while pitching nearly the whole season as a 19-year-old, making him one of the youngest players in the CL. McKenzie also presents the same challenge to evaluators today that he did as an amateur: His track record is unimpeachable and he has impressive present stuff, but he is listed at a rail-thin 6-foot-5, 165 pounds. McKenzie's fastball can get up to 95 mph and it averaged about 92 mph in 2017. He held that velocity throughout the season and while it would dip during starts, he also showed the ability to reach back for more and finish strong at the end of his outings. His fastball plays up and gets swings and misses thanks to his delivery's extension and the high spin rate at which he throws it. He also has a good feel for spinning his curveball and gets good depth on the offering, which can be an out pitch. His changeup isn't as advanced as his other two pitches, but continues to develop and 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. McKenzie's biggest area for development remains improving his physique to allow him to manage a starter's workload, and he made important strides to that end with Lynchburg. McKenzie is speeding toward the big leagues and has the upside to be a frontline starter. He'll advance to Double-A Akron in 2018 for his first taste of the upper minors.
Bradley has been one of the most productive players in the Indians' farm system since they drafted him in 2014. He won the Rookie-level Arizona League triple crown that summer by hitting .361 with eight home runs and 50 RBIs. He led the Midwest League with 27 home runs in 2015 and the Carolina League with 29 home runs in 2016, while also collecting MVP honors. Bradley fell short of making it four straight home run crowns, however, ranking sixth in the Eastern League with 23 homers in 2017 as the third youngest player on the circuit on Opening Day. Bradley's raw power is the best in the system and he has shown he is adept at getting to it in games. He has a strong, physical frame and creates excellent bat speed that allows him to drive the ball out to all fields. That power comes with a lot of swing and miss, but he cut his strikeout rate in 2017 from 29 percent to a much more manageable 22 percent, his lowest in full-season ball. Bradley is a well-below average runner with an average arm, limiting him to first base. Bradley will advance to Triple-A Columbus in 2018, where he could take advantage of Huntington Park's hitter-friendly dimensions to again post some big power numbers. He has the potential to become a middle-of-the-order hitter in the major leagues before too long.
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 take him at No. 55 overall. After a very modest debut in the rookie-level Arizona League in 2016, Jones got back to his elite hitting ways in 2017 with short-season Mahoning Valley, where he led the New York-Penn League in OPS (.912) as a 19-year-old. Jones has an easy lefthanded swing and uses the whole field to hit. He is a patient hitter and led the NYPL in walks (43). He significantly cut down on his strikeout rate from his pro debut in 2016, but his patience means he works in many deep counts and will always strike out a fair amount as a result. He has proven to be an advanced hitter, but also has above-average raw power that he is still learning to get to consistently in games. As he physically matures, he projects to hit for plus power. Jones fits the third base profile, but he still has work to do to ensure he can stick at the hot corner. He has plus arm strength, but needs to improve his glove-work and infield actions. If he did need to move, his athleticism and average speed would play in right field. Jones' first full professional season was very encouraging for the Indians and he provides plenty of upside. He'll get his first taste of full-season ball in 2018 when he opens the year with low Class A Lake County.
Bieber took over as UC Santa Barbara's ace in 2016 and led the Gauchos to their first-ever appearance in the College World Series. He made a smooth transition to the minor leagues and excelled in his first full professional season, reaching Double-A Akron almost exactly a year after his pro debut. Bieber came into pro ball with a reputation as relying more on his command than his stuff to succeed. He has continued to show above-average control as a professional and his 0.5 walks per nine innings in 2017 led all full-season minor leaguers. He's one of those rare players whose control and command are big league ready from day one. But Bieber is starting to outgrow the command-and-control label, as his stuff made a jump in 2017. His fastball, which sat around 90 mph at UCSB, now sits 92-94 and touched 96 mph. His curveball got sharper and more consistent, developing into his best secondary pitch. He also throws a slider and changeup, which both can be average offerings. He has a clean, easy delivery and has shown he can handle a heavy workload–his 173.1 innings led all minor leaguers in 2017. Bieber made one of the biggest jumps in 2017 of any player in the Indians' system and now profiles as a potential mid-rotation starter. He will advance to Triple-A Columbus in 2018 and could pitch his way into the big league mix.
Chang was a prominent prep player in Taiwan and was one of the top amateur free agents to sign out of Asia in 2013. His profile has risen in the last two years as his power has developed and he has reportedly received heavy interest in trade talks. Chang has solid all-around offensive tools and is now better at tapping into his raw power. Chang has produced 104 extra-base hits in the last two years, more than half his total hits (205) in that time. His swing is still geared for hitting line drives, but he has done a better job of incorporating his lower half into his swing and understanding what pitches he can drive. He is a patient hitter, but his willingness to work deep in counts leads to an elevated strikeout rate, which spiked to a career-high 26 percent in 2017. Chang's tools are good enough to play at shortstop, though his future as an everyday player may be elsewhere in the infield. He is an average defender with average or better speed and arm strength. Chang has exclusively played shortstop in full-season ball, but that will almost certainly change when he advances to Triple-A Columbus in 2018. The Indians have held off playing Chang at other positions as long as possible, but with Francisco Lindor holding down shortstop in Cleveland for the foreseeable future and the Tribe's predilection for versatility, Chang will likely start getting exposed to other infield positions.
The Indians have aggressively pushed Castro since signing him out of the Dominican Republic in 2013 and he had been the youngest player on his team at every stop of his pro career until 2017, when he was edged by Triston McKenzie and had to settle for being the youngest position player at high Class A Lynchburg. Despite his youth, Castro has held his own at every level and had a breakout season with Lynchburg, earning a spot on the Carolina League's postseason all-star team. A switch-hitter, Castro sprays line drives from both sides of the plate. He started coming into his power more in 2017, when he hit 11 home runs to more than double his career total. He is an aggressive hitter, limiting his walks, but controls the strike zone well and makes a lot of contact. He has above-average speed and is a threat on the bases. Defensively, he has an above-average arm, good hands and infield actions at shortstop. He still has to work on his consistency after making 25 errors in each of the last two years, but his tools and instincts give him a good chance to stay at shortstop. Castro is a confident player and his approach to the game has matured in the last year. He will advance to Double-A Akron to start 2018.
Allen got off to a strong start to the 2017 with Double-A Akron before breaking the hamate bone in his right hand. The injury sidelined him for two months, but he played well enough upon his return to get called up to Cleveland when rosters expanded in September to make his major league debut. He then made the playoff roster as a pinch runner/defensive replacement and appeared in two games. Allen's game is built around his plus speed. He has good on-base skills, is a disciplined hitter and has walked about as often as he has struck out in his career. His approach at the plate is geared toward making contact, limiting his power potential and some of his offensive impact. He is a good baserunner and is always a threat to steal when he gets on base. Allen's speed also 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 doesn't fit the typical corner outfield profile, but with Bradley Zimmer set to man center field in Cleveland, that may be where the Indians ask him to play. Allen will either open 2018 in the big leagues or with Triple-A Columbus, depending how the offseason plays out in Cleveland. His lack of power limits his everyday regular potential, but he does enough things well to have a lengthy big league career.
The Indians took advantage of their recently revamped international scouting department and the rule changes in the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement to make a splash on the international market in 2017. Valera, the fifth-ranked player in the class, was their top signing, inking a deal worth $1.3 million. Valera was born in New York and lived there until his family moved to the Dominican Republic when he was 13. Valera was one of the best hitters in the international class and drew comparisons to Nationals prospect Juan Soto. 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 look for. He has above-average raw power and gets to it in games well, though he has more of a hit-over-power profile. Valera profiles as a corner outfielder with average speed and arm strength. Valera will make his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League in 2018 as he begins his path to reaching his considerable ceiling.
Benson was a two-sport star in high school and, as a senior, was a member of the USA Baseball team that won the 2016 18U World Cup in Japan and earned second-team all-state honors in basketball. On the diamond, he developed a reputation as a toolsy, athletic player, which he has lived up to thus far as a professional. Benson produces elite bat speed thanks to his strength and quick hands, and turns that bat speed into tremendous lefthanded raw power, rivaling Bobby Bradley for the best in the system. He is learning to get to that power more consistently and this season led the New York-Penn League in home runs (10) and ranked second in isolated power (.237). His power comes with a lot of swing-and-miss, however, and he has struck out in a third of his plate appearances as a pro. He has frequently tinkered with his swing in the past, but seemed to hit on a comfortable swing in the second half of the season. Those adjustments, as well as his ability to work a walk, leads to some optimism that he'll be able to cut down his strikeouts as he continues to develop. He is an excellent athlete and runs well for his size, particularly once he is underway. He 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, who was also the 14th overall pick in the draft. Benson has a long way to go to reach that ceiling and will advance to full-season ball for the first time when he opens 2018 with low Class A Lake County.
Gonzalez spent much of 2017 serving as the Indians' utility infielder, a position in which he has plenty of experience. He played every position but pitcher and catcher early in his professional career before settling in at shortstop in 2013 and eventually getting the opportunity to fill in at shortstop for Francisco Lindor after a midseason promotion. But in the Indians' crowded big league infield, Gonzalez has returned to his utility roots, appearing at five positions in 81 games. He has some intriguing offensive tools, including above-average speed and surprising pop stemming from his wiry strength and bat speed. He is an aggressive hitter and rarely walks, limiting his chances as a top-of-the-order hitter. Defensively, Gonzalez stands out for his quickness and above-average arm strength. He can produce highlight-reel plays, but has also been prone to making mental mistakes. He is versatile enough to play anywhere in the infield and has gotten some work in the outfield corners as well. Gonzalez will play 2018 as a 26-year-old and will have a difficult challenge to win a starting spot in the Indians' infield. He could still become an everyday player, but he is more likely to return to his utility role in Cleveland, where his versatility is an asset.
Bracho joined George Valera in headlining the Indians' 2017 international signing class. Bracho, a Venezuelan native, was the 17th-ranked player in the class. Bracho stood out for his offensive performance in game action before signing. Bracho is a switch-hitter with a mature approach and a smooth, compact swing from both sides of the plate. He has plenty of bat speed, helping him produce a surprising amount of power for his size that could develop into average pop. Bracho was signed as a shortstop and will get a chance to develop there, but many scouts are not convinced he will stay at the position. He is an above-average runner and has good hands, but his infield actions and arm strength will likely profile better at second base. Bracho will make his professional debut in 2018 in the Dominican Summer League.
Holmes starred on the showcase circuit in the summer of 2016, establishing himself as one of the best athletes in the draft class and earning a spot on the USA Baseball 18U team that won gold at the Pan Am Championships that fall. But Holmes remains raw on the diamond and his solid but unspectacular senior season helped drop him to the back of the second round, where the Indians were happy to take a player with his upside. Holmes' game is geared around his top-of-the-scale speed. He mostly looks to shoot balls into the gaps to let his speed play and his feel for the barrel helps him do so. But he also generates above-average bat speed and can hit for power, especially when he turns on the ball. He is an aggressive hitter and often hunts fastballs early in the count, and will need to improve his pitch recognition as he advances in the minor leagues. His speed helps him cover lots of ground in center field, where he could develop into a plus defender. As a New York prep product, Holmes remains raw in nearly every aspect of his game, which showed in a tough professional debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League. But he was young for the class (he was still 17 on draft day) and figures to make a jump once he gets used to facing advanced competition. Holmes' rawness and age mean he will likely open 2018 back in Arizona, with a chance to advance to short-season Mahoning Valley sometime during the summer.
Civale moved to the rotation as a junior at Northeastern and delivered phenomenal results in 2016, ranking in the top 15 nationally in ERA (1.73), strikeouts (121) and WHIP (0.93). Civale built on that success in his first full professional season, and his above-average command helped him rank third among all qualified minor league starters in walks per nine innings (0.8). Civale's pinpoint control is his best tool, but he also mixes in solid stuff. His fastball sits in the low 90s and his feel for spin enables him to throw a cutter, slider and curveball. His slider is the best of the group, but they all work well in concert to give the effect of an above-average breaking ball that changes angles and power. Civale worked in 2017 to improve his changeup after never needing it as an amateur. His stuff, size and makeup give him a chance to stay in the rotation in the long run. Civale will face a challenge in 2018 as he advances for the first time to the upper levels of the minor leagues.
Capel was set to follow in the footsteps of his father, former big leaguer Mike Capel, to Texas before the Indians drafted him in the fifth round in 2016 and signed him for slot. He was assigned to low Class A Lake County for his first full professional season and he excelled in the Midwest League, where he ranked third in home runs (22) and fifth in slugging percentage (.482). One of the knocks on Capel before the draft was that his swing didn't produce enough loft to get to his above-average raw power. He has since made some swing adjustments to allow him to tap into his pop without sacrificing his ability to make consistent contact. He did strike out more often in 2017, but he cut his strikeout rate in the second half of the season and his discipline at the plate should help him further cut down his strikeouts as he continues to develop. Capel is an above-average runner, but doesn't have blazing speed. He has an above-average arm and played all three outfield positions in 2017, seeing most of his time in right field. That may be where he profiles best, but he has a chance to end up in center field. Capel earns praise for his makeup and hard-nosed style of play. He will advance to high Class A Lynchburg in 2018.
Freeman had a dominant senior season in Southern California, hitting .526/.638/.814 and helping his high school to its first sectional title. He carried that performance over to the rookie-level Arizona League, where he had a solid debut. Freeman stands out most for his hittability and feel for the barrel. He makes consistent hard contact, is difficult to strike out and has a direct swing. He has some power, mostly when he can turn on the ball, but power is not expected to be a large part of his game. Freeman was drafted as a shortstop, but questions remain about his chances to stay at the position. He has an average arm and is an average runner, making a move across the bag to second base a possibility down the line. For now, however, the Indians will develop Freeman as a shortstop. Freeman is lauded for his makeup and instincts, which help his tools play up and will serve him well in his first full professional season, likely with short-season Mahoning Valley.
Following a breakout 2016 season, Merryweather carried that momentum into 2017. After a strong start to the season with Double-A Akron, he was promoted to Triple-A at the end of May. While Merryweather's results suffered down the stretch with the Clippers, his stuff and peripherals remained strong. Merryweather has the stuff to start, but still is learning some of the finer points of pitching. His fastball sits in the mid 90s and regularly reaches 97 mph. His changeup can be an above-average pitch with fading action, but he will need to tighten the pitch up to get hitters to chase it more often. He throws both a curveball and a slider, which can be average offerings. He does a good job of using his 6-foot-4 frame to his advantage and works well down in the strike zone to create groundouts. He throws a lot of strikes and repeats his delivery well. Merryweather has the potential to be a starter in the big leagues, but he will be 26 on Opening Day and breaking into the Indians' already crowded rotation is no easy task. He'll start 2018 back at Columbus and have a chance to pitch his way into the mix in Cleveland.
Hentges was raw even for a prep player from Minnesota when the Indians drafted him in 2014. He was one of the youngest players in the draft class and didn't pitch much until late in his junior year of high school. He has come along slowly in the minor leagues, in part because he needed Tommy John surgery during the 2016 season. Hentges returned to the mound in 2017 and finished the season strong at short-season Mahoning Valley. During his rehab, he improved his physique and filled out his big, physical frame. He has a quick arm and his fastball sits at 92-95 mph. His best secondary pitch is his curveball, which is a plus pitch at its best. His changeup is still developing, but shows promise. He has gotten better in pro ball at repeating his delivery and returned from injury throwing more strikes. Hentges will still be just 21 years old on Opening Day 2018 and has significant upside. He will likely start the season at low Class A Lake County.
Ice broke out offensively in 2016 during his junior season at Oregon State and the Indians made him a supplemental second round pick, the highest they have drafted a catcher since 2003. Ice hasn't carried that offensive momentum into pro ball, but continues to stand out for his defensive ability. He blocks balls well, is a solid receiver and earns praise for his ability to handle the pitching staff. He has an accurate, average arm. A switch-hitter, Ice has a patient approach at the plate. He produces hard contact, but that hasn't translated into much power yet, partially due to a wrist injury that sidelined him for about two weeks in the first half of 2017. Thanks to his defensive ability, Ice won't have to hit much to become a big league contributor. And while he hasn't made quick work of the low minors, he was young for his draft class and will still be 22 when he opens the 2018 season with high Class A Lynchburg.
Gonzalez, the Indians' top target in the 2014 international class, made a resounding U.S. debut in 2016, when he won MVP honors in the Rookie-level Arizona League. He moved up in 2017 to the New York-Penn League as a 19-year-old. While he wasn't as productive at the plate while facing older competition, he still excited evaluators with his raw skill set. Gonzalez stands out most for his well above-average raw power, and he does a good job of getting to it in games. His approach at the plate is still crude and he'll need to improve his plate discipline as he faces more advanced pitchers. But he produces plenty of bat speed and has better bat-to-ball skills than his strikeout rate (24.7 percent) indicates. Gonzalez is an average runner and has plus arm strength, giving him a chance to play right field, though he has mostly played left field the last two seasons. Wherever he ends up defensively, the onus will be on his bat to push him through the minor leagues. He will advance to low Class A Lake County in 2018.
Rodriguez was one of the youngest players in the 2017 draft class and didn't turn 18 until November. He is more of a long-term developmental bet, but the product of the Beltran Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico adjusted faster to professional baseball than some had expected, debuting with a solid summer in the Arizona League. Rodriguez, a switch hitter, has a smooth swing and showed he has some feel for the strike zone. He has above-average raw power and projects to hit for power as he fills out his projectable frame. Rodriguez has below-average speed, but his plus arm plays well in right field, where he can be a solid defender. Rodriguez's age means the Indians won't feel any need to rush him, and he'll likely start 2018 back in Arizona. Rodriguez is raw, but he has the tools and work ethic to develop into a prototypical right fielder with time.
Oviedo, the top pitcher in the Indians' 2015 international signing class, made his U.S. debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2017. And while his 7.14 ERA was unsightly, he still stood out for his stuff as an 18-year-old in the league. Oviedo has continued to grow since he signed and his velocity has grown with him. He now throws in the mid 90s after sitting in the upper 80s when he signed, and he could add still more velocity as he continues to mature. This past year he scrapped his big curveball in favor of a slider that he picked up well. He also has good feel for his changeup, which is advanced for his age. He produced a lot of ground balls, which led to a high batting average on balls in play in Arizona, but will serve him well as he advances in the minor leagues. He has a solid delivery and does a good job of throwing strikes. Like many young pitchers, Oviedo is still learning to harness his stuff and will need to improve his consistency. He will likely advance to short-season Mahoning Valley in 2018.
Coming into 2017, Krieger had not advanced past Class A. He got plenty of experience against upper-level competition during the year, however. He started the year playing for Team Israel in the World Baseball Class, helping the team on its Cinderella run, and then spent the season with Double-A Akron. Krieger struggled at the plate as he worked through some adjustments. He is at his best when he focuses on spraying line drives to all fields and takes advantage of his above-average feel for the barrel. That approach doesn't lead to much power, but his above-average speed helps him produce extra-base hits when he drives the ball to the gaps. Defensively, Krieger has been limited to second base since suffering a shoulder injury during his sophomore year of college that required labrum surgery to repair. Kreiger is a solid defender at his new position, but there is now more pressure on his bat, particularly given his below-average power. He'll look to get back on track at the plate in 2018 as he advances to Triple-A Columbus.
Largely overlooked coming out of the New York prep ranks in 2014, Clement developed a reputation as a pure hitter during college. He was a career .306 hitter at Virginia and whiffed just 31 times in three seasons with the Cavaliers. He also found success with a wood bat, earning MVP honors in the Cape Cod League in 2016 after leading the circuit in hits and stolen bases. Clement embodies the saying, “Good things happen when you put the ball in play.” He has an aggressive approach and an uncanny knack for putting the bat on the ball. He has minimal power and instead sprays the ball all over the field and takes advantage of his plus speed to get on base. Clement also offers versatility defensively. He moved to shortstop in 2017 after mostly playing second base his first two years of college, with action in center field also mixed in. He has average arm strength and likely won't ever be an everyday shortstop, but his overall skill set gives him a chance at the position. Clement is most likely to end up a super-utility player, and his speed, instincts and bat-to-ball skills help that profile. He could move quickly in the minor leagues and he could open his first full professional season with high Class A Lynchburg.
Since winning the Big West Conference batting title as a Cal Poly sophomore in 2014, Mathias has battled injuries to stay on the field. He injured the labrum in his right shoulder while playing for USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team in the summer of 2014 and was limited the next year as he recovered from surgery. He had a healthy first full professional season, reaching Double-A Akron, but was again bothered by shoulder injuries in 2017. Mathias missed the first month of the season after dislocating his left shoulder in spring training and landed back on the disabled list later in the season with more shoulder trouble. When healthy, Mathias has lived up to his reputation as a pure hitter. He has one of the best 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 the balls in gaps. Mathias was drafted as a second baseman, but offers defensive versatility. He mostly played third base during his abbreviated 2017 and has also seen some time at shortstop. As an everyday player, Mathias profiles best at second base, but his average arm and speed give him a chance to be a utility infielder. First, however, he needs to show he can stay healthy. He'll return to Double-A Akron in 2018.
Merritt wrote himself into the club's postseason lore in 2016. Having made just four career big league appearances (one start), he was pressed into action as the Indians' starter in Game Five of the AL Championship Series and threw 4.1 scoreless innings to help send Cleveland to the World Series for the first time since 1997. Before that game, he had mostly been known for his incredible minor league walk rate, and returned to that identity in 2017, sprinkling a few spot starts for the Indians into a solid campaign with Triple-A Columbus. 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, occasionally touching 91 mph, and he knows how to add or subtract velocity as necessary. His above-average changeup is his best pitch, and he also has both a curveball and a cutter that can be effective offerings. All of his stuff plays up thanks to his plus control. Merritt's ceiling is as a back-end starter, and he will always have to be fine with his command to succeed. Merritt was one of just seven pitchers to start a game for the Indians in 2017, but breaking into the rotation full time will be difficult. He could find a spot in the bullpen, but is more likely to start 2018 back at Columbus.
Collins was hampered by hand injuries during his junior year at Mississippi State, but still helped the Bulldogs to the Southeastern Conference title and was drafted in the 13th round by the Indians. He got back to health in 2017 and broke out at the plate, raising his stature in the process. Collins has above-average power and does a good job of getting to it. He has good plate discipline, though his strikeout rate did jump after his midseason promotion to high Class A Lynchburg. Collins was the first Mississippi State player to earn SEC all-freshman honors as a catcher, but injuries have severely limited his time behind the plate in the last two years. The Indians have not ruled out him catching going forward, but it will be tough for him to do so in a regular role. He has an average arm and primarily played third base the last two seasons, and may end up at first base due to his below-average hands and athleticism. No matter where he ends up defensively, it will be up to Collins' bat to carry him through the minor leagues. Collins will advance to Double-A Akron in 2018 for his first taste of upper-level pitching.
Aiken emerged during his senior year of high school as the best player in the 2014 draft class and the Astros made him the No. 1 overall pick. A series of ill-fated events for him has followed. First, when a post-draft physical revealed an elbow issue, the Astros withdrew the $6.5 million offer they had agreed to. 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 injured and required Tommy John surgery. The Indians selected him 17th overall in 2015 and he finally made his pro debut the next year. Aiken has struggled in pro ball, especially in 2017, when he ranked second among all minor leaguers with 101 walks in 132 innings with low Class A Lake County. The gap between what evaluators saw from Aiken leading up to the 2014 draft and what they saw in 2017 was striking. His velocity has not returned since having surgery and his fastball sat in the upper 80s and touched 91 with Lake County, down from his prep days when he touched 97 mph and sat in the low 90s. More worryingly, Aiken's control abandoned him in 2017 and he struggled to locate his fastball. His secondary stuff, however, remained solid and helped him battle through many tough outings. His curveball can be a plus offering and his changeup gives him another advanced pitch. Aiken may be able to correct some of his struggles if he gets stronger and more athletic, which would likely help his velocity and consistency. He will enter a critical point in his development in 2018 and there is still optimism that he can bounce back.
Despite capping his college career with a strong junior season in which he ranked in the top 10 nationally in strikeouts (138) and strikeouts per nine innings (12.34), Morgan lasted until the eighth round in the draft due to his stature and below-average fastball velocity. But his outstanding professional debut in the New York-Penn League showed there may be more than meets the eye. Morgan threw a bit harder in pro ball, running his fastball up to 93 mph. His fastball is just good enough to allow his changeup, which was one of the best secondary pitches in the draft class, to be effective. His changeup has fading action, and he locates and sells the pitch well. He also throws a slurvy slider, which he will need to tighten up to give him a better third pitch. Morgan has a nontraditional profile as a short righthander whose primary offspeed pitch is his changeup. He has a starter's mentality and the Indians will develop him as one, believing he could move quickly in the minor leagues. Morgan is advanced enough to handle an assignment to high Class A Lynchburg in 2018.
Gonzalez, ranked No. 27 in the 2016 international signing class, was one of the top performers in the Dominican Prospect League in the year leading up to his signing with the Indians for $250,000. He carried that performance over to 2017 during his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League. Gonzalez has a chance to have about average tools across the board, and gets the most out of his tools thanks to his steady play and advanced baseball IQ. He has a good feel for the barrel and does a good job of controlling the strike zone, even drawing more walks than strikeouts during his debut. His swing is more geared toward hitting line drives in the gaps, but he has a chance to grow into more power as he physically matures. He has average speed and above-average arm strength. Gonzalez already has good defensive instincts and soft hands, giving him a good chance to stick at shortstop. Gonzalez is on track to make his U.S. debut in 2018 in the Arizona League.
In order to access this exclusive content you must have a Baseball America Account.
Login or sign up