A Minor Review of 2016: Cleveland Indians

Welcome to the final installment of the annual series that provides both a review of your favorite teams’ 2016 season, as well as an early look toward 2017. It also serves as a helpful guide for keeper and dynasty leagues.

The Graduate: Tyler Naquin (OF): Naquin burst onto the scene in 2016, taking advantage of injuries and never looking back. He hit for more power than expected — 14 homers and a .218 ISO in 321 at-bats — during his MLB debut so it will be interesting to see if it was a blip on the radar or a sign of things to come (10 home runs was previously a career high). His strikeout rate, too, was a surprise. After sitting around 20-23%, it spiked to just under 31%. It took a BABIP of .411 to compensate for the contact issues so a batting average near .300 will likely not continue unless he makes some adjustments. He appears pencilled in at center field for Cleveland in 2017.

The Riser: Francisco Mejia (C): Cleveland suffered through some uneven performances behind the plate in 2016 despite a successful campaign. Mejia should alleviate any concerns the organization has behind the plate — starting in about 2018. The catching prospect had a breakout year with the bat in ’16. He showed the ability to hit for average and make consistent contact with at least gap power. Mejia could grow into 12-15 home runs in his prime. The switch-hitter has a canon for an arm behind the plate and should develop into an average or better defender.

The Tumbler: Rob Kaminsky (LHP): This little lefty didn’t have a terrible year but his stuff has fallen off since turning pro and his heater now ranges from below-average to average. His curveball is perhaps his best pitch but it was inconsistent in 2016, leading to just 92 strikeouts in 137 innings. However, he continued to throw strikes (48 walks) and kept the ball in the park (seven homers). At this point, Kaminsky looks like a No. 4/5 starter or long reliever out of the bullpen. At just 22, though, there is perhaps hope a mechanical adjustment or continued maturity can help him regain some zip on his heater. He has a chance to move up to triple-A in 2017 and could make his MLB debut at some point in the year.

The ’16 Draft Pick: Will Benson (OF): This man-child already stands 6-5 at the age of 18 and possesses impressive raw power. He pairs that with above-average speed and could eventually develop into a 20-20 player for Cleveland. He showed a patient approach at times in his debut and walked 22 times just 44 games. Unfortunately, that also came with 60 strikeouts so he has a lot of work to do to improve his contact rate. With some polish, Benson could develop into a prototypical right-fielder at the big league level in four to five years. He’ll look to impress this spring and earn a full-season assignment to low-A ball.

The Lottery Ticket: Willi Castro (SS): A .286 on-base percentage and .657 OPS isn’t going to impressed many people but Castro was playing in full season ball at the age of 19. And his raw tools will turn heads. He has a chance to develop into an average-or-better hitter, with gap pop, 30-stolen-base potential and plus fielding/throwing. The young fielder, though, will need to become more patient at the plate to realize his full potential after walking just 19 times with 96 strikeouts in 527 at-bats. Now, the Indians already have a pretty impressive young shortstop named Francisco Lindor so Castro will have plenty of time to develop and should move up to high-A ball in 2017.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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