Cleveland Indians Top 10 Prospects Updated

Unlike the White Sox, where almost all the top talent is at double-A or higher, the Indians have a very thin system with most of the talent in A-ball or lower. With that said I loved their 2018 draft and feel it’s being under estimated for how impactful it could be in a few years with the right coaching/development and some luck with injuries.

Click here for the pre-season Top 10

1. Triston McKenzie | RHP | AA —> McKenzie is one of the better starting pitcher prospects left in the minors and if he were affiliated with New York, Boston or another big market team there would be a lot more hype here. McKenzie has a great frame with room to add strength (and fastball velo), athleticism and projects to eventually have three better-than-average offerings. He needs to get back to utilizing his height more effectively and generating more ground balls. One caution: He missed the start of the year with a forearm issue, which can often lead to Tommy John surgery.

2. Nolan Jones | 3B | A+ —> I’m a big fan of Jones. Despite some swing and miss to his game, he shows an advanced approach for someone that opened the year as a teenager. And he’s already starting to turn his raw power into over-the-fence pop. His willingness to take a walk also adds to his value and he should hit for average, power and produce above-average on-base totals. He should stick at third base and looks like a future middle-of-the-order run producer. Jones, 20, could very well reach double-A in 2019.

3. George Valera | OF | R —> He isn’t the biggest guy on the field but 17-year-old Valera has an advanced approach for his age and could develop into a plus hitter with continued experience. He also has a quick bat and surprising pop for his size so he might surprise people with his power output in the future. He’s not a speedster but his athleticism and instincts help him on the base paths and in the field. He broke his hamate bone and is out for the year after playing in just six games.

4. Sam Hentges | LHP | A+ —> A big-bodied lefty, Hentges has two above-average offerings (fastball/curveball) and the potential for an average third pitch (his changeup). He has the frame that suggests innings-eater but he’s had Tommy John surgery in the past. When his command is on, he has the ability to miss a lot of bats but the lack of control leads to more base runners than you like to see. He needs to take advantage of his height more consistently to generate ground balls but, nonetheless, he does a nice job keeping the ball in the park. With polish, he has the potential to be a mid-rotation arm.

5. Lenny Torres | RHP | R —> I was big on Torres coming into the 2018 draft and would have risked a late first round pick on him if I were advising a big league club. He’s a little under-sized but he has a quick arm and good athleticism that allows him to work in the 92-93 mph range with hope for more in the future as he matures and gets stronger. He will need to find an off-speed pitch if he’s going to remain a starter and might be best served by looking at a splitter rather than a traditional changeup due to his power mentality. He’s shown good control as a prep pitcher and early on in his pro career but his command needs work.

6. Noah Naylor | C | R —> A Canadian prospect from my “neck of the wood,” Naylor is advanced for his age which is all the more impressive when considering he’s a cold weather prospect with less reps than other top draft picks his age. He will strikeout but he has both the walks and the power potential to offset the Ks. He may have the bat to move quickly for a prep pick but his focus on the defensive side of his game could slow down his ascent.

7. Ethan Hankins | RHP | R —> As mentioned, I loved the Indians draft. I’m not as high on Hankins as many people that evaluate prospects but getting him 35th overall when he slid due to signability concerns puts him into a spot where I’m comfortable taking a gamble. He flashes mid-to-upper-90s heat with great movement on his fastball but it’s inconsistent. He also lacks a reliable breaking ball and will need to one to improve to stick as a starter. His second best offering is currently an average changeup. He has a massive frame and projects as an innings-eater but he’s already had health issues and threw a lot of pitches as an amateur.

8. Tyler Freeman | 2B/SS | SS —> Freeman is one of those players that doesn’t have an outstanding tool but is solid across the board with few glaring weaknesses. There is a good chance that he ends up as a big league utility player but I think he could also develop into a sold big league second baseman (with the ability to play some shortstop). He makes a crazy amount of contact, which leads to low K-rates but also low walk rates. He’s not the biggest guy but he has some line drive pop.

9. Raynel Delgado | IF | R —> Delgado was another player that I had rated higher coming into the draft than some of the other published rankings. I love his swing, approach and overall feel for hitting. He has a chance to hit for both average and power as he matures. He’s also shown early in his pro career that he’s more than willing to take a walk — although there is swing-and-miss to his game but I expect that to quite down a bit as he matures as a hitter. He might end up at third base in the long run.

10. Yu-Cheng Chang | SS | AAA —> Chang projects as a fringe-average hitter but the power potential makes him intriguing — especially in this new world of grip-and-rip hitters with high K-rates everywhere in the Majors. He has the potential to generate 20+ homers in the The Show but it will likely come with 130+ Ks. And he doesn’t walk much so the on-base average isn’t going to be there to balance out the low batting average. Chang has the ability to be an average defender at short but could be forced to third base or right field if he remains in Cleveland.

Just Missed:

Luis Oviedo | RHP | A —> Oviedo is raw but he throws in the mid-90s and generates a health number of ground-ball outs. He also has the frame that suggests more power could develop as the 19-year-old hurler matures and he has a chance to be an innings eater. He needs to improve his breaking ball to stick as a starter.

Oscar Mercado | OF | AAA —> A deadline deal acquisition from the Cardinals, Mercado is extremely athletic, has excellent speed and should develop into a plus defensive outfielder (after opening his career in the infield). His bat might develop into big league average but he could end up as a platoon or fourth outfielder.

Bobby Bradley | 1B | AA —> Bradley usually gets more love than I’m willing to give due to his plus power potential. I just don’t see a guy that’s going to hit more than .220-.230 due to the massive swing-and-miss tendencies. Add in the lack of value in the field and you have a one-tool prospect here.

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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3 years ago

Marc have you… have you seen Ethan Hankins’ slider?

3 years ago
Reply to  Marc Hulet

Understood. Just seemed strange to characterize him as a fastball/changeup guy who needed to add a “reliable breaking ball.” To me, it would seem more accurate to call him a fastball/slider guy who needs to work on consistency and command.