Top 5 Prospects for 2015: Cleveland Indians

This 30-part series will look at the projected Top 5 freshman contributors for each big league club for the year ahead. The rankings take into consideration a mixture of ceiling, readiness and potential playing time allocation, which is to say some players with lower ceilings may be ranked ahead of others with higher ceilings because they project to have a greater impact in the coming season.

In a Nutshell: The bad news is that the Indians don’t have many intriguing prospect arms. The good news is that the organization boasts some solid offensive prospects and could receive respectable emergency coverage at any position on the field.

The Top 5 Freshman for 2015

1. Francisco Lindor, SS: Jose Ramirez, now a sophomore, laid claim to the shortstop gig in 2014 and enters the year as the favorite to play every day at the position in ’15. However, he has yet to prove himself at the big league level at the plate and in the field so Lindor, the organization’s top prospect, could easily slide into the gig with a strong start to the year. The 21-year-old Puerto Rican infielder split the 2014 season between Double-A and Triple-A and should develop into a plus defender in the Majors. He doesn’t have much power but he hits for a decent average, occasionally hits the ball out of the park and can steal 20+ bases.

2. James Ramsey, OF: Acquired last season from St. Louis, Ramsey is a strong defensive outfielder with excellent makeup and flashes some left-handed pop. The young outfielder doesn’t hit overly well against southpaws so he’ll likely be a part of a platoon, at least early on in his career. The Indians’ current outfield set-up doesn’t really work in the rookie’s favor with all three starters swinging from the left side of the plate.

3. Erik Gonzalez, SS: Gonzalez isn’t a “big named” prospect but he had a breakout season in 2014 while splitting the year between High-A and Double-A. The 23-year-old infielder has some gap pop and can steal 20+ bags. He also has quite a bit of versatility and has experience playing every position in the field. Most of his time has been spent on the left side of the infield at third base and shortstop.

4. Jesus Aguilar, 1B: The 24-year-old Aguilar had a disappointing big league debut in 2014 (19 games) but he produced an OPS of more than .900 at Triple-A. With Nick Swisher coming off of a poor 2014 performance, the rookie first baseman should be “on call” at Triple-A and has the pop to produce 20 home runs or more at the big league level if he can make enough contact. He’s also improved his on-base skills in recent years.

5. Giovanny Urshela, 3B: Incumbent third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall rebounded from a poor 2013 season to have a respectable campaign in ’14. However, his contributions have been modest considering both his offence and defence. If he can’t take another step forward early on in 2015, it could provide Urshela and opportunity to prove himself. A solid defender, the rookie improved his offence in 2014 while spending most of the season in Triple-A. He makes good contact and drove the ball more consistently last year.





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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DAVID WILLIAMS
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DAVID WILLIAMS

Sigh. 1) Doesn’t have much pop; 2) Platoon candidate; 3) Future utility IF; 4) Swiiiiiing and a miss; 5) Maybe a glimmer of hope?

Why do I get the sense that the Tribe’s minor league system will rank at or near the bottom?

Cory S.
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Cory S.

They have graduated some good to really good talent recently.

Stuck in a slump
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Stuck in a slump

Unless you’re looking at his 19 game MLB sample, Aguilar has posted sub 20% K rates in each of the last two years, and with a 400 PA minimum, he’s never struck out more than 21.3% of the time at a given level. I don’t see too much reason to worry about his K% right now.

Last year, Lindor posted double 11 HR, which isn’t much, but from a SS who also swiped 28 bags in a down year, that’s not bad. If you take his Steamer projection and prorate it for 600 PA’s, he’s set to go 9/20 with 112 R+RBI as a 21 year old. That’s not bad, especially given his defensive upside, which means he’ll stay at SS long term.

I’m not willing to write of Gonzalez just yet. He’s shown better pop in the past with a .180 ISO (I don’t expect a repeat of that, but ISO’s north of .120 are possible), and he could become a late bloomer type that surprises a lot of people. His defensive utility means that even if he does become a utility man, he could still play full time in the mold of Josh Harrison or Ben Zobrist.

Ramsey’s placement feels odd here, but he does seem more likely to get a call up than a lot of the Indians better prospects next year. I think I would have ranked Cody Anderson as #5 and left Ramsey off of the list. Anderson had a rough year last year, but he’s on the 40 man, and took a major step forward in 2013. If he can make the adjustment to AA this upcoming season, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if he got at least a cup of coffee. After all, Bauer, Salazar, Carrasco, Tomlin, House, McAllister, and Floyd are hardly guarantees, so it’s not hard to imagine a performing Anderson getting a chance.

Al
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Al

Yeah David, that Francisco Lindor sure is a bad prospect.

4 of the Indians top 5 prospects are a long way from the majors. Maybe that’s why this list isn’t encouraging? Also, Jesus Aguilar isn’t good. Would’ve preferred to see Shawn Armstrong on here over him. He’s the next bullpen arm to get the call if/when the need arises.

Urshela is a better/closer 3B option than Gonzalez. It’d be a waste to play Gonzalez anywhere other than SS, which is why I think he’s a trade candidate this year or next. Stuck behind Lindor, but a plus defender at short in his own right.

Sal Fasano's Mustache
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Sal Fasano's Mustache

This comment is laughable. ‘Sighing’ at one of the top prospects in baseball.

Brian
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Brian

Aside from the Lindor comment, I agree. I actually give this guy props for mentioning the glimmer of hope with Urshela. Lindor and Urshela are the ones on this list that could have true major league careers, imo.

senorpogo
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senorpogo

Glimmer? The guy spent the lion share of his 22 year in AAA. And as a supposed defense first 3B, he slashed .276/.331/.473. (in a hitters park, but still).

Can’t find it now, but one of the writers here looked at sub-22 year old players in AAA. I believe the conclusion was that if you’re that young at that level, the likelihood of succeeding in the bigs is pretty high.

Not sure what his ceiling is, but don’t sleep on Urshela.