Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2014 (18) | 2013 (20) | 2012 (29) | 2011 (7) | 2010 (3)
2014 Affiliate Records
MLB: [85-77] AL Central
AAA: [79-65] International League – Columbus
AA: [73-69] Eastern League – Akron
A+: [62-74] Carolina League – Carolina (2015: Lynchburg)
A: [65-74] Midwest League – Lake County
A(ss): [33-42] New York-Penn League – Mahoning Valley
Several of Cleveland’s younger players made waves during the 2014 season. Corey Kluber pitched his way to a Cy Young award, Michael Brantley broke out in a big way (h/t Grey), and Carlos Carrasco rode a down and up season that included a trip to the bullpen. He ended up as one of fantasy’s best starters over the final two months. You could even throw Jose Ramirez into the mix, who held his own at shortstop for the Tribe down the stretch. Looking ahead, this is a system headlined by top prospect Francisco Lindor, who should be in Cleveland at some point in 2015. Beyond Lindor, it’s a farm that is strong “up the middle” (catcher/middle infield/center field) and there is plenty of impact talent lurking in the low minors. It’s worth noting that two of the top five prospects were 2014 draftees.
Top Ten Fantasy Prospects
1. Francisco Lindor, SS | Age: 21 | ETA: 2015
Lindor is regarded as one of the best prospects in the game. While much of his value comes from his elite glove, don’t sleep on the bat. There isn’t much power, but his hit tool is plus. He’s selective and makes good contact from both sides of the plate. The 21-year-old is also fast enough to steal 20-30 bases at the big league level. There’s no question he’ll stay at shortstop, and he’s a nice prospect to grab since there is always the chance he develops more pop with some added muscle. 2015 should be the year we finally see him take the reins at short for the Indians, although it may not be until mid-summer with Jose Ramirez currently slotted at the position. Fantasy players can expect high run totals, good steals numbers, and batting averages in the .280-.290 range from a premium position. For redrafts, check out Grey’s 2015 outlook on Lindor.
2. Clint Frazier, OF | Age: 20 | ETA: 2017
First-round draft pick Bradley Zimmer may bump Frazier to right field this year. It’s all good though, because for fantasy purposes Frazier is all about the power. Still just 20 years old, his ceiling remains that of an All-Star outfielder who puts up 30+ homer seasons without tanking your batting average. Most of the scouting reports you’ll read on Frazier mention his elite bat speed as the key. Frazier struck out too often in his first full season at Lake County, and that’s a sign there are still rough spots in his approach that will need to be addressed as he advances. It’s a long way down the road, but the 2017 Indians outfield could be something special if both Frazier and Zimmer click.
3. Bradley Zimmer, OF | Age: 22 | ETA: 2016
Zimmer was selected 21st overall in the 2014 draft. It’s either going to be him or Frazier that stays in center field, with the other prospect moving to right at some point. Zimmer’s fantasy value lies in his potential to contribute in all five categories. There isn’t one tool that really stands out as plus, but he is an above average hitter with at least average power and good speed. There’s a chance he could develop plus power as he progresses too. A left-handed hitter, Zimmer showed a good approach in his first taste of pro ball. To be honest, he and Frazier probably have higher fantasy ceilings than Lindor despite being further away from the majors and therefore bigger risks.
4. Justus Sheffield, LHP | Age: 18 | ETA: 2018
The Indians’ supplemental first round pick, Sheffield is a lefty with a plus fastball in the low-to-mid 90s. He also throws an above average changeup and curveball at the ripe old age of 18. He was a first-team All-American in 2014 along with Marlins prospect Tyler Kolek. Sheffield has the ceiling of a frontline starter but dynasty league owners will need to be patient with his development since he’s still 3+ years away. He’s a great target in first-year player drafts after some of the bigger names are off the board.
5. Francisco Mejia, C | Age: 19 | ETA: 2018
Mejia is fun to dream on as an offensive catcher, but he’s just too far away to rank any higher than this. He’s a switch hitter with at least average power and his plus plus arm should help him stick behind the plate for now. Mejia still doesn’t have a full season under his belt and, as is the case with teenage prospects, dynasty league owners are going to need some patience. With Yan Gomes, Roberto Perez, and even Tony Wolters ahead of him on the depth chart, the Indians can afford the time to let Mejia mature on both sides of the ball.
6. Jesus Aguilar, 1B/DH | Age: 24 | ETA: 2015
Right-handed power usually finds its way into the mix, and that’s what Aguilar brings to the table for the Tribe. He had a brief stint with the big league club in 2014 and even though he struggled, it’s too small of a sample to draw anything from. What he did do well was hit AAA pitching – hitting for both average and power while also improving his already solid on-base percentage from previous years. I’d expect Aguilar to be fantasy relevant at some point this year since power is always at a premium, but with Carlos Santana, Brandon Moss, and Nick Swisher all in the mix it’s hard to see him getting consistent playing time.
7. Giovanny Urshela, 3B | Age: 23 | ETA: 2015
Urshela is exciting from a fantasy perspective because he has at least average power and can stick at third base thanks to plus defense. He’s been young at each stop in the minor leagues and yet has handled himself with the bat. The 23-year-old was a J2 signing way back in 2008 and is now close to reaching the majors. He may get a chance to fight for the third base job this spring, but even if he returns to Triple-A he’ll still be one of the younger players in the International League. Columbus (AAA) is a hitter’s park, but in 2014 Urshela hit just as many dingers on the road. It’s probably wishful thinking that he makes any kind of impact in 2015, but he’ll get his chance at some point and he’s flying a little under the radar. Sneaky pickup in deep dynasty formats.
8. Tyler Naquin, OF | Age: 23 | ETA: 2015
Naquin was selected 15th overall back in 2012 and he was having a nice season with Double-A Akron before a hand injury sidelined him. The 23-year-old may head to Triple-A this year and could see time in Cleveland at some point. He’s currently sandwiched between the outfielders on the major league roster and the higher upside players like Zimmer and Frazier behind him. While Naquin doesn’t hit for much power, he can hit and run well. He also plays good enough defense to remain in center field. A realistic role for Naquin is probably a fourth outfielder, which doesn’t hold much value outside of deeper dynasty leagues.
9. James Ramsey, OF | Age: 25 | ETA: 2015
You can pretty much take everything I just wrote about Naquin and apply it to Ramsey. He has more pop, but he is also two years older and his role with the team isn’t any clearer. Ramsey was acquired from the Cardinals in the Justin Masterson trade last summer. Players like Naquin and Ramsey provide valuable depth on major league rosters, and there is also a chance that one or both of these two becomes a major league regular. But for now, they are best left for the dynasty leagues with large farms. Like Naquin, he’ll likely start the year in AAA.
10. Bobby Bradley, 1B | Age: 18 | ETA: 2018
Bradley may have more upside than Naquin and Ramsey, but he is also much further away and at least for the moment seems limited to playing first base. Bradley took the Triple Crown in the Arizona League (Rk) and won the MVP award in his first taste of pro ball. The Indians got Bradley in the third round of this year’s draft, and he could end up looking like a steal if his success with the bat continues. Bradley makes a nice fantasy gamble because he can hit and hit for power, and now it’s a matter of showing up against more advanced pitching. Infielder Yu-Cheng Chang, Bradley’s teammate, also had a strong debut. I bounced between the two of them for this tenth spot on the list.