Wake up Sheeple! I bet the mainstream media will tell you that the Indians system is top heavy and that outside of the top four it’s all high upside teenagers. I bet you’re hearing that! I’m here to tell you that’s totally #fakenews. The Indians system is three really nice talents and a whole bunch of high upside teenagers. Then again, I’m not sure where that leaves Yu-Cheng Chang, who is neither a teenager or one of those elite level talents. He’s a nice power and speed player in the Indians top 5, who happens to be currently generating traffic to this post from his homeland of Taiwan. I learned this trick from Halp. True Story! Any the hootie-hoo, this is one of the more hitter heavy lists I’ll write this year. Which is probably okay for the Indians, they won’t have too many spots to fill in the rotation with Kluber, Carrasco, Bauer, Salazar, and Mike Clevinger under contract until 2020. So, if you’re a fan of some of the quad-A types destined for middle relief littered throughout the Tribe’s system, then you’re going to be severely disappointed. Overall it’s a farm in flux, some talented players with an arrival window in the next two years, and a lot of lottery tickets with four year+ ETAs. Also switch-hitters, the Indians love switch-hitters. Don’t be frightened off though, there’s some jewels in these here blurbs! Read on noble future dynasty champion, it’s the 2018 Cleveland Indians Top Prospects.

 

1. Francisco Mejia, C | Level: AA | Age: 22 | 2017 Stats: .297/.346/.490, 14 HR, 52 RBI, 7 SB

The only catching prospect worth going out of your way for. In fact he’s the best catching prospect since Gary Sanchez, and in all fairness, he’s way more hyped than Sanchez was. Might see Cleveland next year, but is likely a year or more away from a true impact. Contact first switch hitter, developing real power. ETA: 2018

2. Triston McKenzie, RHP | Level: A+ | Age: 20 | 2017 Stats: 12-6, 143 IP, 3.46 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 186 K, 45 Bb

One of my absolute favorite pitching prospects in the game, and an arm I want to own everywhere. What McKenzie lacks in frame he makes up for with length and athleticism. Wait, did I just describe every small forward that can’t shoot? Oops, wrong sport! “Sticks” misses bats, limits hard contact, and eats innings. Oh, and he’s only 20. ETA: 2019

3. Bobby Bradley, 1B | Level: AA | Age: 21 | 2017 Stats: .251/.331/.466 23 HR, 89 RBI, 3 SB

Despite contact issues coming into 2017, Bradley did well to drop his strikeout rate to an acceptable 22%, while maintaining a 10% Bb%. Rather impressive for a player who was 20 coming into the season, and spent the whole year at the AA level. It’s not his OBP that puts him in the top 50, it’s his light tower power, and potential 40 homer ceiling. ETA: 2019

4. Nolan Jones, 3B | 2017 Level: A | Age: 19 | 2017 Stats: .317/.430/.482 4 HR, 33 RBI, 1 SB

The second rounder out of Philly Area, Holy Ghost Prep, is starting to make good on some of his prospect hype heading into the 2016 draft. This past season was a true breakout, as Jones showed an improved approach, and more game power than he flashed in his pro debut. He combines contact, plate discipline, projectable power, and the ability to stick at the hot corner. ETA: 2020

5. Yu-Cheng Chang, SS | Level: AA | Age: 22 | 2017 Stats: .220/.312/.461, 24 HR, 66 RBI, 11 SB

As if I didn’t mention Chang enough in the opening, but truth be told, he might be one of the least hyped middle infield prospects with fantasy upside. A quick right-handed swing, above average power, a patient approach, and double digit steal speed, make Chang an intriguing player in dynasty leagues with 150+ minor league players owned. The strikeouts will limit is batting average ultimately, but if he can stick at short, or even second base, he’ll be a solid Marcus Semien type. There’s a chance we see Chang this year, but there’s a bit of a log jam in Cleveland’s middle infield. Making it likely that Chang breaks into the majors with whatever team he’s traded to… ETA: 2019

6. Will Benson, OF | Level: A- | Age: 19 | 2017 Stats: .238/.347/.475, 10 HR, 36 RBI, 7 SB

This is the point where the high upside teenagers I talked about begin to show up. Benson has loud tools, the body of a Greek god, elite bat speed, and double plus raw power. What’s not to love right? Strikeouts, he’s your prototypical three outcome guy, with all the flash to make you fall in love. He’ll probably be an above average runner early in his career, but as his body matures he’ll evolve into your prototypical power-hitting corner outfielder. The thing I love about Benson is despite his propensity to swing and miss, he still walks at an elite 12%+ rate with consistency. Which is why it’s funny to say that he’s still very raw, but he is. In closing, I like Benson, and would look to add him now while his value remains relatively low. ETA: 2020

7. George Valera, OF | Level: N/A | Age: 17 | 2017 Stats: Has Not Played

One of the top bats in the 2017 July 2nd class, Valera is an interesting story as he grew up in New York City, but moved to the Dominican Republic. A short, compact, but powerful lefty swing, Valera gets comped to Juan Soto frequently, earning him a high rank on this list sight unseen. We could be talking about THE elite hitter of this international class, and one that ended up in an organization with a track record of developing young toolsy players into stars. ETA: 2021

8. Greg Allen, OF | Level: AA | Age: 24 | 2017 Stats: .267/.345/.355, 2 HR, 26 RBI, 24 SB

Do we have a future King of SAGNOF? Has Rajai Davis’ title been vacated? If so, Allen looks like he’s got a real shot at it with some full-time at bats. There’s very little power, but Allen gets on base, has above average contact skills, and can run like the bastard child of Dee Gordon and The Flash. Perhaps he’s not that fast, but plus plus speed is legit. Likely will be relegated to a fourth outfielder in Cleveland, but could develop into your Rajai Davis/Jarrod Dyson type. ETA: 2018

9. Conner Capel, OF | Level: A | Age: 20 | 2017 Stats: .246/.316/.478, 22 HR, 61 RBI, 15 SB

I have to be honest Capel has sort of slipped under my radar to this point, and while his batting average is gross, the power and speed is very real. A work in progress, Capel reworked his 2016 swing, which was very upper body dependent, and got his bottom half more involved with a leg kick. The results speak for themselves as Capel really tapped into his power in his full season debut. His batted ball profile backs this as well, as his GB% decreased from 57.7% in his pro debut to 38.1% this year, while his FB% increased nearly 20% year over year. Despite all the changes the thing that stuck out the most when observing Capel was his ability to grind out at bats. He sees lots of pitches, fouls stuff off, and battles, every time he’s up. Here’s the catch, I haven’t even really dug in on Capel’s standout tool, his 70 grade speed. It certainly doesn’t manifest itself in his steal efficiency this year, but make no mistake Capel can run. A true dynasty league sleeper, Capel might be a player to target late in deep dynasty drafts. ETA: 2020

10. Quentin Holmes, OF | Level: RK | Age:18 | 2017 Stats: .182/.220/.289, 2 HR, 15 RBI, 5 SB

He might be no Shohei Ohtani, but Holmes has off the scale speed. The fastest player in the most recent draft class, Holmes is a high upside athlete, with a raw hit tool at the moment. He reminds me of a lot of talented, toolsy prep players from cold weather states that make major strides in their first full year of proball. I would look for the contact and approach to improve over the next few years, but only foresee a moderate power ceiling. If it all comes together Holmes could develop into a first division leadoff hitter, and a name regularly among the league leaders in steals. ETA: 2021

11. Shane Bieber, RHP | Level: AA | Age: 22 | 2017 Stats: 10-5, 173.1 IP, 2.86 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 162 Ks, 10 Bb

A classic polished college arm, the Indians plucked Bieber out of UC Santa Barbara in the 4th round last year, and he impressed in his first full season, jumping three levels of the minors, while maintaining a sub-3 ERA. His plus control and command play up his average three pitch mix, generating more swing and miss than you think, he had a 13% SwStr% in AA, as well as generating a fair amount of groundballs. With a prototypical pitcher’s build Bieber’s combination of plus command and elite pitching acumen, gives him a real possibility of a mid-rotation ceiling. Interesting stat on Bieber, he allowed only 8 homers, and 10 walks over 170+ innings. He had as many wins as walks this year. ETA: 2019

12. Willi Castro, SS | Level: A+ | Age: 20 | 2017 Stats: .290/.337/.424, 11 HR, 58 RBI, 19 SB

A switch-hitting shortstop with gap to gap power and plus speed, Castro is another talented bat in the Indians system. He’s been named a league all-star in consecutive years, first with low-A affiliate Lake County, and then with high-A Lynchburg this season. Good bat to ball skills from both sides of the plate, his swing is more geared to line drives right now, but he should grow into at least average power. ETA: 2020

13. Tyler Freeman, 2B/SS | Level: Rk | Age: 18 | 2017 Stats: .297/.364/.414, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 5 SB 

The 71st overall pick is a middle infielder with plus hitting ability, and a line drive, contact first approach. That’s not to say he doesn’t have power, he does, it’s mostly driven from high quality contact. He’s a barrel machine, making easy contact from his simple righty swing. Not the most exciting player from a power or speed standpoint, but he has Michael Young type upside. Not a bad value pick in first year player drafts, he ranked 42nd on my Top 50. I might be the high man on Freeman amongst my fantasy prospectoring peers. ETA: 2021

14. Brady Aiken, LHP | Level: A | Age: 21 | 2017 Stats: 5-13, 132 IP, 4.77 ERA, 1.78 WHIP, 89 Ks, 101 Bb

Wow… Seriously how bad is Brady Aiken? He had 101 walks to 89 strikeouts in 132 innings. Think about how bad that is. He’s like the anti-Bieber. Overrated with no control. He’s fourteenth on this list and he still feels like kind of a reach. Perhaps I’m being too harsh. But am I? This is a two time first rounder, and former #1 pick. I guess his undersized UCL just can’t handle the rigors of professional pitching. He’s never really returned from Tommy John surgery, losing nearly 10 MPH on his fastball, as well as some of the crispness to his curveball, though that still flashes plus. If Aiken is to rebound he’ll need to regain his fastball velocity, and repeat his mechanics. At the moment he’s a mess, unable to find the strike zone and devoid of his once highly regarded stuff. ETA: 2021

15. Johnathan Rodriguez, OF | Level: Rk | Age: 18 | 2017 Stats: .250/.381/.333, 0 HR, 11 RBI, 0 SB

One of the youngest players in this draft class, Rodriguez just turned 18 a little over a month ago. At the moment Rodriguez is projection over performance, but scouts love his athleticism and huge build. He’s a switch-hitter, but needs work on both sides of the plate to tap into his massive raw power. He has all the tools to develop into a superstar, but he’s a long term project for Cleveland, and therefore only a good fit for a league where you can stash a player for five years. ETA: 2022

16. Oscar Gonzalez, OF | Level: A- | Age: 19 | 2017 Stats: .283/.301/.388, 3 HR, 34 RBI, 0 SB

A hot name last winter after tearing the cover off the ball in the rookie level AZL league, Gonzalez was a bit more pedestrian in the New York-Penn League this season. He did well to drop his strikeout rate by 10%, but walked at an Odor-esque rate. At 19 he still has plenty of time to improve his pitch recognition skills, but until he does, he’ll forever be a promising power bat. ETA: 2021

Find all of the 30 Minor League Previews, and Offseason Rankings on the Minor League Index
On Twitter as @ProspectJesus

   
  1. Nelson says:
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    Arent the indians trying to move Meija to 3B?

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Nelson: He hasn’t looked good there, and my understanding is it was a way to give, not only the roster some flexibility, but a way to get his bat into the lineup next year. It seemed more experiment than actual long term plan in Arizona. Didn’t think it was really all that important to mention, I still think most of his games will be behind the plate in the short term. The reports from scout friends out in Arizona were really bad at third. Like Tebow bad…

  2. Anodyne says:
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    Hey Ralph, great work as always. How would you rank the following players in dynasties?
    Michael Taylor
    Carlos Gonzalez
    Chase Anderson
    Kyle Hendricks

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Anodyne: Hendricks, Taylor, Anderson, and Car-Go.

      Thanks!

      • Jose says:
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        @Ralph Lifshitz:
        Ralph: What is your opinion of Car-Go? Is he going to bounce back? Any idea where he is going to sign?

        I have him, but plan to trade him or drop him if have no takers. I traded for Khris Davis and plan to keep him, Osuna and Taylor for CF defense. I also have Acuna and Winker, who could posible start the season on MLB now. Atlanta’s trade of Kemp has created a opening for Acuna and Cinci is shopping Hamilton to create a opening for Winker.

        • Ralph Lifshitz

          Ralphsico Mejia says:
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          @Jose: I’m not real crazy about him. It’s not crazy to think he could bounce back either. He actually had a solid second half in 2017, hit .314/.390/.531. Not sure I expect a repeat of that. Problem for Car-Go in a question like the above is I can see all of those guys having a solid 4+ more years. How good is a 36 year old Car-Go going to be?

          He hasn’t run in years, the power hasn’t been the same since 2015, and really he needs to hit 30 homers to be all that valuable in anything outside deep leagues. I’ll go a step further with the comfy confines of Coors he’s still only slashed .272/.331/.483 over the last four seasons.

          • Anodyne says:
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            @Ralphsico Mejia: Great stuff, Ralph! That’s the kind of analysis that helps me decide what to do with those guys. Trying to winnow down my keeper list via trade, and trying to figure out how to best manage my options.

  3. Cheese says:
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    Great analaysis, solid insight with some realistic expectations. Concur with how far Brady has fallen off. Interested to see how the up and coming pitchers make adjustments to major league hitters now that Mickey Callaway is gone. Nothing against Carl Willis, but Callaway was the pitcher whisperer.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Cheese: It will be interesting to watch. Sometimes there’s less of an issue if it’s an organization wide process and philosophy, and Callaway was simply the figurehead. Without true inside knowledge I really can’t be sure.

  4. Miketron says:
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    Any consideration to Julian Merryweather? Close to the majors and had some nice work last year.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Miketron: A little but he’s one of those guys I’m talking about in the open. Logenhagen likes him, but the IL starts I saw he got worked. I saw him give up 6 in Pawtucket and a couple of jacks. I saw an above average curveball that day, but the fastball looked hittable. He probably would have ranked 18 had I played out a full top 20.

  5. M Borstein says:
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    Ralph,
    Was offeered A. Rizzo for the #1 pick in our draft (Ohtani) and Kopech. Would I be giving up too much?

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralphsico Mejia says:
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      @M Borstein: I’d hold on Rizzo myself.

  6. Another Dan says:
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    Good stuff Ralph,

    Don’t own any of these guys in my 12 team league. Sold Mejia as part of a multi player deal where I acquired Bichette and Tatis.

    I need to check thoroughly but all those guys appear to be owned in my 30 team league.

    Football update : a nice 3-1 home win yesterday after a bit of calamitous defending to gift them the opener. Currently 5th on 36 points. Teams in 2nd and 3rd have 37 but have played 1 and 4 games more respectively. Team in 4th has same points as us and has played same games. Should be interesting next week when we visit the team in 4th (the same team that ended our FA cup run). Can’t make it myself though – will be the first game I have missed in a while.

    Best wishes,

    Dan

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralphsico Mejia says:
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      @Another Dan: Get those bastards! Sounds like it’s been an exciting season.

      Mejia Me-shemia you got Tatis and Bichette!

      • Another Dan says:
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        @Ralphsico Mejia:

        Still a way to go yet. Played less than half of the season. Looks like it might be as exciting as last year (which was ultimately disappointing).

        Was Mejia, McMahon and Baez for Amed (no ‘h’ remember) Rosario, Tatis and Bichette. We’ll have to see how it pans out overall. Like my side.

        Got Arias in the 30 teamer. Am compiling a list of guys you mention (in system reviews) that are not owned. It’s currently a very short list.

        Best wishes,

        Dan

        • Swfcdan says:
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          @Another Dan: Which footy team do you support another Dan?

          From yet another Dan

          • Ralph Lifshitz

            Nick Senzel's Pops says:
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            @Swfcdan: It’s lower division club from his hometown.

  7. Jose says:
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    ” Shut the gates ”

    Gabriel Arias hit HR #4 yesterday, but his AVG is down to .232.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralphsico Mejia says:
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      @Jose: SHUT THE GATE JOSE!

      • Jose says:
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        @Ralphsico Mejia:

        Ralph: I just seen for the first time the next Gabriel Arias, this kid is a year older and is playing in the DSL, his name Sherten Apostel, he plays 3B and can rake. You probably know more about him than me, tell me all you can about him.
        Here is a sample: https://streamable.com/jx6y6

  8. TobiasFunkeAnalRapist says:
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    Thoughts on acuna now that kemp is gone? Thanks man, keep up the good work.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Nick Senzel's Pops says:
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      @TobiasFunkeAnalRapist: Thanks! I think he’s going to be up between April 1st and May 1st, but it’s more and more likely he’s going to break camp. The Braves want asses in those seats, and really they might be the second best team in that division, with the ability to get better in a multitude of ways during the season.

  9. Swfcdan says:
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    Taking a break from the fantasy prospecty world and just starting to make my way back in. Looking for a list of the top new draftees (and Otani ofc) rankings for offseason prospect drafts. Do you have one yet? Thanks bud, you are a machine on this site,

  10. NatroneMeansBusiness says:
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    Offensively, my roster is beautiful. I have you, Grey, and the razznasty community to thank for that. With a small roster, I am carrying Hoskins as a bench bat. If I drop Hoskins, my “worst” keeper, I’d have a solid chance of grabbing Acuna. Hold Hoskins or worth a gamble to grab Acuna?

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