For this system, the script gets a bit flipped. First, no pitching stone should go unturned in Cleveland. Whereas we’re typically ignoring teenage arms in our quest to stock dynasty systems with power-speed bats, we want all the arms we can hoard in Cleveland. I’m trying to think of another system that operates similarly for our purposes. In Tampa Bay and Los Angeles, we want the arms, too, but we want all the bats just as badly. Plus, those clubs bounce their pitching prospects around between the rotation and bullpen and minors even after they’ve demonstrated they can retire major league bats in order. Cleveland might be the last place you can count on a young pitcher to get a shot at six innings every time out. Take Aaron Civale for example. A third round pick in 2016 and not an elite prospect by any means, Civale lasted six innings or more in 11 or 12 starts in 2020, falling short in only his final turn, a four-inning, eight-run blowup that devastated his season-long statline and dropped him down some draft boards. It’s beautiful to get the sparkling ratios that come alone with the quick analytic hook, but we need Wins in our game, and despite their typically anemic offense, Cleveland is one of the few places to find double digit winners throughout the rotation. 

 

Format: Position Player | Age on 4/1/2021 | Highest level played | ETA

1. RHP Triston McKenzie | 23 | MLB | 2020

The nickname “Sticks” is cool, in my opinion, and it’s exceptionally fitting for McKenzie, who will likely add muscle as he ages because if he goes the other way, he could become two-dimensional or, if he listens to Radiohead, disappear completely, something he almost did in 2019 when a series of muscle-related injuries sidelined him the whole season.

Cut to 2020, and we find Sticks striking out ten Tigers in his debut, allowing just two hits in six innings. His other few turns followed a slightly different storyline. He dominated the Royals in his third start (6 IP, 0 R, 6 K, 0 BB, 3 H) but didn’t last beyond the fifth inning in any of his other four starts. Small sample caveats are loud here, but we haven’t seen much McKenzie of late, and my lasting impression in the moment was that he’d been great in 2020, so it’s interesting to see he was only fantasy-good in two of six starts. I’m definitely buying in redraft leagues given his impressive four-pitch mix (fastball 53.3%, slider 20.2%, curveball 16.5%, change-up 10%), but his price feels incredibly high in my few dynasty leagues. If you’re in one where he’s still available at a reasonable price, I suggest making an offer. McKenzie seems poised to go one of three ways in 2021: 1) typical Cleveland fantasy success story with even better raw stuff than many of their find-an-aces; 2) injured; or 3) too small to handle a starters’ workload.

Click on the following link to read Grey’s thoughts on the matter: 

Triston McKenzie, 2021 Fantasy Outlook. 

 

2. SS Tyler Freeman | 21 | A+ | Mid 2021

Few prospects improved their stock during the pandemic. I was going to finish that sentence with “more than Tyler Freeman” but realized in medias res that it was truer without the tag. Cleveland has better publicly available prospect coverage than just about anyone, and nobody benefited more from our behind-the-curtain access than Freeman because we saw him working extremely hard in several videos throughout the season and then saw him putting that added strength into practice on the field. Simply put, this guy is trying to hit homeruns. All day every day from the looks of it. His stat page is that of a contact-oriented base-stealer, but he’s on track to be something different, and I’m here for it. I’ve been kind of low on Freeman, I think, comparatively, but I really want to see what he looks like in 2021 and will seek to pick up a share or two in anticipation of a little value bump when we see the more muscular version in games.

 

3. 2B Aaron Bracho | 20 | A- | 2023

A compact switch hitter with power and plate discipline from each side, Bracho brings a tremendous skill set for fantasy baseball but doesn’t offer a great floor on defense. If he can remain a viable option at second base, his plus hit, plus power, plus patience profile fits beautifully in our game.

 

4. OF George Valera | 20 | A | 2023

Lefties just look good with a bat in their hands. Not all of them, I suspect, but guys like George Valera make swinging a bat look so natural it seems to be the truest state of being for all involved: the swinger, the lumber, the viewer and the baseball.

 

5. 3B Nolan Jones | 22 | AA | 2021

I’m afraid Jones will fall just shy in the hit department to consistently impact our game. He’s got the power and patience to win himself a job, but time will tell if his hands are fast enough to match up with elite spin. He’s been fighting to stay at third base, a battle that seems somewhat irrelevant in an organization with Jose Ramirez under contract through 2023 but that matters for our game because if he’s going to be a 1B OF type, he needs to get his reps there so he won’t get Jake Bauers’d out of a job because he’s not hitting while learning to play new positions at the top level.

 

6. RHP Daniel Espino | 20 | A- | 2023

I’m still a bit surprised the league let Espino fall to Cleveland at the 24th overall pick in the 2019 MLB draft, but I guess you have to draft for your own build and not against your opponents’, and a high school righty doesn’t help many GM’s keep their job. Espino made it to Low A in his draft season and struck out 40 percent of the batters he faced there. The numbers he might post in 2021 as a 20-year-old in A ball boggle the mind. On the bump he features a plus-plus fastball along with two plus benders and a change from an athletic 6’2” 205 lb frame with very efficient base mechanics.

 

7. SS Gabriel Arias | 21 | A+ | 2023

A little like Cantillo, Arias put it all together in 2019 and posted an impressive statistical campaign against opponents who were much older than himself, which helped get him tracked and targeted by Cleveland. He’s got more swing and miss than you like to see, seen in a K rate at 25 percent across 120 games in A+ ball, but he played those games as a 19-year-old and produced a 120 wRC+ with 11 homers and 8 steals in the process. I like the base mechanics of his swing, there’s plenty of power in his 6’1” 205 lb frame, and he’s got more than enough athleticism, hand speed and bat control to access it in game. The ultimate decider of his fate will come down to pitch recognition and plate patience–something Cleveland works hard to develop in its young players.

 

8. LHP Joey Cantillo | 21 | A+ | 2022

Creator of perfect backspin on his four-seamer, Cantillo saw a velocity bump in 2019 and combined that with plus control and a plus change-up to slice through the Midwest League and end his season in High A at age 19, where he got hit around a little bit. Cleveland saw something they really liked in the 6’4” 220 lb lefty who looks even stronger than that. If he lives in the mid 90’s like he did at times in 2019, we’re looking at a guy with a long career ahead of him no matter how his third pitch looks a few years from now. If Cleveland saw something they think can be unlocked in the curveball or some other offering that pairs well with his high-riding fastball and fall-away changeup, Cantillo could be special. Even if he’s mostly a two-pitch guy, I think he can make that work given the deception in his delivery, the spin on his fastball and a little natural command projection.

 

9. OF Alexfri Planez | 19 | R | 2024

Still cheap enough in some dynasty circles to acquire for the price of inquiry, Planez generates impressive bat speed by maxing out his 6’2” frame. He’s listed at 180 pounds but seems more likely to check in closer to two bills when next he meets a scale we can see. Not because he’s lazy or big boned or whatever–just because he looked bigger than that when last we saw him, and that was more than a year ago, when he was 18. That’s not always how it works, of course, tallish teenage athletes gaining five years of man-strength in one off-season, but it does happen, and Planez is a likely candidate.

 

10. RHP Emmanuel Clase | 23 | MLB | 2019

The primary return for the oft-panned Corey Kluber trade of seventeen years ago (last winter), Clase hasn’t thrown a pitch for Cleveland due to his 80-game PED suspension. He’s not eligible for arbitration until 2024–not a free agent until 2027–so Clase has plenty of time to reward Cleveland’s investment, something he seems almost certain to start doing in 2021 near the back of the bullpen thanks to his high nineties heat and nasty cutter.

I should note here this might be the deepest system I’ve seen. Easily top five. While they’re stingy on the big league side, Cleveland invests heavily in development, creating countless avenues for their young talent to improve, be that through education, diet, coaching, training, access to tech resources, etc. This list could go on for a long, long time, but while I’m here I’ll mention potential 2021 glow ups SS Gabriel Rodriguez, SS Angel Martinez, SS Brayan Rocchio, RHP Tanner Burns, SS Jose Tena, RHP Lenny Torres, RHP Ethan Hankins, OF Daniel Johnson, SS Carson Tucker and personal favorite little engine that could, SS Jose Fermin

Thanks for reading!

I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.

 
  1. Ante GALIC says:
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    Itch!!!

    Or is it ‘The Itch’? Sorry.

    Great prospect report. Long-time (on the corona timeline) reader, first time commenter. Damn it was cold outside.

    a. Not really into the dynasty league thing so not a prospector by nature. Doesn’t mean we can’t find some gems like Triston who was relevant in 2020 for redraft.

    b. Love me Cleveland pitching. They always exceed their ADP value on draft day.

    c. MLB quote of the day for December 23, 2020

    1. Jerry Koosman, born December 23, 1942

    ‘He smart. He change speeds. He keep the ball down. Even though he not know every opposing hitter yet, his catcher help him with the calls.’

    Camilo Pascual

    2. Hanley Ramirez, born December 23, 1983

    ‘Let me tell you, before I signed I didn’t know they paid you for playing baseball. I played because I love it. It was incredible when they told me they were going to sign me and they were going to give me money.’

    Hanley Ramirez in The Miami Herald (Kevin Baxter, 03/02/2006)

    3. Brad Lidge, born December 23, 1976

    ‘Certainly stuff-wise, he (Brad Lidge) showed that the entire year last year (2003). When you factor in the velocity he has and the kind of slider he has, then he certainly has those capabilities (of a closer) – maybe somewhere down the road. Right now, he’s the setup guy because (Octavio) Dotel is, in fact, our closer. But on nights where we can’t use him and Brad is available, then we’re pretty fortunate to have a guy like that in the bullpen.’

    Astros Manager Jimy Williams in Houston Chronicle (May 5, 2004)

    4. Angelo Dagres, died on December 23, 2017

    ‘It was never my ability that kept me out of the big leagues,” Dagres said. “I was better than most of the players playing for the Orioles. God blessed me with everything a baseball player could want—speed, power, a great arm … People said I made it look so easy, like I wasn’t even trying. But then I started drinking. That’s what I regret.’

    Angelo Dagres in The Newburyport News (Dan Guttenplan, 08/20/2010, Reflections on what could have been, Source)

    d. Season’s greetings to all out there.

    Cheers,
    Ante

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Hi, Ante!

      I’m fine w the The or without.

      Thanks for the kind words!!

      2. Maybe Hanley’s confusion over baseball $ led to that drug ring?

      • Ante GALIC says:
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        The Itch!!!

        Thanks for the clarification!

        a. I’m from Toronto and didn’t know until recently that it’s called Skydome and not as I thought The Skydome.

        b. Hanley and money, hmmm.

        c. Thanks again for the analysis, enjoy reading all your posts here and everywhere on Razzball nation.

        Cheers,
        Ante

  2. Jr says:
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    I’m loving these prospect posts! I play in a 10 team dynasty where 50-100 prospects are kept, so having these articles is a huge help.

    I have the 2nd pick in our draft this year and I’m trying to figure out which way to go. I won’t know what type of mlb level talent will be available until keepers are selected, but arozarena might be the best bat available. I’m probably looking at going with a prospect. I fully expect Torkelson to go first overall, so I’ll have my pick from zac Veen, Austin Martin, Asa lacy, nick gonzales, max meyers, etc. so basically, it’s the prospects just taken in this years draft that will be available.

    I keep going back and forth between Martin, Veen, and Lacy but can’t stick on one. I’m curious what your thoughts are.

    Thanks!

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Hi, Jr.!

      Glad they’re working for you!

      I think if you can get Arozarena, you should, unless you can get Tork.

      If neither of those two, I’d take Gonzales.

  3. Coolwhip says:
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    What up Itch. Tell me more about your take on George Valera. I opened this expecting to see him in the #2 spot, and maybe he will be by midseason etc. Are you simply high on Freeman and Bracho even though they seem to have limited ceiling. Or you still a bit hesitant to anoint Valera as the next Travis Hafner, haha.

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      What up Whip.

      I think Valera’s treated in fantasy as a five-tool center field type.

      I think he’s more like a 3-category (R HR RBI) corner outfield type.

      And it’s too early with not enough evidence to suggest he could separate himself in just those three I think.

      Also I don’t think Freeman or Bracho’s ceilings are as limited as some of their scouting reports imply.

  4. Jimmy says:
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    Great stuff!! Who you do like better of these 3 SS? Jose Garcia-Tyler Freeman or Jordan Groshans…20 team 5×5 dynasty league! Thank you!

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Thanks, Jimmy!

      It’s Freeman for me, but I think Groshans has a fair bit more value in the universal, trade-chip sense.

  5. Luther says:
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    Thanks for the info, Itch. Cleveland is especially intriguing. In my dynasty league most of these guys are available and will need to keep a close eye on them.

    Totally off-topic trade ideas. I’m shopping S.Gray because I’m rebuilding. Would you do any of these if available?

    Gray for Kelenic
    Gray for Soroka/Riley
    Gray/Sano for moncada

    Thanks, itch!

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Agreed, Luther: few systems matter as much to dynasty baseball as Cleveland’s right now.

      I’d take Kelenic in a heartbeat and be happy to kick in with Sonny if I had to.

      I’d take Soroka and Riley, too, if that’s an “and.”

      I wouldn’t move Sano and Gray for Moncada, if that’s an and.

      I would like to get Moncada, but I think Sonny G is a fair offer. Maybe you’d kick in a medium pick or prospect or something if the other team didn’t want to go straight up. Sonny’s just 31 and fanned 30.6 percent of batters last year, a career high coming off his 2019 career high of 29 percent.

      Thanks, happy wheeling, and have a happy holiday season! Hopefully you find a Kelenic under the tree!

      • Luther says:
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        Thanks, Itch. I really appreciate it.

  6. goodfold2 says:
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    not at all caught up, but for my super way too early 30 teamer the 3 tagged players are due in 4 days (or 3 days, soon either way). this while hockey is also jump quick starting up at exact same time, so i’m cramming psychotic amounts of shit into brain in a very small time period (supposedly hockey starts jan 13th, my draft in the 30 teamer baseball starts jan 2nd, gotta get the hockey leagues up and running where i run them). good news is like usually you are on what team 21 or 20 of the team lists finished already (they have 11 done at PL). prospects live also has a top 500 dynasty which i’ll probably use till those run out (we’re at 40 max prospects owned per team (most aren’t at cap though) so well over 1000 owned) plus your team lists, for the first time of my 7 or so years in this league i’m NOT drafting in the 18-22 area, i got around 9th pick in all rounds. please tell me you are using the standard 130/50 for graduates not some mickey mouse MLB ruled short season claptrap on your guys who should be here but graduated from that stuff as this’ll be just a bigger mess in which i’ll miss names almost certainly. i’m catching up on all posts (most specifically yours as these are what i need to be up on first) and this was likely mentioned back in sept or so. good resource you are, big time.

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      What up, goodfold2?

      Saints become fantasy commissioners and fantasy commissioners become saints.

      Big warm thanks to you and any who read this.

      I am defaulting to 130/50 in almost every case. Funnily enough, I left Karinchak off this list because he’s been around forever (parts of 2 seasons), is pretty much universally owned and is no longer rookie eligible. When it allows me to write more about people readers might want to know more about instead of someone they already know well, I’ll go along with MLB’s wonktastrophic definition of a prospect.

      Thanks for the kind words, by the way, to you and anyone else who’s ever said anything kind during my time here. Really helps to keep me digging the little lulls that come naturally in the course of any project.

      • goodfold2 says:
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        new names being mentioned always good. yeah i wouldn’t have been forgetting about karinchak anywhere anyway (from you guys i was on the wave of earliest even 12 team redrafters in holds going after him last year, and obv owned in dynasties before that for sure since all of mine are holds leagues)

  7. Harley Earl says:
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    Itch!!!!!!!!!!

    It’s so nice to see you mention Alexfri Planez!!! As I scrolled through your list I just knew he wouldn’t make the top 10. Then, to my surprise, there he was, checking in at No. 9!!!

    So I’ve got Planez on my dynasty team. I’ve read about his other-worldly power as well the speed/power threat he could be overall. Possible 30/20 guy? Possible 30/30 guy? That’s what i hear. But I don’t see a lot of people buying into Planez yet, and I was wondering where you stood.

    Obviously you like him, too. So tell me, what about him exactly do you like and who would you make as a real-world comp for Planez? Would Brian Jordan (former STL and ATL player) be a decent comp? Or do you have someone else in mind that’s a better fit?

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Hi, Harley!

      I don’t think Planez is an NFL safety caliber talent, speed wise, but he is a good enough athlete that he could add some speed with age. I doubt he ever nears 20 SB, but he’s young, and steals are more a product of skill and want than anything.

      I do think he could bring 30 HR power and access it to the opposite field. I also think his hit tool is a little better than I’ve seen it graded, but I’m mostly just going on mechanics there at this point given his short track record.

      • Harley Earl says:
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        Thanks for the insight Itch!!!

        Looks like I’m a little too optimistic about his speed. Maybe he’s a 30/10 guy or at least hopefully.

        Good stuff. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays friend.

        • Harley Earl says:
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          Hey, still waiting on that real-world comp!

          Got one? Or don’t want to jump into the deep end yet?

      • The Harrow says:
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        we need more of whether baseball prospects could be NFL defensive backs. we simply have almost none of it. sites ignore this stuff far too much. not here though. major market inequality. hehehe.

  8. Junior56 says:
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    Great Write up! Where would Ethan Hankins be on the Cleveland prospect list? Do you think he has potential to be a starter?

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Thanks, Junior56!

      Cleveland can do anything with a human who throws hard, but Hankins has a long way to go to be an SP.

      if I had to wager today, I’d bet bullpen given his delivery and control comes and goes, but I think he has SP potential.

  9. Dougie says:
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    Itch(!),
    Happy holidays, bud!
    help me out here, would ya? Hopefully I can still get ya on this thread.
    I’m in the middle of a super slow auction draft for a dynasty league, in which I have Tork on his way, so I’m shopping for a stop gap at 3b. Now, I realize Tork may go back to 1b and third may be more of a long term need. My plan was to get KB on the cheap and back him (and the rest of my infield) up with Andres Gimenez. KB’s price, however, is up to the point where you’d think he hasn’t looked like a flaming bag of dog poo, so I’m moving on. There are guys like Donaldson or Seager out there, the later of which isn’t completely unappealing since Fielding is worth 2 wins. Along that same vein, Segura is out there(lead 3bs and was 12th overall among hitters in Fielding Points in 2020)- But so are a couple younger guys with upside, Urshela, and JD Davis.
    Scoring Cats are as such: R,HR,RBI,SB,AVG,BB,Runs Created,Fielding Points(2)

    All that being said, I’m leaning toward some combo of 2 or 3 of: Segura, Urshela, JD, Gim.
    Three 3Bs is likely overkill so maybe I need to keep it to 2 but I’m not sure yet. Ideally one is multi-position eligible and I can float him around where ever I need and each of those guys have solid attributes and I can probably get them all at league min salary.

    Segura-solid, doesn’t hurt me anywhere gives huge advantage on D.
    Urshela- has been great…
    JD- love the BBs and think he could really blossom
    Gimenez- Like the steals and I had been high on him as a prospect but soured so was happy with his performance this year, hopeful for the playing time.

    IDK… Rendon’s auction is still open and his price high but not yet stoopid, I have the cap space, maybe I should go that route.

    Want to rank those guys and give me your thoughts over all? If you like Seager or Donaldson over any of these 4 throw them in your ranking just for Ss and Gs.

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Rendon is probably worth the premium here, but I like Urshella, too. I think some of the metrics haven’t loved his defense of late, but he’s easy on the eyes over there and could post a plus defensive season in 2021.

      Gimenez is interesting, but you’d have to pile up the power somewhere as I don’t think he’ll offer much.

      Brad Miller interests me among the almost freebies.

      Also like Willi Castro a bit, tho he may play SS. Is that good or bad in the D category?

      • Dougie says:
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        Probably good. We use Fielding points, because shortstops see so much action, they often earn more than other positions.

        Thanks for thinking this through with me.

        • The Itch

          The Itch says:
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          Anytime!

          That’s a really interesting set up.

          Castro very interesting to me in that case. JD loses some value then too, imo. Not sure he’s an every day defender in 2021.

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