Once upon a time, Cleveland had too many catchers.

The fantasy baseball community knew just what to do in this scenario: throw a killer New Years party, trade Yan Gomes, start Francisco Mejia, and bench Roberto Perez

Cleveland scanned this obvious play and disregarded it, attempting instead some inverse combination of the above by staying home to watch a movie, trading Mejia for Brad Hand and starting Gomes, who played well and endeared himself to a fan base that had been frustrated to see Mejia go. 

That off-season—last winter—fans were livid to see the club swap Gomes for Jefry Rodríguez, Daniel Johnson and Andruw Monasterio. Yanny G was set to cost about $7 million, and the inferior Roberto Perez was under contract for about $2 million. Nasty things were said. Baseball Universe decided Cleveland was cheap and dumb for how it handled the catching surplus. 

One year later, Roberto Perez is a solid OBP source with excellent defense and plus power for the position, while Yan Gomes is a $7 million backup in Washington. 

So my thinking in regard to this Kluber trade or any Cleveland move: que sera sera. 

The Yandy Diaz trade for Jake Bauers did not go as well, but in general, Baseball Universe loved that one, and this team knows what it’s doing. I’m sure it’s depressing to lose the Klubot and Bauer in a matter of months, but if anyone can develop the pitching to make fans forget, it’s Cleveland. Maybe it’s not the perfect trade, but Emmanuel Clase is going to bring positive value across the life of his contract. Open-market relievers are pricey these days. And we have little reason for confidence regarding the state of Kluber’s health. Could be this one looks bad next New Year, but whatever will be, will be. 

 

1. OF George Valera | 19 | A | 2023

2. 2B Aaron Bracho | 19 | A- | 2023

You will see Cleveland’s top four arranged any number of ways around the prospect world. They’re spread across three tiers here because I like George Valera and Aaron Bracho a lot and have serious questions about Nolan Jones and Tyler Freeman

George Valera’s stock was buoyed by the Ben Badler bump to such an extent that it barely moved through a lost 2018 and is trading even hotter after Valera logged a 142 wRC+ against competitors who were 2.9 years his senior, on average. 

Aaron Bracho has been on the prospect radar since he was 14 and smashing at the 2016 Perfect Game showcase.

After injury issues in 2018, he came out swinging this year, posting a 162 wRC+ while walking more than he struck out in short season ball. Simply put, I love pretty much everything about him in the batters box. 

 

3. 3B Nolan Jones | 21 | AA | Mid 2021

In OBP leagues, Nolan Jones belongs in the top tier. The main question about him is batting average due to his extreme plate patience and propensity to swing and miss. In traditional 5×5 settings, Jones is limited to three categories, and he’ll probably have to add some aggression to be a positive force in HR and RBI. 

 

4. SS Tyler Freeman | 20 | A+ | Mid 2021

If I’m a Freeman shareholder, I’m putting him on the trade block. He’s within some top fifties, so he’s got helium, but I’m not sure he brings enough thump or speed to really impact our game. Happy to be proven wrong, but the sound and fury around Freeman signifies very little to me, and I think someone might like him enough to back up the Brinks truck. 

 

5. RHP James Karinchak | 24 | MLB | 2019

6. RHP Emmanuel Clase | 22 | MLB | 2019

7. OF Daniel Johnson | 24 | AAA | Mid 2020

Speaking of prospect trade values, James Karinchak and Emmanuel Clase are about as interesting as it gets. Some dynasty players will be extremely eager to get them, and I think they’ve got a weird kind of value in the sense that you can probably hold them in your minors all year, depending on the settings of course. I’m in one league where 50 major league innings eliminates MiLB eligibility—that’s the lowest of the four dynasty leagues I’m in right now—and even in that league, Karinchak should give me roster flexibility until September, assuming he even accrues the 45 innings he’d need. 

That’s an odd-shaped leash for our purposes. We’re accustomed to waiting for years on prospects, and while we wait, they’re in the minors. While we wait on Karinchak to actualize (earn saves), he can rack up strikeouts, help your ratios, snag a couple wins, and bounce back and forth between your majors and minors so you can stream a starter or pick up a prospect who’s surging. Clase has a little less appeal because he’s already got 23.1 innings and doesn’t K everyone he faces, but in a league where 100 innings is the cutoff, he’ll still be MiLB eligible next season. 

These guys are great stocks for rebuilders and contenders alike, which makes them pretty valuable trade chips. If you put Tyler Freeman on the block, a few teams will think he’s a good fit and inquire about his price. Same deal if you put Brad Hand on the block. If you put James Karinchak or Emmanuel Clase on the block, you probably catch everyone’s attention to some extent. 

Daniel Johnson has a good case to make the All-Underrated team for me. His carrying tools are as loud as anyone’s in the minors. Only trouble is his hit tool. But while players with his profile are typically coveted around the fantasy game, Daniel Johnson is something of an afterthought. Sure, he’s been on top hundreds for a while, and he’s been to the Futures Game, but he just doesn’t move the neck hairs like some others. I’m not certain he should. It’s just curious to me that a guy with power, speed, and an inside lane on playing time for a good team doesn’t get much mention. 

 

8. RHP Daniel Espino | 19 | A- | 2023

9. SS Jose Fermin | 21 | A | 2022

10. SS Angel Martinez | 18 | R | 2025

This system’s depth is rivaled by only a handful of clubs—perhaps just Tampa and San Diego with a shout out to Arizona. If you’re not seeing a name you think should be here, you’re right to think they’d make other lists. 

My favorite arm in the 2019 draft, Daniel Espino was a gift to Cleveland. He’s already creeping up the top 100’s, but the assent is just beginning. In a gif-happy baseball universe, Espino will generate a lot of clicks. 

Jose Fermin might catch eyes here as a name out of place. If you want to see his baseball reference page, you’ll have to google it. That’s mostly about their internal search engine, I’ll bet, but it’s a fun indicator of how little fanfare Fermin’s garnered despite two straight seasons of walking more than he’s struck out. Despite stealing 29 bases and posting a 123 wRC+ as a 20-year-old in A ball while playing older competitors. Despite being pretty similar to Tyler Freeman. 

The ten spot could’ve been hosted by Junior Sanquintin, Alexfri Planez, Ethan Hankins, Gabriel Rodríguez, Bo Naylor, or Brayan Rocchio, but the distinction goes to Angel Martinez. The son of a big leaguer (Sandy), he’s smooth and quick from both sides of the plate and in the field. There’s kind of a Rocchio feel to the momentum gathering behind Martinez, and Rocchio did not rocket up the rankings the way people expected last year, but he still logged a 107 wRC+ and played solid enough defense to keep himself safely in the organization’s plans, and I think that’s kind of a worst-case scenario for Martinez in 2020. 

Happy New Year! Thanks for reading! See you Sunday in Detroit?

  1. Bump Bailey says:
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    What are your thoughts on Logan Allen? Is he first in line to make the rotation when an injury hits? What pitches does he throw that are above average?

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Hi, Bump!

      And thanks for reading!

      Allen’s best pitch is his Vulcan change up. His fastball, slider and curve could all play above average, but it’s tough to keep a slider and curve separated in movement and velocity.

      I do think he’ll be the first man up and might even be ahead of Pleasac today just because he has more in his arsenal, but his command will have to make a leap. He hasn’t had it since AA, and I’m afraid the delivery is too teeter-tottery at present. Plus the deep-tuck change is just a tough pitch to command—have to kinda settle for area code accuracy at times.

      • JRod

        JRod Crab says:
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        I heard a rumor the Indians may try to start with Allen in the bullpen when he gets called up. They loooooove Plesac.

        Love the list Itch!

        • The Itch

          The Itch says:
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          Thanks JRod!

          Means a lot coming from a Cleveland guy!!

          And that makes sense on Allen. Pen move could help him simplify his delivery a little and pitch off the change.

  2. Goldirocks says:
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    Brayan Rocchio is a top target for me with a strong bat first profile and speed to burn. He’s looking quite good at just 18 yrs old and playing older competition; and easily in my top 5 for his upside alone in Cleveland prospects rankings – probably top 3 or 4?…
    Are you bumping guys up on your list based on their age ie Freeman?

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Hi, Goldirocks!

      Good call on Rocchio. That’s kind of the key feature about the Cleveland organization–it’s so deep and good you could organize the list (after the top few, maybe) in any number of ways.

      Could easily flip him with Freeman or Fermin, in my opinion. They’ve just demonstrated more to this point because they’re performing well further up the development ladder. When/if Rocchio adds his man-strength, he’s going to move fast.

      And that’s Cleveland’s jam. They prefer to acquire very young players and help them add strength (and skill). It’s been an incredibly successful strategy for them, so it makes all the sense in the world to bet on Rocchio.

    • Species says:
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      I am also targeting Rocchio in my Dynasty leagues. I have low picks in our prospect draft so am completely going after high upside, rise from 75th to 15th-type talents by the end of 2020….and Rocchio is one of them……the type of guy made for fantasy so is always ranked lower on standard prospect lists.

      • The Itch

        The Itch says:
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        Another guy you might want to consider in the super deeps is Angel Contreras, a J2 signing this year who can really hit.

  3. Sweatpants Nation says:
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    Happy New Year Itch. Can’t believe Grey has you working on a holiday. You need to unionize! Haha.

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Thanks, Sweatpants Nation!

      Happy New Year to you!!

      Not sure I’ll survive 2020 if I start talking union . . .

      I’m not sure how connected Grey is, but I suspect he could disappear me if necessary.

  4. HamPorter says:
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    Itch,

    In a deep NL only league, we can carry 10 prospects, who would you rather own Kameron MIsner or Hudson Head? I’m kind of back and forth on this one. Thanks for the help!

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Dang, Ham Porter! Tough question! I’d love to keep both if possible. Can see why you’ve been ping-ponging on it. Is there anyone else to consider?

      If not, I’d hold my nose and drop Head, I guess, hoping I could get him back as soon as possible.

      • HamPorter says:
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        My ten current keepers are:

        Dylan Carlson, Brennan Davis, Alec Bohm, Jesus Sanchez, Luis Garcia (not too fond of him, seems like he has a lot of holes in his swing, maybe him?), Brett Baty, Corbin Carrol, Bryson Stott, Braden Shewmake, and Misner. I traded quite a few top prospects winning a championship last year, so I reloaded in the draft. Thanks for the input, I really enjoy your articles!

        • The Itch

          The Itch says:
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          Hmmmm yeah it’s tough to keep Head over Garcia due to perceived value, but I do think Head’s the better fantasy prospect.

          So the options are dump Garcia and watch someone add him or drop Head and hope he falls through.

          I’d rather drop Garcia if it’s me, but maybe someone would buy? Could you package Bohm, Sanchez, Garcia? Or no trading at the moment?

          And smart call to sell the farm! Stings at the time, but it’s easier to replenish there than it is to win a title, imo.

          Oh and thank you kindly!!! Always great to hear someone’s liking the work!

  5. goodfold2 says:
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    draft has started, so far 10 picks in, i draft in 12 more. the top 5 guys on your 150 are gone along with bleday/greene/bishop/lodolo (usually more SP go than 1 in 10 in this league)/jung.
    you had c.wong quite high (52nd), would you still have him that high if done now? he’s the 5th highest guy left available, but where he’s ranked (or not) by others i’d not have to go nearly this high in the draft. others around currently, but most of them won’t be by my turn: carroll, matos, g.jimenez, urquidy, wong, pena, puasson, bracho. my roster makes me think i want to draft a pitcher here, but these are pretty good bats around (of course every year i think that and draft the bat in the 1st round). it is likely probably at least 3-4 more pitchers are gone by my turn.

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      I was able to wait a long time on Wong in a recent draft. Pick 350. Was a 1 catcher league, but still a decent indicator that I need not be quite so high on him.

      That said, won’t surprise me at all if he has a Will Smith stretch in the second half.

      How’s the draft looking now? Seems like you would’ve been able to land a couple of those guys. Maybe Urquidy and Bracho?

      • goodfold2 says:
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        nah it’s a 30 teamer and it’s on me. 5/21 of the guys gone before me are SP, which is low for this league. my weaknesses for prospects are pitchers and CI, to a lesser extent MI. OF i’m way deeper as you’ll see:
        C: okey (CIN)
        CI (we start 2 CI, 2 MI, 3 OF, 1 C, 1 util for hitters): vientos, w.craig, e.rios (LAD), d.ellis (ARI), denton (STL), lavalley (CIN), padlo (TB), kubitza (ATL)
        MI: paredes, w.perez (DET), a.tejada (TEX), k.smith (TOR), a.rondon (TB)
        OF: adell, kirilloff, trammell, victor to the 2nd mesa, t.ornelas, p.gonzalez (TEX), v.garcia (STL), g.whitley (TB), c.brannen (BOS), v.reyes (DET, probably promote him soon as he is getting steals and likely starts), cozens, dj davis (TOR), tocci (ex PHI/TEX)
        SP: w.crowe, c.rodriguez (LAA), c.hernandez (KC), m.sauer (NYY), kilome, diplan (BAL, ex MIL), a.smith (SD, probably bullpen as i can’t even find him in lists anymore)
        RP: j.guzman (probably bullpen), staumont

        might have a deal moving like staumont + 2.22 + another prospect possibly (victor to the 2nd mesa, but man since i used a late 1st rounder last year on him i’d be bailing fast) for barreto

        anywhoos, my options here with this pick appear to be:
        pena (but i’m super strong relatively in OF vs other spots)/matos/jimenez (the latter 2 of these seem ranked a good bit later, esp matos)
        bracho (yep you guessed that right)/g.jones/cavaco
        ed cab (MIA SP, best of your SP and other lists left)
        the pitchers that went so far: lodolo,

        • goodfold2 says:
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          and balazovic, manoah, skubal, espino

          • The Itch

            The Itch says:
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            Joe Ryan if the Rays and Luis Garcia, Jojanse Torres, Tyler Ivey and Brandon Bailey of the Astros.

            I like Skubal a lot

            You could take a hot bat or two then hammer pitching several turns in a row?

            • goodfold2 says:
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              yeah that could happen. garcia/torres/ivey/bailey are not in my list yet as i haven’t gone through HOU guys yet. basically i’m going over taking ed cab or one of the hitters just now. although i do remember reading about ivey somewhere. there’s just too many luis garcia’s around (actually in this sized league the other 2 aren’t around)

  6. Chad Huggins says:
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    Hey, The Itch!
    Dude you are killin it.
    Any chance you’ll do a top (500?) dynasty list? I’d love to see your thoughts on how some of these guys compare to players on the 26 man roster.

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Thank you thank you for the kind words, Chad!!

      And thanks for the great idea!!

      I have a start-up draft for the new prospectslive best ball dynasty format, so I should probably synthesize soon anyway . . . just have to find the time to grind

  7. djromano says:
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    Love Razzball, but it took a Macbeth reference for me to make my first comment. I actually had to look up the “Tomorrow and Tomorrow” speech to make sure I was right. Nicely done

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Thanks so much, djromano!!

      I have to admit to a giddy little thrill when it came together : )

  8. Stumanji! says:
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    Hey Itch! Maybe not a “prospect” anymore but Bobby Bradley still has minors eligibility in my league. I can keep up to 4 minors, the more you keep the higher the round it costs, starting with 22nd, 21st, 15th, and 10th. I currently have Brendan Rodgers, Kristian Robinson, and Bradley. I’m pretty locked in on the first two, but do you like a 15th Rd value for Bradley? It’s possible I trade for another higher-ranked minor leaguer too, in which case Bradley would potentially cost a 10th rounder. With a shallow minors pool (4 x 12 teams) I typically like guys that are close to the show so it’s basically a free bench player when they get called up to see what they can do. What say you, keep him or cut him loose and use that pick on somebody useful?

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