Re-Ranking the Cleveland Indians' Top 15 Prospects Following the 2014 MLB Draft
The team made one of the best selections in the entire draft when University of San Francisco outfielder Kyle Zimmer fell to it at No. 21 overall. The Tribe followed that up with two more solid selections in lefty Justus Sheffield and University of Virginia outfielder Mike Papi.
The Indians had a fantastic draft and made some major additions to a rather weak farm system.
The three names mentioned above all fit into this list, along with a few other newcomers from within the system.
The farm system is still rather top heavy, and it's loaded with middle infielders, but it's improving, and this draft went a long way toward continuing that trend.
All stats are current through play on June 12, 2014 and are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted.
15. Tony Wolters
DOB: 06/09/1992 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 5'10", 180 pounds
Drafted: Third Round, 2010 (Rancho Buena Vista High School, Calif.)
We'll kick things off here with one of the more interesting prospects in the Indians' system. Tony Wolters, a former middle infielder, made the transition to catching last season, and he did so with much success.
The 22-year-old displayed a strong arm behind the plate and quick transfer times that help his defense behind the plate play up a grade, despite his rawness. Wolters' defense will improve with time, and his baseball IQ will certainly help with his game-calling abilities as he continues to develop behind the plate.
Wolters' abilities on the offensive side of the game are what will ultimately carry him to the big league level. The young backstop has outstanding plate vision and the ability to line the ball to all fields.
Wolters is currently sporting a 44 percent caught-stealing rate at Double-A Akron, so the transition to catching appears to be working quite well.
Projection: First-Division Backup
14. Mike Papi
DOB: 09/19/1992 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6'3", 210 pounds
Drafted: First Round, 2014 (University of Virginia)
The Indians got a gift when Mike Papi fell all the way to No. 38 overall. The 21-year-old is a pure hitter and displays some of the best plate vision of anybody in his class.
Papi is a strong kid, but he doesn't make great use of his 6'3", 210-pound frame, so his power output is quite average. Though he has the potential for above-average power at maturity, his carrying card will always be his hit tool.
Papi has the ability to hit the ball hard to all fields, and what he lacks in over-the-fence power, he'll surely make up for with plenty of doubles.
Papi is a heavy-footed runner, and his lack of speed may make for a move to first base. Luckily, he has an above-average arm, which gives him a chance to stick in left field.
Either way, Papi is going to hit, and if he can live up to his 20-home run raw power, then he'll suffice as an average first-base option.
Projection: First-Division Outfielder
13. Dace Kime
DOB: 03/06/1992 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6'4", 200 pounds
Drafted: Third Round, 2013 (University of Louisville)
Dace Kime ranks as the team's 13th-best prospect, but he could take either a big jump or a big dive depending on how the rest of the season goes. The 22-year-old is struggling to this point in the year, but his raw stuff suggests that he could be a good mid-rotation starter at maturity.
Kime works with an average, low-90s fastball, an above-average curveball and slider—both of which have the makings of plus offerings—and an improving changeup.
Kime's secondary pitches make him an intriguing option for the starting rotation, as he has the build to be an innings eater. However, the young righty could slot back into the bullpen, where he helped Louisville to the College World Series just last season.
Projection: No. 4 Starter
12. Austin Adams
DOB: 08/19/1986 (Age: 27)
Height/Weight: 5'11", 190 pounds
Drafted: Fifth Round, 2009 (Faulkner University, Ala.)
ETA: Late 2014
Austin Adams has been around for what feels like an eternity. Unfortunately, the 27-year-old was saddled with a shoulder injury that cost him the entire 2012 season.
If not for that injury, Adams would be up with the big league club right now. However, after a strong showing last season with Double-A Akron, the Faulkner University product should be able to make his MLB debut following September call-ups.
Adams' stuff profiles well as a late-innings reliever. The seven-year professional works with a plus-plus fastball, an above-average curve—which flashes plus at times—an average slider and an improving changeup.
Adams' arsenal would have given him a solid shot to stick as a back-of-the-rotation starter, but following the shoulder injury, he'll have to settle for relief duty.
Projection: Eighth-Inning Reliever
11. Kyle Crockett
DOB: 12/15/1991 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6'2", 170 pounds
Drafted: Fourth Round, 2013 (University of Virginia)
ETA: 2014 (Debuted: 05/15/14)
Kyle Crockett has arguably the highest ceiling and highest floor of any pitcher in the Indians' system. The 22-year-old has the potential to work as a league-average closer, but, his ultimate floor has him working as a left-handed specialist.
I'm banking on the former.
The University of Virginia product shows a three-pitch arsenal including an above-average fastball with good life, an above-average slider and a slightly below-average changeup.
Crockett's primary offerings have the beginnings of a solid 1-2 punch as a high-leverage reliever, but the development of his changeup will determine his final landing place. The pitch has good fading action, but he'll need to display better control of the pitch if he's able to live up to his potential.
Projection: Eighth-Inning Reliever
10. Francisco Mejia
DOB: 10/27/1995 (Age: 18)
Height/Weight: 5'10", 175 pounds
ETA: Late 2017
Francisco Mejia has some of the highest upside of any player in the Indians' farm system.
The 18-year-old backstop has a plus-plus arm which has the potential to be one of the best in baseball at maturity—seriously, it's that good. In addition to a plus arm and quick pop-up times, Mejia's game-calling skills are above-average for a player his age.
Offensively, Mejia is more of a project. He has some tremendous bat speed, and generates above-average raw power through that. However, his small frame does not figure to produce many home runs.
Mejia is already an above-average hitter, and if he's able develop consistent gap power, he could be an All-Star caliber catcher at the big league level.
Projection: First-Division Regular
9. Jesus Aguilar
DOB: 06/30/1990 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6'3", 250 pounds
ETA: 2014 (Debuted: 05/15/2014)
Jesus Aguilar is a tough prospect to profile. The 23-year-old oozes raw power, but he's overly aggressive at the plate, and it has created some holes in his swing.
Despite all his raw power, Aguilar has managed just one 20-home run season in his professional career, and below-average hit tool can, and likely will, hold him back from becoming a legitimate first-base prospect.
On the field, Aguilar has the curse of being a right-handed hitting first baseman. In most cases, a club would assess its options with the player, and possibly move him to a new position. However, Aguilar isn't a great athlete and lacks the lateral quickness and arm strength to move across the diamond or to a corner-outfield position.
If Aguilar could refine his approach and barrel the ball more consistently, he could have a future as a starting first baseman. Don't hold your breath on that happening.
Projection: Second-Division Regular/Platoon First Baseman
8. Dorssys Paulino
DOB: 11/21/1994 (Age: 19)
Height/Weight: 6'0", 175 pounds
Dorssys Paulino, a 19-year-old shortstop from the Dominican Republic, comes in at No. 6 in this year's list. The young shortstop figures to move to second base at some point in his career, as Francisco Lindor is clearly the organization's shortstop of the future.
Paulino is an average defender, and while his arm works fine at second base, his range and instincts do not. The organization seems to have realized his shortcomings as an infielder, however, and has begun to transition him into the outfield—Paulino has appeared in left field for 21 of the Captains' 48 games.
Ultimately, though, Paulino's future lies in the development of his hit tool. After an impressive showing at the dish in 2012, Paulino has now struggled in back-to-back seasons.
His wrists are quick, and his swing is compact, but he lacks line-drive power and it's unclear as to how that tool will develop as he continues to fill out.
There's a lot of potential here but also an extreme amount of risk.
Projection: First-Division Second Baseman
7. Justus Sheffield
DOB: 05/13/1996 (Age: 18)
Height/Weight: 6'2", 195 pounds
Drafted: First Round, 2014 (Tullahoma High School, Tenn.)
The Indians took Justus Sheffield with the 31st overall pick in the 2014 draft, and he slots in as their No. 7 prospect at the mid-season point.
The 18-year-old has a repeatable, athletic delivery, though his release point has some inconsistencies given his long arm action. Sheffield's fastball is an above-average pitch and sits in the low-90s. His fastball and changeup both run away from right-handed batters, and the change has nice fading action.
Sheffield also features an average curveball that could play up a grade at maturity, given his potential for advanced command and control.
Sheffield's slider has a chance to be his best pitch. It features good tilt, and he has a solid feel for locating it inside against right-handed hitters.
The Tullahoma High School product is likely to wind up a No. 3 starter, given his advanced feel for all four pitches in his arsenal. However, should his slider and changeup develop into plus pitches—a strong possibility—then he could reach his ultimate ceiling as a No. 2 starter.
Projection: No. 3
6. Jose Ramirez
DOB: 09/17/1992 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 5'9", 165 pounds
ETA: 2014 (Debuted, 09/01/2013)
Another toolsy middle infielder, Jose Ramirez ranks as my No. 6 prospect in the Indians' farm system. The 21-year-old has already made multiple trips to the big league level over the last two years, but his underwhelming performance in his most recent call-up had him sent back down to Triple-A Columbus.
Ramirez can play second, shortstop or third base, but he profiles best as a second baseman. He rates as an average fielder with a slightly above-average arm, and he could be a legitimate option on a contending team.
Ramirez's only drawbacks come in the form of overaggressiveness on the base paths, and a severe lack of power. The Dominican Republic native got on base at a .325 clip last season, but he doesn't utilize that OBP overly well, converting on just 70 percent of his stolen base attempts.
At the plate, Ramirez doesn't display tremendous bat speed, but his swing is compact and he's able to line the ball with some consistency. The power is lacking with Ramirez though, and given his frame, it doesn't look like there's much to come in that department.
Ramirez is a steady fielder with enough of a stick to work as a second baseman. Unfortunately, he may have to play second base with another team, as the position looks to be locked down for the foreseeable future, with Jason Kipnis ahead of him on the depth chart.
Projection: First-Division Regular
5. Cody Anderson
DOB: 09/14/1990 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6'4", 220 pounds
Drafted: 14th Round, 2011 (Feather River College, Calif.)
The Indians selected Cody Anderson as a reliever out of Feather River Junior College, but they have done a wonderful job of moving the young righty into the starting rotation.
Anderson works with a plus fastball, which displays good late life, as well as an above-average breaking ball and an improving changeup. The 23-year-old has good control over all three of his offerings, but he's struggled at times with leaving the ball out and over the plate, resulting in underwhelming HR/9 figures in both 2013 and 2014—1.4 and 1.1 HR/9 in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
Anderson has struggled since being promoted to Double-A in 2014, and, depending on what he does the rest of this season, the Indians may look to move him back into the bullpen, where his arrival in Cleveland would be expedited.
Projection: No. 4 Starter
4. Tyler Naquin
DOB: 4/24/1991 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6'3", 190 pounds
Drafted: First Round, 2012 (Texas A&M University)
ETA: September 2014
Tyler Naquin represents the first in a short run of outfielders here to kick off the top five.
The 23-year-old is a pure hitter and can line the ball to all fields, due largely in part to a quick compact swing. Naquin doesn't really turn on the ball with a ton of authority, and it shows in his below-average power tool.
Even so, the Texas A&M product possesses above-average speed, capable of netting him plenty of extra-base hits and double-digit stolen base totals.
Naquin's defense is adequate. He gets good jumps on the ball and that, along with his quick strides, should help translate into at least average range in center. Naquin will be given every opportunity to stick in center field, as his bat doesn't profile well at all in right or left field.
Should he falter, Naquin would make a nice bench bat. However, based on his current rate of production with Double-A Akron, he could be destined for a spot atop the Indians' batting order.
Projection: Average Regular
3. Bradley Zimmer
DOB: 11/27/1992 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6'5", 205 pounds
Drafted: First Round, 2014 (University of San Francisco)
Bradley Zimmer has a shot to be the best position player taken in the 2014 MLB draft. The 22-year-old has an impressive skill set, including five tools that all grade out to at least an average level.
Zimmer's hit tool is arguably the best from the draft class, and it has the potential to be the best in the Indians' system. His power is his weakest tool, but it has plus potential should he add a little more leverage and weight transfer to his swing.
Zimmer is an above-average runner, which gives him the chance both for 10-15 steal seasons and also for him to stick as a center fielder.
Zimmer is a strong defender with a plus arm and great reaction times. If he can make it as a center fielder, Zimmer's bat will profile as a plus tool. If not, he should have the arm and power to translate well into right or left field, depending on the career path of our next prospect.
Projection: First-Division Regular
2. Clint Frazier
DOB: 09/06/1994 (Age: 19)
Height/Weight: 6'1", 190 pounds
Drafted: First Round, 2013 (Loganville HS, Ga.)
Clint Frazier, selected fifth overall in the 2013 MLB draft, has the potential to be the best position player in his draft class. The 19-year-old has some of the best bat speed I've ever seen, thanks largely in part to a strong lower half and plus-wrist/forearm strength.
Frazier's swing is quick, compact and leveraged, and his raw power has the potential for 25-30 home run seasons at maturity.
Frazier's only current drawback is that he's young and his approach is very raw. The Georgia-prep product struggles with his breaking-ball recognition and, at times, it can keep him from making consistently hard contact, while also leading to high strikeout totals.
Some seasoning at the plate will help Frazier though, and, in time, it shouldn't be an overwhelming issue.
On the field, Frazier displays great speed and flashes potential for a plus arm. He's currently working as a center fielder, but should the team look to move him, right field would be a suitable landing spot.
Projection: Perennial All-Star
1. Francisco Lindor
DOB: 11/14/1993 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 5'11", 175 pounds
Drafted: First Round, 2011 (Montverde HS, Fla.)
The Cleveland Indians have done a fantastic job of retooling their farm system in recent years, and it all starts with their selection of Francisco Lindor in the first round of the 2011 MLB draft. Only three of the team's top-15 prospects were acquired prior to Lindor, and he—along with a few others—has a great chance to help lead the franchise for years to come.
Though he's slight in frame, the 5'11", 175 pound shortstop possesses one of the best hit tools in the system and it grades out at a near-plus tool. Lindor also has the potential for above-average power as he fills out his frame, but it's currently a below-average tool, at best.
Though he has the potential to be a perennial .300-plus hitter at the big league level, Lindor's defense is his calling card. The 20-year-old has some of the smoothest motions of any professional player—big leaguers included—takes aggressive routes to the ball and has an above-average arm.
Lindor will undoubtedly be the team's starting shortstop on Opening Day in 2015. However, given the possibility of Asdrubal Cabrera being shipped off at the trade deadline, we could see him in Cleveland as soon as mid-July.
Projection: Perennial All-Star
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!