As started yesterday, Burning River Baseball is creating a list of the top 30 prospects in the Indians system. This is day two and we will cover those ranked between 11 and 20 with the top ten coming out tomorrow.
The writers participating in the vote were Joseph Coblitz, Mike Melaragno, Kevin Gall, Danny Cunningham, John Hutchison, Caitlin Boron and Jennifer Coblitz. The write ups were written by those most familiar with the players as Joe has covered the Arizona Rookie League since 2011 while Kevin (Columbus), Danny (Akron), John (Lake County) and Caitlin (Mahoning Valley) all started this year.
In the chart for each prospect, their level will be denoted by R (AZL Indians), SS (Mahoning Valley Scrappers), A (Lake County Captains), A+ (Lynchburg Hillcats), AA (Akron RubberDucks) or AAA (Columbus Clippers).
20. Jeff Johnson – RHP
|Indians 10th Round (308) Pick in 2011|
Johnson has been a nice story for those who follow minor league baseball. He had Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss the 2014 season, but came back with a vengeance for 2015. Bigger things should be expected from Johnson this coming year as he continues to strengthen his arm, and pitchers often are more successful in the second year after surgery. Johnson had great numbers with Akron in 2015 and should find his way to Cleveland at some point in 2016. – Danny
19. James Ramsey – OF
|Cardinals 1st Round (23) Draft Pick in 2012, Trade for Masterson|
Ramsey’s stock took a major step backwards this year. His first full season in AAA did not go as planned and it’s beginning to appear that Ramsey may not have a future with the organization. If not taken in this year’s Rule 5 draft, Ramsey will begin the 2016 season in AAA where he’ll look to improve upon some major flaws in his game. While he certainly gets the most out of his relatively small frame, his power comes in the form of an all-or-nothing approach that usually sees him strike out or hit a home run, with striking out being the case the vast majority of the time. Ramsey is going to eventually fall victim to his age, as he’s older than all of the other Indians’ outfield prospects who have more potential and are nearly big league ready. If he’s going to make an impact on this team, he’s going to have to find a way to make more consistent contact and become a more well rounded hitter. Unfortunately for him this is likely his last chance to do so. – Kevin
18. Mark Mathias – 2B &SS
|Indians 3rd Round (93) Draft Pick in 2015|
Mathias is a player that will have fans come to games just to see him play. In the batter’s box you’re at the edge of your seat and when he lines one into the corner and you’re mesmerized. In his first professional season, the second baseman hit a solid .282 in 67 games, playing into the reasons why he was drafted perfectly.
His eye is what makes up for a slight lack in pop, being able to adjust to pitchers quickly and get whoever is in scoring position home in a hurry. It makes him someone fun to see live and I believe that it won’t be long before he makes his Major League debut. Who knows, maybe he’s the right-handed bat that everyone’s been hoping for. – Caitlin
17. Gabriel Mejia – CF
|Indians 2013 International Free Agent (DR)|
|2015 R & SS||59||0||40||.344||.410||.393||9%||11%||140|
As one of the only people to see Mejia over a full season (considering attendance at AZL is countable on your hands and the games aren’t televised anywhere), I feel like he is incredibly undervalued at 17. I’ve never seen a player so fast and I’ve been watching Billy Hamilton in Goodyear for the past few years. Based on his times to first, he could be the fasted player in the Major Leagues once he gets there and he has the stats to back it up with 112 steals in 129 games so far in his minor league career.
Most fans haven’t heard of Mejia (unless you follow me on twitter or read the site regularly) as he wasn’t a high draft pick (not a draft pick at all, actually) and hasn’t played at the upper levels yet, but believe me, everyone will know his name soon. He played just 16 games in Mahoning Valley this year and, while it took a minute for him to get his feet wet, he ended that set of games with six steals to just one time caught and a .304 average. What makes him stand out beyond most pure speed players is that he has a great eye at the plate and hits for a high average. Before his short stint in MV, he had walked two more times than he struck out in his career and even with those 16 games, he’s batting .339 in his minor league career. – Joe
16. Luke Wakamatsu – SS
|Indians 20th Round (604) Draft Pick in 2015|
Wakamatsu was the AZL Indians second best overall player this year, behind Mejia and obviously has a lot of talent although his stats may not show it. He is a switch hitter with a tendancy towards line drives and while he doesn’t have much power yet, most don’t at this level. He plays fine defense at short where, if he has a fault, it is that he is extremely aggressive. As mentioned, his rookie stats aren’t very impressive, but he has continued working through the Instructional League and has officially played just 27 games. At 19, he will probably put on a few pounds in the next few years and that should help his power. For a 20th round pick, Wakamatsu is exceptional, but don’t expect him in the upper minor leagues any time soon. – Joe
15. Mike Papi – OF & 1B
|Indians 1st Round (38) Draft Pick in 2014|
The cannon-armed 2014 draft pick came out of the gate ready to go and began to move up quickly in his first 2 seasons. Papi knows how to put the ball in play with a great eye at the plate and his 34 doubles and 81 walks with the Hillcats back it up.
His numbers aren’t where some would like them to be, but he continues to be impressive, being a player who can hold his own in the game. If his bat can heat up and he finds his groove I wouldn’t hesitate to say that he will continue to climb the latter of the minor league system just as quickly as he started. – Caitlin
14. Juan Hillman – LHP
|Indians 2nd Round (59) Draft Pick in 2015|
In an opposite situation from Mejia, Hillman is ranked high not due to his great production, but because he is both a high draft pick and left handed. You should never judge any player too harshly from their first season in rookie ball, but based on observations, there were easily six better pitchers than him for the AZL Indians this year and you’ll only find one on this list (tomorrow and you should know who that is).
That may have sounded too negative, but it is only to temper expectations. Hillman definitely shows promise, particularly with his fast ball, which regularly falls in the low 90’s. In general, he has excellent control, but needs to work more on his other pitches to keep batters off the fast ball. Almost all the 1.29 WHIP noted above came from hits as he walked just five and he rarely missed bats when he did get outs. – Joe
13. Shawn Morimando – LHP
|Indians 19th Round (578) Draft Pick in 2011|
Morimando had success this past year at the AA level and has MLB potential as a back end rotation guy. His arsenal includes an average fastball, solid slider, and an ok changeup. Morimando is not the type of prospect that is going to blow everyone away, especially with other pitchers ahead of him, but he has potential to be a MLB starter one day. That day may not be until 2017. – Danny
12. Nellie Rodriguez – 1B
|Indians 15th Round (473) Draft Pick in 2012|
|2015 A+ & AA||133||21||1||.245||.328||.452||11%||28%||126|
The Indians have been searching for a right-handed power hitter since the day Manny Ramirez bolted town for the Boston Red Sox. There is hope that Nellie Rodriguez could finally be that guy. He has shown impressive power at every level so far, blasting at least 20 in each of the last three seasons. There are definitely some concerns, particularly in his strike out rate. During his most recent stint in Akron, he batted just .118 in 25 games, but did crush four home runs and knocked in 14 runs. With his faults, Rodriguez is still the Indians most Major League ready first baseman and could be seen in the next few years. – Danny
11. Adam Plutko – RHP
|Indians 11th Round (321) Draft Pick in 2013|
|2015 A+ & AA||27||27||166.0||137||2.39||0.93||7.4||1.5||0.7|
Once upon a time, UCLA had an extremely good rotation. That rotation featured current Pittsburgh Pirate Gerrit Cole and current Cleveland Indian Trevor Bauer. One of the forgotten men from that rotation is Adam Plutko. Plutko was drafted by the Indians in the eleventh round of the 2014 draft. This past season he opened up in High-A Lynchburg where he was very impressive in the short time he spent there. The 23 year old was called up to Akron in May of 2015, where he continued to perform well. In 2016 Plutko should open the season in AAA Columbus and may possibly see a spot start or two in Cleveland. – Danny