For the first time ever, Burning River Baseball is compiling a list of the top prospects in the Indians farm system. Many aspects were considered and all seven full and part time writers took place in the voting to decide the order and who was included. The writers participating 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). Today’s list includes those ranked from 21 through 30 with the next ten coming out tomorrow morning and the top ten the day after that. For reference, players with a day of MLB experience are no longer considered prospects.
30. Yu-Cheng Chang – SS & 3B
|Indians 2013 International Free Agent (Taiwan)|
|2015 – A||105||9||5||.232||.293||.361||6%||23%||91|
29. Luigi Rodriguez – OF
|Indians 2009 International Free Agent (DR)|
Once thought of as one of the Indians top prospects, Rodriguez fell out of the discussion after two seasons of lackluster play and trouble remaining healthy. Despite this, Rodriguez re-emerged as one of the Indians’ better prospects after a very solid 2015. Rodriguez is a well-rounded hitter who, before he was suspended (80 games after testing positive for Stanozolol), was one of the best hitters in the Carolina League. Rodriguez showed a great combination of hitting for average and power over his shortened season and he just turned 23 so he’s young enough to still remain relevant in the organization’s eyes. If he can continue his growth next season, he has the potential to be a fourth outfielder with an emphasis towards his offensive abilities. – Kevin
28. Ka’ai Tom – LF
|Indians 5th Round (154) Draft Pick in 2015|
|2015 – SS||66||3||14||.283||.374||.403||11%||15%||134|
Normally, if someone is not the first pick for a team in a draft, they do not get much attention, but this particular player is an exception to that. He was picked in the 5th round in 2015, but played on the field in his first professional season as if he was first in line. When he would step into the batter’s box, I would elbow whoever was next to me to watch this kid hit. If he was in left field and made a catch no one expected him to make, again someone would be elbowed in excitement that Ka’ai is something different, like a missing puzzle piece for a future playoff team.
Tom puts all he has into his swing, his arm and everything on the field. He is someone who believes that if there is something that might hold him back there is a way to turn the shortcoming into an advantage and that will only make him better. Tom is a player that I hope will continue to break away from the pack in the best ways and be the name that fans are calling for when the big leagues are just that one piece away. – Cait
27. Tyler Krieger – SS & 2B
|Indians 4th Round (124) Draft Pick in 2015|
|Age: 21||Did Not Play (Torn Labrum)|
After having surgery on his right labrum, Krieger missed all of his first year with the Indians, but is still considered one of the Tribe’s top prospects. Even when healthy, Krieger wasn’t known for his throwing arm and before the draft, many thought he would be best served as a second baseman. He was in this position when I saw him play in the Instructional League this Fall and he played as well as could be expected, although the IL is a terrible place to try to judge players. At 21, he should start in Mahoning Valley next year and we will have to see him play there for awhile before making too many judgements. – Joe
26. Luis Lugo – LHP
|Indians 2011 International Free Agent (Venezuela)|
|2015 – A+||25||25||125.2||119||4.15||1.44||8.5||3.7||0.8|
Lugo is an interesting character, both on and off the field. As he has grown on the mound, so has his confidence, which I believe for someone like him can be an advantage. There’s something about a pitcher who knows how good he is and pushes for that in every start. If he continues to play with that mindset, the limits of opportunity are as high as his leg kick.
His 2015 was not perfect, but Lugo continues to impress at every level. He is a solid middle rotation pitcher, with the charisma of someone who only knows how to kick ass and take names. It would not surprise me if he got his call up to The Show within the next two seasons. – Cait
25. Sean Brady – LHP
|Indians 5th Round (141) Pick in 2013|
Pitchers, like Brady, who have a good feel for the strike zone and an ability to locate their pitches well have a chance to be more successful than not, despite a lack of overpowering or great stuff. Brady projects as a low-end starter in a rotation, but a more promising future in the Major Leagues could be out of the bullpen as a left-handed specialist. – John
24. Ryan Merritt – LHP
|Indians 16th Round (488) Pick in 2011|
|2015 AA & AAA||27||27||171.0||105||3.63||1.20||5.5||1.2||0.5|
Back in 2014, the Tribe named Merritt the top pitcher in their farm system, presenting him with the Bob Feller award. Merritt shouldn’t be expecting that award again in 2015, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have big league potential. The lefty has an average fastball sitting near 91 MPH and a plus change-up as his primary out pitch. He also has a slurve in his arsenal. Merritt shows good command with few walks, although his other numbers aren’t eye popping either. He was added to the 40 man this past year, and should be expected to open up in Columbus this season, and possibly making a trip up I-71 depending on need. – Danny
23. Erik Gonzalez – SS
|Indians 2008 International Free Agent (DR)|
|2015 AA & AAA||137||9||18||.255||.292||.373||4%||18%||90|
After a fantastic 2014 season that pushed him to the top of most Indians’ prospect rankings, Gonzalez has taken a few steps back after a disappointing 2015. Before his offensive explosion in 2014, Gonzalez was seen as a defense first player who could play nearly every position on the field. After this past season, it appears a utility role is the most likely outcome for his career. Gonzalez just turned 24 and is older than Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez so it’s unlikely that he’ll find much of a role on the big league club unless some pieces are moved. If he can manage to become a more consistent hitter, Gonzalez certainly has the potential to play at the big league level. – Kevin
22. Greg Allen – CF
|Indians 6th Round (188) Draft Pick in 2014|
|2015 A & A+||126||7||46||.270||.367||.378||9%||10%||123|
21. Dorssys Paulino – LF
|Indians 2011 International Free Agent (DR)|
|2015 A & A+||126||10||16||.272||.337||.418||7%||17%||120|
Paulino has been on my radar for about two seasons now and he has been someone who I have loved to follow. Being a short stop was not quite the right fit for him, so as the trend of the team has been, they put him in the outfield and he lit it up. When being promoted to the Lynchburg Hillcats as a left fielder, something clicked, though it was not without errors.
His bat seems to be finding itself with the promotion, and I would like to expect that coming off a good 2015 and heading towards a full season in the outfield will continue to pay off for him. He played hard with enough heart to make it one-step closer to the big leagues. It might not be the quickest way up, but I believe that he will make his rookie debut sooner than most would expect, ignoring a potential log jam in the future. – Cait