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The Sports Daily > Burning River Baseball
Cleveland Indians Top 10 MiLB 1B for 2017

We love our rankings at Burning River Baseball and a top 50 minor league list just isn’t enough. In order to truly access the Indians organizational depth, this season we’ll look at the ten best players at each individual position. Throughout the minor league season, we’ll come out with a new list about every two weeks and what better way to start than with first.

While many minor leaguers play multiple positions, they will only be eligible to be featured on one positional list each year so we can feature as many as possible. On this particular list, the only players who legitimately qualified as a first baseman that weren’t included were Christopher De Jesus, Felix Fernandez and Henderson De Oleo, all players in the Dominican Summer League in 2016.

10. Joe Sever – 2012 Draft, Round 21 – AA Akron
Other Positions: 3B (169 games), 2B (67), OF (2)
by Caitlin Boron

Joe Sever to this point is having a pretty good season. His at bats are light and airy, because I’m not sure how else to describe them. There’s little tension at the plate, and a comfortable, easy swing with enough bite to put the ball where it needs to be. So far this season, Sever has been the starting 1B for the Akron Rubberducks, which for him is a big upgrade rather than coming off the bench. He’s still striking out a decent amount, 7 K’s in 22 ABs, but Sever is making due with a .318 average.

The 2012 draft pick is playing his year 26-season at a level below what is expected of him. For someone who at his age was drafted out of college, one would expect more out of him to this point, which I believe will be shown with a good start to a season as a starter.

9. Juan De La Cruz – 2009 International Free Agent – A Lake County
Other Positions: C (149 games), 3B (2)
by Gavin Potter

Originally signed by the Indians in 2009, De La Cruz is 23, and hasn’t had any real success of note since 2015, when he put up a 123 wRC+ as a 21-year-old in Mahoning Valley. While he serves as a depth option for the Indians in the minor leagues, his recent play, including a 72 wRC+ in Lake County last year, means he is far way from any sort of prospect buzz, especially considering his growing age.

8. Emmanuel Tapia – 2013 Int. Free Agent – A Lake County
by Caitlin Boron

Emmanuel Tapia is someone who makes you think “power” hitter. His 6’3″, 215 lb stature is enough to assume that in single A he might fill out to be some what of a power bat down the line, but Tapia has a way to go before reaching his full potential. When he makes good contact, he can smack the ball an impressive distance. The issue with that at the moment is trying to find that sweet spot. In that search, Tapia strikes out a good chunk of the time, already doing so 10 times out of 7 games in 2017 with only a 120 BA to speak of.

I believe he still start to easy up at the plate as the season progresses, and he will figure out that maybe hacking away at pitches isn’t exactly the best approach, and he will settle into the mindset comfortable with medium contact hits and run his season more on doubles than attempted homers.

7. Jose Medina – 2013 Int. Free Agent – A Lake County
Other Positions: RF (58 games), LF (49)
by Joseph Coblitz

Medina is a largely unknown player in the Indians system and heading into his second season in Lake County at the age of 22, there’s good reason for that. However, he has shown some power with 8 home runs and 11 doubles last year and 21 doubles in his first year in the Indians system in 2014 with the DSL Tribe. He was a bit overmatched in A ball last year, leading to career highs in K-rate and lows in average and OBP, so his return to the LC was warranted. While he has been used mostly an outfielder, he makes more sense defensively at first and if he has a future in the organization, it is likely in the infield. In order to stick around, however, he’ll have to assert himself in short order and move on to Lynchburg or he will likely get lost in the shuffle.

6. Ronny Rodriguez – 2010 Int. Free Agent – AAA Columbus
Other Positions: SS (262 games), 2B (248), 3B (45), RF (10)
by Gavin Potter

Once an intriguing middle infield prospect in the Indians’ system, Rodriguez has now transitioned to playing more in the corners. However, now 24 with inconsistent hitting in recent years, his best bet of playing in the major leagues is in a utility role. A power spike (.204 ISO) in Akron in 2015 briefly raised his prospect pedigree, but he was unable to replicate the power in more hitter-friendly Columbus in 2015 or 2016, failing to even reach an ISO of .150.  If Rodriguez can flash more of that 2015 power this year in AAA, his ability to play multiple positions could earn him a big league look, but his slow start in 2017 (.212/.278/.333) isn’t helping his cause.

5. Jose Vicente – 2013 Int. Free Agent – Extended Spring Training
Other Positions: C (47 games)
by Joseph Coblitz

Originally signed as a catcher, Vicente has played more games at first in both the DSL and AZL due to roster construction. In 2016, he was one of the AZL Indians most consistent hitters, batting .280/.333/.408. He appears to have some power, although it was not particularly visible statistically as the AZL team played most of their games in the MLB sized Goodyear Ballpark. He deserves a promotion to at least Mahoning Valley this year and at 20 already, the Indians may want to move him up to Lake County should they cut one of the players lower in the rankings.

4. Ulysses Cantu – 2016 Draft, 6th Round – Ext. ST
Other Positions: 3B (2 games)
by Joseph Coblitz

Cantu was drafted as a third baseman, but the 2016 AZL roster forced a move to first and it’s likely he could remain there. With Nolan Jones playing third at the same level, there is little chance of a move back across the diamond. While his offensive numbers were disappointing in his first professional season, he is still a highly considered prospect and will have another chance in Extended Spring, then short season ball to prove himself before a likely move to Lake County in 2018. Cantu doesn’t turn 19 until May, so he has plenty of time to prove himself at the lower levels.

3. Mike Papi – 2014 Draft, CBA Round – AA Akron
Other Positions: LF (126 games), RF (125), CF (2)
by Justin Lada

Papi was a highly regarded college hitter from the University of Virginia, however, the Cavaliers have a bit of a reputation for having good college hitters who don’t turn into good pro hitters. Most thought the left handed hitting 1B/OF would be a good pro hitter, but he is 24 and in AA again. He’s off to a better start in 2017 (.304 in 23 ABs) and to be fair, he’s dealt with various injuries in the last few years. The Indians have no reason to give up on Papi because of his pedigree and they don’t have tons of first base prospects knocking down the door right now. He was also a competitive balance pick, so the Indians will give him as much run as they have to until he goes Matt LaPorta or finds a way to hit and eventually provide some hitting value as an 1B/OF.

2. Nellie Rodriguez – 2012 Draft, Round 15 – AAA Columbus
by Justin Lada

The 22 year old right handed hitting first basemen has reached AAA and has overtaken Jesus Aguilar’s spot as the right handed power bat of the Clip Show. He hit 26 homers despite playing in a tough Eastern League and pitchers park of Canal Park in Akron, however, he struck out 186 times. So far, three of his four hits in AAA have been homers, but he’s still hitting just .138 with 15 strikeouts. Because he’s right handed and can only play first base, he’ll hope he can be a Chris Carter-lite.

1. Bobby Bradley – 2014 Draft, Round 3 – AA Akron
by Justin Lada

Bradley has a little more power than Rodriguez. The 20 year old is in AA this year and is on the stronger side of the platoon but is also a first basemen only. He hit 29 homers a year ago in the Carolina League, but struck out 170 times. The one thing Bradley has going for him aside from his prodigious power is his age. He’s still relatively young for AA and hopefully he can use the experience facing older, better pitching early on to make key adjustments. If not, he is more likely a Chris Carter type than Rodriguez, because he has better game power than Rodriguez.