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Cleveland Indians Top 10 MiLB Corner Outfielders for 2017

Continuing on with Burning River Baseball’s top ten positional lists for the Indians minor league system, we reach an odd one. Earlier in the year, we covered the Indians top 10 center fielders and because many of the Indians outfielders play at least some in center, that ended up being more like a top ten for all outfielders. With that being said, this list is essentially the next best ten that are currently in the Indians minor league system.

Alfonseca bats during his first professional game against the AZL Reds in 2017. – Joseph Coblitz, BurningRiverBaseball.com

10. Pedro Alfonseca – 2017 Draft, Round 17 – AZL Indians
Positions: RF (2 GP)
by Joseph Coblitz

Alfonseca hasn’t seen much playing time yet in Arizona thanks multiple rehab assignments on the team (Greg Allen and Michael Tinsley) and a decently deep outfield (two more to come on this list plus Ronny Dominguez). Despite that, he’s got more mystery and potential simply because we don’t know much about him than players we have already seen who haven’t made this list like Jodd Carter and Cristopher Cespedes. In a few years, him being #10 on this list could look silly, but aside from having a decent arm in right, there isn’t much known about this year’s 17th rounder.

Paulino spent time in left during Indians Spring Training in 2016 before heading back to Lynchburg. – Joseph Coblitz, BurningRiverBaseball

9. Dorssys Paulino – 2011 International Free Agent – AA Akron
Positions: LF (297 GP), SS (187 GP)
by Gavin Potter

Paulino was originally one of Cleveland’s highest-profile international signings in franchise history, signing for a $1.1 million bonus as a 16-year-old back in 2011. After a big debut in rookie-ball, he was considered a top-100 shortstop prospect.  However, his bat and his glove never developed as planned. Now 22 and an outfielder, he’s shown recent signs of life with a .799 OPS at High-A last year.  However, he’ll need his bat to carry him forward, and his current .710 OPS at AA isn’t enough to impress.

Rodriguez hitting during 2016 Extended Spring Training while waiting out a PED suspension. – Joseph Coblitz, BurningRiverBaseball

8. Luigi Rodriguez – 2009 International Free Agent – AA Akron
Positions: CF (238 GP), RF (131 GP), LF (113 GP), P (1 GP)
by Justin Lada

If it feels like Rodriguez has been around forever, it’s because he has. The Indians signed the switch hitter in 2009 and he’s been playing stateside full time since 2010. Luigi was billed as a five tool switch hitter and he’s shown that ability at various stages of his minor league career. Rodriguez will be 25 at the end of this season and has remained with the Indians off of the 40 man roster through suspensions and some long injuries. 2016 was his ninth year in the organization and he just reached AA for the first time and didn’t take well to it (.602 OPS) and was sent back to High-A.

This year however, he’s sticking in AA and has a .530 slugging percentage, but his walk rate (4.9%) has completely cratered since posting a rate in the double digits every year since 2014. Rodriguez has always had 20/20 potential, the ability to hit for a high average, get on base and play good center field defense. It’s never truly come to fruition yet he remains in the organization. Luigi is a fun spirited guy who enjoys vampire movies, but I’m not sure how much longer or why the Indians will hang onto him.

7. George Valera – 2017 International Free Agent – Not on Roster
by Gavin Potter

Cleveland’s biggest international signing in 2017, the 16-year-old Valera was signed out of the Dominican Republic for $1.3 million. According to Baseball America, Valera was the #5 overall prospect in the international signing class, and regarded as having one of the best pure swings. However, his size (6-feet, 170 pounds) doesn’t allow for much projection, which has some scouts, like Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen, concerned about his development.

Rodriguez plays in right at Goodyear Ballpark during 2017 AZL action. – Joseph Coblitz, BurningRiverBaseball.com

6. Johnathan Rodriguez – 2017 Draft, Round 3 – AZL Indians
Positions: RF (5 GP), 2B (1 GP)
by Joseph Coblitz

One of the newest Indians, Rodriguez was drafted out of Carlos Beltran‘s Baseball Academy this June and won’t turn  18 until November. As such, he has nothing but potential and the unknowns that he provide place him high on this list above others who have been in the system longer, but have already burned out. Rodriguez is expected to hit for some power and projects to be a pure corner outfielder with a great arm, but otherwise average defense.

Gonzalez hits an opposite field home run during an AZL game in 2016. – Joseph Coblitz, BurningRiverBaseball

5. Oscar Gonzalez – 2014 International Free Agent – SS Mahoning Valley
Positions: RF (74 GP), LF (41 GP)
by Joseph Coblitz

Gonzalez is in his third season with Cleveland despite being just 19 years old and if we’ve learned anything, it’s that he strikes out a lot. Of course, there’s more to him as a player than that and he did win the 2016 AZL MVP by leading the league with 8 home runs. Moving up to short season this year, Gonzalez has continued to K at a high rate and still never walks, but he’s batting .350/.365/.500 after a couple weeks.

Defensively, Gonzalez likely projects best as a DH, but if he can learn the strike zone a little better, he could be a pretty good one.

Longo takes a lead off third during a 2016 Instructional League game. – Joseph Coblitz, BurningRiverBaseball.com

4. Mitch Longo – 2016 Draft, Round 14 – A Lake County
Positions: RF (30 GP)
by Justin Lada

Despite an ankle injury and two separate wrist injuries since his pro debut last season he’s continued to rake. In 53 pro games, Longo owns a .328/.365/.458 slash line and is a perfect 8-for-8 on the bases. The Mayfield, Ohio native’s bat is definitely his calling card and he’s a guy who plays the game hard (sorry for the cliche). He’s got a great approach at the plate with a closed stance and isn’t afraid to take the ball the other way as a left handed hitter. He’s hit all over the Captains lineup so far this year. He puts up good at bats and puts good swings on the ball which is amazing because of the time he’s missed plus having two wrist injuries. Being a local kid and having a interesting bat is plenty reason for his ranking here and to remember the name.

3. Quentin Holmes – 2017 Draft, Round 2 – AZL Indians
Positions: CF (4 GP)
by Gavin Potter

The Indians highest pick in the 2017 draft, Holmes was picked 64th overall and signed for $988,970, just higher than the slot value of $969,900.  A high schooler from New York, Holmes was regarded as possibly the fastest player in the 2017 draft class. His swing is described as raw, but having just turned 18, has plenty of time to develop. If he does, he has the potential to be an above-average regular.

Benson stands on deck in a minor league Spring Training game. – Caitlin Boron, BurningRiverBaseball.com

2. Will Benson –  2016 Draft, Round 1 – SS Mahoning Valley
Positions: RF (39 GP)
by Joseph Coblitz

Possibly the most prototypical power hitting corner outfielder on this list, Benson has a rifle arm in right, serious swing speed and power when he connects and a massive hole in that swing that has lead to 9 times more K’s this year than walks and a strike out in nearly 40% of his at bats. It’s way too early to judge Benson’s bat and his speed may raise his floor a bit (he’s great on the bases and doesn’t get great jumps in the outfield, but can make up for that with speed on defense), but he has an extremely high ceiling and an extremely low floor.

1. Ka’ai Tom – 2015 Draft, Round 5 – A+ Lynchburg
Positions: LF (102 GP), CF (31 GP), RF (24 GP)
by Caitlin Boron

The 5’9″, 185 lbs outfielder has gone from bouncing back and forth between play time and the DL, to playing in the most games on the current roster. In his first season after being drafted in 2015 Tom was assigned to Mahoning Valley to play short season ball, and in 2016 he was promoted to full season A in Lake County, but spent a decent amount of time working through an injury. Now, he’s in high-A, leading the team in games played (81), looking healthy and solid as ever.

He’s also leading in other categories like doubles (19), walks (38), and is tied with Sicnarf Loopstok in RBI (41) and Sam Haggerty in run (45). He’s always been a player with a great bat and a consistent glove, though there hasn’t been a consistent amount of time to view him at his full potential. So now with it being his third season in the Indians system, he’s wasting no time to display what he can bring to the team.

Due to a logjam of talent and names for many positions through the Indians farm system, guys like Tom might not be making their promotions to the higher levels for a little bit. However, I have a lot of confidence in the idea that he could end his 2017 in AA Akron, if not definitely starting his 2018 there out of camp.