After the completion of the regular season and alternate training sites, most player development staffs have turned their attention to instructional league play. In the past, instructional leagues have been populated by new draftees, recent international signings and players at the bottom rungs of their organizational ladder. This year, in an attempt to make up for lost time due to the pandemic, it’s been expanded to include many more players. MLB Pipeline will be providing position-by-position reports from instructional league camps in Florida and Arizona.
Logan Allen, LHP (No. 21); Robert Broom, RHP; Raymond Burgos, LHP; Tanner Burns, RHP (No. 14); Joey Cantillo, LHP (No. 15); Xzavion Curry, RHP; Hunter Gaddis, RHP; Ethan Hankins, RHP (No. 10); Tim Herrin, LHP; Mason Hickman, RHP; Jared Janczak, RHP; Kyle Marman, RHP; Shane McCarthy, RHP; Kirk McCarty, LHP; Nick Mikolajchak, RHP; Cody Morris, RHP; Luis Oviedo, RHP (No. 25); Lenny Torres, RHP (No. 28); Carlos Vargas, RHP (No. 22)
Former first-round picks Triston McKenzie (2015), Daniel Espino (2019) and Ethan Hankins (2018) stand out as the best pitching prospects in the system. A healthy Lenny Torres would rank right with them, and the good news for the Indians is that he's progressing nicely in his rehab after having Tommy John surgery in May 2019.
A 2018 supplemental first-rounder, Torres is the second-highest New York high school pitcher drafted in the last decade, behind only 2016 No. 3 overall pick Ian Anderson. He has one of the quickest arms among Cleveland prospects, and it produced 92-98 mph fastballs with riding action and low-80s sliders with high spin rates before his elbow gave out. Though the Indians are taking care not to rush him back, the 20-year-old is showing that same quality stuff again in Goodyear, Ariz.
"Torres is on schedule," Indians farm director James Harris said. "If he were a little bit older we'd probably let him pitch in winter ball and if instructs were a little bit longer you'd probably see him more. But neither of those things is true, so we're slow playing him a little bit.
"He's returned to form. He's not participating in games yet but definitely in the bullpen, we see flashes of it. We're excited by where he's at."
Yainer Diaz, Bryan Lavastida, Andres Melendez, Bo Naylor (No. 4)
After a strong second half in his first full pro season, Bo Naylor was poised to break out as one of baseball's best catching prospects in 2020. That didn't happen because the Minor League season got cancelled, but the year was far from a complete loss.
Because the Indians were short on catchers at their alternative site, Naylor got plenty of reps and handled much more advanced pitchers than he would have in high Class A. His bat is what made him a first-round pick in 2018, and he continued to show off a quick left-handed stroke, advanced feel for the barrel and at least solid raw power. He and his brother Josh (Marlins, 2015) are the first Canadian brothers both drafted in the first round, and Cleveland reunited them by acquiring Josh from the Padres in the Mike Clevinger trade in August.
Though Naylor threw out 37 percent of basestealers in 2019, the Indians wanted him to improve his throwing mechanics and arm strength. They're pleased with his progress.
"Naylor is really working on his arm strength," Harris said. "He's actually working with our pitching coaches on that. He had that as a goal at our alternative stie and has continued in the fall season, and he has made some very good improvements. It's upper level at this point.
"He's also working on his leadership. He came from the alternative site after working with older guys, and watching him here working with our younger guys, it has been amazing to see."
Gabriel Arias, SS (No. 6); Aaron Bracho, SS (No. 9); Christian Cairo, 2B; Raynel Delgado, 2B; Jose Fermin, SS; Tyler Freeman, SS (No. 2); Nolan Jones, 3B (No. 1); Jesus Lara, SS; Angel Martinez, SS (No. 20); Owen Miller, 2B (No. 18); Joe Naranjo, 1B; Jhonkensy Noel, 1B; Richard Palacios, 2B; Jose Pastrano, SS; Gabriel Rodriguez, SS (No. 11); Junior Sanquintin, SS; Jose Tena, SS (No. 26); Milan Tolentino, SS (No. 23); Carson Tucker, SS (No. 12); Yordys Valdes, SS
The strength of the system is middle infielders, and Cleveland added to that this summer. It drafted high schoolers Carson Tucker (first round) and Milan Tolentino (fourth) in June and acquired Gabriel Arias and Owen Miller as part of the six-player package they received in the Clevinger deal.
Instructional league has given the Indians their first extended look at all four players, especially the two former Padres. Arias is a quality defender at shortstop with 25-homer potential. Miller draws Mark Loretta comparisons and had no problem handling Double-A pitching in 2019, his first full pro season.
"The first thing you notice is the physical maturity of both," Harris said. "They can start working on upper-level skills. They've already faced upper-level pitching and we can get really technical with their defensive skills. Arias has just played shortstop, while Miller has played all over the infield."
George Valera has one of the prettiest swings and highest offensive upsides among Indians prospects. After Valera was signed for $1.3 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2017, his development has been slowed by a broken hamate in 2018 and the cancellation of the 2020 Minor League season. He's still just 19, however, and Harris said he benefited tremendously from participating in alternative camp before continuing his progress in instructional league.
"Valera worked with our outfield coaches at the alternative site and got to be around guys like Tyler Naquin and Greg Allen, learning how to be a big leaguer from the defensive side," Harris said. "At the plate, being around guys like Tyler Freeman and Ernie Clement, he and Bo were able to create an advanced approach.
"He has brought that to Arizona and not missed a beat. He's continuing to work on his approach and he's been more selective while still continuing to hit the ball all over the field."