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Indians Pipeline

Power puts Bradley among top 1B prospects

MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- The old adage in baseball is that power is something that develops over time. Bobby Bradley has had it since he broke into the professional ranks with the Indians.

Bradley's power displays have made him one of Cleveland's most intriguing prospects since he was drafted by the organization four years ago. Evaluators also see the potential in Bradley, who was ranked No. 6 on MLB Pipeline's updated rankings of the top 10 first-base prospects.

CLEVELAND -- The old adage in baseball is that power is something that develops over time. Bobby Bradley has had it since he broke into the professional ranks with the Indians.

Bradley's power displays have made him one of Cleveland's most intriguing prospects since he was drafted by the organization four years ago. Evaluators also see the potential in Bradley, who was ranked No. 6 on MLB Pipeline's updated rankings of the top 10 first-base prospects.

This spring, Bradley will get to showcase his skills for Indians manager Terry Francona and his coaching staff as a non-roster invitee to big league camp in Goodyear, Ariz. That will mark Bradley's first extended taste of the Major League environment -- aside from a dozen Cactus League games over the past three years. It will give Bradley a chance to be around veteran first basemen like Yonder Alonso and Edwin Encarnacion before returning to the Minors.

Bradley is the third Indians prospect to make the cut for MLB Pipeline's Top 10 positional lists, which are being updated ahead of the Jan. 27 unveiling of the preseason Top 100 prospects rankings. On Thursday, Francisco Mejia was named the No. 1 catching prospect in baseball. Earlier in the week, Triston McKenzie was named the No. 9 right-handed pitching prospect.

That trio represents a part of the future for an Indians club that will be looking for ways to extend its current window of success. The big league club has a solid young foundation with the likes of Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez and Bradley Zimmer, among others, and a crop of prospects who will be knocking on the door soon.

Video: Bobby Bradley on changing his approach at the plate

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

Last season, Bradley, 21, turned in a .251/.331/.465 slash line in 131 games for Double-A Akron, hitting 23 home runs and 25 doubles with 89 RBIs. That came after the left-handed-swinging first baseman belted 29 homers with 102 RBIs in the previous season with Class A Advanced Lynchburg.

Bradley -- selected in the third round of the 2014 Draft -- has posted a .261/.352/.499 slash line (.851 OPS) over four seasons in the Indians' system. He has averaged one home run per 20.2 plate appearances, and has shown improvement with his plate discipline. Bradley's strikeout rate dropped to 22.9 percent in 2017 from 29.7 percent in '16 and 31.6 percent in '15.

This winter, the Indians lost Carlos Santana in free agency and brought in Alonso to take over at first base with a two-year contract that includes a team (or vesting) option for 2020. In all likelihood, Bradley will advance to Triple-A Columbus this season, with an eye on breaking into the Majors within the next two years. If he continues on his current trajectory, there is a chance that Bradley might find his home at first in Cleveland when Alonso's contract expires.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

 

Cleveland Indians

Mejia earns top ranking among C prospects

Tribe's highly touted backstop all about 'focus' in MLB development
MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- Francisco Mejia is not only widely considered the top prospect in the Indians' organization, but he is also one of baseball's best young catchers. According to MLB Pipeline, in fact, there is no catching prospect who merits a higher ranking than the up-and-coming Tribe backstop.

On Thursday, MLB Pipeline unveiled the top 10 catching prospects in baseball and Mejia -- who got a brief taste of the big leagues last season -- led the way in the No. 1 spot. This comes after Indians pitcher Triston McKenzie was rated as the No. 9 right-handed pitching prospect in the game earlier this week.

CLEVELAND -- Francisco Mejia is not only widely considered the top prospect in the Indians' organization, but he is also one of baseball's best young catchers. According to MLB Pipeline, in fact, there is no catching prospect who merits a higher ranking than the up-and-coming Tribe backstop.

On Thursday, MLB Pipeline unveiled the top 10 catching prospects in baseball and Mejia -- who got a brief taste of the big leagues last season -- led the way in the No. 1 spot. This comes after Indians pitcher Triston McKenzie was rated as the No. 9 right-handed pitching prospect in the game earlier this week.

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

MLB Pipeline will continue to roll out its preseason top 10 lists over the next several days, culminating in the Top 100 prospects list on Jan. 27.

"He did an extraordinary job at continuing his development," Chris Antonetti, the Indians' president of baseball operations, said of Mejia at the end of last season. "Offensively, and specifically defensively, the way he led the staff, some of the nuances of catching. He's in a much better spot now than he was a couple years ago as a defender."

Mejia, 22, was promoted to the Majors from Double-A Akron in the final month last season, but he only appeared in 11 games for the Indians. Tribe manager Terry Francona quipped that Mejia was always standing near the bat rack or close to the skipper with a bat in his hand, staying ready. That was noticed by Cleveland's big league staff, which will be looking closely at Mejia this spring, too.

Video: Indians prospect Francisco Mejia discusses his goals

When Mejia was called up to the big leagues, though, the Indians were in the midst of their American League-record 22-game winning streak, and they had a good thing going with veteran catchers Roberto Perez and Yan Gomes. Under the circumstances, there were not many innings available for Mejia to be worked into Major League games.

"There just wasn't the opportunity to catch him as much as I would have liked," Francona said. "You could tell, it's a young kid who's used to playing every day. He's making the jump from Double-A to the Major Leagues, and he's playing so sporadically. You could even see in his at-bats, he was getting a little out of control. That's not the type of hitter he is. He's a really advanced hitter. He was put into some situations that were extremely challenging."

Mejia enjoyed a standout showing with Akron before being called up to The Show. In 92 games in the Minors, the catcher turned in a .297/.346/.490 slash line with 14 home runs, 21 doubles, 52 RBIs, 52 runs scored and seven stolen bases. Mejia also threw out 30 percent of would-be basestealers.

The .835 OPS that Mejia posted in 2017 followed a breakout showing in '16, when he had an .896 OPS between Class A Lake County and Class A Advanced Lynchburg and made national headlines with a 50-game hitting streak. That performance, which vaulted Mejia up the prospect rankings, came after he had a .670 OPS in '15 for Lake County.

Video: Mejia discusses his memorable 50-game hitting streak

"It's been about the focus and focusing on the game," Mejia said earlier this month at MLB's Rookie Career Development Program. "When I finished the season in 2015, I went to the Dominican [Republic] for a short time and came back to do a program that the [Indians] set up for me. I stayed with the team more than in the Dominican. The focus and the help of the coaches and new manager helped me a lot. I talked about a lot of things with the pitching coach.

"Also, I practiced a lot in the Dominican, seeing a lot of games there, too. I learned a lot in the winter league. I didn't play, but I was on the bench. That helped me a lot to see that, in this game, it's not just you. There are a lot of people behind you waiting to take your job."

Following the regular season, Mejia went to the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .365 in 15 games and tried his hand at third base. The idea was to introduce some versatility into Mejia's game, given that he is close to being ready for the Majors and Cleveland has two veteran catchers locked in at the moment.

"One thing we know," Antonetti said recently, "is [Mejia] is a really good catcher right now and he made a lot of great progress defensively. Over the course of the last six months, he took a step toward increasing his versatility, so that's a big positive. Francisco deserves a lot of credit."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

 

Cleveland Indians, Francisco Mejia

Righty prospect McKenzie part of Tribe's future

Former first-rounder is No. 9 on MLB Pipeline's Top 10 RHPs
MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- The Indians currently boast one of the best rotations in baseball, and built the staff through multiple avenues. Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger were acquired via trade. Josh Tomlin was a late-round Draft pick who defied the odds through development. Danny Salazar came aboard as an international signing.

Triston McKenzie might very well represent the future -- an arm that can help sustain the success and reputation of Cleveland's pitching staff. According to MLB Pipeline, which is unveiling its Top 10 lists at each position over the next two weeks, McKenzie ranks ninth among all of baseball's right-handed pitching prospects for this coming season and finished last season second overall within the organization. McKenzie does what he can not to worry about rankings.

CLEVELAND -- The Indians currently boast one of the best rotations in baseball, and built the staff through multiple avenues. Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger were acquired via trade. Josh Tomlin was a late-round Draft pick who defied the odds through development. Danny Salazar came aboard as an international signing.

Triston McKenzie might very well represent the future -- an arm that can help sustain the success and reputation of Cleveland's pitching staff. According to MLB Pipeline, which is unveiling its Top 10 lists at each position over the next two weeks, McKenzie ranks ninth among all of baseball's right-handed pitching prospects for this coming season and finished last season second overall within the organization. McKenzie does what he can not to worry about rankings.

Top 10 Prospects by Position

"I don't actually focus on it," McKenzie told reporters at the Indians' fall development program in September. "I focus on the game. I focus on me going out there and helping my team."

McKenzie played in the Futures Game this past summer, and is a safe bet to be included in MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospect list, which will be revealed on Jan. 27. Last season, the lanky right-hander baffled plenty of bats with a fastball-curveball mix and a developing changeup. McKenzie piled up strikeouts, pitched with precision and lasted deep into games.

McKenzie spent the entire 2017 season with Class A Advanced Lynchburg in the Carolina League. In 25 starts, McKenzie went 12-6 with a 3.46 ERA, amassing 186 strikeouts against 45 walks in 143 innings. The righty averaged 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings.

McKenzie, who was selected in the first round (42nd overall) of the 2015 Draft, has a 2.68 ERA with 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings and a 4.4:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in parts of three professional seasons in Cleveland's system.

Since being drafted, McKenzie has worked hard with the Indians on cleaning up his mechanics, especially with his lower half. The idea was to help alleviate some issues with the right-hander's across-the-body throwing motion. Once McKenzie grew accustomed to some of those alterations, he began to expand his pitch repertoire.

"In the beginning, there was a little bit of adjusting," McKenzie said. "But, I feel like every day I go out there and pitch, I learn something. Whether it be from my experiences facing the team, whether it be from me talking to my teammates who have been there before, talking to my coaches who have experience, talking to guys [from the Major League team], guys that are high prospects in our organization, I feel like I learn something every day."

McKenzie will likely advance to Double-A Akron this year, bringing him one step closer to the Majors.

"I'm not even looking that far [ahead] right now," McKenzie said. "All I'm focused on is coming into Spring Training ready to go."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

 

Cleveland Indians

Mejia adds versatility to repertoire in offseason

Indians' top prospect shows willingness to shift between home plate, hot corner
MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- Francisco Mejia did not head to the Arizona Fall League to become a third baseman, but he was open to trying his hand at the position. The Indians asked the young catcher to work at the hot corner with the idea of introducing some versatility to his game, and Mejia did not see the harm in expanding his skill set.

According to MLB Pipeline, Mejia is currently ranked as the best catching prospect in the Majors, the top prospect in the Indians' system and the 14th-best prospect overall in baseball. He got a taste of the big leagues last season with Cleveland and, following the third-base experiment in the AFL, Mejia is preparing for an important Spring Training with the Tribe.

CLEVELAND -- Francisco Mejia did not head to the Arizona Fall League to become a third baseman, but he was open to trying his hand at the position. The Indians asked the young catcher to work at the hot corner with the idea of introducing some versatility to his game, and Mejia did not see the harm in expanding his skill set.

According to MLB Pipeline, Mejia is currently ranked as the best catching prospect in the Majors, the top prospect in the Indians' system and the 14th-best prospect overall in baseball. He got a taste of the big leagues last season with Cleveland and, following the third-base experiment in the AFL, Mejia is preparing for an important Spring Training with the Tribe.

"I worked a lot and I've gotten more used to it," Mejia said of third base, while attending MLB's Rookie Career Development Program earlier this month. "But, it's not exactly my position, because I've been a catcher since I was a kid. I am willing to [play some third], because if it's to help the team, I'll do it."

That willingness on Mejia's part was good to see for an Indians team that loves versatility among its players. Mejia is knocking on the big leagues' door, but Cleveland has a pair of veteran catchers in Roberto Perez and Yan Gomes, who have built a strong rapport with the team's talented pitching staff. For a contending club like Cleveland, that situation makes working a rookie like Mejia into the picture more complicated.

Video: WEST@EAST: Mejia hits a double in the 4th inning

Right now, the Indians' infield projects to have Jason Kipnis at second base and All-Star Jose Ramirez at third, so it is not like the hot corner is Mejia's for the taking. But, if the young switch-hitter is deemed offensively capable of handling himself in the Majors at some point this year, having him able to play more than one position might help the Indians put all the puzzle pieces together.

"One thing we know," Chris Antonetti, the Indians' president of baseball operations, said recently, "is he's a really good catcher right now and he made a lot of great progress defensively. Over the course of the last six months, he took a step toward increasing his versatility, so that's a big positive. Francisco deserves a lot of credit, not only for what he did in the Fall League, but over the course of the season, with how much he focused on his defense and the progress he made there."

Mejia, 22, only appeared in 11 games for the Indians last season, but enjoyed a standout showing with Double-A Akron. In 92 games in the Minors, the catcher turned in a .297/.346/.490 slash line with 14 home runs, 21 doubles, 52 RBIs, 52 runs scored and seven stolen bases. Mejia also threw out 30 percent of would-be basestealers.

The .835 OPS that Mejia posted in 2017 followed a breakout showing in '16, when he had an .896 OPS between Class A Lake County and Class A Advanced Lynchburg and made national headlines with a 50-game hitting streak. That performance, which vaulted Mejia up the prospect rankings, came after he had a .670 OPS in '15 for Lake County.

Video: Mejia discusses his memorable 50-game hitting streak

"It's been about the focus and focusing on the game," Mejia said. "When I finished the season in 2015, I went to the Dominican for a short time and came back to do a program that the [Indians] set up for me. I stayed with the team more than in the Dominican. The focus and the help of the coaches and new manager helped me a lot. I talked about a lot of things with the pitching coach.

"Also, I practiced a lot in the Dominican, seeing a lot of games there, too. I learned a lot in the winter league. I didn't play, but I was on the bench. That helped me a lot to see that in this game, it's not just you. There are a lot of people behind you waiting to take your job."

Now, Mejia is behind Perez and Gomes, trying to find his way to the big leagues.

"I think it's just getting to Spring Training and giving it my best," Mejia said, "showing [the team] that I have what it takes to play, all of that."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

 

Cleveland Indians, Francisco Mejia

Bradley headlines list of Spring Training NRIs

Tribe also invites five pitchers to big league camp in hopes of finding 'pen arm
MLB.com

The Indians will have no shortage of pitching candidates in Spring Training as they try to tinker with their bullpen. The team announced eight non-roster invitees to Major League camp on Thursday, with five of those invitations going to pitchers.

While first-base prospect Bobby Bradley headlines the list of in-house invites, the bulk of the invitations go to relief pitchers. Right-handers Louis Head, Cameron Hill, Josh Martin and Cole Sulser will report to big league camp as the Indians try to sort out their bullpen without Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith. Head, Martin and Sulser spent last season in the bullpen at Triple-A Columbus, while Hill was an Eastern League All-Star closer at Double-A Akron.

The Indians will have no shortage of pitching candidates in Spring Training as they try to tinker with their bullpen. The team announced eight non-roster invitees to Major League camp on Thursday, with five of those invitations going to pitchers.

While first-base prospect Bobby Bradley headlines the list of in-house invites, the bulk of the invitations go to relief pitchers. Right-handers Louis Head, Cameron Hill, Josh Martin and Cole Sulser will report to big league camp as the Indians try to sort out their bullpen without Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith. Head, Martin and Sulser spent last season in the bullpen at Triple-A Columbus, while Hill was an Eastern League All-Star closer at Double-A Akron.

First baseman Nellie Rodriguez and corner infielder Richie Shaffer also received invites. In addition, the Indians signed lefty Robert Zarate to a Minor League contract with a non-roster invite as the 30-year-old mounts a comeback from left elbow surgery. The former Blue Jays prospect hasn't pitched in professional baseball the past two seasons due to injuries, but made an impression pitching winter ball this offseason in Venezuela. Left-handed hitters went just 5-for-32 against Zarate this winter, while he posted 33 strikeouts over 36 1/3 innings with 33 hits allowed.

Bradley ranks third on MLB Pipeline's list of Indians prospects and is listed as the fourth overall first-base prospect in the Majors.The 21-year-old left-handed hitter, a former third-round Draft pick, hit .251 with 25 doubles, 23 home runs, 89 RBIs and a .796 OPS at Akron, then batted .230 (17-for-74) in 18 games in the Arizona Fall League. He'll get a glimpse of big league pitching in Spring Training as he tries to make an impression on coaches and evaluators for the future.

Video: Bradley on Fall Stars Game Final Vote candidacy

Head, a former 18th-round pick out of Texas State, went 3-2 with a 3.23 ERA in 50 appearances at Columbus, including seven saves. The 27-year-old held opponents to 50 hits over 61 1/3 innings with 28 walks and 65 strikeouts, good for 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings.

Martin missed two months last season with elbow inflammation, but still posted four saves and a 3.25 ERA in 30 appearances in his second season with Columbus. The 28-year-old allowed 36 hits over as many innings with eight walks and 38 strikeouts.

Sulser, who turns 28 in March, compiled a 2.70 ERA and three saves in 45 games between Akron and Columbus last year as he made the transition to a full-time reliever. The former 25th-round pick struck out 59 batters over 48 innings with the Clippers.

Hill posted 13 saves and finished 28 games in Akron last year before making two appearances with Columbus at season's end. The 23-year-old, a former 17th-round pick, allowed 55 hits over 62 1/3 innings with 16 walks and 50 strikeouts.

Rodriguez batted .170 (64-for-377) with 14 doubles, 17 home runs and 49 RBIs at Columbus in 2017, and has 86 homers over his last four seasons in the Indians farm system. Shaffer, a former Rays infielder and first-round pick claimed off waivers last offseason, hit 30 homers for Columbus to go with a .227 average, 89 RBIs and an .802 OPS while playing the corner infield and outfield spots.

Jason Beck has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

 

Cleveland Indians

Indians not on Ohtani's reported list of clubs

MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- Shohei Ohtani was a fit for the Indians in many ways, but acquiring the Japanese phenom was always a long shot for the Tribe. Now, Cleveland is on the outside looking in as the unique recruiting process for the two-way superstar heads into its final stages.

After teams made their pitch to Ohtani, news of which clubs were in or out of the running began to trickle out publicly on Sunday. By Monday morning, multiple reports had identified the Angels, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Mariners, Padres and Rangers as the seven finalists to sign the international free agent.

CLEVELAND -- Shohei Ohtani was a fit for the Indians in many ways, but acquiring the Japanese phenom was always a long shot for the Tribe. Now, Cleveland is on the outside looking in as the unique recruiting process for the two-way superstar heads into its final stages.

After teams made their pitch to Ohtani, news of which clubs were in or out of the running began to trickle out publicly on Sunday. By Monday morning, multiple reports had identified the Angels, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Mariners, Padres and Rangers as the seven finalists to sign the international free agent.

:: Shohei Ohtani coverage ::

The Indians have not confirmed their standing in the process -- multiple sources did not return messages -- but the team had an uphill battle when it came to the unique situation with Ohtani. While money is clearly not the driving factor for Ohtani's decision, the Tribe only had $10,000 to offer in the way of a signing bonus, which was the lowest amount available among the 30 Major League teams.

Geography was also working against Cleveland. With the exception of the Cubs and Rangers, the bulk of the finalists to sign Ohtani play on the West Coast. No matter how intriguing some teams' presentation might have been, there was a clear preference on Ohtani's part to be closer to that side of the country.

Ohtani was posted by the Nippon-Ham Fighters on Friday and has until Dec. 22 to sign with a team. Had Ohtani waited two years, when he was 25 years old, he would not have been subject to international signing rules and could have inked a more lucrative contract. Since he is 23, Ohtani is limited to signing a Minor League contract that includes a signing bonus, which comes from the team's international spending pool. Ohtani would then earn the MLB minimum (around $545,000) in the Majors and would not be eligible for arbitration until 2020.

The Fighters will also receive a $20 million posting fee from the team that signs Ohtani.

Of the remaining suitors, the Rangers ($3,535,000) boast the most available funds. Cleveland began with $5.75 million available, but spent the entirety of its pool on other international signings this year. The Indians' top two signings were shortstop Aaron Bracho ($1.5 million bonus) of Venezuela and outfielder George Valera ($1.3 million) of the Dominican Republic. They currently rank 28th and 25th, respectively, among their Top 30 Prospects, per MLBPipeline.com.

Even with the minimal bonus available, it made sense for the Indians to at least throw their hat into the ring.

Led by two-time American League Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, the Indians boasted the best top-to-bottom pitching staff in the Majors last year. Ohtani, whose fastball has been clocked at 102 mph in the past, would have had a home in the rotation. Cleveland could have also offered the left-handed-hitting prospect at-bats as a designated hitter. With little financial wiggle room this offseason, Ohtani's low salary would have fit within the Tribe's budget.

Now that they are out of the mix, though, and with the Winter Meetings on the horizon next week, the Indians can return to their other offseason goals. Cleveland still has a hole at first base, could use some more bullpen depth and has some uncertainty surrounding the corner-outfield spots. The Indians have free agents in first baseman Carlos Santana and right fielder Jay Bruce, but they will likely have to wait out the market to see if their respective asking prices drop to have a shot at bringing one of them back for 2018.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

 

Cleveland Indians

Inbox: Is Tribe in on Ohtani sweepstakes?

Beat reporter Jordan Bastian answers fans' questions
MLB.com

How hard do you expect the Indians to pursue Shohei Ohtani? Do they even have the space to give him plate appearances?
-- Derek, Akron, Ohio

Yes, the Indians have interest in Japanese two-way star Ohtani, as they should. Really, given the guidelines for the bidding process for Ohtani, all 30 teams have nothing to lose by making their pitch. Cleveland has little available to offer for a signing bonus, but it has a postseason-ready roster to present as a reason to consider the Tribe.

How hard do you expect the Indians to pursue Shohei Ohtani? Do they even have the space to give him plate appearances?
-- Derek, Akron, Ohio

Yes, the Indians have interest in Japanese two-way star Ohtani, as they should. Really, given the guidelines for the bidding process for Ohtani, all 30 teams have nothing to lose by making their pitch. Cleveland has little available to offer for a signing bonus, but it has a postseason-ready roster to present as a reason to consider the Tribe.

:: Submit a question to the Indians Inbox ::

Now, just so we're clear, the Indians are not considered a favorite to land Ohtani, whose reported priorities are to have the opportunity to pitch and hit in the Majors, while also considering teams' locations and market dynamics. Cleveland is hardly a large market, but look no further than LeBron James for an athlete who has transcended the city's market size for global superstardom.

:: Shohei Ohtani coverage ::

The reality, though, is that the Indians can only offer a maximum of $10,000 in the way of a signing bonus, while the Rangers ($3,535,000), Yankees ($3.5 million) and Twins ($3,245,000) can offer the most. Cleveland spent the entirety of its $5.75-million pool for international signings for the year. Its top two signings were shortstop Aaron Bracho ($1.5 million bonus) of Venezuela and outfielder George Valera ($1.3 million) of the Dominican Republic. They currently rank 28th and 25th, respectively, among the Indians' Top 30 prospects, per MLBPipeline.com.

Because Ohtani is 23 years old, he is still subject to more strict international signing rules. He is limited to signing a Minor League contract that includes a signing bonus, and would earn the minimum (around $545,000 in 2018) in the Majors. He would not be eligible for arbitration until 2020, though a team would have the ability to sign him to an extension. Had Ohtani waited to be posted after turning 25, he would have faced no restrictions. So, his arrival now shows that his desire to play in the Majors is not solely about the money at the moment.

During negotations with free agents, the Indians will sometimes send "pitch books" to some of their targets to provide information about the team, city and other aspects. In Ohtani's case, his representatives sent a questionnaire to all 30 clubs to address what he is looking for in a team. You can bet the Indians made their pitch.

Cleveland already boasts a strong rotation -- headed by two-time American League Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber -- but the team would have room for Ohtani. As for hitting, Cleveland is looking for a first baseman and could also offer at-bats at designated hitter or corner outfield. Finding innings or at-bats for Ohtani would not be a problem for the Indians, and it's no secret how much manager Terry Francona loves versatility in his players.

All of that said, Ohtani coming to Cleveland is a long shot. According to multiple reports, the Yankees, Dodgers and Rangers look like the front-runners right now.

Tweet from @patrick_cbus: What pitcher is likely to be traded and does meritt have a chance in the rotation? Patrick -columbus. #indiansInbox

Heading into the 2018 season with Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger, Danny Salazar and Josh Tomlin gives the Indians a strong foundation for the rotation. Behind them, guys like Ryan Merritt, Shawn Morimando and Cody Anderson (coming back from Tommy John surgery) offer some potential depth. I could see the Indians exploring the market for Salazar, given his recent history of injury, increasing salary, years of control and his still-intriguing potential. There are plenty of teams that would roll the dice on Salazar. As for Merritt, it's hard to see him cracking the rotation as it's currently consistuted. But, with the lefty having no Minor League options left, he could compete for a spot in the bullpen. That will be something to watch this spring, for sure.

Video: CLE@NYY: Merritt K's Judge to start the frame

Tweet from @Sleepy453: What���s the chance the Indians resign Napoli to a $8-$9 million deal and let Santana walk? Tim M/Sandusky, Oh #IndiansInbox

We all know how fond Francona is of Napoli, and how important he was to the 2016 Tribe, but it's hard to imagine that kind of reunion, in my opinion. True, the first baseman hit 29 homers last year, but he posted a .193/.285/.428 slash line with a career-high 33.6 strikeout percentage. Napoli posted an 81 weighted Runs Created Plus, which indicates that he was 19 percent below league average offensively. Cleveland squeezed all that could out of Napoli in '16 and it was a memorable season for the slugger. But, I don't think he'd present an upgrade over what the Indians could do at first base internally.

Video: TEX@ATL: Napoli launches a two-run home run to left

Tweet from @DreamingBasebll: Which Indians' prospect who has yet to make his major league debut do you think has the best chance to make an impact for the team in 2018? #IndiansInbox

That's an interesting way to frame the question. If we included players who have already made their MLB debut, I'd say catcher Francisco Mejia. I could see him playing some kind of role for the Indians by midseason or in the second half. Since you added that wrinkle, though, I'll go with pitcher Julian Merryweather (Cleveland's No. 12 prospect). The righty was recently added to the 40-man roster, and prospects on the roster typically will get a look first. Merryweather had a rough go in Triple-A last year, but he is starting to emerge as a depth arm behind the big league pitching staff.

Tweet from @BrianLavrich: Who would you put on your Hall of Fame ballot and why? #IndiansInbox

For the record, I am not eligible to vote for the Hall of Fame, yet. But, if I could vote this year, I would check the boxes for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling, Jim Thome and Larry Walker. I'll save the "why" for a post later this offseason.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

 

Cleveland Indians

Indians' Arizona Fall League overview

Tribe's top prospect getting work at third base
MLB.com

Francisco Mejia headlines a talented crop of Indians prospects playing for the Glendale Desert Dogs in this year's Arizona Fall League, a group that includes four position players and pitchers apiece. Just don't expect to see MLBPipeline.com's top-ranked catching prospect behind the plate at any point this fall.

Learning to play a new position is commonplace in the Fall League, as teams view it as an opportunity to offer its rising prospects work at a secondary position in a competitive-but-low-risk environment, with the ultimate goal of improving the players' chances of contributing in the Major Leagues.

Francisco Mejia headlines a talented crop of Indians prospects playing for the Glendale Desert Dogs in this year's Arizona Fall League, a group that includes four position players and pitchers apiece. Just don't expect to see MLBPipeline.com's top-ranked catching prospect behind the plate at any point this fall.

Learning to play a new position is commonplace in the Fall League, as teams view it as an opportunity to offer its rising prospects work at a secondary position in a competitive-but-low-risk environment, with the ultimate goal of improving the players' chances of contributing in the Major Leagues.

For Mejia, Cleveland's No. 1 prospect (No. 13 overall), that means working as a third baseman exclusively this fall after a career spent behind the plate.

"I like it," Mejia said about his work at the hot corner. "I've been taking ground balls, working with the managers. I took plenty of ground balls at the position while with Cleveland."

Mejia received his first taste of the Majors this year as a September callup. The 21-year-old switch-hitter was promoted directly from Double-A Akron, where he had batted .297/.346/.490 with a career-high 14 home runs in 92 games.

But as the third catcher on the playoff-bound Indians' roster, Mejia's opportunities understandably were limited down the stretch. He appeared in 11 games with the Tribe, going 2-for-11 at the plate and logging four innings behind it defensively.

Arizona Fall League roster & stats

But with neither Yan Gomes nor Roberto Perez going anywhere soon, Mejia understands the importance of learning a new position at this stage in his young career, especially given how much the Indians covet his hitting ability.

"They have two great catchers in Gomes and Perez," said Mejia, "and I learned a lot while I was there. [In the AFL] I'm trying to play a different position so I have a chance to play in the big leagues."

Mejia played his one and only game at third base with Akron in late August ahead of his promotion to the big leagues. Prior to that, he had logged all but one game at his natural position.

In the Fall League, Mejia served as Glendale's designated hitter in four games before finally making his first start at third base on Wednesday. He had two chances in the field, the second of which he completed successfully after committing a throwing error in the second inning.

However, all of that extra work at third base doesn't mean that the Indians have given up on Mejia as a catcher. He continues to get in as many non-game reps there as possible, working closely with the Tribe's AFL pitchers.

"I think I miss catching because I've always played catcher," he said, "but I get a chance to catch bullpens every day out here and stay sharp."

Indians hitters in the Fall League

Bobby Bradley, 1B -- The 21-year-old slugger made impressive strides at the plate in his first Double-A campaign before finishing with a .251/.331/.465 line, 23 home runs and 89 RBIs. It was a product of a vastly improved approach that saw the Indians' No. 3 prospect reduce his strikeout rate to 22.9 percent after fanning 29.7 percent of the time with Class A Advanced Lynchburg in 2016.

Video: Bobby Bradley on changing his approach at the plate

"I went with a more aggressive approach this year," Bradley said. "Not taking so many pitches and looking for a walk. At the beginning of the year I kind of struggled a little bit, but as I found out different things in my swing and approach it helped me."

Tyler Krieger, 2B -- Krieger's success with Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic didn't carry over as hoped into the regular season, as the Indians' No. 19 prospect batted just .225/.303/.337 in 119 games with Akron. The Indians are hopeful that the 23-year-old switch-hitter, who possesses an intriguing combination of hitting ability and speed, will get back on track this fall.

Ka'ai Tom, OF -- A member of Glendale's taxi squad, Tom put himself on the radar in his first fully healthy professional season by hitting .254/.340/.418 over 126 games with Lynchburg. The 23-year-old outfielder stands out most for his power-speed package, which netted him 48 extra-base hits and 23 steals this past season.

Indians pitchers in the Fall League

Argenis Angulo, RHP -- A 19th-round pick in 2014, Angulo appeared in a career-high 41 games while going 15-for-17 in save opportunities with Lynchburg. A Carolina League midseason All-Star, the 23-year-old righty pitched to a 2.29 ERA with 68 strikeouts and a .160 batting average against in 55 innings.

Sean Brady, LHP -- Brady is using the Fall League to make up some of the innings that he lost due to a shoulder injury during the regular season. The 23-year-old left-hander did, however, finish his season on a high note with Lynchburg by tossing seven innings of one-run ball with six hits and four strikeouts.

Luke Eubank, RHP -- Also missing considerable time in 2017 was the right-hander Eubank, though, like Brady, he recovered in time to pitch well out of the bullpen for Lynchburg down the stretch. Making 12 relief appearances after being activated from the disabled list in mid-July, Eubank posted a 1.42 ERA with three saves while limiting opposing hitters to a .128 clip.

Leandro Linares, RHP -- The 23-year-old right-hander split his season between Lynchburg and Akron, faring better at the former than the latter. He posted a 2.56 ERA with eight saves (in 14 chances) over 42 games between the two stops, compiling 57 strikeouts and 32 walks in 56 1/3 innings.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

 

Cleveland Indians

McKenzie, Diaz named Indians Prospects of the Year

MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- When Indians prospect Triston McKenzie was assigned to Class A Advanced Lynchburg prior to the 2017 season, the right-hander knew that the transition would not be an easy one.

However, McKenzie didn't let the change have an effect on his results, as he excelled in his first season in the Carolina League, leading the league in strikeouts, 40 more than the second-place finisher.

CLEVELAND -- When Indians prospect Triston McKenzie was assigned to Class A Advanced Lynchburg prior to the 2017 season, the right-hander knew that the transition would not be an easy one.

However, McKenzie didn't let the change have an effect on his results, as he excelled in his first season in the Carolina League, leading the league in strikeouts, 40 more than the second-place finisher.

Indians' Prospects of the Year

Due to his stellar season with the Hillcats, McKenzie -- Cleveland's No. 2 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com -- was named the Tribe's Minor League Pitcher of the Year for the second straight season. MLBPipeline.com also named Indians third baseman Yandy Diaz as the team's 2017 Minor League Player of the Year.

"In the beginning, there was a little bit of adjusting," McKenzie said of his jump to Lynchburg. "But I feel like every day I go out there and pitch, I learn something new. Whether it be from my experiences facing the team, whether it be from me talking to my teammates who have been there before, talking to my coaches who have experience, talking to guys that are high prospects in our organization, I feel like I learn something every day."

After splitting the 2016 season with Class A Short-Season Mahoning Valley and Class A Lake County, McKenzie spent the entirety of this past season with Lynchburg. The 20-year-old went 12-6 with a 3.46 ERA in 25 starts, recording 186 strikeouts against 45 walks in 143 innings.

"He obviously still is really young," Indians assistant general manager Carter Hawkins said of McKenzie. "He had a really good year on the whole. I think he learned a lot about himself, about the types of things he needs to do to be able to be consistent over the course of an entire season. To be the type of pitcher he wants to be night in and night out."

Diaz -- who MLBPipeline.com had as the organization's No. 6 prospect in its midseason re-rank this year -- split time between the Majors and Triple-A Columbus this season. Although the 26-year-old began the season on Cleveland's Opening Day roster, Diaz made a couple of trips back and forth between the big leagues and Triple-A before becoming a mainstay on the Indians' roster when he was recalled on August 22.

The bulk of Diaz's production this season came with the Clippers. In 85 games with Columbus, the Indians' Prospect of the Year hit .350/.454/.460 with five home runs, 17 doubles, 56 runs scored and 33 RBIs.

Video: Top Prospects: Yandy Diaz, 3B/OF, Indians

"It's amazing what confidence does in this game," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "You can look at all the numbers you want, but when somebody is confident, they're better. You start to see the real person when they're confident. When [Diaz is] drilling those balls to right field, that's really good to see."

McKenzie and Diaz were chosen by MLBPipeline.com's staff. Players were considered for the honors if they spent at least half of the season in the Minors, appeared on their club's Top 30 Prospects list and played the entire year within the organization.

William Kosileski is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland.

 

Cleveland Indians

How they were built: Indians

Eleven trade acquisitions make up Cleveland core surging back into October
MLB.com

MLBPipeline.com is breaking down how each of the postseason teams was built, looking at the composition of their projected Division Series rosters.

After coming up short in extra innings of Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs a year ago, the Cleveland Indians, with a largely unchanged roster, have all the right pieces, as well as the momentum, to contend for a title once again in 2017.

MLBPipeline.com is breaking down how each of the postseason teams was built, looking at the composition of their projected Division Series rosters.

After coming up short in extra innings of Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs a year ago, the Cleveland Indians, with a largely unchanged roster, have all the right pieces, as well as the momentum, to contend for a title once again in 2017.

To put it simply, no team saw its fortune change during the second half quite like the Indians. Behind an American League-record 22-game winning streak (spanning Aug. 24 to Sept. 14), the Tribe pulled away with a commanding lead in the American League Central and ultimately dethroned the Astros for the circuit's best record to secure home-field advantage through the American League playoffs. The back-to-back division titles were Cleveland's first since the late '90s, when the club won the Central in five straight years.

:: How each postseason team was built ::

Led by a pair of MVP candidates in shortstop Francisco Lindor and infielder Jose Ramirez, and featuring key offseason free-agent signing Edwin Encarnacion, the Indians' lineup batted .306 with a .551 slugging percentage en route to outscoring their opponents 142-37 (plus-105 run differential) during their historic 22-game streak. Lindor was unstoppable during that stretch, hitting .360 with a .1.195 OPS and nine home runs, while Ramirez produced a .423/.462/.944 batting line with eight homers and 11 doubles.

Of course all of that offense would have been for naught if not for a lights-out Indians rotation that, once finally healthy, posted a collective 1.77 ERA over 137 2/3 innings during the streak.

Headlined by Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber and fellow right-handers Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer, Indians starters recorded a win in 19 of 22 contests, including seven shutouts. Cleveland's bullpen, meanwhile, was equally dominant in that span, combining to post a 1.17 ERA over 61 1/3 innings, despite a minimal contribution from lefty reliever Andrew Miller.

Altogether, the Indians' staff ranked first in the Majors during the regular season in ERA (3.30) and strikeouts per nine innings (10.1 K/9). What's more, the Indians' 26.5 Wins Above Replacement is tops among this year's postseason clubs.

After winning 33 of their final 37 games to finish with a 102-60 record -- including a franchise-best 53 road wins -- the Tribe will attempt to put a bow on their record-setting year with a World Series title.

HOMEGROWN

Player, how acquired, year, Baseball-Reference WAR (18.2):
Josh Tomlin, Draft, 2006 (19th round), 1
Lonnie Chisenhall, Draft, 2008 (1st), 1.2
Roberto Perez, Draft, 2008 (33rd), 0.8
Giovanny Urshela, Int'l sign, 2008, -0.6
Erik Gonzalez, Int'l sign, 2009, 0.3
Jason Kipnis, Draft, 2009 (2nd), 0.4
Danny Salazar, Int'l sign, 2009, 1.3
Francisco Lindor, Draft, 2011 (1st), 5.5
Cody Allen, Draft, 2011 (23rd), 1.7
Jose Ramirez, Int'l sign, 2011, 6.8
Greg Allen, Draft, 2014 (6th), -0.2

Much of the Indians' ALDS roster stems from strong scouting efforts, both domestic and abroad. They struck gold by selecting Lindor with the No. 8 overall pick of the 2011 Draft, and then found a long-term closer in Allen in the 23rd round. The Tribe also signed Ramirez, a teenager at the time, that summer, and all three players have since developed into perennial All-Stars.

Ramirez, 25, led all Indians positions players with a 6.8 WAR after finishing the season as MLB's leader in doubles (56). Overall, the 25-year-old switch-hitter batted .318/.374/.583 with 29 homers and 107 runs scored. Lindor, meanwhile, finished with a 5.5 WAR, as he batted .273/.337/.505 with a career-best 33 homers and 44 doubles on top of his usual Gold Glove-caliber defense at shortstop.

Not to be overlooked are some of Cleveland's other homegrown talents such as 2008 first-rounder Chisenhall as well as Kipnis, the organization's second-round pick in '09. Both players were limited by injuries this season, but they each represent key roster pieces in the postseason as left-handed hitters.

TRADES/WAIVERS

Player, year, acquired from, bWAR (31.7):
Carlos Santana, 2008, Dodgers, 3.4
Michael Brantley, 2008, Brewers, 2.0
Carlos Carrasco, 2009, Phillies, 5.4
Corey Kluber, 2010, Padres, 8
Yan Gomes, 2012, Blue Jays, 1.3
Trevor Bauer, 2012, D-backs, 3.1
Bryan Shaw, 2012, D-backs, 0.6
Mike Clevinger, 2014, Angels, 3.1
Tyler Olson, 2016, Royals**, 1.2
Andrew Miller, 2016, Yankees, 3.1
Joe Smith, 2017, Blue Jays, 0.3
Jay Bruce, 2017, Mets, 0.2
*-Purchased
**-Selected off waivers

The Indians' ALDS roster features 12 players acquired via trades or claimed off waivers, tied for third most among all postseason teams. Such trades are how the Tribe built baseball's best starting rotation, as they landed Carrasco and Kluber in back-to-back years, followed with Bauer two years later and Clevinger after that.

The club has since signed both Kluber and Carrasco to long-term deals, inking the right-handers through 2019 and '18, respectively. The duo was truly dominant in 2017, with Kluber going 18-4 and Carrasco 18-6. Kluber also finished first in baseball in ERA (2.25) and WHIP (0.87).

Video: Indians' deal for Miller one of many successful deals

While Kluber and Carrasco deservedly receive much of the credit for the team's success, Bauer and Clevinger's contributions have been equally, if not more important, giving the Indians impactful starting depth beyond their top two arms. Together they combined for a 17-5 record after the All-Star break.

The Indians made a splash at the 2016 Trade Deadline by acquiring Miller for a prospect package that included Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield, and the big left-hander was every bit as good as advertised in the postseason. He continued his dominance of opposing hitters in 2017, posting a 1.45 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP with 93 strikeouts in 62 innings across 56 appearances. Acquired off waivers from the Royals, Olson emerged as another key left-handed bullpen piece for the Tribe as he went unscored upon over 30 appearances while holding opposing hitters to a .188 batting average against.

Cleveland used this year's non-waiver Trade Deadline to once again improve its roster, most notably through the acquisitions of Bruce and Smith from the Mets and the Blue Jays. Smith became an immediate fit in the Tribe's bullpen, while the addition of Bruce, in the wake of injuries to Michael Brantley and Bradley Zimmer, provided the offense with a much-needed left-handed power bat.

FREE AGENTS

Player, year, bWAR (4.7):
Edwin Encarnacion, 2017, 2.8
Austin Jackson, 2017, 1.9

Not known for giving sizeable free-agent contracts to veteran players, the Indians did just that prior to the 2017 season, inking Encarnacion to a three-year, $60 million deal as a replacement for Mike Napoli. Though he struggled out of the gate, the 34-year-old slugger recovered in time to finish with at least 38 home runs and 107 RBIs for the third straight season.

Video: Encarnacion's production powers Indians

The signing of Jackson to a one-year, $1.5 million deal didn't come with much fanfare at the time, though he's certainly played a major role in Cleveland's overall success. In 84 games with the Tribe this season, the 30-year-old outfielder has shown improved ability to hit for average, as well as some power, while offering defensive depth at all three outfield positins.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

 

Cleveland Indians

Tribe prospects sample big league experience

Indians' budding stars attend Fall Developmental Program
MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- While Shane Bieber ran out of the center-field bullpen toward the mound at Progressive Field on Tuesday, his walkup music blared across the ballpark. When the right-handed starting pitcher looked up at the giant scoreboard in left field, he read his name and saw his picture.

The experience for Bieber (ranked by MLBPipeline.com as Cleveland's No. 11 prospect) was on hand as a part of the Indians' Fall Developmental Program. There were not any fans in attendance and the Indians were away in the midst of a six-game West Coast road trip through Anaheim and Seattle, but the magnitude of the experience was not lost on the club's budding stars.

Full Game Coverage

CLEVELAND -- While Shane Bieber ran out of the center-field bullpen toward the mound at Progressive Field on Tuesday, his walkup music blared across the ballpark. When the right-handed starting pitcher looked up at the giant scoreboard in left field, he read his name and saw his picture.

The experience for Bieber (ranked by MLBPipeline.com as Cleveland's No. 11 prospect) was on hand as a part of the Indians' Fall Developmental Program. There were not any fans in attendance and the Indians were away in the midst of a six-game West Coast road trip through Anaheim and Seattle, but the magnitude of the experience was not lost on the club's budding stars.

Full Game Coverage

Buy AL Central champs gear

"They told us to not take it for granted," Bieber said. "Try to look up, look at the stands, look at the scoreboard and try it soak it in and realize that it's going to help when your Major League debut comes."

Indians Top 30 Prospects

Tweet from @Indians: We're hosting top prospects -- incl. McKenzie, Krieger, Aiken & more -- this week at our Fall Development Program! https://t.co/l4lnTo6Wd3 pic.twitter.com/gVeYHdo2ui

Although the program is an annual event for the franchise's top prospects, the timing was impeccable for the 31 participating players -- which included 17 of the Tribe's top 30 prospects. The program comes on the heels of the Indians' American League-record 22-game winning streak and clinching of the AL Central title.

"It's awesome," said Brady Aiken, Cleveland's No. 24 prospect. "It's good to be here and be in the environment. Hopefully in a few years, this is where I'll be."

The Minor Leaguers in the program had the opportunity to spend time with the team during its recent weekend series against the Royals. Each player met and interacted with players, coaches and other members of the organization, got to spend time in the clubhouse and were able to observe the big leaguers during their pregame routines.

"There's no better messaging than the messaging that comes from our players," assistant general manager Carter Hawkins said. "And, ideally, that lines up with us and our messaging 100 percent of the time. It's really nice when it does."

For right-hander Trison McKenzie (Indians' No. 2 prospect and MLBPipeline.com's No. 20 overall), it was a thrill to experience a winning culture at the highest level.

"It's a great honor," McKenzie said. "We got to come here a little earlier, and I got to experience the win streak and the city of Cleveland, and it was just great to be around that and know that that could be in my future and that I could be a part of this city and that I could be a part of this team."

Prior to meeting with reporters on Tuesday, Indians' No. 8 prospect Will Benson said that he and No. 5 prospect Nolan Jones spent time in the Tribe's clubhouse. He said some of the lockers still had champagne bottles in them after the Indians celebrated the AL Central crown on Sunday.

Additionally, Benson said seeing Francisco Mejia and Greg Allen -- both of whom were a part of last year's program -- contributing to the Tribe's success has helped him believe that he will one day be able to help the club.

"To see [Allen] go up there and succeed is such an inspiration to me, and I'm sure a lot of other guys that he's touched along the way," Benson said. "Just to see [he and Mejia] go up there and be very impactful just kind of shows the foundation that the Indians have. They really go to their farm system, and they use those guys. They reward them with the hard work that they put in."

William Kosileski is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland. Follow him on Twitter @BillKosileski.

 

Cleveland Indians

Mejia, Allen making strong first impressions

MLB.com

CHICAGO -- The Indians are more than pleased with their present -- entering Wednesday on a 13-game winning streak a year after taking home the American League pennant -- but manager Terry Francona is still working on the club's future.

The Indians called up a pair of top prospects straight from Double-A Akron on Friday in a series of September callups -- Indians No. 1 prospect Francisco Mejia and No. 8 prospect Greg Allen. Each has earned playing time for baseball's hottest team, leaving an impression on Francona.

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CHICAGO -- The Indians are more than pleased with their present -- entering Wednesday on a 13-game winning streak a year after taking home the American League pennant -- but manager Terry Francona is still working on the club's future.

The Indians called up a pair of top prospects straight from Double-A Akron on Friday in a series of September callups -- Indians No. 1 prospect Francisco Mejia and No. 8 prospect Greg Allen. Each has earned playing time for baseball's hottest team, leaving an impression on Francona.

Full Game Coverage

"They don't look out of place, which is a compliment to them," Francona said. "It's fun to watch. I didn't want those guys just to come up and feel like they were here to watch. There was a reason we got them in there, because we want them to be a part of what we're doing."

Video: CLE@CWS: Mejia excited after collecting first hit

Each has collected a start and a pair of other milestones in their first few days with the big league club. Mejia, who's considered the 15th-best prospect in all of baseball according to MLBPipeline.com, has opened his career 1-for-6. He earned his first start on Monday and collected his first hit and RBI in a 5-3 win over the White Sox. Allen, off to a 3-for-13 start, earned his first start on Sunday and collected his first Major League RBIs with a two-run double in Tuesday's 9-4 win over Chicago.

Video: CLE@CWS: Allen plates two on a double to left field

Mejia's future centers around his strengths at the plate. The switch-hitting catching prospect has worked at various spots defensively and may not fit the typical catcher frame at 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, but his approach at the plate has stood out to Francona.

"I think we've already seen with Mejia that he's going to be a really good hitter," Francona said. "Finding out if he's going to catch, is he going to play third, is he going to end up in left, is he going to end up at first? I'm not sure of that. But he can hit. We're probably going to find a place for him. He's spending time out there. I saw him out there the other day going over scouting reports, so he's trying. It's fun to watch that. This is really his first chance to ever -- in Spring Training, you don't really ever go over hitters very much."

Allen, a speedy switch-hitting center fielder, has shown polish defensively in his short time in the Majors, and has turned heads with his bat. Francona lauded the 24-year-old Allen's maturity, and said the time up with the Major League club will be fruitful.

Video: CLE@CWS: Allen robs Engel with a tough running grab

"Greg Allen is still a work in progress at the plate, which is, my goodness, he's Double-A, we know that," Francona said. "But he can go catch the ball in center field. He got a couple of big hits."

Worth noting

Jay Bruce was a late scratch Wednesday, extending his absence with a stiff neck to five straight games. The veteran outfielder, who has hit 33 homers with 89 RBIs and an .849 OPS this season with the Mets and Indians, was originally in the lineup batting fifth and playing right field against the White Sox.

• Indians outfielder Bradley Zimmer has passed all internal tests, but is still awaiting doctor approval for him to return to the field, Francona said. Zimmer has been in the concussion protocol since leaving Saturday's game early after diving to try to snag a Bryan Holaday double in the third inning.

• Francona said Jason Kipnis, who worked out with the club Tuesday in Chicago, returned to Cleveland on Wednesday as he recovers from a strained right hamstring.

Fabian Ardaya is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago.

 

Cleveland Indians, Greg Allen, Francisco Mejia

Top Tribe prospect Mejia revels in 1st hit, RBI

Serving as DH, lefty hitter garners praise from teammates, Francona
MLB.com