Here are the Indians' 2020 Top 30 Prospects

February 28th, 2020

The Indians are trying to pull off the tricky combination of maintaining a contender while reducing payroll. They saved $21.5 million in player salaries a year ago and still won 93 games, yet they failed to win the American League Central and missed the playoffs for the first time in four years.

Cleveland traded Edwin Encarnación and let Michael Brantley and Josh Donaldson walk as free agents last offseason, then dealt Trevor Bauer in July. It swapped two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to the Rangers in December and might have parted with Francisco Lindor, who can depart via free agency after 2021, if it had found a worthwhile offer.

The good news for the Indians is that their robust farm system should be able to help them cut costs while continuing to win. Their prospect talent is stronger than it has been in a decade, when Brantley, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Kipnis, Kluber, Lindor, José Ramírez and Carlos Santana were percolating in the Minors.

Aaron Civale, Oscar Mercado and Zach Plesac made valuable contributions as rookies in 2019, and Cleveland has several candidates to do the same this year with slugging first baseman Bobby Bradley, toolsy outfielder Daniel Johnson, lefty starters Logan Allen and Scott Moss and righty relievers James Karinchak, Emmanuel Clase and Nick Sandlin. Third baseman Nolan Jones, the system's best prospect, may be ready to help by the end of the season.

And that's just the start of what should be a wave of talent advancing toward Progressive Field. Seven of the Indians' 10 best prospects, including catcher Bo Naylor, outfielder George Valera and Daniel Espino, will play this season at age 20 or younger. The system is particularly deep in young middle infielders with pure hitting ability, headlined by Tyler Freeman, Brayan Rocchio and Aaron Bracho.

Here's a look at the Indians' top prospects

  1. Nolan Jones, 3B (No. 42 on Top 100)
  2. Tyler Freeman, SS (No. 96)
  3. Bo Naylor, C
  4. George Valera, OF
  5. Daniel Espino, RHP
    Complete Top 30 list »

Biggest jump/fall
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the 2019 preseason list to the 2020 preseason list:

Jump: James Karinchak, RHP (2019: 30 | 2020: 14) -- With a lively 95-99 mph fastball and a hammer curveball, he set what is believed to be an all-time Minor League record for strikeout rate (minimum 30 innings) at 22.0 last year.
Fall: Ernie Clement, SS (2019: 15 | 2020: 28) -- One of the best contact hitters in the Minors, he may not make enough offensive impact to be more than a utilityman.
(tie) Raynel Delgado, INF (2018: 18 | 2020: NR) -- The physical switch-hitter is still a prospect but risks being buried by the organization's logjam of young infield talent.

Best tools
Players are graded on a 20-80 scouting scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average. Players in parentheses have the same grade.

Hit: 60 -- Freeman (Valera)
Power: 60 -- Bobby Bradley (Jones)
Run: 60 -- Daniel Johnson (Clement, Rocchio)
Arm: 70 -- Johnson
Defense: 55 -- Naylor (Will Benson, Johnson, Rocchio, Jose Tena)
Fastball: 80 -- Emmanuel Clase (Karinchak)
Curveball: 60 -- Karinchak (Triston McKenzie, Carlos Vargas)
Slider: 60 -- Vargas (Espino)
Changeup: 60 -- Logan Allen
Control: 55 -- Triston McKenzie (Jean Carlos Mejia, Nick Sandlin)

How they were built
Draft: 14 | International: 12 | Trade: 4

Breakdown by ETA
2020: 10 | 2021: 5 | 2022: 6 | 2023: 8 | 2024: 1

Breakdown by position
C: 2 | 1B: 1 | 2B: 1 | 3B: 2 | SS: 6 | OF: 4 | RHP: 11 | LHP: 3