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Righty prospect McKenzie part of Tribe's future

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

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