1. Francisco Lindor, SS
Top CALs: Tyler Pastornicky, Carlos Sanchez, Hak-Ju Lee, Jonathan Mota, Alen Hanson
Background: The heir apparent to Cleveland’s shortstop throne since the club made him the eighth overall pick in a loaded 2011 draft, Lindor has been as advertised – if not better. The Puerto Rican-born middle-infielder’s glove is already big league ready and he’s equipped himself well enough with the bat thus far to allow the club to push him aggressively through the minor leagues – a very un-Cleveland-like approach under the current regime. Splitting his time between Akron and Columbus, Lindor hit a respectable .276/.338/.389 while setting career bests in homeruns (11) and stolen bases (28).
Projection: The glove’s going to play no matter what. But there are clearly some questions about his offensive ceiling. His pitch recognition, the ability to put the bat on the ball, and foot speed are all better than average, but how much power will a wiry, quick-twitch 5-11, 175-pound middle-infielder expect to develop down the road – especially after posting a career .103 ISO? And the fact that CAL links Lindor to a bunch of light-hitting shortstops – Tyler Pastornicky, Carlos Sanchez, Hak-Ju Lee, Jonathan Mota, and Alen Hanson – isn’t very encouraging either. He’s not going to be a superstar, but has the potential to settle in as a .280/.335/.400-type hitter, capable of slugging eight to 10 homeruns, swiping 15 or so bases, and playing Gold Glove-caliber D.
Ceiling: 3.5- to 4.0-win player
Risk: Low to Moderate
MLB ETA: 2015
2. Bradley Zimmer, CF
CALs: Josh Richmond, Jordan Parraz, Grant Kay, Lucas Duda, Michael Conforto
Background: The younger brother of Royals’ top pitching prospect Kyle Zimmer, Bradley showed marked improvement in each of his three seasons with the University of San Francisco, posting triple-slash lines of .242/.274/.314, .320/.437/.512, and finally .368/.446/.573. The front office brass took the cautious approach with Zimmer after the draft, sending the toolsy outfielder to Mahoning Valley before a quick three-game stint in the Midwest League.
Projection: Prior to the draft I wrote, “Incredibly toolsy for a bigger player – solid-average to slightly better power, sneaky speed, average-ish eye at the plate, and good plate coverage considering his frame. At his peak, Zimmer could be a more athletic version of Corey Hart — .290/.340/.510 with 25+ homerun- and stolen base-potential.”
Cleveland has the 6-foot-4 Zimmer masquerading as a center fielder, but he’s likely to get pushed to a corner spot – most likely right field – as he moves up the minor league ladder. He’s one of the club’s better collegiate outfield picks in recent memory.
Ceiling: 3.0-win player
MLB ETA: 2017
3. Mitch Brown, RHP
CALs: Andry Ubiera, Fernando Perez, Stosh Wawrzasek, Bobby Hansen, Eduardo Aldama
Background: Since C.C. Sabathia’s selection in the first round in 1998, Cleveland has drafted just seven high school-aged arms that would eventually appear in the big leagues: Fernando Cabrera, Derek Thompson, J.D. Martin, Aaron Laffey, Chris Archer, T.J. McFarland, and T.J. House. Only Archer has proven to be a better than average big league arm. So the bar’s set pretty low for Brown to be considered one of the better prep pitchers for the Indians since the late 1990s. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound right-hander rebounded after a poor 2013 season, one in which he was pushed back down to rookie ball after five horrific appearances with Lake Country, and finished the year with 8.2 strikeouts and 3.6 walks per nine innings in 138.2 innings of work.
Projection: Brown acquitted himself nicely in the Midwest League last season. He generates a lot of work on the ground – 50.5% groundball rate last season – and subsequently does a solid job keeping the ball in the park. His ceiling won’t match that of Archer’s, but it could settle as a nice #3/#4-type arm.
Ceiling: 2.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2017
4. Clint Frazier, CF
CALs: Domingo Santana, Michael Burgess, Trayce Thompson, Bubba Starling, Angel Castillo
Background: Frazier will forever be tied to the hip of fellow Georgia prep outfielder Austin Meadows, who went to the Pirates four selections after the Indians nabbed the fiery-haired outfielder with the fifth overall pick. Right now the edge goes to Meadows. Frazier had a solid, unspectacular year for Lake County in 2014, hitting .266/.349/.411 while slugging 37 extra-base hits. And after back-to-back sub-.600 OPS months to open the season, Frazier found his groove, batting .280/.358/.457 from June 1 to September 1.
Projection: Scarier than Randy Johnson’s mullet back in the 1990s, Frazier’s strikeout rate more-or-less maintained status quo, which, in itself, is good news considering his bump up to full season ball. But even in his hot three-month stretch to close out the season he still K’d in over 30% of his plate appearances. Frazier’s ceiling as a toolsy, middle-of-the-order impact bat remains quite high, but the same could have – and probably was – said about Bubba Starling, Michael Burgess, and Trayce Thompson; all of whom CAL links him to. There’s a lot of bust potential here, though.
Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2018
5. Bobby Bradley, 1B
CALs: Destin Hood, Eddie Rosario, Jharmidy De Jesus, Gabriel Guerrero, Tyrone Taylor
Background: The success of Mississippi-born prep bats is about equivalent to the organization’s success with high school arms – not good. And the club decided to double down on Bradley and nab the first baseman, a position that isn’t heavily sought after in the prep ranks because of the perceived lack of athleticism. Then, of course, the lefty-swinging 18-year-old went all Barry Bonds on the Arizona Summer League competition, posting one of the best triple-slash lines of any incoming rookie: .361/.426/.652.
Projection: Bradley certainly seems like a steal in the third round at this point. Not only did he finish the year as the most productive bat in the league with an absurd 192 wRC+, but he paced it in average, slugging percentage (by nearly 100 points), OPS (by more than 100 points), and homeruns (8) while also showing a decent eye at the plate and surprisingly strong contact skills. Now a touch of bad news (potentially): while Bradley mashed against RHs to the tune of .407/.460/.770, he only mustered a .238/.340/.333 line against southpaws (40 PA). It’s an incredibly small sample size, but something to keep an eye moving forward.
Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell
MLB ETA: N/A