Reviewing the Cleveland Indians 2016 Preseason Top Prospects – The “Just Missed” List
Before the season began, we looked at over 30 of the Cleveland Indians’ top prospects for 2016. Many had great seasons and cemented their status as top prospects while others faltered. Some were traded away while others graduated to the big leagues where they played key roles for the Indians in the Central Division winning season. Here’s a review of the prospects I deemed the best in the system and looking at the where each is headed now that 2016 is in the books for (most) of the minor leaguers.
The first group of prospects included ten players who all had skills that stood out but didn’t quite crack the Top 30 list. Here’s the review of the “Just Missed” list of prospects.
Dorssys Paulino, OF
Way back in 2013, Paulino was ranked the second best prospect in the Cleveland Indians’ system (behind some guy named Francisco Lindor) by Baseball America. He was a shortstop back then but struggled with the bat and glove in the ensuing years. Now an outfielder, he continued to hit batting .284/.353/.445 with six home runs for the Advanced-A Lynchburg Hillcats. Unfortunately, he only played in 55 games for the Hillcats this season (plus nine in Rookie ball).
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Future Outlook: Not much has changed with Paulino. Still only 21 years old (turns 22 in November), Paulino can still be considered a prospect and still has great athleticism and tools but in a rather loaded system, he’s a fringe guy still who needs a full season to get back in the prospect rankings. Needs to get to Akron to prove he’s still a prospect worth following.
Mitch Brown, RHP
A former 2nd Round pick by the Indians back in 2012, Brown struggled again this season posting an ERA over five for the second straight season at Advanced-A Lynchburg (5.03). Control remained a big issue as he walked seven per nine innings. He did find success late in the year though after making the move from the rotation to the bullpen. Over the last five weeks of the season, he appeared in 13 games as a reliever allowing just three runs in 14 1/3 innings (1.89 ERA).
Future Outlook: His stock was in a freefall after the first half of the season but the move to the bullpen may have saved his professional career. Still just 22, he could find himself a home in the Akron pen next year if the Tribe decides to be aggressive. He’s Rule 5 Draft eligible this year and has the type of upside a team could maybe take a chance on.
Luigi Rodriguez, OF
Rodriguez’s season got off to a bad start after missing the beginning of the season due to a PED suspension that carried over from 2015. He split time between Advanced-A Lynchburg and Double-A Akron. He enjoyed continued success at Lynchburg batting .330/.362/.500 but struggled in his 42 games in Akron batting just .222/.266/.335.
Future Outlook: After such a promising start to 2015, the suspension and struggled in Double-A have really hurt Luigi’s stock. He’ll be 24 in November so he’s still not old but is more of a depth-only guy at this point even with his power/speed combo.
Gabriel Mejia, OF
Mejia spent the year at Short-Season Mahoning Valley where he continued to show off his speed and hit for average. He stole another 28 bases, giving him 140 steals in 194 minor league games for his career. He hit .322/.378/375 in 65 games for the Scrappers. The 21-year-old switch-hitter is still looking for his first professional home run but the speed continues to be legit.
Future Outlook: While the numbers weren’t as staggering as they had been in the past, Mejia still put up very solid offensive numbers in Mahoning Valley. However, already 21 he’ll need to start moving up the ladder and face some stiffer pitchers if he wants to climb out of the fringes of the Tribe’s system.
Dylan Baker, RHP
Baker is the first member of the list to be on the Tribe’s 40-man roster. He was added to the roster last fall ahead of the 2016 Rule 5 Draft. Unfortunately, he never threw a pitch in 2016, suffering a setback in his recovery from Tommy John surgery. He had the procedure in 2015 after just five innings and has had issues with the arm ever since. He avoided a second Tommy John procedure, which is some good news at least.
Future Outlook: Normally I’d say his stock is down after throwing just five innings the last two years combined, but Baker survived roster cuts to the 40-man roster all year so the Indians still have to have some faith he can recover. He’s got a very good arm when healthy and could be a weapon out of the pen quickly. Health is everything for him heading into 2017.
Ka’ai Tom, OF
The 24-year-old played just 28 games for the Class-A Lake County Captains this season. He did, however, hit very well when on the field batting .323/.446/.434.
Future Outlook: Last year’s 5th Round pick will look to stay on the field more this year and remains on the fringes.
Eric Stamets, SS
The all-glove infielder finally started to hit a bit this year while with the Double-A Akron Rubberducks. Hit .258/.335/.418. He saw time with the Triple-A Columbus Clippers as well though really struggled in 22 games there.
Future Outlook: At best he’s a utility infielder in the John McDonald-role but even that seems a bit of a stretch. Depth piece and nothing more.
Eric Haase, C
After a huge 2015 season at the plate, Haase struggled some adjusting to Double-A pitching. He played in just 63 games this year and hit just .208; however, he did mash 12 home runs for a rather impressive .230 ISO (isolated power). Defensively he threw out 43-percent of would-be base stealers.
Future Outlook: Catchers don’t have to hit so if Haase can continue to improve behind the plate he has a shot. Power is real but has also struck out 30-percent of the time the last two seasons.
Claudio Bautista, 2B
After an All-Star stint with Class-A Lake County in 2015, Bautista has struggled at both Advanced-A Lynchburg and Double-A Akron. He split 2016 at the two affiliates, spending most of his time with the Hillcats batting just .239 though did walk nearly 12-pecent of the time.
Future Outlook: Only 22 years old but looks like just another depth-utility player. Can play all over though so could stick around for a while in the system.
Sean Brady, LHP
A 5th Round pick back in 2013, Brady continued his steady climb in 2016. He went 12-6 in 25 starts for the Advanced-A Lynchburg Hillcats this year. His ERA jumped to 4.95, but his FIP was a more respectable 3.92. He’s not a big strikeout guy (7.3 K/9 last two years), the lefty has kept walks mostly under control last two years.
Future Outlook: He may start 2017 back at Lynchburg, but he’s a pitcher to keep an eye on. Not the flashiest in the system but can control the strike zone and has been mostly consistent. Fringe-top 30 guy still.
Fringe Guys Remain Fringe Guys
Haase impressed with his power and arm behind the plate and could sneak into a top 30 ranking next year but outside of that not much movement with these fringe prospects. Brown will be an interesting guy to watch come Rule 5 time and seeing how his transition goes to the bullpen. Lots of skills here but an extremely deep Indians system could keep most of these guys on the outskirts of the top 30.
Be sure to check back tomorrow as we begin looking at the prospects who made our 2016 preseason Top 30 Prospect list for the Cleveland Indians.