Reviewing the Cleveland Indians 2016 Preseason Top Prospects – No. 12 to 7
As we once again continue our top prospect reviews, we get our first look at our top 12 prospects, including at a pair of players who could play big roles in the playoffs for the Cleveland Indians. We also look at one of the hottest hitters in the minor leagues this season, a player on the cusp of joining the big league club, and a pair of young lefties, one of which is no longer with the organization.
#12 Juan Hillman, LHP
Coming in at number 12 on our preseason top prospect list was left-handed pitcher Juan Hillman. Last year’s second-round pick had a solid season with the Short-Season Mahoning Valley Scrappers, making 15 starts.
He went 3-4 in 63 innings of work with a 4.43 ERA. He got off to a scorching start, allowing just three earned runs in his first six starts (0.89 ERA) including five in a row without allowing an earned run. He struggled after that, though, going more than four innings just once in a start.
Future Outlook: Through the first part of the season it was looking like Hillman was going to be shooting up prospect lists as he was making things look easy. His second-half struggles were a reminder that it’s not easy for a kid that was barely 19 years old when the season began to pitch at the professional level. Hillman is still a top pitching prospect in the system but likely will be just outside the top ten once again. He could repeat Short-Season though mature enough that he could be pushed to Class-A Lake County depending on how aggressive the team wants to be with him.
#11 Tyler Naquin, OF
Tyler Naquin just missed our top ten, coming in at number 11 on our preseason list. He was a somewhat surprise member of the Cleveland Indians’ opening day roster thanks to injuries to Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall, as well as a winter suspension to Abraham Almonte.
After some initial struggles (that resulted in a short 17-game trip to Triple-A Columbus), he proved he not only belonged at the major league level but was one of the best rookies in the league. In 116 games with the Cleveland Indians, Naquin hit an impressive .296/.372/.514. His 135 wRC+ (weighted runs created) was tops on the club, just beating out Carlos Santana (132). He added 14 home runs, which were more than he had hit at any level in the minor leagues. He also hit 18 doubles, five triples, and swiped six bags.
He struggled defensively, however, posting an ugly -17 DRS (defensive runs saved) in center field, which was the second worst among all big league center fielders (Andrew McCutchen, -28). Despite the defense, Naquin was able to post a solid 2.4 fWAR, which was the fifth highest among Tribe position players, behind only Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis, Jose Ramirez and Santana.
Future Outlook: Naquin certainly exceeded expectations this season as he was thought to be a guy that was going to spend much of 2016 in Triple-A, not starting in center field for Game 1 of the American League Division Series. He won’t return to the list next year as he’s long since graduated from prospect status.
How good of a career he can have remains to be seen. Despite his great season, there are still some questions to be answered. Of his 365 plate appearances, just 40 came against left-handed pitching. Naquin struggled in his minor league career against lefties and it remains to be seen if he can be an everyday guy at the big league level or not. The Indians did well easing him in this year and maximizing his offensive talents. He’ll certainly be on the big league roster in 2017 but in what capacity, we shall see.