#4 Bobby Bradley, 1B
One of the most exciting prospects, first baseman Bobby Bradley came in at number four on our preseason list. Bradley has done one thing since being the Tribe’s 3rd Round pick in 2014: Hit for Power. In 131 games at Advanced-A Lynchburg, Bradley hit 29 home runs and drove in 2012 runs. The 29 home runs came a year after he slugged 27 for Class-A Lake County. He’s now hit a total of 64 home runs in 280 professional games. Bradley also continued to put up a solid batting line overall, hitting .235/.344/.466. The batting average took a hit from 2015 (.269) but he continued to improve his approach at the plate with a 13.1-percent walk rate. He even lowered his strikeout rate from 31.8-percent to 29.7.
Future Outlook: Still only 20 years old, Bradley has easily become the best power hitting prospect in the Tribe’s system and one of the two or three best position players. He’ll face a huge test in 2017 as he’ll head to Double-A Akron. If he’s able to maintain the plate discipline we could be talking about Bradley as a possibly Cleveland Indian in 2018. He must limit the strikeouts, though, or at worst keep them in check. Near 30-percent strikeout rates are not something you want to see from young hitters but they can be worked on. While it’s never fair to compare young prospects to superstars, Bradley has enough for fans to dream that he could be a Ryan Howard type with his big left-handed power and on-base ability. He still has a long way to go there but potential and ability are legit. Likely a top three prospect for the Indians and legit top 100 (50?) in all of baseball heading into 2017…
#3 Brady Aiken, LHP
One of the biggest names in the Tribe system, Aiken came in at number three this past March. The former number one overall pick by the Houston Astros spent most of 2016 rehabbing his left elbow that he had Tommy John surgery on the previous year. He did appear in 14 games (13 starts) across two levels this year. He threw 24 innings with the Tribe’s Arizona Rookie Affiliate striking out over 13 per nine innings. He did post an ugly 7.13 ERA there though a much better 3.37 FIP. He finished the year at Short-Season Mahoning Valley where he threw 22 1/3 innings in five starts. He went 2-1 with a 4.43 ERA and struck out 22.
Future Outlook: 2016 was all about getting healthy for Aiken. He was still just 19 for nearly the entire season (turning 20 in mid-August). The big 6’-4” left-hander possess one of the better pitching arsenals in the minor leagues. There’s a reason the Astros took him first overall in 2014. The Cleveland Indians will likely continue to use kid gloves with Aiken and he could return to Short-Season ball in 2017 though healthy permitting he should at least see Class-A Lake County as he continues to build up his arm strength again. When healthy, he has the highest potential of any prospect in the system (pitcher or position player) and really in all of baseball.