Baseball America released its latest ranking of the top prospects in the Cleveland Indians organization, and there’s a new name at the top of the list.
With the 2016 season now receding into the rearview mirror, the baseball industry is at once looking ahead to next year while also looking back at what transpired. For Baseball America, that means organizational rankings of prospects must be reassessed. The publication recently revealed its top 10 prospects for the Cleveland Indians, and the list was a bit of a surprise.
Almost since the day he was drafted, outfielder Bradley Zimmer has been considered to be Cleveland’s top prospect. But after a 2016 in which he split time between Double-A and Triple-A, slashing .250/.365/.425 with 25 doubles, 15 home runs, 62 runs batted in, and 38 stolen bases, Zimmer has found himself knocked out of the top spot according to BA.
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The new No. 1 is catcher Francisco Mejia, who began the year with Lake County before being bumped up to full-season Single-A Lynchburg. Mejia, of course, became a household name for baseball fans this season thanks to a 50-game hitting streak, the fourth-longest streak in minor league history and the longest in 62 years.
All Mejia did was hit in 2016, and coupled that with improved defense and a rocket throwing arm. In 102 games, the 21-year old had a .342/.382/.514 slash line, with 29 doubles, 11 homers, and 80 RBIs. Mejia also struck out just 63 times in over 400 at-bats.
A native of the Dominican Republic, Mejia started behind the plate for the World team at the MLB Futures Game in San Diego during the all-star break, and was nearly a part of the trade with the Milwaukee Brewers for Jonathan Lucroy. Still, as BA points out, his play on the field was never affected by all of the off-the-field distractions that his wild year produced:
"“Mejia kept hitting, even with the off-field distractions, and his .342 average ranked sixth in the minors. He also led all qualified Indians’ minor leaguers in both slugging percentage (.514) and OPS (.896).”"
After Mejia and Zimmer, the rankings look like this:
3. Triston McKenzie
4. Brady Aiken
5. Bobby Bradley
6. Yu-Cheng Chang
7. Will Benson
8. Nolan Jones
9. Erik Gonzalez
10. Greg Allen
A decade ago, the health of the Tribe’s farm system was not nearly as robust as it is today. Improved drafting and international scouting have gone a long way to building a minor league organization that, despite giving up big pieces in the Andrew Miller trade, is stocked with talent that should keep Cleveland contending for years.
As BA says:
"“With a stout farm system backing the strong core in the major leagues, the Indians are well positioned for the future to break what is now the sport’s longest championship drought.”"
The Tribe should once again be a contender for the American League pennant in 2017, bringing back the core of this season’s club and hopefully returning key pieces like Michael Brantley, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar from injuries at full strength.
While the big league team attempts to get back to the World Series and achieve its ultimate goal, Cleveland fans can also be optimistic about what the future holds. With impact players like Mejia, Zimmer, and the others in the pipeline, Progressive Field could see a lot more playoff games in the years to come.