Cleveland Indians: 3 prospects it’s too early to give up on

Oscar Mercado #35 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)
Oscar Mercado #35 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images) /
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Cleveland Indians, Daniel Johnson
Daniel Johnson #71 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Daniel Johnson, OF, Cleveland Indians

First up among this aforementioned trio is outfielder Daniel Johnson, acquired in November 2018 as the primary return piece from the Washington Nationals for Yan Gomes.

At the age of 25, Johnson, nicknamed “Jet”, has played seven games at the major league level for Cleveland, hitting  2-for-21 in those games, drawing just one walk and striking out 10 times. Those numbers definitely aren’t lighting the world ablaze, but the sample size is small and the playing time inconsistent.

Johnson owns a career slash line of .279/.341/.459 across five seasons in the minors, showcasing the ability to hit for average and solid contact. In 38 games with Columbus this season, Johnson is hitting .227 with 10 doubles and seven home runs.

Having played every station in the outfield during his time in the minors, Johnson presents himself as a flexible corner outfielder that can be moved around based on matchup and need. However, there has been a log jam in Cleveland’s outfield with Jordan Luplow, Josh Naylor, Bradley Zimmer and the February acquisition of Harold Ramirez, who has slashed .273/.312/.485 in 42 games this season with the Indians. Look familiar?

As a left-handed batter, Johnson has shown the ability to hit both right and left-handed pitching during his time in the minors, presenting an advantage over a player like Jordan Luplow who owns a career batting average of .251 against lefties, but hits just .195 off righties over the course of his five year career. In 2019, Johnson’s last full uninterrupted season in the minors, he slashed .255/.386/.532 in 47 at-bats against southpaws and .253/.312/.535 in 99 at-bats versus right-handed pitching.

Considering Johnson will be turning 26 in July, he’s still at a prime age for a prospect to fine-tune and develop his skills. The entirety of Cleveland’s outfield is currently arbitration eligible and under team control for low cost for several more seasons, with the exception of left fielder Eddie Rosario’s one year deal, making it difficult for Johnson to break through. But should the Indians suffer another injury this season, Johnson deserves an extended look into what he’s capable of.

During spring training this season, Johnson showed out, hitting .368 in nine games with a double and two home runs. At the very least he will get another spring invite in 2022 and may very well earn himself a spot on next year’s Opening Day roster.