Rising prospects to fill gaps in Cleveland Indians roster
While the current roster already has a strong foundation at most positions, the minor leagues are overflowing with talent ready to fill the remainder of the gaps. If you go back to the first slide the positions missing from the “young players under team control through 2024” list included second, third, short and catcher. Everything else was covered. Luckily, those four positions are covered by the team’s top five prospects.
The Tribe have plenty of middle infield options in the minor league system right now. While the rankings haven’t been updated as recently as you would like to see, the MLB.com Top 30 prospect list for Cleveland has four middle infielders in the Top 10 and two in the Top 5.
Gabriel Arias (No. 5 prospect) has been impressing in Columbus this season and could potentially be a September call-up to see time in the middle infield. Tyler Freeman (No. 2 prospect) had to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery, so his timetable is up in the air but the upside is still clearly there.
There’s also Richard Palacios who has been surging this season. While he’s only the No. 27 prospect, he’s making a push to see time before even Freeman does, especially with the injury.
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While Jose Ramirez is locking down third base for now, the club’s ambition to cut payroll paired with Ramirez’s increasing salary on club options the next two seasons could make the waters a bit murky. If anything, his contract ends after the 2023 season regardless. Luckily, Nolan Jones is a natural third baseman and just happens to be the club’s No. 1 prospect.
Jones has struggled a bit this season at the plate, but with Ramirez’s contract he has plenty of time to sit back and figure it out. He’s the No. 1 prospect for a reason, so if he can find his swing in Columbus he should have a big impact in Cleveland in the near future.
The No. 3 prospect in the organization, Bo Naylor has a lot of upside to his game and he’s not alone on the Top 30 list. Bryan Lavastida, who’s had a strong 2021 campaign, is on the list as well at No. 24. Both of these catchers would provide a much needed offensive boost to the catcher position that Cleveland has lacked for a few seasons.
Both Roberto Perez and Austin Hedges could be gone after the 2022 season at the latest, so watching the prospect talent behind the plate will be key. Both Naylor and Lavastida have the ability to upgrade the position offensively, but will need some defensive lessons from Perez and Hedges to keep the position at its quality.