Nolan Jones loses Cleveland Indians top prospect status in new Top 30 list
The MLB Pipeline updated their prospect lists for the first time since the beginning of the season and there were quite a few changes. On the Top 100 list the Cleveland Indians have a total of four players listed. Fans will have to scroll all the way down to No. 65 on the list to find the first name and it might be one that is a bit surprising.
For much of the last two seasons, if not longer, Nolan Jones has been the clear top prospect for Cleveland. The 2016 first round pick entered the organization with high hopes, but he has hit a rut in Triple-A Columbus this year. With the Clippers this season, Jones has struggled at the plate, posting a slash line of just .221/.342/.413.
Now, Jones has been able to knock 23 doubles and 11 home runs, but the low average paired with 110 strikeouts is concerning. On top of that, Jones hasn’t been exactly stellar in the field. At third he has six errors and is surprisingly playing better in the outfield where he has just two. The problem is that he hasn’t even played half the innings in the outfield as he has at third, so the fielding percentage is about the same at .978 in right field and .960 at third.
So, if Jones is no longer the top prospect for the Tribe, who is? Well, according to the team’s newly updated Top 30 prospect list, it’s Tyler Freeman. Normally, this would be exciting news. Freeman fills a need in the middle infield for Cleveland and has an ETA of 2022 according to the page. The bad news is that he just recently underwent season-ending surgery on his shoulder.
The other side of the bad news is that while Freeman moved up the club’s prospect list, going from No. 2 to No. 1, he dropped on the MLB list. On the last update he was the MLB’s No. 40 prospect. Now, he’s down to No. 65.
This isn’t a great sign for the Cleveland farm system. Both of the club’s top two prospects plummeted on the lists and the one that was initially higher dropped the most. The injury to Freeman certainly didn’t help, but even his stats pre-injury make his drop a bit odd.
At the time of the surgery, Freeman was slashing an impressive .323/.372/.470 for Double-A Akron with 14 doubles. He hasn’t really shown a huge amount of power yet, but there is speed in his arsenal. As for the field, he has been perfect at second base while having four errors at shortstop.
We’ll have to see how Freeman responds to the injury and if he can return to form, but he’ll still have some time to work. Between the injury and his lack of Triple-A experience, he’ll start 2022 in the minors. How quickly he climbs the ranks, though, is still up in the air.
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As for the rest of the list, the Tribe saw a decent amount of moving pieces on the list. Bo Naylor, originally No. 3, dropped down to No. 6 while the Top 5 was nearly completely reshaped. Freeman leads the way followed by outfielder George Valera, Jones, infielder Gabriel Arias and pitcher Daniel Espino.
Other noteworthy rankings include 2021 MLB Draft first round pick Gavin Williams cracking the Top 10 at No. 9 as well as surging prospects Richard Palacios making the jump up to No. 15 and Jhonkensy Noel up to No. 26 thanks to strong campaigns this season. Trade deadline acquisition Peyton Battenfield also clocked in at No. 18.
Rankings can be taken with a grain of salt most of the time. Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac were never the top ranked prospects in the organization, but their impact has been crucial. It’s a similar story for Jose Ramirez. However, for a team like the Cleveland Indians who are using their minor league system to refuel the majors as soon as possible, the drops from top prospects is a bit concerning. Hopefully, there will be players that soon rise from the ranks and fill the voids at the major league level.