The minor league season is coming to a close with just one month left to play and so it is becoming more obvious which players have improved in the 2014 and which have not. There are a few of the more familiar names on this months rankings, one being a new addition at the trade deadline and another who was a top ten prospect coming into the season, but is only starting to find himself now in single A. Don’t expect more than one player listed to join the Indians in September as most players at that level have already been listed, like Austin Adams, Tyler Holt and Audy Ciriaco.
1. Daniel Gomez – Starting Pitcher
DSL Indians – 2012 International Free Agent – 2013 Rank UR
Gomez was a fairly good pitcher last season as a 19 year old used in various roles, but as a more full time starter this year he has been fantastic. In a similar amount of innings (52.2 in 2014, 53.2 in 2013) he has lowered his ERA (from 2.52 to 1.71), raised his strike outs (31 to 47) and allowed less base runners (1.30 WHIP to 1.00). He has transformed himself from mediocre to one of the best pitchers in the Dominican Summer League and should be a member of the Arizona League Indians or Mahoning Valley Scrappers in 2015.
2. James Ramsey – Center Field
AAA Columbus – From St. Louis in Masterson Trade – UR
Most of the talented AAA level players have been covered by this point, with many being featured in the original top ten of the most likely players to make their debut in 2014. Of course Ramsey could not have been featured then as he was a member of the Springfield Cardinals, the Cardinals AA team. Since his trade and subsequent promotion, Ramsey is just 9/42, but on the season he is batting .288 with 14 home runs, 50 runs scored and just 81 strike outs. It is likely he made a premature transition to AAA to see if he could help the Indians this season (most likely predicated by the glut of outfield injuries at the Major and minor league level), but it seems that won’t be the case. After another season in Columbus, however, things could definitely be different and it looks now as if the Indians received fair value for two months of a damaged pitcher.
3. Clint Frazier – Center Field
A Lake County – Drafted 2013 Round 1 – 2012 Rank #63
After Francisco Lindor, Frazier could be the Indians top all around prospect. He has incredible speed, especially considering how big he is, has a quick bat and great instincts in the field. The reason he is so late coming in the rankings (#53 overall this year) is that his numbers have fallen off considerably in his second year with the Tribe and his first at the ‘A’ level. In the first 100 games of 2014, Frazier has already struck out 144 times and has hit safely just 105 for a .166 average. While these would not be terrible numbers at the Major League level, they are a little disconcerting in Lake County. He has seen a change of late, however, raising his average from .243 on June 19th to .275 on July 17th. Most recently, he is on a five game hitting streak, going 9/23 with six RBI in that span. It appears he has finally adjusted and although he may need to start next season in Lake County, he should be able to succeed at the high ‘A’ level at some point in 2015.
4. Justin Brantley – Relief Pitcher
A Lake County – 2014 MiLB Free Agent – UR
The Indians struck gold when they added one Brantley to the team in 2008 and look to do the same with Michael’s cousin now. Justin Brantley went undrafted, but has destroyed as a reliever in his first professional season at the single A level. Brantley has thrown 32.1 innings in 18 games and struck out 36. He has walked just ten with an ERA 0.84 and a WHIP under 1.000. Whether it is good or bad, his only three runs allowed this season (and thus in his career) came off three solo home runs. While no relief pitcher could ever mean as much to the Indians as Michael Brantley has, Cleveland could do a lot worse than a team full of Brantleys.
5. Jose Medina – Left Field
DSL Indians – 2013 International Free Agent – UR
The disparity in talent in the Dominican Summer League makes it easy to separate the possible prospects from those who burn out after a single season and there is no question that Medina is the Indians best pure hitter sitting in the DSL. In his first minor league season, he has already knocked in 49 runs with a .475 slugging percent. Medina has been primarily a left fielder, but has been moved around a lot, playing 23 games at first and spending some time at short stop and right field as well. He has been best defensively in the outfield and that is likely where he will stay next season, either in Goodyear or remaining in the DSL.
6. Gabriel Arias – Starting Pitcher
AAA Columbus – 2013 MiLB Free Agent – UR
Arias pitched four years in the DSL for the Phillies before finally reaching the advanced ‘A’ level in 2013 after three more seasons in the Phillies minor league system. After all this struggle, he was let go by Philadelphia and signed by the Indians in the off-season, the break he needed to make it big. With all the Indians struggles with starters at the Major League level, there has been a lot of minor league movement as well. Arias has made 12 starts in AA and nine in AAA, posting a 3.36 ERA with 76 K’s over 128.2 innings across both levels. The former low level reliever for the Phillies has been transformed into one of the Tribe’s top minor league starters in just one year. After starting just 15 games since leaving the Dominican Republic, he has made 21 for the Rubber Ducks and Clippers, levels he had never came close to while with the Phillies.
7. Mitch Brown – Starting Pitcher
A Lake County – Drafted 2012 Round 2 – 2012 Rank #42
It is fair to say, “Mitch Brown is on fire.” Going back to June 10th, in his last 11 starts (excluding the two on July 8th and 13th), Brown has given up two or less earned runs in each game and has allowed two just one. Over that span, he has pitched at least five innings in all but one game as well. While his season numbers don’t look as impressive, he has dropped his ERA from 5.66 on May 19th to 3.72 today flipping his win loss record from 0-6 at that point, to 5-2 since. As a second round pick, much is expected of Brown and at just 20 years old, he still has plenty of time to deliver. Expect him in Carolina in 2015 and keep an eye on him for the future.
8. Yu-Cheng Chang – Short Stop
AZL Indians – 2013 International Free Agent – UR
Chang is in his first season with the Indians after being signed last Winter out of Taiwan. Chang is a slick fielding short stop (his .942 fielding percent there is almost immaculate for the Arizona Rookie League) and a slightly worse third baseman. His real strength, however, has been at the plate, batting .328 with 21 RBI and 29 runs scored. Chang is just 18 years old with plenty of room for development, giving a very positive outlook for his future. What may be best about Chang however, is that he represents a new market to find players for the Tribe as Taiwan has largely been ignored in Major League history.
9. Johan Puello – Relief Pitcher
AZL Indians – 2012 International Free Agent – UR
A few DSL players are mentioned in this month’s top ten as they try to make it to the US and Puello is one of the success stories they are trying to emulate. Puello is in his first season in Arizona and has been great in a full relief role, striking out 26 in 23.2 innings with a 1.52 ERA. One thing to look out for is that he has allowed ten unearned runs, but that could actually be a positive as official scorers are generally pretty loose when calling errors, so defense could have hurt him even worse than can be seen. It is hard to judge a player against the diverse talent of the Arizona Rookie League, but Puello has definitely differentiated himself enough to deserve a shot in Lake County or at least Mahoning Valley in 2015.
10. Erlin Cerda – Third Base
DSL Indians – 2012 International Free Agent – UR
Cerda looks to be an up and coming speed player for the Tribe, going from 12 steals in 19 attempts in 60 games last season to 19 in 21 already this season in 57 games. In addition, he has increased his walk rate, getting on base 44% of the time with a .323 batting average. This is Cerda’s second year on the Indians DSL squad and his vast improvements make him a likely candidate for promotion to the United States.