(Photo: Mathew Carper – Columbus Clippers) This series is based on a voting exercise from Justin Lada, Joe Coblitz and Willie Hood on the top 10 players at each position in the […]
(Photo: Mathew Carper – Columbus Clippers)
This series is based on a voting exercise from Justin Lada, Joe Coblitz and Willie Hood on the top 10 players at each position in the Cleveland Indians’ farm system. Each position rank is worth a point in voting (#1 rank is 10 points, #2 is 9, #3 is 8, etc.).
The positions covered in this series will breakdown this way: Catcher, first base, second base, third base, shortstop, corner outfield, centerfield, right handed starting pitchers, left handed starting pitchers, and relievers.
Top 10 first basemen in Cleveland’s organization
10. Jeikol Contreras (2 points)
Highest level reached (most games played): AZL Indians Blue
Contreras is a throw in due to a lack of depth at the position in the Indians system, but that isn’t necessarily a problem. While many Indians minor leaguers tend to be versatile, first basemen generally aren’t (there are a few exceptions on this list) and there is no reason for the franchise to have ten real prospects at the position. Specifically for Contreras, his two seasons spent in the Dominican Summer League put him behind in development and his lackluster performance in the AZL in 2019 likely would have made him stay back in 2020 had there been a season. If he is not released before then, I don’t expect Contreras to make it any higher than back-up in Lake County in 2021.
One thing going for Contreras is that he has played some at second and third, making him more valuable than a player like Henderson De Oleo, who was a better hitter, but released in October.
9. Mitch Reeves (4 points)
Highest level reached: High-A Lynchburg (63 games)
Reeves has spent some time in the OF but is mostly a 1B and has put up good numbers. He’s really been older than most of his competition at every level thus far, so it’s hard to put a lot of stock into that. For a 1B he has just average pop and a decent approach. Without stacked options of players here (because the Indians, and most teams, don’t draft many 1B prospects who start at 1B right out of the draft) he makes the list but is really a place holder on a roster.
8. Uly Cantu (9 points)
Highest level reached: A Lake County
Cantu was an interesting corner infield draft pick that had some power. He struggled mightily in full season ball in 2018 then spent much of 2019 hurt. He’s strictly a 1B only now and has yet to show much promise with the bat. Still, it’s an empty position and he’s relatively young. But guys like Noel and Naranjo are moving up the ladder and have a little more pure hitting talent at this point.
7. Wilson Garcia (10 points)
Highest level reached: AA Akron
Garcia was an MiLB Rule 5 draft pick by Cleveland in December of 2018. He’s on his third organization (Philadelphia and Baltimore previously) ahd has some pop. However, he’s 26 and has only played at Double-A. He’s really nothing more than an org filler at this point who has some interesting pop as a switch hitter.
6. Jonathan Engelmann (16 points)
Highest level reached: A Lake County
Engelmann had a great rookie season as a college player hitting against mostly younger pitchers in the AZL, but essentially skipped Mahoning Valley and didn’t see the same success against players closer to his own age in Lake County. He also started as almost exclusively an outfielder, playing center field the majority of the time for the AZL Indians Blue in 2018, but became a first baseman in extended spring 2019 before joining the Captains. He’s deceptively fast and has stole 18 bases in 23 attempts while his power is more obvious as he hit nine home runs and 16 doubles in his first two seasons.
While most players see a big bump in power when reaching the friendly confines of Eastlake, Ohio, Engelmann saw his slugging percent drop from .551 to .374 and that, combined with his age, keeps him fairly low on this list.
5. Will Bartlett (17 points)
Highest level reached: AZL Indians Red
Drafted a few rounds after Joe Naranjo in 2019 and playing on the same team as him that year, Bartlett will likely be compared to his classmate throughout his minor league career. Overall, he has more power, but isn’t as good of a defender. This lead to his use in left field occasionally in 2019 where his lack of speed made him look like a permanent first baseman in the future. At 19 years old, he has plenty of time to develop even more power, but it is unlikely that he’ll become more athletic. His future should be considered highly variable and his age and potential keep him as high as he is on this list.
4. Michael Cooper (18 points)
Highest level reached: SS Mahoning Valley
Drafted in the thirty-third round of the 2017 MLB Draft, Michael Cooper is an athletic 6’5, 180 lb first baseman from Missouri City, Texas. Cooper provides low-level organizational depth but will have to continue to make improvements at the plate to earn consideration for future promotion. He lacks the power associated with the position at this point; and unless that develops his future is limited. Cooper appeared overmatched against older competition (.238 BA with 1 homer) at Mahoning Valley in 2019. There is hope that he gets stronger and continues to fill out his frame, this could be key to future. success.
3. Joe Naranjo (23 points)
Highest level reached: AZL Indians Red
Naranjo was drafted in the third round in 2019 out of high school and had a good season as a rookie, although it wasn’t typical for a first baseman. He has little power, but is good at making contact and is a good athlete. He has a good approach at the plate and, if he follows the traditional first baseman route, I would expect his power to increase and his athleticism to have less importance. He’s a fine, but unexceptional defender. His youth is his primary asset as far as this list is concerned as many of the others have already essentially aged out of prospect status.
2. Jhonkensy Noel (26 points)
Highest level reached: AZL Indians Blue
To start with the less obvious aspects of Noel’s game, he is extremely flexible and surprisingly fast. This makes him an excellent defender at first and a good baserunner. The obvious part of his game is shown by his .455 slugging percent as a 17 year old in his first season in the US. He has great bat speed and control and has great power to all fields. Noel is an extremely bright spot in an otherwise dull position and he ranks second only due to his extremely young age. He should play with Lake County in 2021, although it is difficult to project beyond that.
1. Bobby Bradley (30 points)
Highest level reached: MLB
Bobby Bradley is the best first base prospect in a system in need of power potential. The left-handed-hitting slugger from Mississippi displays above-average or better raw power. This prestigious power has been exhibited at every level throughout his minor league career and earned him a callup with the Tribe in 2019. Bradley shows a fringe-average to below-average approach at the plate. His inability to make consistent contact leads to high strikeout rates and ineffectiveness at the plate, limiting his value to the club long term.
Defensively, Bradley is limited to playing a first base / designated hitter role. He has worked hard to improved his footwork around the bag, making him an average defender on the corner.