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 catchers

Top 10 first basemen

Top 10 second basemen

Top 10 third basemen in Cleveland’s organization

10. Jose Baez (5 points)

Age: 18
Bats: Switch
Highest level reached (most games played): DSL Indians

Baez fields a ball at third during 2019 Indians extended spring training. – Joseph Coblitz, IBI

Baez is most famous for being the brother of current Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez and, given his appearances so far, it’s going to stay that way a little longer. A light hitter whose best offensive ability is patience, Baez hit .230/.347/.270 in 55 games between both Indians DSL teams (mostly with the Indians/Brewers). His performance in 2019 extended spring training was similar as he walked three times with no hits and five K’s in five games. In addition to his high walk rate, Baez is a decent defender who plays mostly at third, but was sure handed across the board between second and short as well.

9. Dayan Frias (8 points)

Age: 18
Bats: Switch
Highest level reached (most games played): DSL Indians

Frias covers second on a stolen base attempt during a 2019 Indians extended spring training game. – Joseph Coblitz, IBI

My experience watching Frias was exclusively in unofficial games during spring training and extended spring in 2019. There, he was a very fine defender at second and third base, after which he added short stop and left field to his repertoire in the Dominican Summer League. In Goodyear, he was a slap hitter with essentially no power, but was great at making contact. In the Dominican, he hit four doubles and three triples with more walks (37) than hits (29). Given all this, it is extremely difficult to judge Frias beyond saying that he should play in Arizona in 2021.

8. Joab Gonzalez (8 points)

Age: 20
Bats: Right
Highest level reached: SS Mahoning Valley

Gonzalez (pictured at top) was a fine defensive short stop in Arizona, then was even better once he transitioned to third base in Mahoning Valley. His offense, however, went the opposite direction as he was a pretty good hitter when initially drafted, but had major strike out issues upon promotion. Ultimately, he profiles similarly to the two players below him in the rankings, but has the advantage of being a few years older and a few levels higher. While it’s also difficult to project him after such a short time with the team, he looks to be a fielder/baserunner first with offense coming far behind.

7. Jesse Berardi (11 points)

Age: 24
Bats: Left
Highest level reached: Low-A Lake County (66 games)

Berardi is an older infielder who can play all over the dirt at acceptable pro levels. He fits into the Indians recent trend of looking for contact oriented infielders but the rest of his tools are pretty fringe-average across the board. Maybe there’s a shot for him as a utility infielder at some point who has a decent bat without much punch, or he’s more of a place holder in the org. He’s got enough arm and range to play any spot on the dirt and the fact that he can put the ball in play more often than not at least gives him a shot at a bench role someday.

6. Tyler Krieger (11 points)

Ties decided by highest rankings on two of three lists

Age: 26
Bats: Switch
Highest level reached: Double-A Akron (151 games)

Krieger had a shoulder injury in college at Clemson where he was regarded as a solid shortstop with a plus bat. He’s shown flashes of being a good hitter in the Indians org and tried to adapt to second early on. His arm has recovered some from the injury and the Indians moved him to third base and have even tried him in the outfield. His bat was always going to be the carrying tool but at 26 he’s running out of some time, especially with so many infielders starting to creep up the system. He’s also dealt with some injury issues in the minors as well.

5. Jonathan Lopez (15 points)

Age: 21
Bats: Left
Highest level reached: Shortseason Mahoning Valley (32 games)

Lopez has been floating around the system for a few years and has a smooth swing and decent approach, even if he does swing and miss a bit much. Some think the amount of infielders ahead of him that Cleveland has brought in have limited his playing time and potential to show his skills. That may be true and all of that is enough to land him here at a very weak spot in the system right now.

4. Jordan Brown (19 points)

Age: 19
Bats: Right
Highest level reached: AZL Indians Red

Brown puts a ball in play for the AZL Indians Red during the 2019 season. – Joseph Coblitz, IBI

It may be a sign of weakness or future strength, but six of the ten third basemen listed played in the Arizona League or below in 2019 including each of the next three. Brown was drafted in the sixth round of that season and had one of the roughest starts I’ve ever seen to a career, going 0 for his first 18. Despite this, he had a three run game during that span, a .238 OBP and two steals. After struggling a little longer, he ended the season .200/.351/.233 over his last ten games.

In general, I liked Brown’s ability to go deep into counts, but his swing and miss rate is problematic. Given that he was one of the youngest players drafted and was playing in a league that suddenly included a bunch of college players, we won’t judge him too harshly, but even so he needs to repeat a season in Arizona in 2021.

3. Christian Cairo (20 points)

Tiebreaker was who had the higher ranking on two of the three lists

Age: 19
Bats: Right
Highest level reached: AZL Indians Red

Cairo takes a lead off second during a 2020 Indians instructional league game against Cincinnati. – Joseph Coblitz, IBI

Cairo is also a 2019 draft pick who hit poorly during the 2019 AZL season. Unlike Brown, who was almost exclusively a third baseman, Cairo played evenly between second, short and third and has played only second during 2020 instructs. Like Jose Baez, Cairo has yet to make much of a name for himself and is still mostly known as the son of former MLB first baseman Miguel Cairo.

Like many on this list, Cairo’s current best skills include his walk rate and base stealing ability while playing defense at multiple positions sufficiently well.

2. Victor Nova (22 points)

Age: 20
Bats: Switch
Highest level reached: AZL Indians Blue

Nova moves in on a ground ball during a 2019 AZL Indians Blue game. – Joseph Coblitz, IBI

Nova was the youngest player sent to the Indians as part of the 2019 Trevor Bauer trade with Cincinnati and San Diego and spent all of 2019 in the Arizona League. He plays second, third and outfield, but it primarily a third baseman and is expected to stick there. While most of his numbers come from his time with San Diego, he has shown a good eye and decent power. He’s easily the most stable player among the six rookie or lower players listed here and his young age gives him a highish ceiling and moderate floor.

Ultimately, Nova’s inclusion at #2 shows the franchises weakness at the position as all except number one have either aged out of legitimate prospect status or are yet to actually show evidence of their true ability.

1. Nolan Jones (30 points)

Age: 22
Bats: Left
Highest level reached: Double-A Akron (49 games)

Jones puts a ball in play for the Mesa Solar Sox during the 2019 Arizona Fall League season. – Joseph Coblitz, IBI

Jones is the top prospect in the organization because he has above average game power with more in the tank, a great approach at the plate and for now, plays a position that a plus offensive game is required. He might not make his MLB debut at the hot corner, but there’s a chance he’s a better defender as a 1B or OF, though he’s already worked tremendously hard to become adequate at third. He’s easily the best combination of impact bat and trending towards a milder risk of that tool working for him in the majors, which is why he’s #1 here and overall.

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