With the announcement of the restructuring of the lower minor leagues, we have been waiting for massive cuts from every franchise for quite some time now and the Indians announced the first two for 2020 today.

Mitch Reeves – 1B – Released

Starting at first base, most recently with the Lynchburg Hillcats in 2019, Mitch Reeves has been let go by Cleveland. A 32nd round pick out of Florida Southern College, Reeves was not ranked in IBI’s overall prospect rankings in 2021, but was considered the 9th best first baseman in the positional rankings. He was a fairly well rounded hitter, batting .281/.377/.408 over 240 games with 52 doubles and 17 home runs. He was an accomplished defender at first, but is already 26 years old and hasn’t hit AA yet. While he likely would have played there in 2020, that opportunity is no longer available and he would have been fighting for playing time with Bobby Bradley, Owen Miller and Nolan Jones among others between AA and AAA in 2021.

Friis fields a ball at second during 2019 Indians MiLB spring training practice. – Joseph Coblitz, IBI

Tyler Friis – 2B – Released

Also released from the 2019 Hillcats (although he did play a bit in Akron as well that year) was middle infielder Tyler Friis. Friis was used fairly evenly between short, second and third from 2017 through 2018, but was almost exclusively a second baseman in 2019. He was originally a 21st round pick out of Indiana State and jumped all the way to Lynchburg in his second season. Despite being an advanced player, he never caught on offensively, batting .236/.328/.330 in 175 career games. During his mid-season jump to Akron in 2019, he had his best offensive performance, batting .250/.341/.333, but this wasn’t enough to keep him there to end the season or to join the Indians at the alternate site in 2020 or 2021. With an incredible glut of talent up the middle in the upper, middle and lower minors, players like Friis who are more projected as a utility player than starter, are more expendable than in a more typical situation.

Wilson takes a lead off second during a 2018 AZL Indians Blue game against the Dodgers in Glendale, AZ. – Joseph Coblitz, IBI

Billy Wilson – OF – Retired

In addition to the two cuts, there are two other players who were with the team in 2019, but will not be returning in 2021 as Billy Wilson and Brock Hartson each elected to retire from baseball earlier this year. Wilson was a 28th round pick in 2018 out of Loyola Marymount and brought an exciting combination of power and speed that came with an extremely high strike out rate and low average. Following an impressive 10 home runs and 14 steals in a short season in Arizona in 2018, he struggled greatly in Mahoning Valley and Lake County in 2019 despite his college experience. He was not ranked in the overall IBI prospect rankings, but was 10th among centerfielders.

Hartson pitches for the 2019 AZL Indians in Goodyear, AZ. – Joseph Coblitz, IBI

Brock Hartson – RHP – Retired

Hartson was a 21st rounder in 2015 out of Texas San Antonio and pitched well from 2015 through 2017, both as a starter and reliever, moving all the way to Lynchburg. He went into 2018 injured and announced his first retirement that March, only to return to the team in mid-2019. While he pitched well in his second season with the Hillcats, he was already 25 years old and the lost season of 2020 cost him his age 26 season.

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