The Indians… the Rangers: A list of under the radar Indians position player prospects worth tracking

Perhaps the fireworks were in short supply after Monday’s 15-9 game. On Tuesday, the Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers faced off in a pitcher’s duel instead with the Rangers coming out victorious, 2-1. Mike Clevinger (6 IP, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 SO) was fantastic, but a late Adrian Beltre home run off Cody Allen in the ninth inning was too much to overcome.

Lonnie Chisenhall had the Indians lone RBI.

In an effort to more fully flesh out out the Indians organizational situation, Jim Pete, Michael Bode and myself drafted an Indians trade value column. In the interest of further information regarding organization strengths and talent holes, this piece will introduce or provide a checkup on a few position player names whose prospect cache is on the upswing.1  This is valuable not just in terms of picking a few names to track more closely but also because these names will be involved in trade discussions as secondary or ancillary pieces.

Yu-Cheng Chang- SS-

Chang has had a complex season to date in Akron with poor on base numbers but a significant power spike. Chang just 21 in Akron and roughly two years younger than his average opponent is second in the Indians minor league system in home runs to only Richie Shaffer.  Chang may be past an under the radar existence having been ranked between 5 and 12 on most prospect lists but his homer barrage has been rather quiet.

Further, scouts have commented on his improved defense as the Indians deployed John McDonald to aid him defensively. Chang is 6 foot 1 and 180 pounds, the struggle being whether he can remain at shortstop as he adds additional muscle. The power is a legitimate plus tool which will play up if he can remain in the middle infield, the one significant concern in 2017 being that Chang has struggled to make consistent contact. However, this is a piece to be patient with, Chang is very toolsy, has limited his K% in the past and is very young for the level, it is reasonable to expect his contact profile improves.

Eric Stamets-SS

A true plus defender Stamets is versatile and was acquired from the Angels in the David Murphy deal. Stamets has been pushing irrelevance for some time now as an Indians prospect but at 25 years old has shown such a radical profile change of late to merit discussion. Stamets was acquired as the Indians could acquire a plus tool, defense, and hope to develop the offensive enough for him to be a big leaguer. Stamets has a career minor league ISO of .107 in 2017, in 41 Games in Columbus it is .298. Time for a few disclaimers, tiny sample size, and in a favorable home park, Huntington Field in Columbus.

Yet, this whole power gain does not have to be real for Stamets to be value, running a .160+ ISO at the big league level in addition to plus defense makes for a pretty valuable player,especially if he can play multiple infield positions, like say Michael Martinez, except Stamets would actually be good defensively.

One of the reasons that Stamets skill shift seems like it may be more than a mirage is that he made actual adjustments to his batted ball profile. While launch angle has become what may be a tiring cliche now, Stamets has changed his.  Stamets has a ground ball rate of just 26% more than 10% below his career average, he is simply getting the ball of the ground a lot more often.  He increased his fly ball % by 10%, a massive launch angle gain. While he could not speak to this year’s adjustments, David Wallace who managed Stamets in 2015/2016 told me  “(h)e definitely had a steep swing when he came over from the Angels and we have attempted to help him level it out”.  The steep swing being a basis for ground balls and contact profile past, it appears that Stamets has had success altering his swing plane, thereby modifying his launch angle.

Willi Castro-SS

Castro is one of my favorite prospects, a former international signing who the Indians keep pushing through the system. Often, a signal for organizational value is aggressiveness, and at 20 years old in A+ Lynchburg, Castro is a priority.  A 6 foot 1 shortstop weighing 165 pounds, Castro’s offense retains projection as the body grows. An above average defender up the middle at both positions, Castro is a premium prospect who continues to make improvement.

Castro has solid speed which could help him grab 5-10 stolen bases a year at the big league level and provide great 1st to 3rd skills. One of the most impressive parts about Castro is that while he has been placed aggressively in the Indians system, he keeps improving at each level he reaches. He has increased his ISO, basically power every single year. Further, in 2017, Castro is posting the highest walk rate of his minor league career facing some polished A+ pitching. Of course, the walk rate is not overwhelming but it is an improvement of importance to his profile. His excellent makeup, size, and track record of adjustments makes for an enticing package.

I will address pitchers on the rise in the Indians system in the near future.

  1. I excluded the Indians top 3 prospects Francisco Mejia, Triston McKenzie, and Bobby Bradley []