As the Browns have finished another disappointing year and the Cavaliers get ever closer to a lottery pick in June, the Indians are just 42 days away from their first spring training game. After trading away tw0-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and re-signing star shortstop Francisco Lindor to just a one-year deal, it may be time for another rebuild in Cleveland.
Thus, it is time to look at prospects to watch for the Indians in 2020.
5. Tyler Freeman, SS
While Francisco Lindor has the shortstop position locked down for the moment, he is on a one year deal and could be dealt at the deadline to a competing team if the Indians are already out of playoff contention. Freeman, a 20-year-old from California, hit .305/.367/.409 in A+ ball in 2019. The power is questionable as he hit just three home runs, and he also lacks patience after walking just 4.8% of the time. This is something that young players struggle with, however, so he could well be the successor to Francisco Lindor. He will look to make the jump to AA ball and maybe push for AAA in September.
4. Bobby Bradley, 1B
Bradley was called up at the end of the 2019 season and struggled. He hit .178 in 45 at-bats. However, in AAA, he slashed .267/.348/.571 with 33 home runs. The major issue for Bradley is that he strikes out over 1/3 of the time. If he hits like this, there will be no chance for him at the MLB level. He could become the next Adam Dunn, who struck out just as often as Bradley does, but Bradley would need to raise his average by 60 points and add a little more power.
3. Daniel Johnson, OF
Johnson is one of the guys who at the minimum, will be suiting up in Progressive Field come September. He hit .290/.362/.502 in AAA ball in 2019 and should be given a chance to make the 26 man roster in spring training. He is an amazing athlete, has a cannon for an arm and hit 18 home runs last season. His biggest weakness is that he struck out 21.4% of the time, a number that will likely go up in the big leagues. This isn’t a huge problem however, as plenty of players strikeout over 20% of the time. Johnson has all the tools, it will just take some fine-tuning to be playing in Cleveland next season.
2. James Karinchak, P (Relief)
Karinchak made the move from AA to AAA and then got some major league work in 2019. He had a 2.67 ERA in AA/AAA while pitching 30 innings. In the 5.1 innings he pitched in the MLB he gave up just one run. He is a former starter, though he was converted to a relief pitcher in A ball. The major question for him is that he hasn’t pitched more than 50 innings in a season in his career. He isn’t the most accurate pitcher, but he does pitch at 96-98 MPH. He could be a 7th or 8th inning guy for the Tribe in 2020.
1. Nolan Jones, 3B
Jones made his way to AA in 2019. He slashed .253/.370/.466 in AA ball and he may get an invite to spring training in 2020. He has power to all fields and can work the count well, as he walks 15% of the time. He isn’t the fastest player, but that hasn’t stopped him from getting 10 doubles and two triples. As the Indians begin their rebuild, they could deal Jose Ramirez. Jones could be the next stalwart at the hot corner. There may be a long summer in Cleveland, but these prospects could make a big impact for years to come.