With the Indians in first place and a 7-1/2 game lead in the American League Central Division, most baseball fans in the area are thinking about how the front office will fortify the ballclub for the home stretch.
The trade deadline (without having to clear waivers) is at the end of the month, and we feel one of the lazier topics on sports talk radio is talking about should the Tribe move one of their top two prospects, OF Bradley Zimmer and/or OF Clint Frazier, both first round draft picks, to upgrade the major league roster.
The reality is the Cleveland farm system isn’t what it was two or three years ago when it was kind of Francisco Lindor and a bunch of guys. The Indians’ farm system is quite deep these days, thank you.
There are prospects that should be appealing at every level of the minor league system, and it is quite possible, probable in fact, that it will be one of these guys who will be moved if the front office makes a splash by the end of the month.
At Columbus, there is RHP starter Mike Clevinger (9-1, 2.82 ERA, 88 strikeouts in 82 IP), who we have already seen at the big league level. The right-hander is 25 years old, and really is ready for the big leagues now.
In addition to Clevinger on the hill, there is also a pair of lefties, Ryan Merritt (5-7, 4.44 ERA) and Shawn Morimando (11-4 at AAA/AA). Both have made cameos with the big club this season.
And you can’t forget 3B/OF Yandy Diaz, a native of Cuba, who is currently raking at AAA (.326, 4 HR, 22 RBI, 873 OPS). Diaz played in the Futures Game, and is a guy who puts the bat on the ball, something rare in this era where strikeouts don’t matter.
Besides Zimmer and Frazier at Akron, you have 1B Nellie Rodriguez, who has belted 18 HR, but strikes out a ton (132 whiffs in 348 at bats), and a pair of pitchers, lefty Rob Kaminsky (4-6, 3.84 ERA), and righty Julian Merryweather, who is 2-2 with the RubberDucks after going 8-2 with a 1.03 ERA at Class A Lynchburg.
Merryweather’s former teammates include 20-year-old slugger Bobby Bradley (.265, 17 HR, 70 RBI after hammering 27 bombs at Lake County a year ago), and catcher Francisco Mejia, who has hit over .330 at two levels this season. Those two get the most ink.
However, you can’t forget 20-year-old switch hitting OF Anthony Santander (.285, 14 HR, 69 RBI, 838 OPS) and 23-year-old Greg Allen (.298, 3 HR, 27 RBI, 37 steals), another who hits from both sides of the plate.
At Lake County, you will find OF Connor Marabell (.308, 6 HR, 47 RBI, 835 OPS) and Nathan Lukes (.305, 5 HR, 28 RBI, 833 OPS. And you can mix in RHP Matt Esparza (8-6, 3.19 ERA, and 107 strikeouts in 96 innings).
Mahoning Valley has two high school hurlers picked early in last year’s draft, RHP Triston McKenzie (3-2, 0.48 ERA in 37 IP) and southpaw Juan Hillman (2-0, 0.89 ERA in 30 frames).
And at the rookie level, you have the comeback story (from Tommy John surgery) of last year’s top selection Brady Aiken, once the top overall pick in the draft.
We haven’t even mentioned the bullpen depth in the system either. Other teams covets arms like Ben Heller, David Speer, and Billy Strode.
If GM Mike Chernoff does make a move, and we believe he will, it is more likely one of the players we’ve talked about here will go in return, not Zimmer or Frazier.
While the system is deeper than in the past, you can’t move players like those two, with the potential to be special.