Right-handed pitching prospect Triston McKenzie is our No. 1 Cleveland Indians prospect for 2018, improving from his No. 2 ranking last year. McKenzie rose to prominence after a lightning quick start to his career that saw him dominate High-A Lynchburg at just 19 years old in his first full season pitching, where he won Carolina League Pitcher of the Year and led all of minor league baseball in strikeouts.
McKenzie has a deceptive fastball that sits in the low to mid 90s, a filthy curveball and an improving change-up.
Standing 6-foot-5 and weighing just 165 pounds, fans have been hoping he’d be able to fill out his lanky frame to help withstand the rigors of a full season of pitching, but it hasn’t happened yet.
The Indians were extra cautious with McKenzie in 2018 when he experienced soreness in his pitching arm, not allowing him to make his Double-A debut last season until June 7.
After a slow start to the season, the former 2015 first round competitive balance pick got locked in, although his strikeout numbers were down compared to previous seasons. McKenzie only allowed more than three earned runs in one of his 16 starts last year, finishing with a stellar 2.68 ERA, a 1.00 WHIP and a .191 batting average against while striking out 87 and walking 28 in 90.2 innings pitched.
The Indians again were cautious with the Royal Palm Beach, Florida-native after Akron made the playoffs, instead choosing to shut McKenzie down rather than allow him to pitch in the postseason.
Depending on where the Tribe brass feel McKenzie stands, he could begin 2019 either repeating Double-A or will advance directly to Triple-A. He definitely could be pitching in Cleveland at some point this year.
WHO SHOULD BE THE NO. 2 PROSPECT FOR 2018?
Nolan Jones, 3B (Age 20)
2018 (A): 389 PA, .279./393./464, 16 HR, 2 SB, 16.2 BB%, 24.9 K%, 147 wRC+
2018 (A+): 130 PA, .298/.438/.471, 3 HR, 0 SB, 20.0 BB%, 26.2 K%, 162 wRC+
Improved both offensively and defensively in 2018. Maintained elite walk rate while seeing a dramatic spike in power and showed no signs of being overmatched after being promoted.
Ethan Hankins, RHP (Age 18)
2018 (R): 2 GS, 3.0 IP, 42.9 K%, 0.0 BB%, 6.00 ERA, 1.07 FIP
2018 first round compensatory pick has the most potential of any arm in the Tribe system. Fastball nearing triple digits with life to it and the makings of a great change-up and curve.
George Valera, OF (Age 18)
2018 (R): 22 PA, .333/.409/.556, 1 HR, 1 SB, 13.6 BB%, 13.6 K%, 162 wRC+
Top international signing in 2017, skipped the DSL entirely and debuted in Arizona last year. Looked incredible in SSS before broken hamate bone ended his season early.
Tyler Freeman, SS (Age 19)
2018 (A-): 301 PA, .352/.405/.511, 2 HR, 14 SB, 2.7 BB%, 7.3 K%, 168 wRC+
2017 second round competitive balance pick, Freeman is one of the best pure hitters in the Tribe system. He torched the New York Penn League in 2018, although his walk-rate is concerning.
Yu Chang, SS (Age 23)
2018 (AAA): 518 PA, .256/.330/.411, 14 HR, 4 SB, 8.5 BB%, 27.8 K%, 109 wRC+
2018 (AFL): 93 PA, 337/.396/.523, 4 HR, 1 SB, 7.5 BB%, 17.2 K%
Chang’s average improved in 2018, although his power dropped from 24 home runs to 14 in his first taste of Triple-A. He stood out in the Arizona Fall League and will compete for the Indians’ utility spot this year.
Who should be the No. 2 Indians prospect?
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