Outfielders Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier and first baseman Bobby Bradley all made MLB.com’s top 10 prospect lists for their respective positions this week.
Zimmer and Frazier were ranked right next to each other as the sixth and seventh best outfield prospects in the game.
Zimmer played much of last season with a fractured foot and hit .273 with a .368 on-base percentage, 16 home runs, 26 doubles, 63 RBI and 44 stolen bases between High-A Lynchburg and Double-A Akron.
Zimmer was also recently ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Indians’ organization by Baseball Prospectus, which called him a, “five-tool player who impact the game in every capacity.” Zimmer figures to begin the 2016 season in Akron and has given given an ETA of 2017 by Baseball Prospectus.
Frazier spent the 2015 season at High-A Lynchburg, hitting .285 with a .377 on-base percentage, 16 home runs, 36 doubles, 72 RBI and 15 stolen bases. He got off to a slow start but was much improved after making an adjustment to his timing and simplifying his swing around midseason. Frazier is ranked as the No. 3 prospect in the system by Baseball Prospectus and shares Zimmer’s 2017 ETA. He’ll likely see significant time in Double-A Akron this season as well.
Both Zimmer and Frazier could potentially end up in center field, with Zimmer holding a slide edge defensively. The development of those two could have been a factor in the Indians’ decision to not go after a bigger-name free agent that would have required a long-term contract, such as Dexter Fowler, Austin Jackson and a slew of others. Zimmer, Frazier and Tyler Naquin have been holding steady three of the system’s top positional player prospects for a while, but the former two have started to pull away.
Neither Zimmer nor Frazier, tough, have yet received an invite to big league camp this spring. Much of that has to do with the Indians having a higher number of players who could make an impact this season.
“It's not an issue with the seasons they had, who they are, the progress they made,” said Indians general manager Mike Chernoff on Tuesday. “The decision not to bring them to camp is instead just about the depth that we have in our Major League clubhouse and on our roster in the outfield. And, you kind of always strike this balance of, when you have guys in camp, making sure there's enough opportunity for them. So, if those are two guys that are not looking like they’re going to make the Major League team out of Spring Training, it's less important to have them as part of that unit in camp.”
Minnesota Twins top prospect Byron Buxton tops all outfield prospects, and still has a strong case as the No. 1 prospect in baseball.
Bradley came in as the No. 4 first baseman prospect, per MLB.com. He had a superb season statistically for Class-A Lake County in 2015, hitting .269 with 27 home runs, 15 doubles and 92 RBI. He figures to open the season with High-A Lynchburg. Baseball Prospectus has Bradley as the No. 5 prospect in the system with an ETA of 2018.
Left-handed pitchers Brady Aiken (No. 2) and and Justus Sheffield (No. 4) round out the Indians’ top-5 prospects on MLB.com’s list. A third left-handed pitcher, Rob Kaminsky, is No. 6.