While the World Series may be over, serious fans are already starting to think about the 2020 season with many taking advantage of their knowledge base, throwing out some all star bets to get ahead of the curve. In particular the Indians have some depth in the minors and this is everything you need to know about 2 up and coming prospects that are making a major buzz around the minor league.
Triston McKenzie – RHSP – Age: 22
Drafted 2015, Round 1
Did Not Play (Injury)
This is the first season since we started ranking at least 50 players (2016) that McKenzie has not finished first in the Burning River Baseball Indians prospect rankings. There’s a good chance that 2020 will be the first time he falls out the national top 100 for the first time since 2017. This is because, as amazing as his potential still is, it means nothing if he can’t get on a baseball field.
The reason the picture above is him out of uniform is that, as far as I’m aware, he didn’t pitch a single game in uniform this year. During spring training, he strained his back and supposed to be out for six weeks. This would have him making at least rehab starts by the end of April, but these never took place as he sat out the entire season without another official injury update by the Indians.
Now, instead of the young first round draft pick, he’s a 22 year old eligible to be taken in the rule five draft. It’s doubtful that any team to would take a gamble on the injury prone starter (he missed much of 2018 with a forearm strain) who hasn’t pitched above AA, but with an expanded roster and his potential still high, it is possible. When he does pitch, McKenzie has great command, a plus fastball/change combination and a good slider. Over his 329 MiLB innings, he has a 2.68 ERA with a 2.7 BB/9 and 10.8 K/9.
Aaron Bracho – 2B – Age: 18
2017 International Free Agent
SS Mahoning Valley
The fact that four of the five players on today’s list are still teenagers shows how strong the Indians lower minors are and Bracho is among the strongest. Elbow problems cost him all of 2018 and pushed back his 2019 start, but once he began to play, he caught up quickly. Once he caught up to speed, he had a run where he hit four home runs and two triples over the span of six games, striking out just three times in this period.
While no one could keep up this torrid pace, he still had solid numbers during his time with Indians Blue, batting .296/.416/.593 before his promotion to Mahoning Valley for the final week of the season. Once there, he struggled a bit to adjust, but still hit two home runs and a double in his final five games.
Bracho was signed as a short stop along with Rocchio (and Jose Tena from earlier in the rankings), but really is nothing like his compatriots. Bracho is a power hitter at his core and is not afraid to run a count deep to get a pitch he likes. He has great bat control and in his first year had nearly as many extra base hits (21) as he had strike outs (29) and walks (28). If it weren’t for his injuries (he missed a month in the regular season of 2019 in addition to missing 2018), he likely would have been in Lake County to end the season instead of Mahoning Valley.
As a defender, however, he lags behind. He is definitely not a short stop, playing exclusively at second during his official games, and even there he is a below average defender. This should be considered acceptable as he has an elite bat for a second baseman, but there is room for improvement. There is also a good chance he will improve at the position, specifically his throwing arm, as he returns to full health.