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The people have spoken , and the lanky right-handed pitcher is the Tribe’s top prospect"WhiteFanposts Fanshots Sections NewsAnalysis & EditorialsCleveland Indians prospects & minor leaguesGame RecapsTransactionsCleveland Indians prospects & minor leaguesLGT Top Indians Prospects for 2019Triston McKenzie is our No. 1 Cleveland Indians prospect. Who should be No. 2? New,117commentsThe people have spoken, and the lanky right-handed pitcher is the Tribe’s top prospectESTShareTweetShareShareTriston McKenzie is our No. 1 Cleveland Indians prospect. Who should be No. 2? Mathew CarperRight-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% Brandon Belt Jersey , 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 FIP2018 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. At some point, an MLB player will score a contract worth a half-billion dollars.It's an absurd notion, but it's coming. And Mike Trout may be the man to cash in.Heading into this winter, all eyes will be on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.Harper is 25 years old and Machado is 26. Both are generational talents with sterling resumes.That said, neither has performed at peak level in his contract year.Harper has cracked 34 home runs but is hitting a ho-hum .246 for the Washington Nationals, who will miss the postseason.Machado is slashing .296/.366/.541 overall, but his average (.267) and OPS (.824) have declined since a trade-deadline swap from the Baltimore Orioles to the Los Angeles Dodgers.Both players will get paid. Neither is likely to crack the $500 million threshold.What about Trout? You don't need his resume, but we'll supply it anyway. Between 2012 and today, he has made seven All-Star appearances, won a pair of American League MVP awards and amassed 63.7 WAR by FanGraphs' calculation.The next-highest WAR totals during that span belong to Andrew McCutchen (36.3) and Josh Donaldson (36.2). Trout is almost literally lapping the field.This year, he's launched 38 home runs and leads both leagues with a 1.093 OPS.Oh, and the guy celebrated his 27th birthday on August 7. Technically he's just entering his prime.Mike Stone/Associated PressOK, Trout is great. That's not news to anybody. How does his greatness translate to a $500 million payday?Let's turn to Fancred's Jon Heyman, who reported that, "The Angels are expected to try again to make Mike Trout a lifetime Angel when they discuss a contract this winter, and one rival agent suggested Trout's agent would be wise to wait until free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are signed to provide the floor."Yes, you read that right. Harper and Machado will be the floor.The Halos will pay Trout $33.25 million in 2019 and 2020. Barring a shocking trade , he'll remain in Anaheim for the next two seasons.After that, he could become the most coveted free agent in baseball history. Or, the Angels could lock him up for the long haul.In March 2014, Trout inked a six-year, $144.5 million extension with the Angels. It was a massive pact for a player who, at the time, had only a pair of full big league campaigns under his belt.It also displayed Trout's loyalty to the franchise that drafted him 25th overall in 2009.Will that loyalty lead him to another, larger, lifetime deal in the $500M range?Maybe. Here's the fly in the ointment: Trout has the hardware and individual accolades but doesn't have postseason success.Ted S. Warren/Associated PressTrout has played in a scant three playoff games, all losses. In 12 at-bats on the game's brightest stage, he's managed just a single hit plus three walks. In typical Trout fashion, the hit was a home run, but that's still a minuscule sample size."Obviously I want to win," Trout said recently, per Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. "It's not a good feeling being in early September and you're out of it. It's definitely in the back of my mind, but you've got to trust the front office."The Angels made moves last winter. Most notably, they signed two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani, who has been derailed by elbow problems but has displayed tantalizing power and pitching prowess this season.Despite the Angels' futility, there is a world where Trout sticks with them and finally makes a run.MLB might wish he'd go to a more high-profile club; up the I-5 freeway to the Los Angeles Dodgers or across the country to the New York Yankees. Earlier this season, Commissioner Rob Manfred all but said Trout was squandering his opportunity as the game's pre-eminent star.That's never been Trout's style, however. He's not flashy. He doesn't covet the spotlight.The Angels seem prepared to offer him untold riches to keep wearing their uniform. And nothing in Trout's brilliant, understated career indicates he'd say no.It's silly to suggest a player could humbly accept a half-billion dollars. But if anyone can do it, it's Mike Trout.All statistics and contract information current entering play Wednesday and courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.

Wed May 15, 2019 8:37 pm
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