This series is based on a voting exercise from Justin Lada, Joe Coblitz and Willie Hood on the top 10 players at each position in the Cleveland Indians’ farm system. […]
This series is based on a voting exercise from Justin Lada, Joe Coblitz and Willie Hood on the top 10 players at each position in the Cleveland Indians’ farm system. Each position rank is worth a point in voting (#1 rank is 10 points, #2 is 9, #3 is 8, etc.).
The positions covered in this series will breakdown this way: Catcher, first base, second base, third base, shortstop, corner outfield, centerfield, right handed starting pitchers, left handed starting pitchers, and relievers.
Top 10 catchers in Cleveland’s organization
10. Michael Amditis (3 points)
Highest level reached: AZL Indians Blue
Amditis was drafted twice by the Indians, first in 2016, then for good in 2019 after playing three years for Miami. While he is considered a glove first catcher, Amditis showed decent plate discipline and contact rate in his rookie year with 20 walks to 25 strike outs in 137 plate appearances. He showed very little power, however, especially considering his advanced age at such a low level. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to play against more even competition due to a log jam of catchers for the Indians from Lake County down in 2019 and the cancellation of the 2020 season.
9. Josh Rolette (4 points)
Highest level reached (most games played at): Low-A Lake County (64 , 2019)
Rolette split time at catcher in 2018 with a cast of backstops in Lake County that traded places on the injured list. He showed the ability to work a walk but struck out too often and the Midwest League ran wild on him. He threw out just 18 of 67 base stealers and was credited with 10 passed balls. His defense improved in 2019 in limited duty but only caught when 2018 1st round pick Bo Naylor got the night off or was the DH. At 24 and little experience above Low-A, Rolette is an organizational backstop who will likely continue to serve the system as a backup for as long as his career goes on with Cleveland.
8. Mike Rivera (5 points)
Highest level reached: High-A Lynchburg (62 games)
RIvera was a high pick (6th round, 2017 draft) but has suffered through injuries and other maladies that have kept him off the field in his three seasons in the system. A strong defender and decent hitter in college, Rivera has been mostly glove when on the field and has showed good plate discipline. Hopes were high early on of Rivera ascending through the system as a top glove option but he hasn’t been on the field often enough to do so. He’ll be 25 heading into whatever the 2021 season looks like, and there’s not many options ahead of him so maybe he still has a chance if he can play next year.
7. Joe Donovan (6 points)
Highest level reached: NA
Signed as an undrafted free agent, Joe Donovan would have been a draft worthy prospect in a typical draft period (my estimation he would have been selected in the round 7-10 range). With the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic shortening the baseball season, the young backstop was still able to solidify his draft status. The right-handed-hitting Michigan product displays fringe-average (at best) contact abilities leading to sub-.250 averages at the plate. While Donovan lacks consistent contact abilities, he shows above-average raw power. Signed for his defensive skills, the Michigan native is an athletic backstop with experience catching mid-90’s heat for the Wolverines team that ascended to the National Championship in 2019. Donovan has a strong throwing arm with the ability to keep the would-be base stealers in check.
6. Micael Ramirez (10 points)
Highest level reached: AZL Indians Red
Ramirez is a solid defensive catcher out of Venezuela (class of 2017). He has caught 10 of 23 base stealers while playing parts of two seasons in Arizona and is yet to commit an error. In addition to being a good receiver, Ramirez hit .328/.393/.408 over 40 games across those two years. Unfortunately for Ramirez, he broke his hamate bone in extended spring 2019 and missed most of the year because of it. Had he not, he probably would have played for the Scrappers instead and now, will probably skip a level in 2021.
Because of his defense and approach at the plate, Ramirez has one of the highest floors on this list and I’d expect him to stick around awhile because of that. However, he hasn’t played enough to really guess at his ceiling and that puts a limit on projecting his future, especially considering MLB possibilities, keeping him fairly low on this list.
5. Gavin Collins (14 points)
Highest level reached: High-A Lynchburg
Collins has bounced back and forth from catcher and infielder at times. In 2019 the Indians catch most of his games. Unfortunately he wasn’t healthy much in 2019 either. A strong arm is why Collins works well behind the plate and the left side of the diamond too. He threw out 19 of 35 would-be base stealers behind the plate. He does a good job putting the ball in play frequently enough and doesn’t swing and miss a lot. However, he hasn’t really shown more than average in-game pop and the bat won’t profile at 1B/3B. Collins will have to make it as a defensive backstop for his bat to be playable probably. Having the defensive versatility to play first or third is a nice asset to have.
He’ll be 26 in the 2021 season and hasn’t reached above High-A so a decision on his future might be coming soon. There should be room in Double-A in 2021 to give him playing time at catcher and other places, but he’ll be pushed there by Bo Naylor fairly soon.
4. Andres Melendez (15 points)
Highest level reached: AZL Brewers Gold
Acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers in the Mark Mathias deal, Andres Melendez is another defensive-oriented backstop. He’s still raw at the dish with improving abilities and a patient approach. The young backstops season was affected by the coronavirus pandemic but was invited to fall instructs. Defensively, he’s athletic with a strong plus throwing arm and the ability to cut down would-be base stealers. Right now, the young backstop is considered a defense-first type of catcher with solid framing abilities. He’s young and still developing his overall skills, but he could continue to ascend prospect rankings because of his upside.
3. Yainer Diaz (22 points)
Highest level reached: Short season Mahoning Valley
Diaz became the first example of why you can’t take AZL stats too seriously as he was posting incredible numbers in 2019 before completely falling apart in the second half of the season in Mahoning Valley. That being said, he has the tools to succeed, particularly in his power. The fact that the Indians value fielding first for catchers places him third instead of second as Diaz lags behind a few on this list as far as glovework is concerned.
At 20 years old already, Diaz could potentially play for Lake County or Lynchburg next year and his offensive production there will do more to project his future than his numbers in either Arizona or Mahoning Valley from 2019.
2. Bryan Lavastida (26 points)
Highest level reached: A Lake County
As a 15th round pick, Lavastida went under the radar initially, but he has already outperformed many higher round picks both offensively and defensively. With a solid defensive base and a great eye at the plate, Lavastida has the highest floor of anyone on this list. While he has little power, he hits plenty of doubles and gets on base a ton, making him an extremely valuable hitter, especially as a catcher. Lavastida also comes with a bonus that may not appear from his stat line as he is of Cuban heritage although he was born in Florida, leading to fluency in English and Spanish.
He ended 2019 with one game in Lake County and, while that might not normally be enough to move on to Lynchburg, the year off makes it more likely he’ll start in high A in 2021.
1. Bo Naylor (30 points)
Highest level reached: A Lake County
Bo Naylor runs to first after a hit with the Captains in 2019 – Indians Baseball Insider
The system isn’t flush with high end catcher depth, but you can see there was a little more clarity in the top-5 of the voting with the top two being crystal clear.
Naylor has a good arm, shows good pop times, promise as a framer and the effort necessary to guide a pitching staff. Despite not playing in a minor league season in 2020, Naylor still had the opportunity to catch some incredible arms in the system including MLB arms like Triston McKenzie, Zach Plesac and Mike Clevinger that he might not have caught in a normal year. Plus he worked with big time prospect arms like Daniel Espino and Ethan Hankins.
While Naylor’s glove is certainly in line to keep him behind the plate, he is a bat first player because his ability to hit is that good. He has a good approach at the plate, putting up solid at bats and not afraid to take the ball the other way. There’s above average raw power in his bat which would be good enough to play somewhere like second or third base, where he’s athletic enough to play. In addition to catching top arms, he also faced them as a hitter. If there’s a normal 2021, Naylor might start at Lynchburg but there’s a real chance he spends a good amount of time in Double-A as well, getting him into the upper minors as the top future catching option as soon as 2022 or 2023.