The Cleveland Indians appear to be trending toward a somewhat significant rebuild in 2021.
This isn’t going to be a total tear-down, at least not at the start, but the expected trade of Francisco Lindor will be done with the future in mind.
Looking at the top prospects now may not tell the full story come March or April.
A Lindor trade, which we all expect at some point, will bring a haul of talent in return.
But the Indians won’t be sending away any top minor league talent.
So let’s indeed take a look at some of the top prospects in the organization as it stands now.
3. Triston McKenzie
MLB.com still lists McKenzie as a prospect, No. 3 in the system, because of his limited action as a rookie in 2020.
What Indians fans did see was the young pitcher living up to the hype we have heard for years.
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) September 3, 2020
He made eight appearances and six starts, logging a 3.24 ERA.
The rookie also struckout 42 batters in 33.1 innings of work.
Not bad for making his debut during such a wild season.
There is still the possibility the Indians trade Carlos Carrasco this offseason.
That would open up a spot in the rotation, but McKenzie should have one regardless unless he appears to have regressed once spring training finally begins.
2. Tyler Freeman
Freeman stands out as one internal option to replace Lindor at shortstop in the near future.
The only thing holding him back is the fact there wasn’t minor league action in 2020.
Freeman is 21 years old and split 2019 between Lake County and Lynchburg.
He has a career slash line of .319/.379/.441 in the minors and is ranked No. 2 overall in the system by MLB.com.
Youth does remain on his side and he is one of many players who may need more time in the minors after the lost season.
The Indians drafted Freeman in 2017 and maybe they target another shortstop prospect in a Lindor deal.
If not, Freeman is worth a look at some point soon to see if he is really worth such a high ranking from sources outside the organization.
1. Nolan Jones
Jones has been a top player in the system for quite some time.
Now he stands out as the future at either shortstop or third base, although he has primarily played at third in the minors.
Lindor leaving completely changes the equation and opens up a spot for the rookie in a year when the Indians are looking to slash payroll.
He has slashed .283/.409/.448 in the minors and has 38 home runs to his name from the left side of the plate.
The options are plentiful when it comes to Jones and the most important thing is getting him in the lineup and on the field.
In a scenario where Lindor isn’t traded, by some surprise, Jones could even get reps in the outfield or at third with Jose Ramirez shifting to second base.
The top prospect needs reps to see if he is actually the future or if the Indians need to keep targeting infielders in future trades and the draft.