Five players ranked by Baseball America among the top 30 Cleveland Indians prospects are assigned to the Lake County Captains for the start of the 2015 season: LHP Justus Sheffield (No. 4), catcher Francisco Mejia (No. 7), infielder Yu-Cheng Chang (No. 13), RHP Dace Kime (No. 20), and outfielder/shortstop Dorssys Paulino (No. 26).
Sheffield is Cleveland’s top pitching prospect, selected No. 31 overall in last year’s draft. Baseball America says he “offers an exciting combination of power stuff from the left side and athleticism on the mound. … He has the upside to be a No. 2 starter if everything comes together.” That includes staying out of trouble; earlier this year he pleaded guilty to charges of underaged drinking and criminal trespass in Tennessee. He went 3-1 with a 4.79 ERA, 29 strikeouts and nine walks in 21 IP in the rookie-level Arizona League last year. He is scheduled to get his first start of the 2015 season Saturday.
Mejia spent the 2014 season with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers of the short-season New York-Penn League, batting .282 with 2 HR and 36 RBI in 66 games. Baseball America says this about Mejia, a switch-hitting catcher who draws comparisons to Indians backstop Carlos Santana: “He has a natural feel for hitting and innate bat control, allowing him to drive almost anything. … Mejia generates plenty of bat speed and should develop average or better power from both sides. His rocket throwing arm might be his loudest tool.”
In 42 rookie-level games last year, Chang batted .346 with 6 HR and 25 RBI using a swing Baseball America says draws comparisons with that of New York Mets third baseman David Wright: “He has a feel for the barrel and should continue to add strength, giving him potentially above-average power. … His strong throwing arm should keep him on the left side of the infield.”
Kime is back with the Captains after a disappointing 2014 season in the Midwest League (7-14, 5.22 ERA, 108 Ks, 56 BB in 136 IP). He started all 28 games he appeared in last year, despite being primarily a reliever in college. Moving him to the bullpen is likely an option if starting doesn’t pan out for him. He was Lake County’s Opening Day starter this season; he took the loss with this pitching line: 5 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 WP.
Paulino also returns to the Captains this year. Once ranked as high as No. 2 on the Indians prospects list (in 2013 behind still-top prospect Francisco Lindor), he has struggled offensively and defensively. The Indians moved him to left field during the first half of last season after he continued to make too many errors at shortstop. It’s worth noting that Paulino is only 20 years old, so he still has time to figure things out.