The Lake County Captains will start the season with six players ranked by Baseball America among the Cleveland Indians’ top 30 prospects.
The most notable of them is two-time first-round draft pick, LHP Brady Aiken (No. 4). He was drafted No. 1 overall by the Houston Astros in 2014, but did not sign. He re-entered the draft in 2015 and was taken 17th overall by the Indians, despite having undergone Tommy John surgery earlier that year. He made his professional debut in June 2016 and experienced the typical struggles of a pitcher returning from major surgery on his throwing arm. This year should give the Indians a much better indication of what they’ve got in Aiken.
Four other ranked prospects join Aiken on the Captains pitching staff: LHP Juan Hillman (No. 14), RHP Aaron Civale (No. 20), RHP Shane Bieber (No. 21) and RHP Micah Miniard (No. 28).
Hillman pitched for short-season Mahoning Valley last year, posting a 4.43 ERA with 47 strikeouts and 24 walks in 63 innings/15 starts. Baseball America says he started strong but faded in the final month of the season, so he will need to improve his stamina as he moves forward.
Civale was impressive for Mahoning Valley last year, posting a 1.67 ERA with 28 strikeouts and eight walks in 38 innings/13 starts. So was Bieber, on a more limited scale. Bieber posted a 0.38 ERA with 21 strikeouts and two walks in 24 innings/eight starts/nine games.
Miniard split last season between Mahoning Valley and Lake County, cumulatively posting a 3.33 ERA with 53 strikeouts and 28 walks in 73 innings/15 starts.
Baseball America projects catcher Logan Ice (No. 12) as a below-average hitter in the major leagues, which may be acceptable because his defensive ability and staff management could potentially make up for what he lacks as a batter. He hit only .198 in 39 games with Mahoning Valley, but committed only two errors and allowed four passed balls.
Also on the Lake County roster is shortstop Luke Wakamatsu, son of Kansas City Royals bench coach Don Wakamatsu. A shoulder injury limited the younger Wakamatsu to only 17 games with Mahoning Valley in 2016, so he obviously is looking to have a bounce-back year. The elder Wakamatsu, who managed the Seattle Mariners in 2009 and 2010, played for Cedar Rapids in 1987.
You can see the entire Captains roster here.
The Captains have a new manager for the 2017 season. You can read about him and his coaching staff here.