The Lake County Captains’ Opening Day roster includes five players ranked among the top 30 Cleveland Indians prospects, including third baseman Nolan Jones and outfielder Will Benson.
Jones, a second-round draft pick in 2016, is ranked No. 4 in Cleveland’s farm system by both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline. BA describes him as an advanced hitter with above-average raw power and arm strength, with room for improvement defensively. He was an offensive leader for short-season Mahoning Valley last year, batting .317 with four homers, three triples, 18 doubles and 33 RBI in 62 games. Lake County is his first full-season assignment.
Benson, ranked No. 7 by MLB Pipeline and No. 10 by Baseball America, is entering the third season of his pro career. So far the left-hander has hit for power, but not for average. Last year he batted .238 with 10 homers, five triples, eight doubles and 36 RBI in 56 games with Mahoning Valley. Baseball America says he has drawn comparisons to Chicago Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward, but has a long way to reach that ceiling.
Another Captains outfielder on prospect lists is Oscar Gonzalez (ranked No. 18 by MLB Pipeline, No. 20 by Baseball America). The 20-year-old Dominican Republic native signed with the Indians in 2014, spent the 2015 season in the Dominican Summer League, and in 2016 was named MVP of the rookie-level Arizona League after hitting .303 with 8 HR and 26 RBI in 40 games. He played for Mahoning Valley last year, batting .283 with three homers, 16 doubles and 34 RBI in 55 games. He needs to improve his plate patience, considering he has struck out 184 times while drawing only 33 walks during the past three seasons.
Second baseman Ernie Clement is ranked No. 24 by both MLB Pipeline and Baseball America. He doesn’t hit for power — he had only 10 extra-base hits, none of them homers, in 45 NYPL games last year — but he put up a decent average of .280 in his first pro season. He also stole six bases. BA projects him as a super-utility player.
On the pitching side, right-hander Eli Morgan is the top prospect on the roster, ranked No. 28 by MLB Pipeline and No. 29 by Baseball America. The 2017 eighth-round draft pick looked good in his pro debut last year, posting a 1.03 ERA, a 0.94 WHIP, 58 strikeouts and nine walks in 35 innings (13 games/five starts) for Mahoning Valley.
The Captains are managed by former MLB catcher Luke Carlin this season. You can read about him and his coaching staff here.
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