The last time I was fortunate enough to attend an Indianapolis Indians game in person, I remember watching in awe as a gifted center fielder made multiple spectacular catches, crushed line drive after line drive, and ran around the basepaths with the speed of a cheetah. I knew, instinctively, that I was witnessing a star in the making.
That player was Andrew McCutchen, 5-time All Star and 2013 National League MVP for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Minor league baseball goes out of its way to actively create an amazing fan environment, but one of the ways it passively does so is by showcasing the best talent in Major League Baseball before prospects arrive in the Show. For fans in Indiana, the Indianapolis Indians, Fort Wayne TinCaps, and South Bend Cubs provide a chance to see top prospects before their big league affiliates (the Pirates, Padres, and Cubs respectively) call them up. Here’s the members of each organization’s Top 30 Prospects List (according to MLB.com):
INDIANAPOLIS INDIANS (AAA-Pittsburgh Pirates)
- Austin Meadows (Rank 1, CF)
- Nick Kingham (7, RHP)
- Steven Brault (8, LHP)
- Elias Diaz (9, C)
- Clay Holmes (19, RHP)
- Dovydas Neverauskas (20, RHP)
- Edgar Santana (21, RHP)
- Max Moroff (22, SS/2B)
- Tyler Eppler (24, RHP)
- Barrett Barnes (26, LF)
- Eric Wood (27, 3B)
- Chris Bostick (30, 2B/OF)
The obvious star attraction is Meadows, long regarded as one of the premier five-tool players in all of Minor League Baseball. Andrew McCutchen’s subpar season and Starling Marte’s PED suspension point to an open slot in the Pittsburgh outfield, so fans should enjoy him while they can. Diaz is regarded as a top pitch framer who throws out 52 % of baserunners, so he could be on his way up soon as well.
Brault, Holmes, and Eppler have made themselves one of the International League’s top pitching trios, with all sporting ERAs under 3.00. Moroff is a name to keep tabs on; with 12 HR, 32 RBI, and 27 BB after two months of play, it almost seems insulting to have him outside the top 10 or 15 prospects in the Pirates’ system.
12 out of the top 30 prospects is an unusually high concentration, but it definitely explains how the Indians regularly contend for the IL’s West Division title. Head to Victory Field now, before the entire roster gets a September callup.
SOUTH BEND CUBS (A-Chicago Cubs)
- Dylan Cease (Rank 3, RHP)
- DJ Wilson (9, CF)
- Jose Paulino (14, LHP)
- Isaac Paredes (18, SS)
- Bryan Hudson
The top pitcher in the Cubs’ entire system, Cease is an ace in the making. A lanky 6’2″ power righty with 98 MPH gas and a curveball that falls off the table, he’s already racked up 54 K in only 34 innings pitched this year, all while maintaining a tight 2.65 ERA. Wilson is very Billy Hamilton-esque; a top tier defensive centerfielder with great speed who needs to learn to cut down on striking out. Paulino and Hudson don’t surrender many hits, but their abnormally high walk rates suggest the need for more seasoning before taking on AA ball.
FORT WAYNE TINCAPS (A-San Diego Padres)
- Fernando Tatis, Jr. (Rank 6, SS)
- Jorge Ona (7, OF)
- Hudson Potts (12, 3B/SS)
- Chris Paddack (14, RHP-Out for Season, Tommy John surgery)
- Logan Allen (17, LHP)
- Mason Thompson (21, RHP)
- Buddy Reed (27, CF)
- Eguy Rosario (28, 3B)
- Reggie Lawson (29, RHP)
It’s been a rough year for the TinCaps, but there’s some real bright spots on this list. Tatis is the son of former MLB third baseman Fernando Tatis, Sr, and he’s playing like a kid with a professional pedigree-a .278 average with 24 RBI and runs, 9 steals, and 19 walks so far this year. He’s made 13 errors too, but that can likely be chalked up to being 18 years old as much as anything. Rosario hasn’t even turned 18 yet, and he’s swinging like it (46 K to only 16 BB), but with 14 steals and 8 doubles already, his bat shows plenty of reason for patience.
Allen might be, no exaggeration, the single biggest sleeper on this list. In only 8 starts this year, he has an almost undetectable 1.76 ERA and 0.95 WHIP, 51 K in 41 innings, and not a single home run given up to any batter he’s faced-something that, from a probability standpoint, should have happened by now by accident, at the very least.