Written by: Tieran Alexander
Follow him on Twitter: @Tieran711
Follow Prospects Worldwide on Twitter: @ProspectsWorldW
The MLB Draft has finally come and gone with the Indians adding a ton of impact talent to their farm in the draft. The Indians held six selections in the shortened draft this year with their first selection being at #23 overall. They held one pick in every round and an additional pick at #36 overall in the competitive balance round. In this article we will go over every player the Indians selected and I’ll give my thoughts on all of the picks. This will not include overall team or pick grades or say if these are good picks as I can not see the future, I’m just evaluating who the players they got are as prospects and what their upside might be.
1.23 SS Carson Tucker, Mountain Pointe High School
18 Years Old – Throw: R – Bat: R – 6’2″ 180lbs – ETA 2024
|30 / 55||25 / 45||30 / 55||55 / 55||45 / 55||55 / 60||50|
Carson Tucker is the first of the two players the Indians took on day one and one of the more interesting players to evaluate in the class. Prior to this year, he was small with below-average tools and his best claim to fame might have been the fact that he is the brother of Pirates shortstop Cole Tucker. At the perfect game summer showcases, he tested extremely poorly with his best showing being his arm with his 73rd percentile arm strength based on the velocity of throws across the infield. He had some projection and was a solid bet to stick at shortstop but he was hardly the kind of prospect you even consider in the first round.
Throw everything underwhelming I just told you out the window. In 2020 for the brief season we had, Carson Tucker was a brand new player. He grew three inches over the offseason and added 20 pounds of muscle. His bat speed went from average to some of the best in the prep class. His arm went from maybe above-average to a plus tool. He is a whole new player and since so much of the new development is physical it’s reasonable to buy-in on those developments sticking.
Carson Tucker is probably the second most likely of all the players in the prep class to stick at shortstop behind only Ed Howard. His arm is a plus tool with good strength and he shows the ability to make throws from all the arm angles required of the position. He has above-average hands, and good reactions and lateral actions at the shortstop position as well. He’s not incredibly fast so his range will likely never be elite but his reaction times make his range more than enough for the position. His footwork is much improved this year and he does a good job of transitioning from scooping to throwing in one fluid motion. The ceiling is limited by the speed defensively which is probably only a tick above average and he could slide down to third in theory, as he fills in and slows down a bit but right now I’m comfortable having him as an above-average shortstop. That being said while his showcase results suggest that he’s a 50 runner, as do his scouting reports on MLB Pipeline, Baseball America says he’s flashed plus run times and Fangraphs even has him as a 70 runner. Perhaps he’s faster than I’m giving him credit for and if Fangraphs is indeed the ones correct on his speed then he might be the best defensive shortstop prospect in the draft.
Offensively Carson Tucker is an enigma. His bat speed as we’ve already said is some of the best in the class and he also shows plus bat control but there are some reasons to worry with his hit tool in spite of that. His swing has a lot of unnecessary noise in it that could lead to issues repeating his bat path consistently and lead to timing issues in the future. His swing is shown is very slow motion below because if it was full speed you might miss his swing if you blinked, the bat speed is that good. He has a bit of a bat wrap right at the start of his swing and a high leg kick that does absolutely nothing for him. The swing is a little too messy for me to grade it as a plus tool plus the lack of track record of him actually hitting in games but the intangibles are there for a plus hit tool with the bat speed and control being what they are.
Carson Tucker is a hard player to slap a grade on his power as there are reasons to believe it could be a plus tool one day but right now there is so much wrong that a 30 is more reasonable. I have a 45 on the tool but there are few grades of this tool that I would inherently disagree with. The exit velocities are somewhat atrocious but he plays above them somewhat due to a steep swing that eliminates a lot of the spin on his batted balls causing father hit distances, a new development in 2020 for Tucker, and a welcome one at that.
His swing doesn’t even pretend to generate power with the most meaningless leg kick that does nothing to shift his load or coil his hips and it leaves his lower half lacking any involvement in his power production. He needs to shift to a better stride that lets him get something from his lower half to even hit for much power in pro ball. The frame is uber-projectable as well and it’s easy to dream on him filling in and growing into potentially plus power there. He has a good feel for lift and hits enough balls in the air that he should get to whatever modest power he is generating. This is a power tool that you can get excited about but it’s a very risky one with tons of variance and I think the likely outcome is it winds up average or a tick below.
Carson Tucker isn’t who I would have taken at #23 overall, to say the least, but he did sign for underslot, and depending on how far underslot he is, this could be a very good high upside pick. I don’t think this is horrible value even at slot value here with how significant the upside is for Carson Tucker and him coming at underslot made this too tempting of a proposition for the Indians to pass up.
1.36 RHP Tanner Burns, Auburn
21 Years Old – Throw: R – 6’1″ 220lbs – ETA: 2022
|55/65||45 / 50||40 / 50||45 / 55||50/55||50|
Tanner Burns to the Indians was the most obvious draft pick in the entire draft. He is the perfect fit for the Cleveland Indians pitching development department and is one of the safer picks in the entire draft. He also has more upside than he often gets credit for with his solid foundation being a good breaking ball or changeup away from being a potential #3 or even #2 starter. Alternatively, he could add more velocity and skyrocket due to how well his fastball profiles. High floor players don’t often get attributed with the high ceiling that good development can give them and Burns in the Indians system has a deceptively high ceiling.
Tanner Burns has an elite fastball despite only sitting 92-95 MPH with the pitch, in large part due to his spin rate on the pitch topping out at nearly 2500 RPMs. He has incredible vertical movement on the fastball with rising life at the top of the zone that causes the pitch to miss bats in spite of the limited velocity and extension from his smaller frame. He also commands said rising fastball extremely well at the top of the zone. That fastball command and movement play extremely well and if you can eke out more velocity this could truly be a tremendous pitch.
His secondaries are more of a mixed bag collecting average to slightly above average grades across the board. I prefer the changeup out of what he currently has with the transverse spin that it has playing well off of the fastball but some people prefer the slider with some break on two planes albeit loose break and others even prefer his curve which is a bit too loopy and breaks early in my evaluations. They likely all grade out somewhere in the range of average but what if he adds a plus breaking ball– after all his spin rates are quite good, with the slider topping out over 2700 RPMs? Or if he bumps the changeup up to a plus? Right now he profiles as a #4/5 type with his average secondaries but with a second plus pitch and his command this is a #2/3 type and that’s incredibly exciting.
Tanner Burns is remarkably similar in a lot of ways to Shane Bieber when he was drafted, elite movement on the fastball and command with average or below secondaries and size questions leading to relief risk. Mike Clevinger was in a similar vein when the Indians acquired him, an elite fastball with average secondaries. Both of them under the Indians tutelage have developed some of the best breaking balls in the MLB. Clevinger’s slider might have a case as the best breaking ball even. Zach Plesac was and still is a lesser Shane Bieber who had high eighties velocity with elite vertical movement and solid command on his only decent pitch, the fastball. Now he’s in the MLB averaging 94 and has an above-average breaking ball. For less specific examples, Aaron Civale had a slider that was a plus and three below average secondaries, now he has a potentially plus curve and changeup as well. Carlos Carrasco had a great curve and a decent change supplementing a bad fastball when they acquired him. They turned the changeup into an elite pitch and gave him an even better slider then his curve when they got their hands on him. The point is the Indians are incredible at developing secondary stuff when there is a good foundational pitch in place like Tanner Burns’s fastball in play. Burns’s fastball is a great starting point for the best pitch development group in the league. (Not pitch optimization but new pitches). The ceiling by virtue of the Indians good player-development program is a high floor player with a high ceiling as well.
Some scouts have concerns about his durability and think there is relief risk due to his stocky frame but his mechanics are technically sound and he has the repertoire depth to be fine facing a lineup multiple times in a game. As you can see in the image above taken from @BaseballCloudUS on twitter, he has very little issues keeping his release point consistent. This is a guy who has consistently performed his entire career, offers a high floor and a considerable ceiling with good player development. I am all on board with this pick here at #36.
2.56 LHP Logan Allen, Florida International
21 Years Old – Throw: R – 6’0″ 180lbs – ETA: 2022
In the second round, the Indians made arguably my favorite pick of the entire draft as they drafted their second Logan Shane Allen into the organization. Apart from the awesomeness of having two left-handed pitchers with the same exact name in the organization, it’s also a good pick for baseball reasons.
Most of what I just said about Tanner Burns can apply to Logan Allen in a lot of ways. He’s a three-pitch guy with a promising fastball, an average breaking ball, and good command. However, unlike Burns, Allen also has a plus changeup, unlike Burns. They are also both undersized pitchers with some question marks about durability and their stuff maintaining under a full workload.
Logan Allen’s fastball has a lot of promising characteristics. He gets above-average but not elite vertical movement on it and spots the pitch well at the top of the strike zone with riding life to his arm side. The pitch only will sit 89-92 MPH and top out around 95 MPH but the movement is certainly promising. His extension is good for his size but coming in at only six foot, it’s hard to have that good of extension. The command makes the pitch above average in spite of the poor velocity but to get the pitch up to plus he’d likely need to adjust his spin axis to be more vertically oriented and even still his average spin rates limit the upside on the pitch significantly.
The slurve has quite a few issues for sure. Consistency is one of the biggest ones as he will somewhat regularly hang a breaking ball up in the zone as his slurve just doesn’t drop as much as he needs it to do and well Conference USA might not have punished those, the MLB will make those bad pitches hurt. His breaking ball will sit somewhere in the upper seventies but moves more like you would imagine a slider would with a horizontal movement orientation and little drop. The slider has some issues landing in the strike zone as well but when it’s on, the break is deceptive enough to get batters to expand the zone and chase the pitch. The spin rate shows the pitch has potential as according to trackman, his spin rate on the pitch is top 25 in the class among all curves (They classify it has a curve, no clue how it compares to a slider). When the pitch is on the movement can be quite effective at getting left-handed batters to expand the zone. The massive potential from the spin should maybe see it shaved up a notch to an above-average grade but he’s never shown great feel for spinning a breaking ball with consistency and I’m skeptical that he can actually effectively utilize that spin rate although if anyone can do so- it’s the Indians. Although the pitch has no utility against right-handed bats, the changeup is good enough that’s not a major concern for him.
The circle changeup is his best pitch for sure and it’s the one that makes him worthy of a second-round selection. He throws it with very little spin and the pitch shares a tunnel with his fastball for a very long time. The pitch has great horizontal movement with minimal sink to it and is a soft contact machine that induces popouts with impressive frequency while also missing bats at a decent rate. He locates the pitch well to all quadrants of the strike zone and can use it effectively against batters of both handednesses. I have very little doubt that the pitch will play at the big league level.
The command is as already noted extremely crisp and his mechanics are easy to repeat making him one of the safer arms in terms of injury risk. There are certainly some questions regarding his ability to maintain his stuff over a larger workload which are totally fair and there is definitely concerns over if he has the repertoire depth to face a lineup three times over when he is only using two pitches against all of the right-handed bats he’ll face. I think he would be best served as a bulk guy pitching after an opener or a swingman who throws about 120 innings a year between the rotation and the bullpen since he will struggle in third looks. The upside here is a #3/4 type starter with pinpoint command carrying him and if he can iron out his breaking ball that is not at all an unreasonable outcome. This is a good value pick in the second round by the Indians.
3.95 CF Petey Halpin, Mira Cota High School
18 Years Old – Throw: R – Bat: L – 6’0″ 180lbs – ETA: 2024
In the third round, the Indians went back to the high school ranks and took a chance on Petey Halpin, a Texas commit. Petey Halpin is one of the younger players in the class having just turned eighteen in May and one of the toolsier prep players taken outside the first round. He has a fun collection of tools that could make him into a special player one day.
Petey Halpin is a plus runner clocking in with a 6.70 sixty time, which isn’t elite but it’s certainly above average. Despite his good speed, he hasn’t turned that into stolen bases but the speed does play in centerfield where his fielding is above average. His arm is one of the most erratic tools in the entire draft. At showcase events, he’ll bedazzle with clean footwork and impressive velocity on his throws but in games, the arm plays down. He has a bit of a tendency to rush his throws and pay no attention to his footwork, causing his throws to be both inaccurate and have rather poor carry. There is also the issue of him occasionally throwing lawn darts where he releases the ball too late. This is still a guy who can hit 92 on the mound but the arm is raw and will need a bit of refinery to play as the plus tool it is on paper. I think he’ll stick in centerfield but if the arm fails to play as the raw strength suggests, he might need to shift to left.
One thing I am sure of, however, is that Petey Halpin can hit. Petey Halpin has elite raw bat speed and he’ll get the barrel in the zone early. He has a bit of a bat wrap but other than that his swing is short and compact. He is a spray ball hitter who can pepper balls to all fields and has good bat control as well. He’s shown some feel for hitting breaking stuff already and he’ll have no issue hitting velocity with his bat speed.
His power is often graded as below average it’s easy to see why but I believe in its ability to play as average and even a plus if he makes some adjustments- admittedly those adjustments would likely come at the expense of his hit tool. His swing features a delayed torso twist at his footstep, which causes his hips to lead out in front and his torso to slingshot behind it, slapping balls with authority as he unwinds himself. The delayed torso twist will also likely help him with checking his swing and aborting at the last fraction of a second. His top exit velocities are above average and he’s had some really good showcases in the power department- it’s just a matter of getting to the pop in games
So why does he consistently get below-average power grades? Three reasons, first he sucks at elevating batted balls, two his swing is pretty flat, and finally, he doesn’t pull balls ever. The launch angle issue is one I expect the Indians will immediately put an effort into correcting as would any team that had drafted him. Learning to get underneath pitches is not all that unteachable in today’s MLB. The flat swing causes his batted balls to have more spin and more spin equals less carry on batted balls, with a steeper bat angle his hit distances should improve although it could negatively impact his hit tool.
Pulled flyballs go for home runs seven times as often as ones to the opposite field, hitting all your balls to the opposite field might mean you are less vulnerable to the shift but there is a huge drawback in the power department. The Indians have maybe the best example in the entire MLB on how impactful pulling fly balls can be in Jose Ramirez who pulls 43% of his fly balls (MLB average is 24%) and Francisco Lindor is another one who excels in that category with a pull rate of 33% last year. The ability to pull fly balls lets you outperform your raw power and likewise the inability to do causes you to under-perform that raw power. I don’t have actual numbers for how often Petey Halpin pulls flyballs but from what I’ve seen I’d optimistically estimate it’s 10%.
The Indians have again shown an ability to teach players to pull flyballs and play over what their raw power would suggest. It’s probably above average raw right now with a chance of growing into a plus tool as he fills in. I’m not saying Petey will become the master of pulling flyballs like Jose Ramirez or hit flyballs 50% of the time but if he can improve slightly in those departments then he can easily get to average game power which is what I project him for at his peak.
Petey Halpin is a fun toolsy player and if he can make some adjustments I think he might wind up as an everyday player at the big league level with a small chance at being an All-Star Caliber centerfielder. That’s good value for a third-round pick even if it’s an overslot one.
4.124 SS Milan Tolentino, Santa Margarita High School
18 Years Old – Throw: R – Bat: L – 6’1″ 180lbs – ETA: 2024
Milan Tolentino was the Indians fourth-round selection and he also falls into a mold similar to a lot of other Cleveland Indians. He has a solid hit tool- that might wind up above average, poor power, above-average speed, and good defensive skills with a good chance to stick at shortstop, and allegedly have a high baseball IQ. Just in their farm alone, they have Brayan Rocchio, Jose Fermin, Angel Martinez, Tyler Freeman, and this draft they already added Carson Tucker earlier in the draft who is somewhere in this category as well albeit with more power upside. The Indians clearly have a type and considering their success with turning these guys into somewhat valuable prospects, it’s hard to hate on this selection.
Milan Tolentino has gotten plus grades from his fair share of scouts at the shortstop position although I have him a tick lower at only above average but he is a good bet to stick at the position. His speed possibly limits his range somewhat and gets mixed grades which leads to a sizeable gulf of optimism involving his ability to be a good defender at shortstop. He’s graded as above average by MLB Pipeline and below average by Baseball America. His 6.74 sixty time at the perfect game showcase in the summer seems to suggest it is the former that is right rather than the latter although I do think that he will likely settle in as average as he adds a tad more bulk and loses a step.
Regardless, of where his speed ultimately settles, his arm could make him a possible shortstop. His arm is one of the strongest in the prep class as he’ll throw as hard as 91 MPH across the infield, like Petey Halpin, in games the tool can play down as he’ll rush his footwork. He also has some issues with making throws from some of the lower arm slots that shortstops often have to do and making plays without setting his feet is rarely a good idea for him as he gets a bit wild on those plays.
His actions and hands are quite good and he does a good job with his footwork when fielding ground balls, it’s only when he tries to throw that he lapses in that regard. His reaction times are superb so his range plays just fine for the position regardless of speed. I think that along with the raw potential of the arm and how good his footwork looks when he doesn’t rush, causes him to grade out as an above-average shortstop but I will acknowledge the potential of him moving down the defensive spectrum.
The contact skills are there and are what gives him a chance to contribute at the MLB level in the future. He has above average bat speed that lets him hit higher velocity pitching and with how short and simple his swing is, he has a much longer window to make swing decisions then most prospects do. It’s hard to judge plate discipline at the High School level when pitchers don’t really have good control for the most part but that would seem to suggest he could be above average in that regard. He does a decent job putting bat to ball but he’s often hitting balls off the end of the bat causing him to roll over a lot of weakly hit groundballs to his pull side.
The power has some potential if he seriously fills in but it’s still probably going to be below average due to a rather sloppy swing. He has a compact stroke but his torso usually moves out in front of his hips causing his lower half in spite of a firm leg kick that coils his load fairly well to having little involvement in the power behind his swing. As far as I am aware this is not an easy mechanical adjustment for him to make and even if it was, he still has to learn how to elevate and hit balls in the air with some consistency. There is maybe some power potential here but it is buried so deep that I am very skeptical he will ever reach it.
Milan Tolentino is a fairly interesting prep prospect and if he can be signed away from his commitment to UCLA then he’s a solid pick here, assuming that he was not too drastically over the slot. He’s my least favorite of the Indians draft picks but he’s not a bad pick by any stretch of the imagination.
5.154 RHP Mason Hickman, Vanderbilt
21 Years Old – Throw: R – 6’6″ 230lbs – ETA: 2023
If you just look at Mason Hickman’s stats then you might think it’s a miracle that Mason Hickman is still around in the fifth round when he put up a 2.23 ERA in 84.2 innings last year and this year in his three starts before the pandemic shut the season down he had a 0.48 ERA. He’s done this while playing in the powerhouse conference that is the SEC. Then when you look at his scouting report from Baseball America you might wonder if he was even worth a fifth-round selection. He sits 87-90 MPH and tops out at 91 MPH? He throws right-handed and all his secondary stuff is pretty fringy. This is a pitchability command-based righty who is already completely filled in and seems to be an organizational depth starter rather than anyone with a prayer’s chance of playing in the big league’s.
Here’s the thing though, his velocity is far from a fixed skill. The dude is 6’6” and 230lbs. He has to have more velocity than just 91 MPH. So how do you get to that velocity? You make some key mechanical changes to better optimize his size and strength. Shown below is some video of Mason Hickman’s mechanics recorded by Prospects Live and slowed down to 10% speed so you can see his mechanics in full detail and try to observe for yourself what I’m explaining as well as for you to try to spot any changes for yourself that I missed. For a comparison of what better mechanics look like, we’ll be using Gerrit Cole since he’s the best pitcher in baseball but looking at just about anyone good will yield a lot of the same issues. Being different isn’t bad but for Hickman it is.
The first and most obvious thing you notice right at the start of Hickman’s motion. As his foot is rising, he’s already starting to lean forward towards the plate. This is the result of a leg kick that has far too much flare to it that serves no real purpose except to put his delivery out of sync. This early descent while he’s still going backward causes him to plant his front foot with less force and as such have less force behind his pitches. He also is stuck playing catch up with his arm that has yet to start his arm action.
That leads to a rather delayed arm action as you can clearly see in the image below that shows his positioning compared to Gerrit Cole’s. The lack of progress in his movement while he waits for the arm to catch up, causes most of the power he built up with his stride to taper out. Thankfully, his arm action is at least short so he catcher up well enough without any awkward pauses in his delivery.
This brings us to the breaking point in their deliveries. Mason Hickman’s orientation. When you look at Gerrit Cole you can easily see that he is actually facing the plate at all times. He lands with his foot facing towards home plate and the external rotation of his drive leg allows him to get the most oomph out of his stuff. Hickman is the opposite in a plethora of ways as he’ll face towards third for most of his motion. His foot is very inverted on his drive leg and that costs himself more power and blocks him from achieving his best velocity. Shane Bieber had the same issue when the Indians drafted him but now he has become one of the best pitchers in baseball.
The final obvious change for Hickman to make is to learn how to use his glove arm in his pitching motion. Right now it just kind of hangs loosely at his side as he pitches. If he were to tuck his arm his velocity would likely improve as he’s essentially pulling his torso back on one side so the throwing arm is propelled forward. Right now his arm kind of hangs back on one side while the rest of his body launches forward to throw the pitch- doing absolutely nothing to contribute to his velocity. If he can tuck as he delivers he could see another small uptick in his stuff as a result.
I’m not saying Mason Hickman has the stuff to throw 100 MPH or anything of the sort but I think he can at least get to the point where his fastball tops out at 95 MPH which is a massive improvement and in that case, his fastball would be an easy plus pitch. His vertical movement on the fastball is elite with great rising action at the top of the zone and he has some arm side run on the pitch. He also gets good extension out of his 6’6” frame that lets the pitch play up beyond its poor velocity. If he can have a plus fastball then it’s not hard to start liking what you have in Mason Hickman.
His secondaries would likely see a sizeable uptick in effectiveness with more velocity as well. Right now his best pitch is probably his curveball that has good downer movement and a somewhat tight hooking action. The pitch’s movement pattern is probably above average it just doesn’t look to play in the higher levels right now due to the lack of respect his heater commands because of the velocity. If he can improve his velocity he should see an uptick in effectiveness with it. His slider and changeup which are both below average should see a more sizeable boost as his stuff increases it’s velocity and his pitches blend together more. His ability to command both the secondary stuff and the fastball is pretty exciting.
I think ultimately Hickman is unlikely to ever be more than a #4 starter even with improved velocity but a #4 starter would be a highly satisfactory outcome for a fifth-round pick. Right now he projects to serve as an AAAA shuttle man who gets a few spot starts in the majors and spends most of his career bouncing around teams on the waiver wire. He probably won’t amount to much but Hickman has more hidden potential than most college arms taken in the fifth round of the draft.