Written by Mark Firkins Photos by MiLB.com
Will Benson – OF (Cleveland Indians)
The Indians were definitely targeting Benson’s offensive abilities when they drafted him with their #1 pick (14th overall) in 2016. The 19 year old has everything that scouts drool over. A 6′ 5″ – 225 lb – powerful build. A combination of bat speed and physical strength that translates into raw power from the left side of the plate. The ability to pull the ball to the short corners of RF. And, for as tall as he is, the rare combination of speed and agility.
In his Pro debut season in 2017, Will Benson played for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers in the NY-PENN League. It was definitely a tale of two seasons for Will. In his first month of the season, from June 9th – July 16th, his slashline was .169/.244/.296 – However, from July 17th – September 6th, Benson raked to the tune of .275/.399/.575
Benson connected for just one home run in his first month but smashed nine over the final months to lead the NY-PENN League with 10. Like all young hitters Benson struggled with strikeouts, swinging and missing almost 30% of the time. He did make up for that by walking 16% of the time as well.
The Indians can take their time with Benson and allow him to develop his hitting. He may be a project, but all the ingredients are there for Benson to develop into a middle-of-the-order hitter. Some scouts and reports view Benson as the most exciting teenage prospect the Tribe has had since Grady Sizemore, with the potential to become a 30 home runs/20 stolen base player.
Conner Capel – OF (Cleveland Indians)
Cleveland’s 5th round pick in 2016, Conner Capel showed scouts everything they wanted to see – speed, alertness, versatility, power, and instinct. On the offensive side, Capel’s bat heated up as the weather did in Northeast, Ohio. Assigned to Lake County of the Midwest League in 2017, Conner overcame a slow start and improved with each month throughout the season showing impressive tools. In June he was deservedly named Midwest player of the week for going 12-25 with 3 home runs, 2 doubles, a triple, and 8 RBI’s. He finished the season with 22 home runs, 61 RBI’s, .478 SLG, and led the Indians farm system in runs scored with 73.
Capel showed he could hit the ball out of the deepest part of the parks with his clean, left handed swing, strength, and bat speed. While his climb in power resulted in more strikeouts, he showed maturity in recognizing spin and making plenty of hard contact.
Capel has above average speed and strong instincts which identify him as an ideal baserunner and defender in center field. He swiped 15 bases for the Captains and was always a threat to score anytime he got on base. He has the arm strength to play any OF spot and saw time in all OF positions in 2017, playing 26 games in LF, 24 in CF, and 67 in RF.
The 2018 season could be a big year for Capel as he’s expected to debut with the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats of the Carolina League. If he continues to make strides in his development, Capel can continue to surge up the Indians prospect rankings.
Mitch Longo – OF (Cleveland Indians)
Mitch Longo is from Mayfield, Ohio – not too far away from Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians. Drafted in the 14th round in 2016, Mitch has done nothing but torture minor league pitching. In his two minor league seasons he has batted to the tune of a .349 AVG, with a .411 OBP, 29 doubles, and 43 RBI’s.
In 2017 he played his first full season at Lake County – Midwest League, where he posted a .361/.431/.530 clip and earned a late season call up to High A Lynchburg, where in 5 games he went 9-16 and scored 8 runs. Add to all that the fact that he has a decent K/BB rate of 1.52, stole 20 bases in 21 attempts, and suddenly you have a very impressive and exciting 14th round pick.
What’s Mitch’s secret to his fast start in the minor leagues? An open batting stance that creates leverage on the ball and a swing that stays over the whole plate and in the strike zone. This allows him to cover both sides of the plate and use the entire field. There’s a little pop in his bat, though it’s mostly to the gaps and not over the fence. Longo has all the tools of a leadoff hitter. He hits for high average, he’s fast, he doesn’t strike out a lot, and he draws walks.
Longo’s speed also suits him well in RF, where he played all of his games defensively last season. He has good arm strength and is a natural fit for the position. Longo got a taste of High-A Lynchburg at the end of last season, and he figures to start there again in 2018. If he continues to hit and run, he could be in Double-A at some point in 2018. And once you make it to Double-A, you’re just one phone call away from the majors, which for Mitch is almost home.