Five Indians prospects primed for a breakout season

Anthony Santander is one Indians prospect who is poised to perform.

Last week, I took a look at the pitching prospects and position player prospects who could impact the Indians roster this season.

This time around, we take a look at some prospects that are not necessarily close to playing in Cleveland or even a high-level prospect, but who have the upside and potential to really take a large step forward this season and establish themselves as some of the best prospects in the Indians farm system.

Every year, there are players that break out and move from an unheralded unknown into a legit prospect. Infielder Jose Ramirez did this in 2012 as he was a complete unknown going into the season and was a top 10 prospect by the end of it. Last season, right-handed pitcher Cody Anderson went into the year as a good pitching prospect but really established himself last season and finished the year as the organization’s best pitching prospect yet to pitch in the big leagues.

Identifying breakout candidates can be tough, so you just look for the upside and incremental improvement that points to a player slowly putting things together and bound to have a big season. Here are my five breakout candidates:

Joseph Colon, right-handed pitcher

Colon, 24, has really come into his own the last three seasons and had three good statistical seasons in a row, most recently going 5-4 with a 3.23 ERA in 17 starts between Low-A Lake County and High-A Carolina last season. He is a sinkerballer with the size and frame to log innings, and showed a spike in his velocity and overall quality of his stuff last season. Injuries have held him back his entire career so if he can have a complete healthy season, he could be in line to put it all together and have a breakout season.

Unfortunate injury

Caleb Hamrick, right-handed pitcher

Hamrick, 20, is still young and growing as a pitcher, but had a nice season last year going 3-6 with a 3.20 ERA in 15 starts for short season Single-A Mahoning Valley. He shows a knack for throwing strikes at a young age and has a solid three pitch mix that entails an 89-93 MPH fastball, solid average slider and developing changeup. The Indians took two high-profile pitchers earlier in the 2011 Draft by the name of Mitch Brown and Kieran Lovegrove, but to date he has outperformed them, ahead of them on the development curve, and might be in line to jump them for good on the prospect totem pole.

Ryan Merritt, left-handed pitcher

Merritt, 22, had a nice season last year going 6-9 with a 3.52 ERA in 26 combined starts between Low-A Lake County and High-A Carolina. He is a command and control specialist who has impeccable strike-throwing ability, knows how to pitch and is not afraid to challenge hitters. In a lot of ways, he is a left-handed version of Josh Tomlin as a pitcher who won’t blow a ball by a hitter or fool them but instead just gets consistent results because of his aggressiveness with his fastball, trust in his stuff and ability to limit damage.

OUCH

Adam Plutko, right-handed pitcher

Plutko, 22, missed his pro debut last season because of a shoulder blade injury he suffered in a team pileup after his UCLA team won the College World Series. He is a highly successful college pitcher who has advanced pitch ability and a solid mix of four pitches — a fastball, changeup, slider and curveball — that all project as at least average offerings. He is a bit of a wildcard coming off of injury and yet to make his pro debut, but because he is so polished, he could move fast and really climb up the rankings as a result.

Anthony Santander, outfielder

Santander, 19, is already a high-profile prospect, but he is a position player who has the goods to vault himself firmly into top 10 discussion. He missed the start of last season because of a hamstring injury and hit .242 with 5 homers, 31 RBI and .672 OPS in 61 games for Low-A Lake County before a bicep injury prematurely ended his season in late July. The injuries greatly affected his season and if healthy this year, he has the athleticism and physical gifts to really break through as a special run-producing bat for the Indians.