McKenzie, Diaz named Indians Prospects of the Year
By William Kosileski
CLEVELAND -- When Indians prospect Triston McKenzie was assigned to Class A Advanced Lynchburg prior to the 2017 season, the right-hander knew that the transition would not be an easy one.
However, McKenzie didn't let the change have an effect on his results, as he excelled in his first season in the Carolina League, leading the league in strikeouts, 40 more than the second-place finisher.
Due to his stellar season with the Hillcats, McKenzie -- Cleveland's No. 2 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com -- was named the Tribe's Minor League Pitcher of the Year for the second straight season. MLBPipeline.com also named Indians third baseman Yandy Diaz as the team's 2017 Minor League Player of the Year.
"In the beginning, there was a little bit of adjusting," McKenzie said of his jump to Lynchburg. "But I feel like every day I go out there and pitch, I learn something new. Whether it be from my experiences facing the team, whether it be from me talking to my teammates who have been there before, talking to my coaches who have experience, talking to guys that are high prospects in our organization, I feel like I learn something every day."
After splitting the 2016 season with Class A Short-Season Mahoning Valley and Class A Lake County, McKenzie spent the entirety of this past season with Lynchburg. The 20-year-old went 12-6 with a 3.46 ERA in 25 starts, recording 186 strikeouts against 45 walks in 143 innings.
"He obviously still is really young," Indians assistant general manager Carter Hawkins said of McKenzie. "He had a really good year on the whole. I think he learned a lot about himself, about the types of things he needs to do to be able to be consistent over the course of an entire season. To be the type of pitcher he wants to be night in and night out."
Diaz -- who MLBPipeline.com had as the organization's No. 6 prospect in its midseason re-rank this year -- split time between the Majors and Triple-A Columbus this season. Although the 26-year-old began the season on Cleveland's Opening Day roster, Diaz made a couple of trips back and forth between the big leagues and Triple-A before becoming a mainstay on the Indians' roster when he was recalled on August 22.
The bulk of Diaz's production this season came with the Clippers. In 85 games with Columbus, the Indians' Prospect of the Year hit .350/.454/.460 with five home runs, 17 doubles, 56 runs scored and 33 RBIs.
"It's amazing what confidence does in this game," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "You can look at all the numbers you want, but when somebody is confident, they're better. You start to see the real person when they're confident. When [Diaz is] drilling those balls to right field, that's really good to see."
McKenzie and Diaz were chosen by MLBPipeline.com's staff. Players were considered for the honors if they spent at least half of the season in the Minors, appeared on their club's Top 30 Prospects list and played the entire year within the organization.
William Kosileski is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.