Friday, November 19, 2010

Into the Crystal Ball

While the North Coast rejoices South Korea defeating Taiwan in the Asian Games...you know, because it means that The BLC is now officially exempt from his military obligation, and in lieu of anything substantial to talk about in terms of player acquisition for the parent club, let's keep that attention turned to the internal development that is so important to the development of the Indians in the coming years.

With that in mind, since Top Prospect Lists are going to start arriving en masse here (and the Baseball Prospectus one is probably coming next week), let's start off with the Top 10 list for the Tribe that was released by Baseball America earlier in the week:
1. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3b
2. Alex White, rhp
3. Jason Kipnis, 2b
4. Drew Pomeranz, lhp
5. Nick Weglarz, of
6. Jason Knapp, rhp
7. Levon Washington, of
8. Tony Wolters, ss
9. Joe Gardner, rhp
10. Nick Hagadone, lhp


Essentially ten names you've probably seen before with a ranking to them as these are always interesting to a point as the names are all generally familiar, although a number of these rankings that don't include some sort of contextualizing criteria (like B-Pro's “Star System”) always makes these cursory lists feel like they're in a vacuum. Fun to look at for a moment...but that's about it because it offers no great insight or context.

To that end (and we're not done with the BA piece yet), Call to the Pen provides some context as they reveal what I assume to be the first Top 100 Prospect list of the season. I'll admit this straight off as I have no idea who Nathaniel Stoltz (the author) is and that my eyes were directed there a few weeks ago by Ed Carroll's “Deep Left Field”, so take that Top 100 listing however you want, but realize that it's coming from an author that looks to be based in California, with no great agenda to hype up Tribe prospects.

While there may not have been an agenda to hype up Tribe prospects, check out where different Indians' prospects fit in this Top 100 (and he's only posted #11 to #100), with a little quote from the write-up of each (linked in the name) accompanying the individual player:
#11 – Jason Knapp - “Few pitchers have more upside” and, yes...that's #11 in all of MLB

#29 – Drew Pomeranz - “He could evolve into one of baseball’s top lefties.”

#43 – Chun Chen - “Chen looks to be a true two-way stud behind the plate.”

#70 – Alex White - “It’s pretty tough to turn into a front-of-the-line starter in the majors when your Double-A whiff numbers don’t impress...he could be a poor man’s Dan Haren and a fine #2/#3 starter for a playoff team.”

#73 – Nick Weglarz - “Weglarz doesn’t have much defensive value either, but he’s essentially Jack Cust with fewer strikeouts, and that’s valuable.”

#77 – Felix Sterling - “Big and projectable, Sterling features advanced velocity for his age and already touches 94-95 mph at age 17. Both his offspeed pitches are advanced as well, and he could end up a truly dominating force.”

#90 – Matt Packer - “Indians fans sick of finesse lefties may be cautious, but Packer could be the sort of durable strikethrower who works as a great complement to a flamethrowing ace.”

Honorable Mention – Cord Phelps - “I feel confident in saying he could be a well-above-average second-base starter, but there’s not enough about him that stands out to quite get him into the top 100.”


You'll notice that Kipnis and Chisenhall don't appear on this list and, as I said, this particular list has not yet posted the Top 10 prospects, so I'll guess we'll have to wait and see if the Indians would really have three in the top 11, five in the top 50 and 9 in the top 100, with an honorable mention to boot if, in fact, Kipnis and The Chiz are among the Top 10.

Again, the source of this is purely a Top 100 list that I stumbled upon, and you can head down to one of those giant piles of salt that you see on the shores of Lake Erie when you're enjoying a Guinness on the patio of The Harp if you want to when digest that, but...well, take it as you will.

Regardless, let's get back to the BA piece as the only real compelling part of the annual BA prospect ranking to me is the indulgence of predicting what a team is going to look like 3 years into the future, with BA's best guess of the 2014 Tribe looking like this:
C - Carlos Santana
1B - Matt LaPorta
2B - Jason Kipnis
SS - Asdrubal Cabrera
3B - Lonnie Chisenhall
LF - LeVon Washington
CF - Grady Sizemore
RF - Shin-Soo Choo
DH - Nick Weglarz
SP - Alex White
SP - Drew Pomeranz
SP - Carlos Carrasco
SP - Fausto Carmona
SP - Jason Knapp
Closer - Chris Perez

At a cursory glance, you notice that Choo, Cabrera, and Sizemore are all listed on their 2014 lineup (and Mike Brantley isn't), despite the fact that the current contracts for all three will run out prior to the 2014 season. Additionally, you see that BA thinks that 2011 Draftee LaVon Washington will be moving AWFULLY fast to arrive in 2014. Of course, BA is notorious for overestimating the most fruits of the most recent draft, as evidenced by the inclusion of Beau Mills as the 2011 3B in the 2008 projection...and that's an interesting one to look at in hindsight. But that overestimation is neither here nor there as the real “fun” comes when we execute this little exercise for ourselves.

For the purposes of projecting the 2014 lineup with the status of current contracts in play, keep in mind here that Hafner's guaranteed years end after the 2012 season while Sizemore's club option also runs through the 2012 season, which is the last season that Rafael Perez is under club control. Players that will be FA after the 2013 season (as of right now) will be The BLC, Cabrera, and a couple of uninteresting relievers (Joe Smith and Jenny Lewis). So for this little exercise, I'm going to assume that all of those players have moved on, something that Baseball America doesn't generally do...as you'll notice CC at the top of the 2011 predicted rotation a few years back.

Cleveland Indians – v.2014
C – Chun Chen
1B – Carlos Santana
2B – Jason Kipnis
SS – Josh Rodriguez
3B – Lonnie Chisenhall
LF – Nick Weglarz
CF – Mike Brantley
RF – Abner Abreu
DH – Matt LaPorta

SP – Jason Knapp
SP – Drew Pomeranz
SP – Alex White
SP – Carlos Carrasco
SP – Fausto Carmona

RP – Zach Putnam
RP – Josh Judy
RP – Rob Bryson
RP – Hector Rondon
RP – Nick Hagadone
RP – Tony Sipp
RP – Justin Masterson
Closer – Chris Perez

Starting off with the pitching, I'd agree with the five starters projected by BA, just in a different order and with the caveat that There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect, that rotation is pretty solid looking, from a projection standpoint. Past those five, Matt Packer would be a name that could factor into the rotation, though perhaps more as a depth starter whose left-handedness could balance out the rotation. Additionally, Joe Gardner, TJ House, and others could certainly factor in here...but a lot can happen in three years in terms of those arms as it's possible that a surprise emerges or one (or two) of those starters sees Dr. James Andrews.

In terms of the bullpen, relievers are a total crapshoot, particularly if you're trying to project a solid three years into the future (Ferd Cabrera anyone?)...so those 8 names could be completely different when 2014 rolls around.

Back to the lineup though, please note what two names stand out like sore thumbs there if we're using only players that are under club control through 2014?

Yeah, that would be Josh Rodriguez, a soon-to-be-26-year-old with 86 total games over AA at SS, and Abner Abreu, a just-turned-21-year-old outfielder who just put the finishing touches on an injury-marred season in which he posted a...wait for it, .651 OPS in Kinston. If anyone has any other obvious suggestions that I missed...I'm all ears. Certainly, 2014 would be an optimistic timetable for arrival guys like for LaVon Washington (although BA doesn't think so) and Tony Wolters (another 2011 draftee), but look at those two positions that I had such trouble filling (albeit three years from now) if I'm taking current contracts into account – SS and RF.

This is tough because, well...Choo and Cabrera are obviously not included on this list. If you add The BLC and Asdrubal to that list – yeah that looks like a team that could basically be the offense going into 2012 or thereabouts, with the ability to be around for a couple of years together as a group to mature and excel as they evolve as a unit.

Given the cost certainty of the rest of that lineup (even three years from now) and the organizational holes beneath them at their respective positions, maybe the Indians SHOULD be considering long-term deals with these two this off-season, as much as the Scott Boras Factor starts to come into play...but that payroll discussion becomes another topic for another (Lazy Sun)day.

8 comments:

Adam said...

Paul,

I'd submit Juan Diaz as a suggested SS over Josh Rodriguez. As for the corner OF spot, there are other options (McBride, Drennen, Fedroff, Greenwell), but none of them are great. This will come up in my final recap at LGT, but the Indians have utterly failed to produce corner OFers with above average offense.

-Adam

Paul Cousineau said...

The guy that came over the Branyan deal with Ezequiel...completely forgot about him. For some reason, neither he nor Carrera are on B-Ref's depth chart.

Unreal how this organization hasn't drafted and developed a SS since Peralta (amateur FA - 1999) and an above-average corner OF since...Giles or Manny, if you're talking about someone who performed in Cleveland.

Adam said...

Those are the two big holes...corner OFs with power and above average defensive players on the left side of the infield. Next year should be the first year in a few years that Lake County features several interesting positional prospects.

Paul Cousineau said...

"Next year should be the first year in a few years that Lake County features several interesting positional prospects."

That's a pretty stunning indictment.

Adam said...

Most of the highly regarded positional picks have made their full-season debut for Kinston, bypassing LC altogether. But it certainly suggests the Indians have not been doing a good job of getting talent out of its lower positional picks and younger (high school, really) positional draftees

Paul Cousineau said...

That's a good point and one that I've been thinking about when you look at some of these lists. While it's great that all of these draftees and acquired players are so highly-thought-of, where are the international signings?

There have been a couple (Rivero, Rondon, Gomez) that have dotted these lists in the past, but usually those Latin guys stop in LC because it's a step in their development, and since there hasn't been much to crow about there, in terms of positional prospects, what does that say about our amateur FA signings in the last 5 years or so?

Adam said...

Yeah, for all the talk about how great our academy is in DR, it might be producing great kids, but it hasn't produced a lot of great baseball players. We've done better in Venezuela, but in general our international scouting has not produced much.

Ben said...

I doubt Carmona will still be in the rotation in 2014 if he's just the number 5 starter...