Monday, March 12, 2012

Indians Prospect Countdown: System Overview

Well sports fans, it's that time of year again. The clocks have changed, the sun is shining, spring training is in action, there's only a few goodyearsnowfalls left for the North Coast; it's prospect countdown time. The Cleveland Indians have an…interesting minor league system right now. Four of the top five players on last year’s list are no longer eligible for the list, as Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall graduated to the majors in 2011 and Drew Pomeranz and Alex White were dealt to the Rockies for Ubaldo Jiminez.

The fifth player in my top 5 last year didn’t throw a single pitch due to injury issues (Jason Knapp). So a system that was considered last year to be extremely deep with a few top guys is now more or less just a deep system. The Indians still have a lot of talent in the pipeline, but there is really only one blue-chip guy. They did the best they could to infuse talent in last June’s MLB draft, signing several players to overslot deals including 2nd round pick Dillon Howard, but there’s only so much a team can do in one draft.

The one thing that really stands out is just how far from the majors most of these guys are. AAA Columbus has a number of quality bullpen arms and a couple of starters that could pitch in the majors in 2012, but most of the talented position players are years away. That means that while Low-A Lake County will be a fun team to watch this year, the cavalry is not on the horizon should something happen at the big league level.

One of the strengths of the system last year than was maintained through to 2012 is the abundance of quality bullpen arms that have the talent to pitch in the major leagues. C.C. Lee, Nick Hagadone, Rob Bryson, Tyler Sturdevant, Bryce Stowell…all of these guys have the potential to be impact arms in the back end of a major league bullpen. As a note, relief pitchers Zach Putnam, Josh Judy, Cory Burns and Adam Miller would have all been on this list if they were still in the organization, with Putnam ranking in the top-15. Even after dealing some of their bullpen depth, the Indians have a plethora of arms to plug into the major league bullpen should the need arise.

Kip7 772x800Another strength of the system is young, toolsy infielders. Francisco Lindor, Tony Wolters, Ronny Rodrigues, Robel Garcia, Dorssys Paulino, Jorge Martinez…all of these guys are young, raw and oozing with talent. The highest level any of them will play at in 2012 is likely high-A, with some not even getting out of the complex leagues. None of them played a single inning of college baseball. So while these kids are all quite a ways away from contributing at the big league level, it doesn’t take away from the impressive collection of infield talent the Indians have been able to stockpile between the draft and international free agency over the past couple of years.

This is going to be a really, really fun year to follow the Cleveland minor league system. Even with a relative lack of elite, top level talent, there are a lot of guys who are solid breakout candidates. As always, I highly recommend getting out to as many games as you can, because the raw athleticism of these kids is simply not going to show up in the box scores. Francisco Lindor ranging up the middle and throwing a strike on the run to nail a runner by half a step isn’t a category on There are so many young, exciting, athletic kids in the system, especially in nearby Lake County, that you really have to get out and see them. There’s a chance that this system could still be in the 20’s overall next year, but there’s also a really good chance that a few of these guys make the leap to become well-regarded prospects and the system breaks out to be back in the top half of baseball.

Because of the young and unproven nature of the talent in the Indians system, it was extremely difficult to rank. I considered about 65 players for my top 51 countdown, and even when I was finally able to settle on the 51, I moved them around quite a bit throughout the process. I’ll be seeing several of these guys for the first time when I head down to Goodyear next week for my annual Spring Training trip, which is something I’m (obviously) really looking forward to. I had a lot of fun putting together this list, and I really hope you enjoy reading it. And yes, you read that right; we’re counting down 51 prospects here at The DiaTribe, not just 50. Much like Kevin Goldstein and his top-11 and top-101 lists, I’m going the extra mile to provide you with the best coverage that your money can buy.

Before we kick of the countdown though, let’s take a look at some of the “bests” throughout the system:

Best Defensive Catcher: Roberto Perez
Best Defensive Infielder: Francisco Lindor
Best Defensive Outfielder: Tyler Holt
Best Outfield Arm: Carlos Moncrief
Best Power: Jesus Aguilar
Best Hit Tool: Francisco Lindor
Best Speed: Luigi Rodriguez
Most Intriguing Prospect: Dorssys Paulino
Deepest Position: Bullpen arms
Shallowest Position: Corner infielders

2011 Top 50:
1.Jason Kipns
2.Lonnie Chisenhall
3.Drew Pomeranz
4.Jason Knapp
5.Alex White
6.LeVon Washington
7.Nick Weglarz
8.Chun Chen
9.Joe Gardner
10.Cord Phelps
11.Bryce Stowell
12.Rob Bryson
13.Zach Putnam
14.Tony Wolters
15.Hector Rondon
16.Alex Lavisky
17.Kelvin De La Cruz
18.Nick Hagadone
19.Scott Barnes
20.C.C. Lee
21.Austin Adams
22.Kyle Blair
23.T.J. House
24.Vinnie Pestano
25.Tyler Holt
26.Josh Judy
27.Jordan Henry
28.Bryan Price
29.Cory Burns
30.Matt Packer
31.Jared Goedert
32.Cory Kluber
33.Abner Abreu
34.Gio Urshela
35.Gio Soto
36.Felix Sterling
37.Jess Todd
38.Kyle Bellows
39.Juan Romero
40.Clayton Cook
41.Bo Greenwell
42.Alexander Perez
43.T.J McFarland
44.Jeremie Tice
45.Cole Cook
46.Preston Gulimet
47.Chris Jones
48.Zach McAllister
49.Matt McBride
50.Roberto Perez
So check back tomorrow for prospects 51-45, and every day for the next 10 days as we countdown to number one.

1 comment:

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