Baseball America Ranks Cleveland Indians’ 2012 Top 10 Prospects

It’s been a big week for Cleveland Indians prospect talk, and it just got bigger: today, Baseball America, the biggest prospect analysis publication in the game, unveiled its list of the Tribe’s top 10 prospects.

Topping the list is shortstop Francisco Lindor; the Indians’ first-round pick in the 2011 amateur draft is also ranked as the best contact hitter and defensive infielder in the system. He’s followed by right-handed starting pitcher Dillon Howard, who Cleveland took in the second round. Neither pick was surprising.

Things get more interesting after the obvious top two. Coming in at Nos. 3 and 4 are left-handed pitcher Nick Hagadone and right-handed hurler Chen Lee. ”Cleveland’s strength in the minors is its depth of relief pitching,” BA‘s Ben Badler writes.

Besides Lindor, No. 5 placer Luigi Rodriguez (also named the organization’s fastest baserunner) and No. 7 Tony Wolters are the only position players to crack the list. Pitchers Zach McAllister (sixth), Austin Adams (eighth—also has the system’s best fastball), Scott Barnes (ninth), and Zach Putnam (10th) round out the Top 10.

First baseman Jesus Aguilar is rated as the most powerful hitter in the organization, while outfielder Jordan Henry is seen as having the best plate discipline. LeVon Washington comes in as the best athlete, while catcher Roberto Perez and outfielder Tyler Holt are named the best defenders at their respective positions.

It’s interesting to compare this year’s list to last year’s—they’re completely different. A large part of that is due to trades and promotions—Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis no longer qualify as prospects, and Alex White, Drew Pomeranz, and Joe Gardner were all dealt in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade—but of the five 2011 ranking prospects who are still eligible for the list, only two still make the cut: Wolters, who came in eighth last year, and Hagadone, who was ranked 10th.

Washington, who ranked seventh in 2011, had a rough first full year, while injuries plagued the reigning No. 5 Nick Weglarz and No. 6 Jason Knapp, who missed the whole 2011 season.

It’s also interesting to compare BA‘s list with Sickels’. They agree on Lindor, Howard, and Rodriguez, but that’s it. Wolters, Hagadone, and Barnes make Sickels’ Top 10 too, but he puts Wolters third, Hagadone seventh, and Barnes 10th. Sickels has Lee 13th and Adams 14th. Neither McAllister nor Putnam cracked his Top 22.

Meanwhile, some of the players Sickels liked most are missing from BA‘s list. Jake Sisco, last year’s third-round draft pick, ranked fourth on Sickels’ list; shortstop Ronny Rodriguez and pitchers Elvis Araujo and Felix Sterling round out his Top 10 but aren’t mentioned in the BA system profile.

Finally, we come to my favorite part of the BA rankings: the projected 2015 lineup. The infield looks much like it does now, with Carlos Santana catching, Matt LaPorta at first, and Chisenhall at third. But the eventual ascension of Lindor pushes Asdrubal Cabrera back to second base and bumps Kipnis to DH duties.

Meanwhile, they see the outfield as staying the same over the next four years, with Michael Brantley in left, Grady Sizemore in center, and Shin-Soo Choo in right. It’s a nice thought, but that might be a little too optimistic a projection for Sizemore’s long-term health and Choo’s affordability.

In the rotation, BA sees Jimenez and Justin Masterson continuing to be a top-two tandem (how the Indians will be able to afford both of them plus Choo and Cabrera, I’m not sure). Carlos Carrasco makes a full recovery and slots in as the No. 3 starter, while Howard and Josh Tomlin fill out the back of the rotation. Chris Perez remains the closer.

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Topics: Austin Adams, Chen Lee, Dillon Howard, Francisco Lindor, Luigi Rodriguez, Nick Hagadone, Scott Barnes, Tony Wolters, Zach McAllister, Zach Putnam

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