Weekly Wroundtable: How Good is the Indians' Farm System?

This was a huge week for Indians prospect talk, as both Baseball America and prospect guru John Sickels released their top prospect lists for the Cleveland organization. Consensus seems to be that the Tribe’s farm system isn’t as well stocked as it was this time last year. But just how good is it?

In this edition of the Weekly Wroundtable, we asked: What’s your take on the state of the Indians’ farm system? In addition to the usual suspects from Wahoo’s on First, Indians Prospect Insider‘s Andrew Zajac was kind enough to offer his thoughts. Here’s what we all had to say:

Andrew Zajac (Indians Prospect Insider): As a whole, the system is weaker than it’s been in quite some time. You have a solid top three (in my opinion) with Francisco Lindor, Dillon Howard, and Tony Wolters. From there, it’s quite a crapshoot what you’re going to get.

There’s definitely quality within our system, but there’s not much of all-star caliber talent. This year’s draft is critical to rebuilding our farm system. It’s also worth noting most of our talent is extremely young and still on the lower levels of the minors.

Lewie Pollis: The easy answer is, it ain’t what it used to be. Just look at how different Baseball America‘s and Sickels’ lists are from last year’s. There’s been quite a bit of turmoil in the top prospect ratings, and it’s not because a lot of players have had breakout years. No disrespect to Wolters, but that he’s now considered one of the Tribe’s best prospects isn’t about him so much as the disappearance of all the guys ahead of him.

Here’s the thing, though: just because the farm system is depleted doesn’t mean there’s a dearth of young talent in the organization. Lonnie Chisenhall isn’t gone—he’s with the team. Same goes for Jason Kipnis and Vinnie Pestano. Carlos Santana and Michael Brantley are a little older, but they were prospects not too long ago. And Drew Pomeranz and Alex White didn’t just evaporate. They turned into Ubaldo Jimenez.

So yes, the farm system has seen better days, and no one’s stepped up to fill the holes left by struggling prospects like LeVon Washington, Jason Knapp, and Nick Weglarz. But between the high-ceiling guys in the lower minors and the homegrown soon-to-be-stars who are already in the majors, there’s plenty of young talent to go around.

Brian Heise: Let’s put this right out in the open. The Tribe’s farm system has seen better days. That being said, there’s a fairly simple and legitimate reason for the lack of potential star power in the lower ranks. It’s all on the big league club due to the youth movement. And in the Rockies minor league system, but that’s beside the point.

What I’m trying to say is that up until midway through last season, the farm system for the Indians had some of the most highly regarded prospects in baseball between Chisenhall, Kipnis, White, and Pomeranz. Throw in Cord Phelps, Jeanmar Gomez, and Nick Hagadone, among others, and there was a lot to like.

That was then, this is now. Chisenhall and Kipnis are slated to be on the big league club from day one, Pomeranz and White will be calling Colorado home thanks to the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, and a lot of the middle tier prospects were exposed last season for what they are: middle of the road utility players and spot starters.

Is this a bad thing? Not really. If the big league club was an old team on the decline and a perennial bottom dweller there would be cause for concern. Instead, it’s the youngest team in baseball and on the upswing with (hopefully) plenty of time to rebuild before the next great youth movement. I fully expect the front office to address the issue and rebuild, just like they have previously.

Geordy Boveroux: While Tribe fans have grown accustomed to quality drafting and scouting the last few years that have lead to top-10 rankings for the farm system, expecting anything close to that for 2012 is ludicrous.

There are some nice pieces to keep an eye on, but no player is anything close to a can’t-miss talent. Each prospect comes with his own flaws, drawbacks and limitations throughout the system.

This isn’t to say that fans shouldn’t get excited for Lindor, Howard and the like, but they should simply temper any high expectations. I would be surprised if any publication ranks Cleveland’s system in the teens.

The fact of the matter is that there is hope in the Indians’ farm system, but that doesn’t mean it should be considered a great one at this point. All the talent is in the low minors with guys like Lindor, Howard, Washington, Felix Sterling and Wolters having yet to see even Double-A. The best guys that are close to the Majors are Scott Barnes and Zach McAllister, two mid-rotation starters at best.

Until we can really see some of these younger guys pan out, and get some more help from the 2012 MLB Draft, the farm system in it’s current state is definitely in the 25-30 range of all systems in baseball.

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Tags: Dillon Howard Francisco Lindor Tony Wolters

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