Prospect guru John Sickels released his rankings of MLB teams’ minor-league systems this week, and the news wasn’t good for the Cleveland Indians: Sickels ranked the Tribe’s farm system 27th out of 30 teams.
The Indians organization ranked just behind the Phillies, Astros, and Giants, and ahead of only the Brewers, Marlins, and White Sox. Cleveland’s farm system ranked as the second-worst in the American League.
Tribe fans can take some solace in the fact that the AL Central as a whole fared quite poorly. The White Sox were ranked as having the worst farm system in the game, and the Tigers and Twins were also below the 50th percentile. Even the Royals, who Sickels ranked sixth, had fallen five places from 2011.
The Ubaldo Jimenez trade in July was a huge blow to the farm system as Drew Pomeranz, Alex White, and Joe Gardner were shipped to Chicago, while injuries or poor play took tolls on Jason Knapp, Nick Weglarz, and LeVon Washington‘s reputations. No Indians prospects got better than B+ grades on Sickels’ earlier analysis of the system, and only three—Francisco Lindor, Dillon Howard, and Tony Wolters—earned better than C+ marks.
But that this doesn’t mean the Indians don’t have any young talent. It’s just that most of it is already in the majors. Last year’s rookies Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis, and Vinnie Pestano were all impact players, and Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley, and Matt LaPorta are still fairly youthful.
Sickels also some offered some reason for future optimism, echoing a popular sentiment about how high the Tribe’s current crop of prospects’ upsides are:
Of all the teams ranked low, the Indians have the greatest chance to improve in the coming years. There is a lot of talent at the lower levels, but most of it is in the C+ or “Grade C with higher potential” category right now because it is so far away. It would not surprise me to see the Indians in the Top 10 by 2014.
Personally I probably would have ranked the Indians’ farm system a little bit higher, but I can certainly understand his skepticism. We’ll see what other prospect experts have to say over the next few weeks.