Seedlings to Stars Ranks Indians Prospects, Takes Negative View of Organization

In their version of the annual top prospect rankings, our friends at Seedlings to Stars have been breaking down each MLB organization’s best minor leaguers into mock 25-man rosters. This week, S2S writer Wally Fish broke down the Cleveland Indians organization. The result was the stuff that rain clouds are made of.

We know that Cleveland’s farm system isn’t what it used to be. The trades of Drew Pomeranz, Alex White, and Joe Gardner; the promotions of Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis, and Vinnie Pestano; and the struggles of Jason Knapp, Nick Weglarz, and LeVon Washington have all hit the organization pretty hard.

Even so, Fish’s analysis seems overly skeptical. “The cupboard is really, really bare,” he writes, before suggesting that the Tribe’s farm system might be the very worst in baseball—worse even than the White Sox’. Check out his grades for different parts of the organization:

Position Player Upside: C+
Position Player Depth: C-
Pitching Upside: C
Pitching Depth: C+
System Grade: C

And I thought John Sickels was a tough grader. Position-player depth is admittedly a big weakness of the system, and while there aren’t a whole lot of high-upside hitters I think a grade in at least the ‘B’ range would be in order.

As for pitchers, there might not be a ton of upside in the system, although I’d say a ‘C’ grade is too low. But depth? Fish himself said he put 25 pitchers on his initial list of players to consider for his rankings—that there are that many hurlers in the system who could potentially make the majors is a pretty good sign of solid pitching depth.

The overall ‘C’ grade also looks a little too low, but the biggest problem I have with Fish’s ranking is that there’s no caveat about the large amount of high-ceiling talent in the lower levels. Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein wasn’t wild about the Tribe’s farm system, but he added that things the outlook of the organization could change drastically in the next year or two. And while Sickels also called the system one of the worst in baseball, he noted that the Indians’ was the most likely of the low-ranked organizations to climb the list in the near future.

Looking beyond Fish’s skepticism, his picks for the best prospects at each position are quite interesting. Going around the horn: Robel Garcia makes the list as the best third-base prospect, with Francisco Lindor at shortstop, Cord Phelps at second base, and Jesus Aguilar at first. Jake Lowery, Cleveland’s fourth-round pick in the 2011 amateur draft, gets the nod behind the plate over Chun-Hsui Chen, who is generally seen as the Tribe’s best catching prospect—Fish cites Lowery’s superior plate discipline and greater likelihood of staying at catcher in calling him the organization’s best backstop. Shortstops Ronny Rodriguez and Tony Wolters and catchers Chen and Alex Lavisky also make the list as “Best of the Rest” picks.

In the outfield, it’s no surprise to see Luigi Rodriguez named the top prospect. LeVon Washington comes in at No. 2, while the final spot goes to 2011 sixth-round draft pick Bryson Miles. No other outfielders make Fish’s list.

Moving to the rotation, 2011 second-round pick Dillon Howard is the ace of Fish’s staff; he and No. 2 man Jake Sisco are the only pitchers who Fish says have a chance to be better than No. 3 starters. Next come Felix Sterling, Elvis Araujo, and Scott Barnes, in that order. Austin Adams also makes the list as an honorable mention.

Finally, there’s the bullpen. Fish names Chen Lee and Nick Hagadone as the top two relief pitchers, but plenty of other bullpen arms show up in the Best of the Rest section: Bryce Stowell, Cody Allen, Enosil Tejada, Paolo Espino, and Preston Gullmet. Again, proof that the Tribe’s pitching depth isn’t a problem.

What do you think of Fish’s analysis? It’s definitely an interesting list, but I’d say the Indians organization deserves at least a little bit more benefit of the doubt.

Be sure to read the full article and get more prospect coverage on Seedlings to Stars!

What do you think of Fish's analysis?

  • Too skeptical (44%, 7 Votes)
  • About right (44%, 7 Votes)
  • Too optimistic (12%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 16

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Tags: Chen Lee Chun-hsui Chen Cord Phelps Dillon Howard Elvis Araujo Felix Sterling Francisco Lindor Jake Lowery Jake Sisco Jesus Aguilar Levon Washington Luigi Rodriguez Nick Hagadone Robel Garcia Scott Barnes

  • thebaseballfish


    Thanks for the link, breakdown and analysis of my work. I always enjoy reading others opinions, especially from team-based writers.

    While I had a lot of pitchers on my preliminary list, the bulk of those were relievers and the quality just isn’t there compared to the majority of systems that rank ahead of them. Just having a bunch of numbers at a position doesn’t reflect depth as there has to be some upside or potential for them to be considered an asset.

    I think the point about their raw talent at the lower levels is fair, and you’re right things could look a lot better at this time next year but natural prospect attrition may balance that out. Some guys will emerge but others will regress or fall off the map entirely. My statements and grades about the system were based on the present time while I did my best to assess and project guys in the individual player writeups.

    The system could be looking better next year but we also must recognize that it could stay the same or get worse depending on how things play out and what the team does in the international market, trade market and 2012 draft. And of course the Indians don’t exist in a vacuum so their ranking and system strength is relative to the other organizations in MLB.