Kevin Goldstein has come out with his Cleveland Top 11 Prospect list at Baseball Prospectus, meaning we now have a trio of published lists (BP, Baseball America, Jon Sickels). Looking over the assessments from these three sources, I feel pretty validated in the approach I took to the issue here not long ago, producing what I called a "viewer's guide" rather than a ranking. My conclusion, that the Indians system lacks established talent but has an almost frightening amount of potential talent in the bottom of the system, was echoed by others as well.
In his summary, Kevin Goldstein says:
This was the most difficult ranking in recent memory, and this system will be a monster next year. Whether by monster I mean strong, intimidating beast, or nightmarishly awful is to be determined.
Jon Sickels makes a similar comment:
This is a very difficult system to analyze.
Indians fans may be discouraged by the large number of C+ grades, but they shouldn't be. While some of those C+s are future role players or relievers, the younger members of the group are high-ceiling guys who are just too raw or far away to get a higher grade just yet, but who could blossom within the next year or two.
Despite the uncertainty, there is actually a decent amount of consensus about who could be interesting. KG's list of 20 names includes only five guys not mentioned on Sickel's top 21, and vice versa. Everyone on BA's top 10 list appears on the other two lists. And all of the guys mentioned get at least some kind of a shoutout, mostly in the primordial soup section, of my own write-up.
A couple of things stick out from the lists. First, as I mentioned previously, Lake County should be a very interesting place to watch baseball this summer (KG suggests it might be the most interesting team in the Midwest League, which actually covers a lot of teams).
When it comes to non-pitchers, the bulk of the Indians talent lies in the middle of the field. Organization-wide, catcher and shortstop are the two strongest and deepest positions top to bottom. It will be interesting to watch how playing time is distributed at these spots in 2012. Centerfield also has a decent number of interesting players, though more in the classic speedy leadoff mold than the big-hitting centerfielders of the '90s and '00s. It is hard to think this doesn't reflect an explicit organizational philosophy emphasizing potential value on the defensive spectrum. But it doesn't explain why we seem incapable of filling the corner OF and 1B positions with worthy bats.
The Indians have minor league bullpen arms, and potential bullpen arms in the form of fringe starters, overflowing at basically every level of the system. I would guess this is the last off-season for a few years that we pay significant money to later-arbitration year relief pitchers. It also poses a challenge to the front office to get value out of these guys, something we have already started to see with the trades of Cory Burns, Chris Jones and Marty Popham.
In terms of starting pitchers, Dillon Howard is the only guy with an obvious top end of the rotation projection, but there are other intriguing arms in the lower levels of the system who could develop such a projection. There are also a few guys higher in the system, like Austin Adams or Scott Barnes
, who might surprise. Injuries, both in the forms of guys returning (i.e. Perez, Rondon, Knapp) and potential losses, are important as always in this arena.
Lots of fun to chew on...