Several years ago Jay came up with a prospect rating system known as Prospects That Matter. He explained the system thus:
In short-season leagues: solid at age 17 or younger.
I'd like to look at the Indians prospects in 2012 using this rating system.
I list the position and age of each player in the parentheses after their names. The ages listed for the players are their "seasonal" ages as of July 1 of this season. Also as Jay said, "I also pay little mind to "official" rules as to what makes a prospect. If a player is 25 or younger and not a fully established major leaguer, he's a prospect in every way that actually matters to a team, or to a fan."
Another thing is that while I have ranked the prospects in order, the specific ranking doesn't matter so much - so don't get all bent out of shape over Lindor at #4. The three tiers - PTRRM, PTRM, and PTM - are probably more important.
Prospects That Really, Really Matter - players who've met the PTM criteria at an exceedingly young age.
(1) LONNIE CHISENHALL (3B, 23) - Played well at AA and AAA despite being considerably young. Also started to play well in the majors before his injury. Not a prospect according to the usual rules, but he's not a fully established major leaguer, so he still fits here.
Prospects That Really Matter - players who've met the criteria with room to spare.
(2) CODY ALLEN (RHP, 23) - Rocketed through the minors after being drafted last year, pitched very well in AAA and debuted in Cleveland with decent results so far. Could be ranked in the highest category, but I placed him here because (a) he's a reliever and (b) he hasn't totally dominated in Cleveland yet, according to the peripherals. He has probably as much upside as a relief prospect can have.
(3) GIOVANNI SOTO (LHP, 21) - Good performance, young for his level: he was very good last year in Kinston, and is solid in Akron this year.
(4) FRANCISCO LINDOR (SS, 18) - This illustrates how tough this ranking is on Class A players. Normally listed as the Indians' #1 prospect (on lists that don't include Chisenhall), one might initially argue that he should actually be in the lower "clearing the bar" category since his hitting is solid but not spectacularly above average (.717 OPS in a league with a .704 average OPS) at age 18. However, he plays shortstop and does it extremely well, and scouting reports rave about him, so I've included him here in this category.
(5) JEANMAR GOMEZ (RHP, 24) - I wasn't sure whether to put him here or lower, as he's now 24, but he has succeeded in AAA at both 23 and 24. Just needs to put it together in the majors.
(6) RONNY RODRIGUEZ (SS, 20) - He's having a good season in A+, flashing power with 16 home runs and 18 doubles so far. Could walk more, but that kind of power, plus his position, leads to this high ranking.
Prospects That Matter - Others who've cleared the bar.
(7) SCOTT BARNES (LHP, 24) - I considered putting him up with Gomez, since he was the same age in the last two seasons at AAA, but in the end kept him here. He's been solid but not quite as successful as Gomez in Columbus, with higher K/9 but also a higher BB/9, which he'll have to work on as it's been up to 4.5 this season. He's been moved to the pen, probably because of the injury he was recovering from earlier this year, but I don't know if that is expected to be permanent.
(8) CORD PHELPS (SS/2B, 25) - Very good for Columbus in his age 24 and 25 seasons.
(9) DORSSYS PAULINO (SS, 17) - He's obliterating AZL pitching. 5 homers, 14 doubles in 180 PA for a .992 OPS (.349/.400/.592) - DROOL.
(10) SHAWN ARMSTRONG (RHP, 21) - The reliever has been very good across multiple levels this season, including Carolina and his current stop Akron. He could cut down on the walks.
(11) GIOVANNY URSHELA (3B, 20) - He's having a solid season in A+ (10 home runs and 27 doubles).
(12) TONY WOLTERS (2B/SS, 20) - Another guy having a solid season in A+ at the right age.
(13) JOSE RAMIREZ (2B, 19) - He's been successful at Lake County, with an 821 OPS. He's only striking out in 1 out of every 11 plate appearances.
(14) LARS ANDERSON (1B/OF, 24) - He's still only 24. He passed the bar for inclusion on this list at all levels, sometimes with room to spare, including AAA where he's been solid for 3 straight seasons beginning with age 22. But he hasn't truly dominated at any level, outside of 17-game sample sizes, since 2008 between A+ and AA.
(15) CHUN-HSIU CHEN (1B, 23) - This says he matters because he succeeded in Kinston at 21, was solid at 22 in Akron and is now succeeding at 23 in Akron. If you don't like it, don't argue with me, I didn't make the rules.
(16) T.J. MCFARLAND (RHP, 23) - Solid last year, above average this year in Akron, before getting promoted to Columbus. Because of his age I'll include him on the list. He could have a higher K-rate, but his game depends on getting ground balls.
(17) T.J. HOUSE (RHP, 22) - Solid, borderline successful this year in Akron. Would like a higher K-rate, but he does have another year in AA to achieve true success there.
(18) TIM FEDROFF (OF, 25) - I struggled with whether or not to include him, because he spent half of his season at Double-A and half at AAA. But he played very well at both levels. This is his final chance to be included.
**Note**: I might be too lenient here, since there are 18 players on this list; so if you'd like to take the final three players off this list, I won't argue. Fedroff would go into "Too Old to Matter" and House and McFarland (because of their K-rates) "Might Matter at Some Point".
Too Accomplished to be Prospects - The graduates.
(1) MICHAEL BRANTLEY (CF, 25)
(2) JASON KIPNIS (2B, 25)
(3) ZACH MCALLISTER (RHP, 24)
Interesting Non-Prospect Relievers - I created this category for our abundance of relievers who are older than 25. I demand at least some solid pitching in AAA for this.
(1) NICK HAGADONE (LHP, 26) - He's not strictly a prospect because of his age. He still has a chance to figure out why he struggled in Cleveland and make a major league career for himself as a reliever.
(2) MATT LANGWELL (RHP, 26) - He has good stats in AAA and could become a solid major-league reliever, but like Hagadone, he's not strictly a prospect because of his age.
(3) ERIC BERGER (LHP, 26) - He's not strictly a prosp - isn't this phrase familiar? He has much better stats out of the pen than as a starter this year, averaging over a strikeout per inning.
(4) CHEN LEE (RHP, 25) - Unfortunately Tommy John surgery derailed his season, or he'd have been on the list of prospects that matter. He could even have had a few months in the majors by now. When he returns sometime next year, he'll still be interesting, but he'll also be 26.
(5) TYLER STURDEVANT (RHP, 26) - He was injured part of the season. Solid in 13 AAA innings thus far.
Too Old to Matter - just what it says. Not a complete list.
(1) EZEQUIEL CARRERA (OF, 25) - Average last year and somewhat above average, though not great, this year in Columbus. Probably only has the upside of a fourth or fifth outfielder, so not important enough to matter.
(2) BRYAN PRICE (RHP, 25) - This reliever was good in Akron but has struggled in his brief exposure to AAA thus far. At present he's just too old to matter, but he could join the above category of AAA relievers next year.
(3) COREY KLUBER (RHP, 26) - He finally put it together in AAA, but at 26.
(4) BRYCE STOWELL (RHP, 25) - He's always had eye-popping K-rates, but also has had injury problems and is still in Akron. If he could just stay healthy he could also join the category of interesting relievers.
(5) RUSS CANZLER (1B/OF, 26) - He has 19 home runs and has had a good season.
(6) JASON DONALD (IF, 27) - Could be a major-league backup infielder. AAAA player.
(7) MATT LAPORTA (1B/OF, 27) - He's 27 and can't hit a major league breaking ball.
(8) JARED GOEDERT (1B/3B/OF, 27) - He's having a good season, but too old.
(9) PAOLO ESPINO (RHP, 25) - He was good in Akron but too old for the league. If he switches to the bullpen perhaps he could make the category of interesting relievers next year.
(10) AUSTIN ADAMS (RHP, 25) - His injury was unfortunate, taking out this season in which he could've pitched in Columbus and made the list of PTM.
(11) LUDOVICUS JACOBUS MARIA VAN MIL (RHP, 27) - He has yet to succeed in AAA, but he does have his 7'1" (!) height and his long name going for him.
(12) FRANK HERRMANN (RHP, 28) - He's still trying to get a good secondary pitch to go along with his straight fastball. At that age, not interesting enough.
(13) CHRIS SEDDON (LHP, 28) - He's 28. 'Nuff said.
(14) DAVID HUFF (LHP, 27) - Struggling in AAA.
Prospects That Might Matter at Some Point - not a complete list.
(1) DANNY SALAZAR (RHP, 22) - He's pitched well in Carolina. The recent promotion to Akron gives him a chance to matter if he succeeds there by the end of next season. The Indians must like him since they placed him on the 40-man roster.
(2) JESUS AGUILAR (1B, 22) - Just a little too old to make the list, and last year at age 21 was solid but not quite successful enough. Like Salazar, his promotion to Akron gives him a chance to matter.
(3) MATT PACKER (LHP, 24) - Unfortunately he was injured this season and hasn't had much chance to show what he can do in AAA. He'll get one more chance to make the PTM list next year.
(4) THOMAS NEAL (OF, 24) - Unfortunately for Neal, he's been blocked all year in AAA, so he's been stuck in Akron. He should have a chance to matter in AAA next year.
(5) ROB BRYSON (RHP, 24) - For some reason this reliever is still in Akron. Injuries? He's never had a long sustained period there, outside of this season at 37 games. Needs to prove himself in AAA now.
(6) JUAN DIAZ (SS, 23) - Not included on the PTM list because he was only solid (.732 OPS) in AA. Recently promoted to AAA however.
(7) TREY HALEY (RHP, 22) - Has been bothered by injuries during his pro career, but he still has his great stuff and needs to succeed this year and next in Akron in order to matter.
(8) PRESTON GUILMET (RHP, 24) - Relief prospect has been very good in Akron, but needs to do it again in AAA.
(9) LEVON WASHINGTON (OF, 20) - Injured after a hot start this year and still in Lake County, but still has plenty of potential if he can stay on the field the next two seasons.
(10) LUIGI RODRIGUEZ (OF, 19) - Promising outfielder has been solid this year in Lake County, but has to do a little better to be a PTM.
(11) ANTHONY SANTANDER (OF, 17) - Has a .854 OPS in the AZL, which is good of course, but he strikes out about once every four at-bats, so I'll be cautious and avoid labeling him a PTM just yet.
(12) CARLOS MONCRIEF (OF, 23) - The converted pitcher has plenty of tools, but he still strikes out too much. He's still in A+ and would have to advance two levels in 1-1/2 seasons and succeed in AAA in 2014 in order to matter.
(13) TYLER NAQUIN (OF, 21) - He gets mentioned here simply because he was the Indians first-round pick. He hasn't had enough time to prove anything one way or another, and certainly not enough time at a league advanced enough to make him a PTM.
(14) JEFF JOHNSON (RHP, 22) - The reliever did well in Lake County this year and is now trying to do the same in Carolina. Perhaps he'll go all the way to Akron or even Columbus next season. If not, he might be on a similar path to Preston Guilmet: A+ at 23, AA at 24, needing to conquer AAA at 25 in his final chance to make the PTM list.
(15 - ETC.) Not sure who else I should mention in Lake County, or in Mahoning Valley. Maybe LC's Shawn Morimando (RHP, 19), who has been solid but with a low K-rate, or MV's Jake Sisco (RHP, 20), who has yet to turn his 3rd-round talent into strikeouts, or MV's Juan Romero (OF/3B, 19) who has 7 home runs this year (he hit .804 OPS with 7 home runs in Rookie League in 2010). Maybe Jake Lowery (C, 21), did very well in Lake County but has yet to repeat it in Carolina, or Alex Monsalve (C, 20), who was merely solid in LC but hasn't done well in Carolina, but he does have good defense. And you can go crazy with all the 18- and 19-year-olds in the AZL, but who knows which of them really might become a PTM at some point? If some of the 20- and 21-year-olds in the short-season leagues get pushed fast enough, they could matter at some point as well, but again, it's hard to tell. Basically just look at a list of the Indians' top 10 picks in 2011 and 2012; several of those guys might matter in the future, but most of them won't.