How were current Indians rated when they were prospects?

Liz Condo-US PRESSWIRE

A look back at how various members of the team were rated when they were prospects.


We're in the midst of prospect-ranking season. MLB.com released its top 100 a week and a half ago, then both Baseball Prospectus and ESPN's Keith Law released their lists last week. The Indians have two or three players on each of those lists, with Francisco Lindor landing in the top 10 and Clint Frazier among the top 50 on all of them. It's fun to see your favorite team's favorite players get that kind of love, being touted as future All-Stars.

No matter how good a prospect looks though, there's always a killjoy ready to remind you that not every prospect works out. Something like 70% of all "Top 100" prospects never turn into even an average MLB player, and even among top 20 guys, there are almost as many misses as successes. The return is even bleaker if you look at only pitching prospects, more than three-quarters of whom "bust" (among top 100 prospects). Even if you limit your gaze to pitcher in the top 10, there are more misses than hits.

Today I want to reverse the angle. Rather than looking at what kind of players various prospects have turned into, I want to look at what type of prospects various players used to be. I'll look at current Indians and listing their peak ranking. I'm using Baseball America's annual Top 100, because their list is among the most respected in the industry, and is readily available going back more than 20 years.

I've tried to make the charts self-explanatory, but to be clear: Top 100 Peak refers to the highest a player ever ranked on BA's Top 100, Team Peak refers to the highest a player ever ranked on BA's top 30 for a particular team (In the event that a player reached the same ranking more than once, I've listed the earlier of the two; "NR" in either of those columns means the player was never ranked on such a list), Year refers to the season after which a player was ranked, Age refers to a player's age for that same season.

Indians Pitchers

Player Top 100 Peak Year Age Team Peak Year Age
Justin Masterson 64 2007 22 4 (Red Sox) 2007 22
Corey Kluber NR -- -- 26 (Indians) 2010 24
Zach McAllister NR -- -- 5 (Yankees) 2009 21
Danny Salazar NR -- -- 6 (Indians) 2012 22
Trevor Bauer 9 2011 20 1 (Diamondbacks) 2011 20
Carlos Carrasco 41 2006 19 1 (Phillies) 2006 19
John Axford NR -- -- 23 (Brewers) 2009 26
Cody Allen NR -- -- 4 (Indians) 2012 23
Bryan Shaw NR -- -- 17 (Diamondbacks) 2008 20
Marc Rzepczynski NR -- -- 9 (Blue Jays) 2008 22

As you can see, most of those guys were never Top 100 prospects. It's at least as notable though, that all of them were somewhere among an organization's top 30. All but Axford were there by the age of 23 (Kluber's ranking peaked at 24, but he'd been on the list when he was 21. If you limit your focus to MLB starters, Kluber is the only one who was never among an organization's top 10 (looking further down the Tribe's list of options for 2014, Shaun Marcum peaked at #11 for the Blue Jays, Josh Tomlin at #28 for the Indians).

If you're trying to identify a future MLB starter, it seems you can usually get away with only looking at the dozen or so top prospects in an organization's system. There are exceptions of course, and younger prospects might hit the list in a later year, but don't put much stock in a player until you see that kind of ranking. In case you're wondering, Trevor Bauer, Cody Anderson, C.C. Lee, and Austin Adams are the pitchers in BA's top 10 for the Indians this offseason, while Kyle Crockett and Dace Kime will likely be among the top 15 (but spots 11-30 have not yet been released). All of them except for Lee and Adams were 23 or younger in 2013.

Indians Position Players

Player Top 100 Peak Year Age Team Peak Year Age
Yan Gomes NR -- -- 27 (Indians) 2012 24
Nick Swisher 24 2004 23 1 (Athletics) 2004 23
Jason Kipnis 54 2010 23 3 (Indians) 2010 23
Asdrubal Cabrera NR -- -- 6 (Mariners) 2005 19
Lonnie Chisenhall 25 2010 21 1 (Indians) 2010 21
Michael Brantley NR -- -- 5 (Indians) 2009 22
Michael Bourn NR -- -- 4 (Phillies) 2005 22
David Murphy NR -- -- 3 (Red Sox) 2003 21
Ryan Raburn NR -- -- 8 (Tigers) 2004 23
Carlos Santana 10 2009 23 1 (Indians) 2008 22

As with the pitchers, every one of the position players most important to the Indians success in 2014 was at one time in the top 30 of a team's prospect rankings. As with the starting pitchers, all but one of the position players was in a top 10 at some point by the offseason after their age-23 season.

I'm sure almost every team has players like Kluber and Gomes, who've become solid MLB players without ever landing in the top 10. I'm sure there are some very good players around the league who were never even in a top 30, but such players are likely few and far between. The position players' in BA's top 10 for the Indians this offseason are Francisco Lindor, Clint Frazier, Tyler Naquin, Dorssys Paulino, Ronny Rodriguez, and Jose Ramirez. All of those guys were 22 or younger in 2013. Guys like Francisco Mejia and Luigi Rodriguez are also young, and probably in the top 15. They could certainly find themselves in the top 10 a year from now.

Being a highly rated prospect is no guarantee of MLB success, but not being highly rated (at least within a particular franchise) is a pretty good sign that you're not going to succeed.

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