April 16, 2014

An early look at Cleveland Indians prospect rankings

Trevor BauerWith Spring Training underway out in Arizona, there’s plenty of excitement back in Northeast Ohio about the Cleveland Indians. And although many of us will not see the Tribe play in person until Opening Day on April 8, there’s a whole lot of minor league news that’s worth unwrapping as well.

And that’s where my rankings and numbers come handy. Throughout most of the 2012 season, I was breaking down all the news and notes with my WFNY Wednesday Wahoos reports. At the end of the year, I then shared my thoughts about how the Indians’ drafting still maybe hasn’t improved in the last few seasons.

But criticisms and arguments aside: What are the prospect rankings looking like thus far this offseason? Obviously, there was the high-profile acquisition of Trevor Bauer from the Diamondbacks, but how does he stand in comparisons with reigning No. 1 Tribe prospect Francisco Lindor? And is there anyone else emerging from the rest of the “mess” of the organization?

In as easy of a format as I can muster, I’ll share the answers to those questions and more. It’s perfect offseason fodder for any Tribe fan to enjoy as they follow along on the radio, Internet or just with us here at WFNY.

Let’s start off first with a quick table sharing some of the Indians top prospect rankings out there on the Web. Notably, several of my favorite writers/outlets — such as Tony Lastoria’s Indians Baseball Insider, Justin Lada at the Lake County Sentinel and John Sickels at Minor League Ball — are in the middle of or planning additional new updates in the next week or so.

That’s a bit unfortunate timing, but let’s just see what we have available for now:

Listing John Sickels Keith Law FanGraphs MLB.com
Date 12/14/2012 2/7/2013 3/1/2013 3/3/2013
1 Bauer Lindor Lindor Bauer
2 Lindor Bauer Bauer Lindor
3 Paulino Paulino Paulino Paulino
4 Brown Salazar Naquin Wolters
5 Naquin Ramirez L Rodriguez Barnes
6 Allen Naquin Brown R Rodriguez
7 R Rodriguez Brown Salazar Naquin
8 Wolters Lovegrove R Rodriguez Howard
9 Ramirez R Rodriguez Wolters Brown
10 L Rodriguez Wolters Allen Monsalve
11 Salazar Aguilar Washington
12 Barnes Ramirez Aguilar
13 Aguilar Lovegrove L Rodriguez
14 CC Lee Barnes Martinez
15 Lovegrove Santander Chen
16 Soto McGuinness
17 Araujo Sisco
18 Howard Lovegrove
19 Santander McClure
20 McGuinness Ramirez

 

Before getting into specific player statistics or anything else, here are just some quick notes on these rankings:

– Bauer and Lindor kept going back-and-forth at 1/2 in these four polls. That’s about consistent with what I’ve seen out there. Both project to potentially be All-Stars long-term, but should at least be consistent MLB players for a long term.

– The consensus next-best prospect after them too: Dorssys Paulino. Not many besides the prospect diehards have even heard of him entering 2013. I’ll share a bit more about him later, but you should start to get used to seeing that name.

– After Paulino, there’s then chaos everywhere. In fact: Of the 12 spots between 4-6 on these four different sites, there were 9 total different names mentioned. Clearly, there could have been as few as 3 and as many as 12. This just shows the divided opinions about the not-so-outstanding rest of the Indians prospect pool.

– Two prospects with some MLB tenure made the end of these lists: Scott Barnes and Cody Allen. Both are likely to play mostly in Cleveland in 2013, so they’re not true “prospects.” But both have some long-term upside, so it’s helpful to not forget about them either.

– Again, I think my previous point about drafts is again at least partially validated here: Recent high-profiled picks such as Dillon Howard, D’vone McClure and Jake Sisco don’t get very much love in these rankings.

 

Now, let’s transition outward to the national stage. Most of those sites above and others also have shared their top 100 (or more) prospect rankings, which all at least include the top two Indians prospects. Let’s take a quick look at four:

 

Listing MLB.com Keith Law B. America B. Prospectus
Date 1/29/2013 2/5/2013 2/19/2013 2/25/2013
Lindor 14 7 28 10
Bauer 17 25 14 24
Paulino xx 56 xx 96

 

Some very quick notes on these again:

– The biggest outlier, in my mind: Baseball America’s No. 28 ranking of Francisco Lindor. According to the same publication, he was No. 37 last season. So that’s actually an improvement there. But maybe overall, to a certain extent, Lindor’s rough second half of the 2012 season led to some rankings souring on his overall upside a wee bit. We’ll see. Most places still hold him in quite high regard, with MLB.com also adding a recent feature on his defensive prowess. He should be good and my favorite fact about Lindor: He’s still only 19. Yowzers.

– With Bauer, understandably, he’s dropped a wee bit this year. Last season, he was ranked No. 9 by both MLB.com and Baseball America. So last season, he would probably have been a consensus No. 1 over Lindor. But after his rough exit from Arizona, people are starting to wonder: Are his eccentricities too much of a distraction? I know I’ll be stunned the first time I see his pre-game and mid-inning routine. But the Indians are relaxed about his quirks and all fans and the organization should really care about are his results. He just needs to prove it now.

 

Now, as one final aggregate look, this is our latest table for today. It’s a post sharing the general consensus of all the prospect rankings currently out there — with relatively little subjective interpretation from myself, outside of tie-creating and tie-breaking:

Rk First Last POS Birthday ’12 Level
T-1 Francisco Lindor SS 11/14/1993 A
T-1 Trevor Bauer SP 1/17/1991 AA to MLB
3 Dorssys Paulino SS 11/21/1994 Rk/SS
4 Tyler Naquin CF 4/24/1991 SS
5 Mitch Brown SP 4/13/1994 Rk
T-6 Tony Wolters 2B/SS 6/9/1992 A+
T-6 Ronny Rodriguez 2B/SS 4/17/1992 A+
T-8 Luigi Rodriguez CF 11/13/1992 A
T-8 Danny Salazar SP 1/11/1990 A+/AA
10 Jose Ramirez 2B 9/17/1992 SS/A
HM Cody Allen RP 11/20/1988 A+ to MLB
HM Scott Barnes SP/RP 9/5/1987 AAA/MLB
HM Dillon Howard SP 7/1/1992 Rk
HM Kieran Lovegrove SP 7/28/1994 Rk
HM Jesus Aguilar 1B/DH 6/30/1990 A+/AA

 

And some final notes on these prospects you see above:

– I promised that I would talk a bit more about Paulino today, so I will. He’s only 18 years old, yet put up some absolutely monstrous numbers for the Indians’ rookie-level team in Arizona last season: .355/.404/.610 in 41 games, along with 14 doubles, 6 triples and 6 homers. Ben Badler at Baseball America (subscription required) wrote a great article about him last July and his sweet, sweet approach at the plate.

– My greatest concern about Tyler Naquin: His relatively low ceiling. He was decent for the Scrappers last season after the Tribe drafted him out of Texas A&M, but I’m still moderately bearish on his overall prospects. He’s a soon-to-be-22-year-old centerfielder with a good arm, good speed and good contact abilities. Will he hit consistently enough as he hopefully is fast-tracked in the next 12-18 months? Will he eventually showcase any of the power that the Indians brass said was projectable with his swing? For a No. 15 overall pick, there’s a bit lower upside here than one might normally expect. He’s the organization’s No. 4 prospect partially by default, in my mind.

– Four of these players are on the Indians’ 40-man roster: Bauer, Allen, Barnes and T-No. 8 prospect Danny Salazar. He was a surprise addition in November 2011, then rewarded the Tribe brass for their confidence in his long-term abilities with a strong 2012 season. He was 5-2 with a 2.36 ERA in 22 starts, striking out 76 against 27 walks in 87.2 IP. He pitched the last month or so with the Aeros, where he was especially impressive. He should remain in Double-A for the majority of Double-A with an outside shot of making it all the way to Cleveland by September.

– The biggest darkhorse in these rankings has to be statistical love-interest Jose Ramirez. Similar to Paulino, he was only peripherally on any prospect lists heading into 2012. But his numbers made scouts (and, mostly, statisticians) look a few extra times: .354/.403/.462 in 67 games with Lake County. He’s very undersized (a generous 5-foot-9), so the obvious comparison here is Houston’s Jose Altuve. If Ramirez can keep hitting, he’ll make some sort of long-term big-league impact.

– Finally, one of the more disappointing drops on this prospect list belongs to Jesus Aguilar. He wasn’t bad, per se, in 2012: .280/.372/.461 with 31 doubles and 15 homers in 127 combined games between Carolina and Akron. It’s just the fact that now, at age 23, and with very little value outside of his bat, the ceiling has been dramatically lowered. He’s hit “only” 38 homers in 253 games in the last two seasons. He was supposed to keep getting better with his power, but it’s not that great. He’ll have to prove much more in Double-A (and hopefully Triple-A) in 2013.

Photo: Jordan Bastian/MLB.com

  • maxfnmloans

    Jon- great work as usual. love your stuff.

    I too wonder why anybody (even teammates *cough* Miguel Montero *cough*) care about Bauer’s pre-game routine? Few fans are even there to see it, and if they are, why would they care? And as far as teammates, other than they guy whose palm gets bruised from being his catch partner, why would they care either? If the D-Backs interrupted Montero’s pre-game routine and made him go warm Bauer up, that’s one thing, but they weren’t doing that, were they?

    Of course, baseball players are a superstitious bunch, so maybe anything too off kilter freaks people out, I have no clue. But you are correct, so long as he pitches well, I could give a Fig Netwon what his warm up routine is like.

  • saggy

    that one guy was born the year i graduated high school. wow – my life is almost over…
    (great article, btw)

  • markn95

    I’ve heard Shapiro say more than once that the indians will not draft a player who isn’t on a starting pitcher or corner of the diamond player (2B/SS/CF) in the first 4 rounds of the Amateur Draft. This list certainly bears that strategy out. To some extent, it does make sense because it’s easier to move guys from the center of the field to the corners than vice versa, but at the same time, you’re really limiting yourself when it comes to run production. The guys on this list may very well be solid major league players some day, but I’d trade the Ronny Rodriguez’s, Tony Wolters’s, and yes, even the Francisco Lindor’s of the world for the Peters/Hart farm system of Belle, Thome, and Ramirez any day of the week.

  • Steve

    Chisenhall was never going to be an up the middle player, and they drafted him early. Unless you’re talking about where the guy played as an amateur. Then you’ll have a tough time finding anyone take somebody who didn’t play up the middle. If you project as even a below average 3B/LF, you’re probably the best athlete on your college team, and the best in the area at the HS level, so you’re playing short or CF.

    Looking at the 2012 draft, only one player taken in the top 30 was considered a corner position player. There were no 1B drafted until 47. You’ll get the run production from these guys as they mature and are on a year-round training plan.

  • MT88 in WI

    Just an FYI, the MLB prospect list used in the article is from 2012. Mayo updated the list for 2013 in early February. Lindor back at #1 & among other changes Jose Ramirez up to #9.