MLB.com just released their 100 top prospects of 2012 list and the Indians have exactly one prospect that made the list.
The name – Francisco Lindor, the shortstop that the Indians drafted in the first round of the 2011 draft.
I know that just because a prospect didn’t make this list, it doesn’t mean he couldn’t come out of left field (pun intended) and still be successful in the organization. What this does mean is that the Indians’ system doesn’t have a lot of high profile talent. Lindor will probably spend much of 2012 in the low minors, while other prospects like Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall will be in the Majors this year.
Even though the Indians traded Drew Pomeranz and Alex White, that’s still just two players. Why don’t they have more high-profile prospects, specifically in the high minors? The Indians were supposed to be making better selections in the draft over the past few years, (although to be fair, they have made much better selections over the past 3-4 years, than the 3-4 years before that).
Prior to the more recent batch of Kipnis-Chisenhall-Pomeranz-White, can you name the most recent star player that the Indians drafted and developed themselves? You have to go back pretty far – to CC Sabathia and the 1998 draft.
In some ways, the Indians should be complemented for their ability to trade for talent, and to sign talent via the international free agent market. When you look at the anticipated starters for this season, Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley, Shin-Soo Choo, Justin Masterson, Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, Ubaldo Jimenez, Lou Marson, Joe Smith and Chris Perez were all acquired via trade. Rafael Perez and Fausto Carmona/Roberto Hernandez Heredia were signed as international free agents, while Frank Herrmann was signed as an undrafted amateur free agent. For once the Indians will have a handful of players drafted and developed in their own system – Chisenhall, Kipnis, Josh Tomlin, Vinnie Pestano and Tony Sipp. Chisenhall was a first round pick, and Kipnis a second round selection; the others came much later – Tomlin, 19th round, Pestano, 20th round, and Sipp, 45th round.
The Indians have the same basic game plan as many other small and mid-market teams – develop your own talent for a much lower cost than signing people via the free agent market. Then, when those players become more expensive stars, flip them for prospects. This small/mid-market philosophy also relies upon smart drafts; you need to fill in the holes with players from your own system. Part of the reason behind the Tampa Bay Rays’ success are their strong drafts that produced players like David Price and Evan Longoria. They did get to select quite early in the draft for several years due to their won/loss record, but there are other teams that also picked early and don’t have as much to show for it (cough, Pittsburgh Pirates, cough). Tampa Bay is proof that you can have success in a small market on a small budget. Unfortunately, the other end of that equation is that you also have to make smart draft choices.