Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein became the latest prospect guru to chime in on the Indians’ farm system this week when he released his 2012 Top 20 list for the Cleveland organization.
Topping the list—surprise, surprise—is shortstop Francisco Lindor, the Tribe’s first-round pick in the 2011 MLB amateur draft. Lindor, who Goldstein says is “loaded with tools.” is the sole Indians prospect to receive a five-star rating. In particular, Goldstein praises the 18-year-old’s “outstanding bat speed,” “impressive range,” and “off-the-charts makeup” and says Lindor has the potential to be an All-Star.
Lindor is followed by seven prospects to whom Goldstein gives three-stars. Dillon Howard, the Indians’ second-round pick in last year’s draft, comes in at No. 2, as he has on every list I’ve seen so far. Three shortstops—No. 3 Ronny Rodriguez, No. 5 Tony Wolters, and No. 7 Dorssys Paulino—fall under this category. They’re joined by pitchers Austin Adams (No. 4) and Nick Hagadone (No. 6) and outfielder Luigi Rodriguez (No. 8).
Three more prospects make Goldstein’s Top 11 list as two-star players: left-handed pitcher Scott Barnes, infielder Robel Garcia, and southpaw Elvis Araujo, in that order. They’re followed by nine more honorable mentions: shortstop Jorge Martinez, outfielder LeVon Washington, first baseman Jesus Aguilar, catcher Chun-Hsui Chen, and right-handed pitchers Jake Sisco, Zach McAllister, Felix Sterling, Chen Lee, and Zach Putnam.
Thanks to promotions, trades, and injuries, the Indians’ farm system looks a lot weaker now than it did a year ago, but even compared to Baseball America‘s and John Sickels‘ lists there’s a lot of turmoil here. Out of the 20 players Goldstein names, only five—Adams, Wolters, Hagadone, Washington, and Putnam—were on his list last year. Adams took the biggest leap forward, jumping from No. 15 to No. 4, while Washington fell furthest, from fifth last year to 17th now.
Goldstein is particularly bullish on Ronny Rodriguez, who he ranks third; he came in sixth on Sickels’ list and didn’t make Baseball America‘s. He also likes Austin Adams (fourth) far higher than BA (eighth) or Sickels (14th). And Paulino and Garcia don’t make either of the other two Top 10 lists.
Meanwhile, Goldstein sees some prospects more skeptically than BA and Sickels. Lee, who ranked fourth on BA‘s list and 12th on Sickels’, comes in 16th here. Luigi Rodriguez, who both other publications put fifth, comes in eighth. And Sisco, who came in fourth in Sickels’ rankings, falls to 12th here.
Overall, Goldstein said, “This is the youngest, riskiest, most volatile Top 11 I’ve ever done.” Later, he added, it 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.” In other words, there’s a tremendous amount of high-ceiling talent in the system, but it’s almost all unproven guys who are a ways away from the majors.