Indians Farm System Continues Positive Trend
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Looking back at drafts from the early 2000’s it appears that the Cleveland Indians farm system had been more of a feeder program for Independent leagues instead of producing talent for a major league team.
While the system produced players key to the 2007 playoff team like C.C. Sabathia, Fausto Carmona/Roberto Hernandez (I don’t think they get credit for two players and I think they’d rather forget the real Fausto) Victor Martinez, etc.
The system got a huge boost from perhaps my favorite 2014 draft class, which featured a good mix of probability and upside and boosted a farm that had seen a number of top-10 prospects struggle the past season. – Keith Law
A lot other of draft pundits also felt that the Indians 2014 was indeed strong. Bradley Zimmer, who slashed .304/.401/.464 at Mahoning Valley in 45 games before joining Low-A Lake County for their playoff run, where he he hit two homers in three games.
They grabbed Justus Sheffield with the 31st overall pick. Some felt was un-signable but has high upside. Hopefully he stays out of trouble, after his off-season arrest.
Bobby Bradley won the Arizona Fall League triple crown (8 HR, 51 RBI .361 avg). Take complex league stats with a grain of salt, but Bradley is 18 with legitimate power.
The Indians overall system could have ranked a little higher with some better performances. Arguably one of their top pitching prospects, Cody Anderson struggled in his first full year in AA-Akron. Clint Frazier was slow out of the gate in the first half but got back to basics with his swing in the second half. He slashed .282/.367/.448 in the second half with nine homers and 31 RBI.
The Captains lineup looked unstoppable with Frazier, Zimmer and well-regarded 2014 comp pick, Papi, in the outfield. (Imagine that lineup someday)
Of course, top prospect Francisco Lindor, led the charge at number six, where he was in 2014. At some point this year, he’ll graduate from the Indians system, which will probably make it take a hit.
"True shortstops abound in the minor leagues right now, and while they won’t all hit in the majors or stay at the position, Lindor looks like the strongest bet to do both of those things, not just now but for the bulk of his major league career. Lindor can hit, run, work the count, field and throw, pretty much everything but hit for power, and he makes all of those things look very, very easy. – Keith Law"
Frazier, who was 45th on Law’s list last year, tumbled to 92. Law points out Frazier’s incredible bat speed as well as the Indians aggressive move to have him in the Midwest League last season.
"Frazier was young for low-A last year, so the stat line itself shouldn’t alarm Cleveland fans too much, but he needs to show he can make better adjustments at the plate and put himself into better situations to get a fastball he can murder. The power is there; it’s an evolutionary process to get to where he can use it in games. – Keith Law"
Bradley Zimmer, who ranked fourth on MLB.com’s Indians Top 20, is listed at 84 on Law’s rankings and the second Indian. Once Lindor hits the majors full time, Zimmer should easily be the Indians new top prospect.
After seeing him for three games in Lake County in 2014, that might be the only time northeast Ohioians will see him until he hits AA-Akron. He should be ticketed for High-A Lynchburg this year but could move quick.
"He projects as an above-average regular in center, with 20-plus homers, high walk and strikeout totals, and a few runs saved a year on defense. He’s perhaps two full years away from being ready for everyday duty. – Keith Law"
Overall, the 16th spot for the Indians is pretty fair, though I think the case to overtake 15th Kansas City is pretty strong. If Christian Colon is considered graduated from their system and Brandon Finnegan stays in the majors,. Kyle Zimmer (who was shut down in the Arizona Fall League again with arm problems) and Raul Mondesi Jr., who is a few years away as well, are their big chips.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few members of the Indians 2014 draft reach Law’s midseason or next season’s Top 100 after the Chicago Cubs graduate their glut at the top half.