Here’s a look at where the Indians rank, who’s highest on the list and where the other teams in the AL Central stand, per Law, Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America.
Top-100 (or 101)
Only two Indians—shortstop Francisco Lindor and outfielder Clint Frazier—made Law’s top-100 and BP’s top-101. Both cracked the top-45 on each list and had glowing profiles, which signifies some star power in the system but also little depth after them, as has been the case for some time.
Lindor was ranked No. 6 in all of baseball by both Law and BP at an absolutely loaded position this year (he’s sixth overall but the fourth shortstop on both lists).
Both services cited his growing BB:K rate (14-7 in Akron last year) and, of course, his stellar glove. Law said he’s not sure what remains for Lindor to learn before he’s “ready to take over the position in Cleveland.” Baseball Prospectus ended their assessment of Lindor, which focused on his defense and ability to spray hits to all fields, like this: “… there is one word to describe what lies in the near future: stardom.”
Baseball America projects Lindor to begin the season at Double-A Akron, though he may not be there for too long. The signs are pointing to Lindor being ready for Cleveland in 2015, if not September of this year.
Frazier came in No. 45 on Law’s list and was No. 36 according to BP. Law said that Frazier “probably has the best bat speed of any player in organized baseball,” and pointed to his power projections despite a smaller frame (6-foot-1, 190 pounds). Law also noted that this most likely would push Frazier to left field in the majors. Frazier’s main developmental need, per Law, is recognizing off-speed pitches and being able to hit pitchers who can command breaking balls at a high rate. Law gave Frazier a low floor and All-Star ceiling.
BP called Frazier’s swing “beautifully violent,” saying he could move into the top-10 in future prospect rankings. Unlike Law, they currently project Frazier in center field. And here’s how they ended his profile: “Frazier has the makings of a star-level up-the-middle-player, the type of center fielder who will help Indians fans forget what a healthy Grady Sizemore might have been.”
Per Baseball America, Frazier should start the year at Lake County.
Those two names were enough to carry the Indians to a No. 17 ranking in law’s farm system rankings. In this, he noted the how the loss of Danny Salazar from “prospect status” and the struggles of Trevor Bauer might have dropped the Tribe from a higher ranking.
If you’re paying attention to the Indians’ farm system, Lindor, Frazier and even Bauer need to all be home runs. After those three, Baseball America has outfielder Tyler Naquin and pitcher Cody Anderson rounding out the Indians’ top-5. Lindor, Naquin and Anderson are all expected to star the year in Akron.
Where the Indians have some capital is up the middle. After Lindor, their gold star, they still control Dorssys Paulino, Ronny Rodriguez and Joe Ramirez, all of whom have at experience at shortstop or both SS and second base and all of whom are ranked in the top-10 in the system.
A look around the AL Central
If you’re looking at prospects around the division, the biggest truth is this: the Twins are really bad right now, but starting in 2015 and beyond could be really good.
The Twins ranked second in Law’s farm system rankings, behind only the Houston Astros. That’s in large part due to five-tool outfielder Byron Buxton, the top prospect in baseball according to Law and BP.
Baseball America uses a 20-80 ranking system for each “tool,” with a 50 representing the major league average. Four tools for Buxton are listed as 75s or 80s, with only power (65) not being at an elite level. Baseball Prospectus called Buxton the “premier talent in the minor leagues” with as high of a ceiling as anyone. Essentially, at this moment, he’s projected to be a better Sizemore (when he was in his prime, not the lost years). Like Lindor, Buxton is on track to open the year in Double-A and possibly start in the majors in 2015.
Law notes the Twins have two future MVP candidates. After Buxton, there’s third baseman Miguel Sano, who ranks No. 8 on Law’s list and No. 14 on BP’s. Law called Sano the “best pure offensive prospect in the minors.” Thirty-five home-run seasons are in the future.
Sano is projected to open the year in 2015 long with Buxton, meaning the 2015 Twins might end up looking nothing like the 2014 version.
Also making Law’s list for the Twins:
Utility-man Eddie Rosario (No. 49)
Right-handed pitcher Alex Meyer (No. 62)
Right-handed pitcher Kohl Stewart (No. 76)
The Royals have seen their first wave of prospects already hit the majors still but ranked No. 7. Their ranking is built on three arms, led by future ace and No. 10 overall prospect Kyle Zimmer. Zimmer is the second pitcher on Law’s board, with a fastball sitting between 93-97 mph and two plus pitches, a curveball and mid-80s changeup, along with a below average slider. Says Law, “He’s the future ace the Royals have been trying to develop since they traded Zack Greinke.”
Zimmer ended the season with a bit of shoulder tendinitis, so the Royals are being careful with him. But he could move through Double-A and even Triple-A fairly quickly if healthy.
Also making it for the Royals:
Shortstop Raul Mondesi (No. 22)
Right-handed pitcher Yordano Ventura (No. 50)
Right-handed pitcher Miguel Almonte (No. 81)
There’s some definite disagreement between Law and Baseball Prospectus, which has Ventura ranked No. 12 overall and Mondesi No. 29, both ahead of Zimmer, who sits at No. 34. BP projects Zimmer as only a “Solid No. 3 with No. 2 upside.”
Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus listed Ventura as his early pick to be this year’s AL Rookie of the Year. Ventura can often hit 97 and has touched 99 before, and throws a power curveball in the low 80s and an average-at-best changeup. He could end up as a frontline starter or a dominant bullpen arm.
In the AL Central, there seems to be three tiers of farm systems: the Twins and Royals at the top, the Indians in the middle and the White Sox and Tigers at the bottom.
Chicago is No. 27 on Law’s farm system rankings, though it would admittedly be higher if he had counted Cuban product Jose Abreu, who the Sox signed to a six-year, $68 million contract this offseason. Baseball America, which did count him, has the first base slugger at the top of the Sox’ system.
On Law’s list, the Sox have nobody in the top-50. Right-hander Erik Johnson is No. 59, third baseman Matt Davidson is No. 88 and shortstop Tim Anderson is No. 98. So you can see Law’s point: after Abreu, it’s a bleak system, even if he does fit the mold of a Frank Thomas-like slugger in Chicago.
Even without Abreu, the Sox still come in ahead of No. 28 Detroit, which got only one player on Law’s list: third baseman/outfielder Nick Castellanos, at No. 32.
Castellanos is known for his bat, and can now move from the outfield back to third base following the trade of Prince Fielder and the coming move of Miguel Cabrera across the diamond. He’s been one of triple-A’s better and youngest hitters and has a chance to take over the Tigers’ third-base job right out of spring training this year.
But after him, there’s little help on the way.