You may remember Jim Ingraham's column a couple weeks back ripping the Indians for not having the fundamentals necessary to win. Now he's back, criticizing the Indians for not developing enough power hitters. Yes, I'm serious. For those who don't know, Ingraham used to do the Baseball America organizational write-ups, so he at least should know a bit about how player development works. Here's a couple excerpts from the column:
In case you hadn't noticed, the assembly line has ground to a halt. It's one of the major reasons why the Indians have been forced to rebuild, and why, even though they have made nice progress in rebuilding, they still aren't officially, completely, and properly built.Ok, this makes sense. The major reason why the Indians had to do a "scorched earth" rebuild was because they didn't have the prospects to retool on the fly. And they still have some holes to fill on the big-league roster. The major holes look to be first base and right field, and although they do have some possible solutions (Ryan Garko, Franklin Gutierrez, Brad Snyder), Garko is probably the only one that could probably contribute right away.
What the Indians of 2005 lack most is what the Indians from the 1990 glory days never lacked: a home grown, impact, middle of the order, stop whatever you're doing, get up on your feet and watch him hit slugger.This is where I begin to lose him. What exactly is Travis Hafner, then? Hafner probably won't ever hit 50 home runs, but he's one of the better hitters in the American League right now (he only trails Jason Giambi in AL EQA). I don't understand why this middle of the order hitter has to be home grown, although the Indians did use two home grown players (Einar Diaz, Ryan Drese) to acquire him. No, Hafner doesn't have the home run power that Jim Thome had in his prime, but Pronk is just as valuable a run producer. That's what a cleanup hitter is supposed to do, right?
Which, in turn, helps explain the eight games this year in which the Indians' cleanup hitter has been utility infielder Jose Hernandez.Which hasn't happened since Victor Martinez (a "home grown" player) came out of his slump in July. And since another one of the Indians' "home grown" players, Jhonny Peralta, was moved up to third in the order.
Albert Belle made his major league debut with the Indians in 1989. That was the same year the Indians drafted Jim Thome and Brian Giles.Neither Thome nor Giles showed that much power in the minors. Of course now you can say that they were middle of the order prospects, but you definitely couldn't say that when they were still in the minors. Heck, look at what Grady Sizemore and Jhonny Peralta have done to see that power is usually the last thing to come for a hitting prospect.
Because the cupboard is bare. Still. While the Indians currently have a plethora of pitching prospects in their minor league system, there do not appear to be any budding Belles, Ramirezes, or Thomes anywhere in sight, much less ready to step in at the big league level and scare opposing pitchers.Well, developing three quasi-Hall of Famers in the span of five years isn't something that's easy to do. But the Indians have developed or traded for some pretty good young hitters in the past couple years. But I guess that's not enough for Ingraham.
In Baseball America's ranking of the top 10 prospects in the Indians' minor league system, six of the 10 are pitchers. The four hitters are first baseman Michael Aubrey (No. 2), outfielder Franklin Gutierrez (No. 3), outfielder Brad Snyder (No. 4), and catcher/first baseman Ryan Garko (No. 8).Which means the Indians are more pitching-heavy right now than in years past, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Heck, if they could have done this in the late 1990s, things might have turned out different. But in my mind the breakdown doesn't really matter as long as the team continues to produce major-league players.
Corey Smith, the Indians' top pick in 2000, WAS projected at one time to be a potential impact bat at the major league level. But he never came close to living up to his potential, and the Indians finally got tired of waiting and traded him to San Diego during spring training for a minor leaguer.This "minor leaguer" is Jake Gautreau, who's currently hitting .282/.334/.482 in Buffalo. I don't see him a as a future star, but he could make a career for himself as a left-handed utility infielder.
You need either a fully functional scouting and player development system, or a huge pile of money to go buy what you can't produce yourself. Right now, the Indians have neither.So the organization which in the past three years has either traded for or produced Grady Sizemore, Coco Crisp, Jhonny Peralta, Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez, Ben Broussard, Travis Hafner, among others, isn't a "fully functioning scouting and player development system?" There's legitimate critcisms you can levy against the Indians, but to say that they haven't had a good farm system isn't one of them. The results on the field should speak for themself, but apparently Ingraham hasn't been paying attention.