an epic survey in six parts
|1||The Starters by Ryan|
|2||The Infield by Jay|
|3||Wait. What? by Andrew (afh4)|
|4||The Prospects by Adam (APV)|
|5||The Outfield + Pronk by Ryan|
|6||The End by Jay|
This will be a little different than the first three installments, because prospects are a little different than major league players. My sense is that major league teams are much more consistent in how they evaluate major league players than they are minor league players. Guys in the majors have a longer track record of performance and inherently less risk since they are already at the major league level. Players in the minors, especially the further they are from the big leagues, have shorter performance records and much more risk of completely crapping out (indeed, for players in lower levels, a great likelihood of crapping out). Major league teams vary considerably, however, into how they balance scouting, performance, and projection of minor league players, and thus their value is more volatile. One team may value a player highly, another may be sure he'll bust out long before he reaches the bigs. As such, the value of prospects in trades is more difficult to ascertain. I'm going to make a few generalizations beforehand:
- Players closer to the majors (AAA and AA) generally have more trade value because the risk associated with them is much lower
- Among lower minor players, the valuation of players will be more variable, but except for those guys given the "blue-chip" label, most guys aren't going to have much trade value because of the gap between where they are at and the major league
- The Indians don't have any "blue-chip" prospects (this does not mean the Indians system is "bad"). Adam Miller used to be one and might still have blue-chip stuff, but injuries have removed that label. Chuck Lofgren was on the brink of blue-chip status two years ago, but his development has stalled out with control issues in Akron. Again, he's still young enough to turn it around, but his trade value is not what it probably once was (or could have been). Nick Weglarz might be a blue-chip prospect by the end of the season, but is too far-away right now. Beau Mills still has something of a blue-chip after-sheen lingering from last year's draft, but hasn't claimed that title yet in the minors.
- Minor league relievers don't have much value unless they are (a) close to the majors, and (b) really, really dominant
- Because of the reasons outlined above my list will be weighted towards guys in Buffalo andAkron and will be divided simply into guys with value and guys with marginal value. To put these into perspective, when we tradedColon to the Expos, Brandon Philips was a prospect with value (a real "blue-chipper"). Sizemore was a guy with marginal value who the Indians correctly (or luckily) identified as a guy with real potential value, but still quite far from the bigs.
Guys with Value
Professional Seasons (including current)/Current Level/Age: 4/AAA/24
- PRO – Garko's still under our control for awhile and a guy like Beau Mills, who is a likely 1B, has a higher projected ceiling
- PRO – coming off consecutive league-MVPs at Kinston andAkron, perhaps raising his value among certain evaluators
- CON – Brown could in some circumstances be a major league contributor this year given out lack of production at all the offensive corners
Professional Seasons/Current Level/Age: 8/MLB/25
- PRO – we've got a lot of almost good corner outfielders about the same age/status as Choo already
- PRO – Choo looks like he's best used as a strict platoon player
PRO – Trading Choo frees up a 25-man and 40-man roster spot
CON – Choo's value, coming off a serious injury, is probably at a low
Professional Seasons/Current Level/Age: 3/AA/23
- PRO – Hodges got off to a hot start and has a big school pedigree coming out of Georgia Tech
- CON – Casey Blake is our 3B, the organization has shown little confidence in Andy Marte, and we don't have a 3B prospect inBuffalo. This makes Hodges our closest to the bigs 3B in the minors.
Professional Seasons/Current Level/Age: 2/A+/21
- PRO – His professional track record is still short enough that his value is buoyed by his impressive college numbers and scouting evaluation, which projects him as a legit major-league power corner infield bat
- CON – Can't be traded till after the June draft under any circumstances
- CON – He's our best power prospect and one of only two in our system (along with Weglarz, see below)
Professional Seasons/Current Level/Age: 4/A+/20
- PRO – He's Canadian
- PRO – We might forever lose Andrew as a Tribe fan
- CON – We might forever lose Andrew as a Tribe fan
- CON – Weglarz value as a prospect is just beginning to develop and, with decent odds, will increase considerably over the next 1-2 seasons
Professional Seasons/Current Level/Age: 6/AAA/23
- PRO – We have the best starting pitching in the majors right now
- PRO – We have a lot of minor league starting pitching depth
- CON – We'll have at least two rotation spots to fill next year and Miller probably still remains a candidate for one of them (although the latest injury might put that in doubt). This CON will hold for every starting pitcher at the AA/AAA level.
- CON – Coming off and going into injuries, Miller's value probably is not equal to his pitching "stuff"
Professional Seasons/Current Level/Age: 3/AA/23
- PRO – How many soft-tossing lefties does one organization need?
- CON – He's our best close, but-not-yet in the majors starting pitcher right now as well as our likely 6th man next year (assuming Laffey and Sowers fill the spots vacated by CC and Byrd)
Professional Seasons/Current Level/Age: 5/AA/22
- PRO – Lofgren's young enough and has shown enough (maybe) flashes of good pitching this season to still have decent value
- CON – Lofgren's like the Cliff Lee of minor-league pitching prospects in the Indians system: fantastic stuff, a lot of early success followed by stagnation and control issues, the potential to still put it all together into something very good
Guys with Marginal Value
- PRO – his defense is probably good enough to be considered a viable major league backup catcher
- PRO – We've got Victor and Kelly for awhile if we want them
- CON – he's currently the Indians 3rd catcher with an uninspiring group of players below him in Akron and Kinston
- PRO – 4th or 5th outfielder candidate for some major league teams, but probably the 6th or 7th on the Indians
- CON – Value is very marginal...the kind of throw-in of little value to us that might end up finding success elsewhere (a la Ryan Ludwick)
- PRO – Having a good season and now close enough to the majors (AA) to start counting
- CON – lack of a definitive position makes his value questionable (although he could be viewed as another team's Casey Blake)
- PRO – rated pretty highly in most off-season prospect lists
- CON – we can't really afford to trade any middle-infielders in the high minors owing to our lack of them, even if their defense is as sub-par as Rodriguez
- CON – although he's been hitting better of late, his horrendous start to the season makes his current performance look bad still and might underestimate his value
- PRO – his selection in the Rule 5 shows he has some value
- CON – having a terrible, terrible season (after a decent start)
- CON – as with Mills and Weglarz, one of the skills Whitney has shown is power...something the Indians don't have much of in the system
- PRO – a weird cult of Trevor Crowe has existed in the past in terms of his evaluation as a prospect, suggesting he might have decent value to the right organization
- CON – what would Peter Gammons say?
- PRO – still a long way away from Cleveland and takes walks as often as I get a hair-cut (about once every 8 weeks)
- CON – another middle-infield guy, with the potential to show a plus bat at SS given his age/level
- PRO – another outfielder with a long list of guys sitting ahead of him
- CON – still very young and has shown some improvements this season, particular in plate-discipline...has a higher ceiling than current value
- PRO – minor league relievers...a dime a dozen
- CON – Why would we trade him not that he's finally getting ready to come back from injury
- PRO – While he's our 8th or 9th starter, he could be another team's 5th
- PRO – Given his age, his value will only go down with time at this point
- CON – We've already gone 7 deep with our starters this season, do we really want to trade the guy who might be next in line?
Reid Santos/Jeff Stevens/Mike Pontius:
- PRO – we've got a few of these guys and they're probably not all going to make it inCleveland
- CON – these guys have all shown some degree of sustained dominance in the bullpen and, like Lewis and Perez last year, could have more value inCleveland sooner than expected given their likely value in a trade
- CON – I don't know if such a thing as "future closer" exists, butCleveland doesn't have a clear "future closer" right now and one of these guys might turn into one
Jeanmar Gomez/Hector Rondon/Ryan Miller/Kelvin De La Cruz:
- PRO – the value of these guys depends entirely on how a team might evaluate their ceilings, but their combination of age/level/performance mean they might have some value to the right team
- CON – their distance from the majors (all below AA) mean that their value is unlikely to match their actual talent level
IN GENERAL: As I said at the beginning, the Indians don't really have any consensus "blue-chip" kind of guys, which means the value the Indians might receive in any prospects-for-big leaguer trades is probably quite limited. This might vary depending on the specific player and team involved. The trading-prospects-for-players approach is also a difficult one for the Indians to face, given the importance of internally developed or young acquired talent for the organization's success. That said, we do seem to accumulate a lot of depth kind of players at the AA/AAA level who could probably latch on as a 24th or 25th guy with another organization but don't have a spot in Cleveland. These guys, by definition, don't have much trade value. Furthermore, many of these guys actually have spent time in Cleveland over the last season and a half as our 24th or 25th man.
Among those players with value, the obvious temptation is to part with some of our starting pitching depth. Here, the injuries to Miller and poor performance of Lofgren over the last season and a half hurt us, as neither player has the value as a prospect they once did. I'd really hesitate to trade Huff right now, given his potential importance to us next season, but if value could be gotten in return, why not? I'm not sure if we'd really get much return for Brown. I think the Indians could part with one of either Weglarz or Mills, but certainly not both, and either would be painful to see go from an "exciting prospects" perspective.
BOTTOM LINE: I don't see the Indians using a prospect as the center-piece of any trade to help the big-league team right now. There are a number of players who could add value to a trade package built around one or two of the guys currently in Cleveland, but I don't see prospects, by themselves, bringing any solutions.