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MLB executives think highly of Indians prospect development system

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A recent poll of GMs, scouting directors and more revealed high praise for the Indians

MLB: SEP 19 Tigers at Indians Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Of course, we at Let’s Go Tribe think the Indians have a killer crop of minor league talent, but that’s because we’re subjected to a month-long celebration of our prospects to begin each year, plus daily updates on the Tribe system during the regular season.

The real question is, what do other teams think of the Indians prospect development?

MLBPipeline recently polled general managers, scouting directors and executives from all 30 teams, and the results were extremely interesting, especially when it came to the Indians.

Here are all the questions that had the Indians as one of the top polling answers

Which team plays the international market better than any other?

1. Yankees (29%)
2. Nationals (25%)
T3. Indians (8%)

Loading up with elite international talent like George Valera, Aaron Bracho, Brayan Rocchio. Luis Oviedo, Carlos Vergas and Gabriel Rodriguez, among others, has definitely earned the Indians some praise. They also have current internationally-developed stars like José Ramírez on the MLB roster.

Which team has the most underrated farm system?

T1. D-backs (13%)
T1. Royals (13%)
T1. Rangers (13%)
T4. Indians (8%)

Most farm system rankings have the Indians just outside the top 10 right now, but I have a feeling that is about to change in a big way in 2020 as many of the top teenage talents begin to blossom. The Indians have the youngest top 30 on MLBPipeline by a significant margin.

Which team hordes prospects the most?

1. Padres (30%)
2. Indians (17%)

I’m not sure if I 100% agree with this one, but then again, I don’t negotiate trades with the Indians behind the scenes. The Indians dealt their No. 1 prospect Francisco Mejia in 2018, plus they dealt a pair of top five prospect in Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield in 2016, so it’s not like they’ve been completely unwilling to send some prospects packing.

Which team best develops pitchers?

1. Indians (33%)

This should come as no surprise. Corey Kluber wasn’t even on the Padres’ top 30 prospects when the Indians traded for him and three years later he was a Cy Young winner. Mike Clevinger was ranked behind Eric Stamets, barely top 20 in the Angels system when the Indians acquired him in 2014. Shane Bieber went from 4th round pick to All-Star MVP with Cy Young votes and incoming talent like Aaron Civale, Jefry Rodriguez, Zach Plesac and more continue to flood the system.

The executives also were polled on specific players in MiLB, so here are every instance where a Tribe prospect was mentioned, even if they weren’t a top choice.

Which prospect has the best hit tool?

1. Wander Franco, SS, Rays (44%)
2. Andrew Vaughn, 1B, White Sox (19%)
T3. Alex Kirilloff, OF, Twins (11%)
T3. Nick Madrigal, 2B, White Sox (11%)

Also received votes: Tyler Freeman, SS, Indians

Props to Tyler Freeman, who won the 2018 New York Penn League batting title by over 20 points in what is supposed to be a pitcher-friendly league. The talented shortstop also impressed in his first taste of full-season ball in 2019, earning a mid-season promotion to Lynchburg. Freeman was recently voted the No. 2 prospect in the Indians system by LGT readers.

Which prospect has the best secondary pitch?

1. Casey Mize, RHP, Tigers (33%)
2. Jesus Luzardo, LHP, A’s (24%)

Also received votes: James Karinchak, RHP, Indians

Karinchak spent his 2019 season at three different levels of the minor leagues and his absolute worst strikeout per nine innings average at any level was 21.60. You’re damn right he has a killer curveball to go along with his 70-grade fastball.

Which pitching prospect is the best future closer?

1. Michael Kopech, RHP, White Sox (17%)
2. Nate Pearson, RHP, Blue Jays (13%)
T3. Dustin May, RHP, Dodgers (9%)
T3. Forrest Whitley, RHP, Astros (9%)
T3. Sixto Sanchez, RHP, Marlins (9%)

Also received votes: James Karinchak, RHP, Indians

What impressed me the most about Karinchak receiving votes for being a future closer is the fact that every other prospect listed is currently a starting pitcher with filthy stuff. Karinchak has never been anything but a reliever in the Indians system, so to earn praise alongside these top arms speaks volumes.

Who is the best amateur prospect you’ve ever seen?

1. Bryce Harper, OF, Phillies (23%)
2. Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Nationals (15%)
3. Adley Rutschman, C, Orioles (8%)

Also received votes: Brady Aiken, LHP, Indians

I included this last one because I just needed an extra reason to cry today. The Indians have caught flack for spending their first round pick on Aiken in 2015, but many forget just how good Aiken was coming out of high school as the former No. 1 overall pick by the Astros in 2014. Aiken recently took time away from baseball, and has yet to pitch above Single-A Lake County in the Tribe system. Here’s hoping he finds what he’s looking for.