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IPI 2011 Top 50 Prospect Countdown: Preview

IPI 2011 Top 50 Prospect Countdown: Preview
January 20, 2011
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After back to back 90-plus loss seasons and a complete rebuilding project in place, these are some of the darkest days in the history of the Cleveland Indians franchise.

But hang in there Tribe fans, because there finally appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel and the organization may finally be on the upswing.

A lot of this has to do with some talent they have assembled that is already playing at the Major League level, but most of it has to do with them a lot of the talent on the cusp of joining those already in Cleveland.

The Indians have put together one of the strongest farm systems in all of baseball with the help of some very good drafts of late and an influx of upper level talent from veteran for prospect trades the past few years. Whether or not you agree with what players they have acquired in trades, selected in the draft, or signed internationally, the bottom line is that the system is as strong and deep as it has ever been.

There have been some recent positive developments at the big league level from the farm system with the likes of catcher Carlos Santana, lefty reliever Rafael Perez, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, right-handed starter Fausto Carmona, right-handed starter Carlos Carrasco, and others. Others like infielder Jason Donald, outfielder Michael Brantley, catcher Lou Marson, right-handed pitcher Josh Tomlin, and first baseman Matt LaPorta have shown flashes of being solid to good players, but need more time to what they can be. And yes, there have been some disappointments with the likes of outfielder Trevor Crowe, third baseman Andy Marte, left-handed pitcher Jeremy Sowers, left-hander David Huff, and others.

But that is the way things work with prospects. It is the cost of doing business as some live up to expectations and excel, but a majority fail to fall short of the hype.

That is where strength in numbers is so important and why banking on just a handful of players to "make it" can create a problem. The more options you have, the more times you can afford to miss.

Whether or not strength in numbers amounts to anything in the long run for the Indians is up to their Player Development Department to develop these players into options at the big league level. Time will tell.

There is no Carlos Santana who clearly resides above all and as the #1 prospect in the organization, but there are four or five prospects that have a legitimate case to be the #1 prospect in the organization this year. After those five, depending on who you talk to, there are as many as 25-30 guys who could round out the top ten.

That's the depth talking, and why this will be another important year to see the development of many players on the diamond. Last year the Indians for the most part had a very successful year in the minors with the development of their players and only had a few serious injuries to priority players. Hopefully they can repeat the success of last season, and if they do the big league team will be much better for it in 2011 and beyond.

While the organization may not have any player in the farm system at the moment considered a top flight All Star caliber prospect (most organizations only have one or two), a lot can change over the course of the season. Who considered Carlos Santana a top flight prospect going into 2008? Baseball America had him ranked as the Los Angeles Dodgers 25th best prospect going into that season, yet by the end of that season he was considered a no doubt star in the making and the #1 prospect in the Indians organization.

That is the beauty of the minor league season. Some players improve their stock, some see it plummet. What looks like depth at the start of the season is not by the end. What can be a weakness today becomes a strength tomorrow.

So while the Indians may not have a cr

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