IPI's Mid-Season Rankings: #1-7
Tony Lastoria produces the best Indians prospect rankings in baseball every year, providing some of the most essential information on Tribe prospects for any Cleveland Indians’ fan. In working with Tony over the years, one of the pieces that we are going to start developing here at Indians Prospect Insider is a mid-season prospect report, that will update Tony’s rankings mid-season, after the Major League First-Year player draft. To do this will be a massive undertaking from year-to-year, as Tony spends hundreds of hours compiling data and player development interviews to create his rankings.
While this is going to be a focus of the site next year around the all-star break for our premium customers, I was able to sit down with Tony this week and talk to him about some of the movers and the shakers in this year’s rankings. While this isn’t a straight up Tony Lastoria top 21, I’ve used our conversation, his pre-season rankings, Jeff Ellis and Tony’s outstanding draft coverage, player performance this season, and a sprinkle of my own bit of knowledge to compile a top 21 look at the prospects in the system here in mid-to-late July.
This ranking system varies slightly from Tony’s rankings, but do incorporate them fully, with other information and preference that I’ve input as well.
There are a couple of things to take into account with regards to my mid-year rankings:
- Players that are injured are taken into account, but I’ve downgraded them several slots from where I would normally rank them, especially if their injuries have severely affected their ability to play in 2012. For example, Chen Lee has made my rankings. If he were healthy, you would likely see him 5-10 slots higher. My weighted system was based on upside, past performance, and performance this year. Without that third component, I had to downgrade a few players.
- Some players are considered major leaguers now, and won’t show up in the rankings. For example, Zach McAllister would clearly be in my top 5-10 if he were still a prospect, and a couple of starts ago, he would have still made it. At this point, McAllister isn’t a prospect, he’s a bona-fide major leaguer. Cody Allen, on the other hand, has made only two appearances, and while he’ll likely never see the minors again, I will consider him a prospect until he spends a couple more weeks with the big league Tribe. YOU WILL see him in this ranking system.
It is likely that the Indians will be players in the trade deadline in some form or fashion, although the sweep by Baltimore will likely curtail any major deals. If a player in the rankings is dealt, I will alter them accordingly in a future report.
Part 3 of the rankings will be today, in which I’ll look at the Tribe’s #1-#7 prospects. #1 will be free, while #2-7 will be a premium feature. You can find the link to #8 here, and you can find the link to #9-#14 here. You can find the link to #15 here, and You can find the link to #16-#22 HERE. All links will be provided after the article.
Without further ado…here we go with #1...
#1: SS, Francisco Lindor: Lake County Captains:
This really wasn’t a surprise, was it? Lindor isn’t only the top prospect in the Indians organization, according to most sources, he’s the only Indians’ prospect in the top 100. Baseball America has him ranked #14. Keith Law has him ranked 35th. Several prospects ahead of Lindor have moved on to the bigs on each of these lists, so you can bet that he’s moving into the top 10-15 for everyone moving to next year.
There’s not a whole lot about Lindor that you all haven’t read before. There isn’t a part of his game that doesn’t project to the big league level. Lindor has a fantastic glove, and while he’s still learning the position, every scout and IPI beat writer that’s seen him play has raved about his ability to get to everything. On top of that, he has a fantastic arm. I talked to a scout in Carolina about him a few weeks ago, and he said the kid had a big arm…not the best in the system, but an arm that could project to third base or centerfield if the Indians would want to ever move him. I asked him if they would, and he laughed and said, “If they do, they better have a big time kid coming up at short.” When I mentioned Paulino, he said, “Not nearly in the same league.”
Lindor also has plus speed, as his 20 stolen bases would indicate. He’s still learning to perform at the major league level, and while he’s as polished a prospect as you can be at the age of 18, he’s still got raw base-running tools. There’s a natural-ness about him though, in the field, and on the basepaths that remind me of a young Ken Griffey Jr. As a matter of fact, there are a lot of similarities there, minus the position differences.
Lindor has gap power right now, and sneaky home run power. He’s got 20 doubles and three triples, and while he only has five home runs so far, he has projectable above-average power from both sides of the plate. He’s a better right-handed hitter right now, but as he improves from the left side of the plate, you’ll see a high average begin to show up.
I’ve read some comments on the site over the past few weeks questioning his play of late because he’s only hitting .267 right now. Let me remind everyone here that his line is a fairly respectable .267/.369/.384, and that his numbers have gotten a bit worse every month after a blistering April. Why I mention that is the fact that this kid is only 18-years old, and playing the longest season of his career. He’s a high school kid…essentially…and while we want all our prospects to hit .380 with 40 homers, that’s just not the way it works.
Jeter’s first year as an 18-year old had a line of .295/.376/.394. That 770 OPS is all of 30 points higher than Lindor’s, and he had five homers that year, and 18 stolen bases. They are similar players in size, stature, ability and the big thing here…make-up.
That’s where Lindor takes the next step. If you talk to this kid, he is everything that folks make him out to be…a star, without acting like it. He’s a leader, and every Lake County player that I’ve talked to has raved about his demeanor, both in the clubhouse and on the field.
He’s a special player folks…and it won’t take long to see him in the bigs. As a matter of fact, don’t be surprised to see a multi-level move next season…and Lindor in the bigs in 2014. He’s that ready.
Jim is currently the senior editor and Columnist, as well as the host of IBI's weekly online radio shows, Smoke Signals and Cleveland Sports Insiders. You can follow Jim on Twitter @Jim_IBI, or contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.