The Burning River Baseball Indians prospect rankings will begin later today as we look at the top 60 prospects in the Indians system. Since this is a complicated endeavor, I thought I’d give a little insight into my reasoning when ranking prospects so those reading them can get a little more meaning out of the list.
The term prospect is a loose one, but in order to make sure everyone is on the same page I’ve defined it as having no games of Major League experience. For this season, that knocks off players like Adam Plutko and Shawn Morimando that may be included on other prospect lists. While they are still qualified for rookie status in 2017, any fan who watched the Indians in 2016 should be aware of them. The purpose of a list like this is to inform fans who are aware of the Major League roster, but not the farm system which players will make up the team in the future.
That is the only rule that all those voting on this year’s rankings had to follow, but I have a few other things I’m looking at personally. When making a list such as this, you have to balance potential and likelihood. For example, last year Brady Aiken hadn’t thrown an inning as a professional, but was full of potential. At the same time, Ryan Merritt didn’t have as high of a ceiling, but was much closer to actually playing Major League Baseball. If you were to base solely on potential, Aiken would have been the Indians top pitching prospect, but if you were to base on likelihood of becoming a Major Leaguer, it would have been Merritt. I personally went with a combination of the two and came back with Mike Clevinger being the Indians top pitching prospect in 2015.
Because of this combination, I find I tend to rank low level, high ceiling players the highest followed by those most likely to break through to the Majors even without the ceiling. This makes me rank relief pitchers higher than most as they always have the highest chance of skipping levels and making a difference at the Major League level. For starting pitchers, I generally dismiss stats for those players I’ve seen and base value on their location, movement and speed. For hitters, stats are more important as defense should maintain at any level, but if you can’t hit in Lynchburg, there’s little reason to believe you will hit in Akron.
Like anyone else, I try to take as much information and factors into account as possible. Generally, the most important thing I consider is chance to just make it to the majors. Prospects who actually make it to the show are successes in most cases. Of course, potential impact once getting to the majors has to play a key role in any ranking, so both are nearly 50/50 for me. I evaluate each position and chance to stick individually.
Left handed pitchers, good middle infielders or at positions up the middle obviously are highly valuable. Age plays a big role as well. Depending on a player’s age relative to the level they have succeeded at at their current age makes a big difference. Ultimately, the chance to make it, make an impact and positional importance are my big evaluating points.