The recent drafting history of the Cleveland Indians hasn’t been good. Several people have written about the fact that since 2000, the only star player picked on the first round by the Tribe has been C.C. Sabathia.
A look at the current roster shows Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall among the everyday players originally picked by the Tribe, and the only pitchers of note drafted or originally signed by Cleveland are Cody Allen and Danny Salazar.
That’s one reason the Indians find it difficult to make trades during the off-season.
The way to get established players is the ability to deal major league ready talent for them. And right now, the Indians have precious few of them.
Currently, the two prizes of the farm system are SS Francisco Lindor and OF Clint Frazier, coincidentally, the first round draft picks in 2011 and 2013 respectively.
They are both considered in the top 20 prospects in all of the minor leagues, and with the lack of quality in the system; there isn’t any way that GM Chris Antonetti can use either of them as trade chips.
The other factor working against the Tribe is that none of their top prospects, save for Trevor Bauer, have played a game at the AAA level.
That means any team dealing for a top prospect from the Indians would have to wait awhile before seeing the fruits of the trade.
That’s a tough sell for a team dealing a quality player.
Where the Indians do have some depth is in bullpen arms, which normally aren’t going to fetch a quality major league player. They also have some middle infield depth though, and other teams could be interested in that.
According to Baseball Prospectus, five of the Tribe’s top 10 prospects are middle infielders. Besides Lindor, Cleveland could afford to deal one of these players: #6 prospect 2B Jose Ramirez, #7 SS Ronny Rodriguez, #8 Dorssys Paulino (although he may be moved to the outfield because of defense), and #9 2B Joe Wendle.
This publication rates the Cleveland farm system as thin in top flight talent, but loves the two guys at the top of the organization’s system.
The only pitchers listed in the top ten are RHP Cody Anderson, who was at Akron in 2013, and RHP Dace Kime, who was just drafted last summer.
In order to get a high-caliber player, let’s say David Price, you have to be able to give up a big name prospect. Do the Indians have that player because they aren’t dealing Lindor and/or Frazier, nor should they?
It is doubtful that Tampa Bay would deal the former Cy Young Award winner for #3 prospect OF Tyler Naquin (’12 first round choice) and say Rodriguez, who could be dealt because he is blocked by Lindor.
That’s why it is a huge priority for the organization to stock the farm system, and with two first round picks this June, assuming Ubaldo Jimenez signs elsewhere, there is a solid opportunity to do just that.
This isn’t to say it is impossible for Antonetti to pull off major trade, but it does make it more difficult.
Part of having a good farm system is not only being able to add young talent to the big league roster, but it also enables a team to make trades.
When the younger talent in the Cleveland organization gets closer to the majors, they will be in a better position.