Prospect Projections Are Fun, Not Fact

By: T.J. Zuppe

Indians Prospect Lonnie Chisenhall

Every year, one of the most popular baseball publications dives into the minor leagues of every organization. They take the time to rank, project and list the top rated prospects in major league baseball. This year was no different, as last week Baseball America took their annual look at every team, including the Cleveland Indians.

This year’s list included the likes of third-baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, right-handed pitcher Alex White, infielder Jason Kipnis, left-handed pitcher Drew Pomeranz and outfield Nick Weglarz rounding out the top five.

Also mentioned were right-handed pitcher Jason Knapp and left-handed pitcher Nick Hagadone.

The publication went on to give high praise to several Indians youngsters, giving hope to the future of an organization hoping to compete based on trades and better draft picks. After all, they had pegged future stars such as pitcher C.C. Sabathia, outfielder Grady Sizemore and future-star hopeful, catcher Carlos Santana as top prospects.

However, also mixed with the hits are the disappointments to accompany them.

Those include pitcher Adam Miller, who has been battling injury his entire minor-league career, and third-baseman Corey Smith, a former first-round selection, currently battling to stay in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.

What this shows is the great unknown of the minor-leagues. No matter just how “cannot miss” a prospect is, the truth remains that there are no guarantees in the youth of any team.

However, the projections Baseball America provides are great fodder for fans and media. It becomes a fun way to put expectations on prospects, that many fans have never seen play.

This also ties to its famous line-up projections of years to come.

This year’s focus is on the year 2014. Yet, if we travel back to the off-season following the Indians’ trip to the American League Championship Series against the Red Sox, we find the projections for the 2011 season, the campaign we are approaching next year.

Here was the 2011 outlook, courtesy of Baseball America (And where they are at now):

Catcher – Victor Martinez – Dealt to the Boston Red Sox – Currently a highly sought-after free agent

First Base – Ryan Garko – Traded to the San Francisco Giants – Saw little time in majors last year with the Texas Rangers

Second Base – Asdrubal Cabrera – Has now moved to shortstop and looks like he will be there for years to come

Shortstop – Jhonny Peralta – Traded away to the Detroit Tigers – Re-signed with Tigers in off-season and moved back to SS.

Third Base – Beau Mills – Former first-rounder hit .241 at Class-AA Akron in 2010, his second year at that level.

Left Field – Nick Weglarz – Spent time between Class-AA Akron and Class-AAA Columbus. Hit a combined .285.

Center Field – Grady Sizemore – Battling back from yet another injury. Has been very disappointing in last two seasons.

Right Field – Franklin Gutierrez – Just won a gold glove playing center-field for the Seattle Mariners in 2010.

Designated Hitter – Travis Hafner – Owner of one of the worst contracts in baseball. Has never been the same since inking deal.

Ace Starter – C.C. Sabathia – Sent to Milwaukee, then signed in New York – Former Cy Young’er now tops the Yankee rotation.

Starter – Fausto Carmona – Struggled in ’08 and ’09 but came back to pitch well in 2010. Currently the Indians ace.

Starter – Adam Miller – Trying to work his way back from several injuries, has never made it to major leagues as of yet.

Starter – Chuck Lofgren – Now in the Brewers’ organization – Had a 5.19 ERA at Class-AAA last season.

Starter – Aaron Laffey – Starter or reliever? Cleveland or Columbus? No one can seem to answer those questions.

Closer – Rafael Perez – At one time a dominant left-handed reliever, now mediocre at best – closed out 2010 better

This is proof of what these glimpses of the future are.

This is simply a way to guess who will have large impacts on their current organizations in the near future.

But certainly, anyone who takes these as fact will be surely disappointed or quite possibly pleasantly surprised. What makes for the great unknown, also provides us with the spark that makes this so much fun.

Follow T.J. Zuppe on Twitter @TJZuppe


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