The Future of the Cleveland Indians

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Steve_424

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With COVID-19 impacting the sports world in unprecedented ways and the financial implications likely impacting teams like the Indians, the future may be here before we know it. Francisco Lindor may never play another game in an Indians uniform - same for Carlos Santana, maybe Brad Hand too. So let's look at the future of the team and the possibilities at each position.

Catcher

Roberto Perez is set to make $5.5 M in 2021 and $7 M in 2022 at age 32 and 33 respectively. The future here is Bo Naylor, while Yainer Diaz is a name to remember as well, especially if the Tribe decides Naylor's bat is too good to expose to the wear and tear of being an every day catcher. Neither are likely to be ready any earlier than 2022, so Perez makes for a perfect bridge.

First Base

The Indians hold a $17.5 M team option on Carlos Santana for 2021. I'd pick it up, or decline and work out a 2-3 years deal at a lower cost if he were interested. Either way though, he'll be 35 next year so a replacement will need to come sooner or later.

Bobby Bradley is a top internal option, although his defense still needs work and he needs to provide he can consistently hit big league pitching. Jake Bauers, who will only be 25 next season, is an option as well. It's also possible the Indians decide Nolan Jones is best-served at 1B long-term, although I don't expect that to happen, at least not yet. There are usually a few veteran free agents available every year at 1B, so the Tribe could go that route too.

Second Base/Shortstop

I pair these together because the Indians have quite a few options coming through the system in the middle infield that may fit at one or the other. If Nolan Jones become the future at 3B, 2B could become Jose Ramirez's through 2023. Tyler Freeman may be ready by 2021 or 2022, with Brayan Rocchio and Aaron Bracho a year or so behind him in big league readiness. Rocchio seems the best bet for SS defensively. Angel Martinez and Jose Tena are potential options further down the road while Ernie Clement and Yu Chang could be near-term answers. Cesar Hernandez's Indians career looks to be as long as Andrew Bogut's with the Cavs.

Third Base

This position is likely to be manned by Jose Ramirez or Nolan Jones, depending how the latter does defensively. Gabriel Rodriguez is a potential future option here or at SS as well, although he's a ways away.

Outfield

The Indians' outfield, of course, is short on sure-things but not due to a lack of options. Oscar Mercado will open next season at 26 years old and seems locked as a starter. Franmil Reyes will be 25 next season and will play either corner OF or DH. Jordan Luplow has established himself as at least part of a platoon. The Indians have an option for Domingo Santana as well. Greg Allen and Bradley Zimmer will both be 28, with the former looking like a 4th outfielder and the latter potentially entering 2021 two years from his last MLB action. Daniel Johnson will be 25 and maybe gets a real shot next year. George Valera has the highest ceiling in the system, although he is probably still a few years away. Will Benson is a potential option in a few years, while Jake Bauers could play a corner OF next year if he isn't at first.

Starting Pitcher

The Indians are loaded with youth and depth here, with only Mike Clevinger (signed through 2022) and Carlos Carrasco (through 2023) anywhere close to free agency. Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale, Zach Plesac, Jefry Rodriguez, Scott Moss, and Logan Allen are all in their mid-20's and locked in awhile. Adam Plutko will be 30 but could stick with the club. Daniel Espino, Ethan Hankins, and Triston McKenzie are the highest-ceiling arms in the system, with Espino/Hankins the further away but McKenzie closer also having long-term durability question marks attached to him. Sam Hentges is a big lefty with some upside. Carlos Vargas, Luis Oviedo, Lenny Torres, and Cody Morris are other long-term possibilities.

Bullpen

Brad Hand
is unlikely to be here long-term, with the Indians clearly starting to groom future back-end relievers in Emmanuel Clase and James Karinchak. Nick Wittgren seems to have a future role with this group as well. Other options could come from the list of starters above who get transitioned to a relief role (Rodriguez?), while Nick Sandlin is well-regarded in the system. Aside from the primary back-end guys, this group is hard to predict because of the type of mix of players the Indians usually use.

Manager

Tito will be 61 on Opening Day next year and has battled a few different health issues in recent years. He's also a baseball lifer who seems likely to only retire when he physically can't do it anymore. He's signed through 2022 and will likely be the Indians' manager as long as he wants to be. Who might be next should he retire?

Sandy Alomar Jr. has been on the Indians staff since 2009 and is adored by the organization and fans alike. He seems like the first name you'd hear internally. Or, of course, the Indians could look for an external hire, likely with focus on someone who can develop young talent.


What are your thoughts on the future of the club?
 

MadThinker88

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Steve - Interesting premise for a thread.

I see you listed Yainer Diaz as a possible future catcher but TBH he got little love among the various prospect listings (4 mentions across 35 sources). C Bryan Lavastida got more love among the rankings (10 mentions across same 35 sources) & is a level ahead of YDaiz (& half level behind Bo Naylor)..
 

Steve_424

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Steve - Interesting premise for a thread.

I see you listed Yainer Diaz as a possible future catcher but TBH he got little love among the various prospect listings (4 mentions across 35 sources). C Bryan Lavastida got more love among the rankings (10 mentions across same 35 sources) & is a level ahead of YDaiz (& half level behind Bo Naylor)..
I used MLB.com's top 30 as a reference


Is there a list somewhere that you're pulling from that kind of puts together a composite rankings? I'd be curious to see that.
 

MadThinker88

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I used MLB.com's top 30 as a reference
Is there a list somewhere that you're pulling from that kind of puts together a composite rankings? I'd be curious to see that.
That composite is something I work on every off season as I find various sites/ books/ magazines. Sadly some groups that produce something for 1 or 2 or more years might not put something out again (like John Sickels, I thought he did an outstanding job). Plus I try to tweak the various evaluations (what is top level, next level, basic level, fan submissions) to account for quality of work, disappearing sources and other items (fantasy slant or players arbitrarily not listed because they made their MLB debut (but still have rookie eligibility). You also have to deal with some lists going 5 or 10 deep while others go 20-25-30-50. There is also the issue of honorable mentions or other notables.

The Minor league thread has most of the various prospect lists that I located.

As for the composite file I am putting together, here is the framework for your reference. These sources are websites unless noted.

Main page: Avg the rankings from 8 sources: Baseball America (top 30 for Tribe system), Baseball Prospectus, The Athletic (Keith Law), ESPN (Kiley McDaniel), MLB Pipeline (MLB website) & 3 other averaged pages.

Other Page 1: averages the rankings from 8 other sources: IBI (Indians Baseball Insider), FanGraphs, Minor League Baseball Analyst (book), Prospect Digest Handbook (book), Prospect 361, FantraxHQ, Jeff Ellis (Scouting Baseball, 24/7 sports), Prospect 365. Resulting top 35 averages ranked 1 to 35 & put into main page (1-35) as another reference column to average with main sources.

Other Page 2: averages 17 other sources: Bleacher Report, Street & Smith's baseball (mag), Athlon Sports (Mag), RotoWorld (Mag), Roto Professor, Razz Ball, Roto Baller, Prospects Live, Prospects 1500, Pitcher List, Cleveland Indians Perspective, Burning River Baseball, Indians Prospective (twitter account), Last Word on Baseball, Cleveland Sports Talk, Prospect Lovers, Lets Go Tribe fan vote & honorable mention article. Resulting top 35 averages ranked 1 to 35 & put into main page (1-35) as another reference column to average with main sources.

Other page 3 (Fan Listings) averages 7 items: LGT McRose, LGT Ohio Tommy, LGT Del Gua, LGT Ambien Tribe, IBI Marty in NY, IBI Willie Hood, RCF AZ. Resulting top 40 averages ranked 1 to 40 & put into main page (1-40) as another reference column to average with main sources.

If you have questions about the methodology, message we so we can figure out way to discuss & explain..
 

Gson

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Great thread idea.. this is one that will be highly discussed, hashed and rehashed.. This is the lifeblood of the Cleveland Indians.. their future is always a part of what they do.. and how they do it..

Future comments to come.. starting with Catching.. historically.. as well as current talent.. at the MiLB level and elsewhere..
 

sportscoach

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I think Francona will finish his contract and continue coaching if we don't go through a complete rebuild.

I know this is slightly out of LF, but is it possible it could be Sarbaugh taking over for Francona if Alomar leaves?

The guy always won as a coach at every level though I never understood why there was no interest in him via other teams. Could someone clarify why he has never been mentioned as a manager anywhere?

Maybe @Derek, @BimboColesHair
 

Wham with the Right Hand

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We seem to have a window of opportunity based on having Clevinger under control for three more years, Carrasco for four, and all the other starters even longer. In the bullpen Clase and Karinchak are just getting started and we’ve got some promising young arms in the system. The pitching looks good both now and over the next few years.

As for the non-pitchers, that could be a problem. Lindor will be leaving soon and Carlos Santana is 34. Jake Bauers has been disappointing. Nobody is really tearing it up down on the farm, although Nolan Jones looks pretty good based on age/performance.

We don’t know if Luplow will ever hit right-handed pitching. I’m high on Reyes and Mercado going forward. We should be fine with an outfield of Reyes, Mercado, and Naquin/Luplow. But the loss of Lindor plus the possibility that Santana’s production will start declining in his mid-30’s with no ready replacement at either position puts a damper on the everyday lineup.

This year might be our best shot, before Lindor leaves and Santana declines too much. I’m extremely concerned that if this season is cancelled we would lose our best shot at getting back to the World Series.

The amount of success this franchise has in the future will be determined by two things. One, money. We’ve seen about $40 million cut from the payroll in last couple of years. Gomes, Kluber, and Bauer were traded. The lost revenue due to the pandemic may force ownership to move other top players before they normally would have to. Two, the development of the next generation; Civale, Plesac, Allen, McKenzie, Hankins, Bradley, Jones, Mercado, Reyes, Clase, Karinchak, Sandlin, Freeman and others. We need a few of them to become stars that can adequately replace guys like Lindor, Santana, Ramirez, Clevinger, Carrasco, and Hand when they are forced to leave due to age or the end of their affordable lifespan.
 

Steve_424

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We seem to have a window of opportunity based on having Clevinger under control for three more years, Carrasco for four, and all the other starters even longer. In the bullpen Clase and Karinchak are just getting started and we’ve got some promising young arms in the system. The pitching looks good both now and over the next few years.

As for the non-pitchers, that could be a problem. Lindor will be leaving soon and Carlos Santana is 34. Jake Bauers has been disappointing. Nobody is really tearing it up down on the farm, although Nolan Jones looks pretty good based on age/performance.

We don’t know if Luplow will ever hit right-handed pitching. I’m high on Reyes and Mercado going forward. We should be fine with an outfield of Reyes, Mercado, and Naquin/Luplow. But the loss of Lindor plus the possibility that Santana’s production will start declining in his mid-30’s with no ready replacement at either position puts a damper on the everyday lineup.

This year might be our best shot, before Lindor leaves and Santana declines too much. I’m extremely concerned that if this season is cancelled we would lose our best shot at getting back to the World Series.

The amount of success this franchise has in the future will be determined by two things. One, money. We’ve seen about $40 million cut from the payroll in last couple of years. Gomes, Kluber, and Bauer were traded. The lost revenue due to the pandemic may force ownership to move other top players before they normally would have to. Two, the development of the next generation; Civale, Plesac, Allen, McKenzie, Hankins, Bradley, Jones, Mercado, Reyes, Clase, Karinchak, Sandlin, Freeman and others. We need a few of them to become stars that can adequately replace guys like Lindor, Santana, Ramirez, Clevinger, Carrasco, and Hand when they are forced to leave due to age or the end of their affordable lifespan.
One silver lining I was thinking about yesterday:

Trading Bauer really works out in the end if there's no 2020 season. The Indians effectively traded 3 months of him for 4.5 years of Reyes and all of Logan Allen and Scott Moss' pre-arb years.

The Kluber deal doesn't look as bad either, getting all of Clase's pre-arb years for (maybe) 1 year of Kluber.
 

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That composite is something I work on every off season as I find various sites/ books/ magazines. Sadly some groups that produce something for 1 or 2 or more years might not put something out again (like John Sickels, I thought he did an outstanding job). Plus I try to tweak the various evaluations (what is top level, next level, basic level, fan submissions) to account for quality of work, disappearing sources and other items (fantasy slant or players arbitrarily not listed because they made their MLB debut (but still have rookie eligibility). You also have to deal with some lists going 5 or 10 deep while others go 20-25-30-50. There is also the issue of honorable mentions or other notables.

The Minor league thread has most of the various prospect lists that I located.

As for the composite file I am putting together, here is the framework for your reference. These sources are websites unless noted.

Main page: Avg the rankings from 8 sources: Baseball America (top 30 for Tribe system), Baseball Prospectus, The Athletic (Keith Law), ESPN (Kiley McDaniel), MLB Pipeline (MLB website) & 3 other averaged pages.

Other Page 1: averages the rankings from 8 other sources: IBI (Indians Baseball Insider), FanGraphs, Minor League Baseball Analyst (book), Prospect Digest Handbook (book), Prospect 361, FantraxHQ, Jeff Ellis (Scouting Baseball, 24/7 sports), Prospect 365. Resulting top 35 averages ranked 1 to 35 & put into main page (1-35) as another reference column to average with main sources.

Other Page 2: averages 17 other sources: Bleacher Report, Street & Smith's baseball (mag), Athlon Sports (Mag), RotoWorld (Mag), Roto Professor, Razz Ball, Roto Baller, Prospects Live, Prospects 1500, Pitcher List, Cleveland Indians Perspective, Burning River Baseball, Indians Prospective (twitter account), Last Word on Baseball, Cleveland Sports Talk, Prospect Lovers, Lets Go Tribe fan vote & honorable mention article. Resulting top 35 averages ranked 1 to 35 & put into main page (1-35) as another reference column to average with main sources.

Other page 3 (Fan Listings) averages 7 items: LGT McRose, LGT Ohio Tommy, LGT Del Gua, LGT Ambien Tribe, IBI Marty in NY, IBI Willie Hood, RCF AZ. Resulting top 40 averages ranked 1 to 40 & put into main page (1-40) as another reference column to average with main sources.

If you have questions about the methodology, message we so we can figure out way to discuss & explain..
Nice work.
FanGraphs belongs in the top group. Their lists are the best out there.
Indians list is yet to be published, but I asked Longenhagen in the Chat on Friday about the O/U 42 prospects and the answer was over. It'll be by far the deepest Indians preseason list. It's the one I look forward to the most every year.
 

MadThinker88

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Tondo - Thanks. I hear you about Fangraphs moving up & it might happen next year. This year I had 1 definite opening on the main page & I decided to go with Kiley McDaniel since he was now at ESPN.

The main page used to include John Sickels & Tony's work from IBI. IF either of those return, to the main page they go.

Any thoughts on what should move up from the Other page 2 to Other pg 1 to back fill (if either IBI or Fangraphs moves up to the main page). Being mindful of SSS I really try to keep at least 7 sources on a level..

Edit: I'm awaiting 3 more items (Fangraphs, LGT writeup review, Minor League Baseball Analyst book) so I can put the 2020 composite to bed and sending out excel file copies to those interested.
 
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sportscoach

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Tondo - Thanks. I hear you about Fangraphs moving up & it might happen next year. This year I had 1 definite opening on the main page & I decided to go with Kiley McDaniel since he was now at ESPN.

The main page used to include John Sickels & Tony's work from IBI. IF either of those return, to the main page they go.

Any thoughts on what should move up from the Other page 2 to Other pg 1 to back fill (if either IBI or Fangraphs moves up to the main page). Being mindful of SSS I really try to keep at least 7 sources on a level..

Edit: I'm awaiting 3 more items (Fangraphs, LGT writeup review, Minor League Baseball Analyst book) so I can put the 2020 composite to bed and sending out excel file copies to those interested.
We would love to see the list in the minor league thread. It would be very good debate material!
 

MadThinker88

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We would love to see the list in the minor league thread. It would be very good debate material!
Since its requested I will post the final composite rankings from the main page once its done.
But after posting other excel sheets I know posting more than that will be hard to follow/read.

EDIT: in the interim, I copied over the top 34 spots (with 6 of the 8 data points reports so far).
Formatting/ spacing is still an issue but at least its readable..
 
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since the indians' model stresses pitching and defense and the FO seems to know how to identify and develop young pitching, my biggest concern is replacing what lindor contributes on defense. while freeman *might* compensate for what lindor produces offensively, i suspect he'll end up at 2B the way jram did. i expect the FO to do their due diligence like they did for mercado - good player stuck in AAA behind a starter and look to trae for a defensive SS that way as well.

the indians place on emphasis on pitching framing for developing their catchers, but i'm curious to see what will happen if we go to robo-umps. i'd love to see zimmer start to hit and have his defense in CF, but mercado is a pretty good defensive CF. as for the other positions, 'superstar' corner players are sexy, but championship teams can let them walk like washington did and still win it all.
 

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