2012 Organizational Rankings: #21 – Cleveland

Dave Cameron laid out the methodology behind the rankings last Friday. Remember that the grading scale for each category is 20-80, with 50 representing league average.

2012 Organizational Rankings

#30 – Baltimore
#29 – Houston
#28 – Oakland
#27 – Pittsburgh
#26 – San Diego
#25 – Minnesota
#24 – Chicago White Sox
#23 – Seattle
#22 – Kansas City

Cleveland’s 2011 Ranking: #26

2012 Outlook: 47 (18th)
Once upon a time, in the mid-2000s, the Indians were brimming with young talent and very valuable major league pieces in C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez, Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner. They peaked in 2007, with a 96-66 record, and an AL Central crown. Since then, a combination of untimely injuries, poor drafting, and a lack of acquired talent — especially through trading Sabathia and Lee — has kept the Indians below the .500 mark.

While the Indians may win more than 81 games in 2012, the oddly constructed roster is unlikely to contend for a playoff berth. Scoring a 47 on the 20-80 scale is appropriate, as they are a middle of the pack team that would need a lot to break right to challenge for one of the Wild Card spots. Crazier things have happened, but when Shelley Duncan projects to log 400+ PAs for your team, the odds aren’t ever in your favor.

Of the aforementioned quintet, only Hafner can be counted on to contribute in 2012, and he’ll be helped in the lineup by Carlos Santana, Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo. Those three players ranked highly at their respective positions in our Positional Rankings, while the Indians were below average at every other spot on the diamond.

The rest of the lineup is suspect, with league average performers lacking upside in Casey Kotchman and Jack Hannahan, and a revolving door of mediocre outfield talent in Aaron Cunningham, Michael Brantley, Fred Lewis and Duncan.

Assigning Lonnie Chisenhall and Matt LaPorta to Triple A also means more playing time for Jason Donald, which doesn’t really stand to benefit the team. It also leaves Jason Kipnis as the only highly touted prospect in the starting lineup.

The pitching staff is certainly a bright spot, as the rotation may lack superstars like the Phillies and Angels, but makes up for it with depth and overall good pitchers. Led by Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson, the rotation also features Derek Lowe and Kevin Slowey – acquired through offseason trades – and Fausto Carmona (Roberto Hernandez). Former Yankees prospect Zach McAllister is expected to contribute as well. They might not be the fifth best rotation in baseball – as ZiPS identified them in our positional rankings – but the rotation is very good and very deep.

The Indians certainly have some very solid pieces on the big league roster this year, but opting to re-sign Sizemore and bring in Kotchman – injury prone and/or lacking upside – instead of pursuing Carlos Beltran and Carlos Pena for the respective positions hurts their chances of taking another step forward. Opting to go with Kotchman and Sizemore made sense since both deals represented minimal commitments, but there were better players out there for similar deals.

2013+ Outlook: 45 (23rd)
Through a combination of poor drafting, acquiring Jimenez, and not bringing back close to commensurate value for Sabathia and Lee, the Indians have one of the worst farm systems in baseball. Marc Hulet remarked that he had some difficulty in ranking the system, as there was a ton of turnover from last year to this season. In fact, Nick Hagadone is the only prospect on last year’s rankings that remained on his 2012 rankings.

Overall, the farm system ranked 28th out of the 30 teams, but fared a bit better in the overall 2013+ view since players like Santana, Chisenhall and Kipnis are considered to have “graduated” from the farm. The Indians have several young players under control – or under affordable contracts – for the next few years, but there doesn’t seem to be much impact talent knocking on the door.

The strength of their system is pitching depth, but the system lacks true front-line potential, and is short on everything else. Catching might qualify as a strength, as Chun Chen is an offensive-minded catcher with an underrated bat, who should play decent enough defense to stick behind the plate. The problem is that Santana occupies the position and adds much more value there than at first base.

Along those lines, the Indians have a number of players who could play several different positions, and it becomes tough to evaluate the team’s future without knowing who plays where. Otherwise, it’s impossible to determine if the team will extract the most value out of its players. Where certain guys end up will obviously also shape their free agent and trade efforts.

Given their typical payroll figures over the last few years and contractual commitments moving forward, the Indians should have some money to spend in free agency. And they will have to, as those anywhere near being considered impact prospects are a ways away from contributing at the major league level.

Of their top ten prospects, over half have less than three years of professional experience, and another half of those players are pitchers, which is really their only area without a need. The Indians might be able to flirt with a winning record this and next year, but without upgrades in drafting and developing, it’s going to be tough to succeed moving forward with their general operating style.

Financial Resources: 38 (26th)
Drafting and developing are key ingredients for the Indians’ success, as they tend to spend below the league average in payroll and don’t bring in a great deal of revenue. Forbes has them as the 26th most valuable franchise – or in other words, the fifth least valuable franchise – at $410 million. While their value has increased by 16 percent from a year ago, the end result is more like improving from a D+ to a C-, which isn’t particularly significant.

The Indians haven’t been very popular in terms of attendance, which has obviously led to the lower revenue figure. People tend to care less when the on-field product is mediocre. The Indians finished 24th in average attendance per game last season, and dead last in 2010. There’s also the matter that there are less people living in Cleveland these days to even attend the games. According to the most recent U.S. Census, Cleveland is the 28th largest metropolitan area in the United States, but one of only three in the top thirty that saw a population decrease between 2000 and 2010.

They have some room to spend, especially moving forward, as money is freed up when Hafner, Lowe and Sizemore come off the books. However, given their lower revenue stream, they would be severely hampered if free agent acquisitions or those signed to lucrative deals spent ample time on the disabled list (cough, Sizemore and Hafner, cough). The Indians brought in approximately $178 million in revenue and spent right around $50 million on payroll last year. With a projected payroll in the $50-$56 million range this year, they figure to sport the same ratio of payroll-to-revenue this year.

How they reallocate the “freed up” money next year remains to be seen, but it will likely be the first real test of fiscal responsibility for Chris Antonetti and his front office. They will be able to invest money without regard for Mark Shapiro’s signings and will have the flexibility to build their team. Speaking of Antonetti and his crew…

Baseball Operations: 55 (7th)
The Indians fared very well in the baseball operations department, but the lack of recent results once again raises the question of how exactly to evaluate front offices. Are the recent drafting struggles indicative of a flawed system in Antonetti’s front office? Or have they simply had a string of poor luck with players not panning out? On the other hand, can we even really gauge how well Antonetti has done if he hasn’t had the chance to build his team?

Realistically, Antonetti inherited a mediocre squad– albeit one with some decent building blocks — with a poor farm system and limited financial flexibility given the moves of his predecessor. However, the Indians are a very progressive team, and are considered pioneers in the realm of software development fusing scouting and analytic information. Antonetti was also considered the Strasburg of GM prospects before he took over the reins and is widely regarded as a brilliant baseball mind.

Ranking the Indians seventh in this area has more to do with what the front office is expected to do moving forward than how the team will perform this year, and that is perfectly acceptable. However, one might think that the top ten spots are reserved for those with solid track records. Antonetti’s front office doesn’t have much of a track record yet, and while he return the Indians to relevance, it’s simply too early to get a firm grasp on the effectiveness of this front baseball operations department.

Overall: 45 (21st)
The Indians are a 76-82 win team this season with a better chance at falling below that range than above. They have a very good starting rotation and a solid bullpen to boot, but the major and minor league teams have too many question marks to have confidence in their ability to contend now and into the future. An upper echelon front office can help turn that around, but the Indians have a lot of work to do before seriously competing for another division title anytime soon.



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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.


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TomahawkChopper
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TomahawkChopper
4 years 3 months ago

So 8 out of the 10 bottom teams (including Houston) are in the AL?

L.UZR
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L.UZR
4 years 3 months ago

I counted 5 times and came up with the same.

Dekker
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Dekker
4 years 3 months ago

It’s not too shocking the AL is top heavy and bottom heavy, while the NL is more average.

Ed
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Ed
4 years 3 months ago

And I expect to see all seven of the remaining AL teams in the Top Ten. Talk about disparity. The only interesting part will be watching to see which five will make the playoffs and which two will be left out.

Kevin
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Kevin
4 years 3 months ago

Blue Jays in the top 10?

Ryan Bones
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Ryan Bones
4 years 3 months ago

Considering that Financial resources (Rogers is one of the wealthiest owners) and 2013+ outlook are considered, the Jays are easily top 10

Aaron (UK)
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Aaron (UK)
4 years 3 months ago

10 of the next 10 might well be NL.

dannyrangers32
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dannyrangers32
4 years 3 months ago

no, the mets and the cubs are still out there. rockies and dodgers probably in the middle pack too.

dannyrangers32
Member
dannyrangers32
4 years 3 months ago

the AL has all the powerhouses but the national league is more balanced. With the Phillies recent injuries, there really isnt any clear “best” team and realistically the phillis, braves, marlins, nationals, cardinals, brewers, reds, giants and dbacks could ALL have the best record in the NL. And, except for the mets, astros and pirates, the rest, (padres, rockies, dodgers, cubs) are all potentially .500 teams. obviously the dodgers and rockies are the best of that group, but it could go any way.

Jordan
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Jordan
4 years 3 months ago

Seriously people, please stop making this point. Extrapolating from the fact that many AL teams appear in the bottom third of the rankings to the conclusion that the NL is the superior league, or that these rankings are flawed, is an exercise in failed reasoning.

A team’s ranking is heavily influenced by their 2012 and 2013+ outlooks, which are in turn heavily influenced by its division. A true talent 81 win team has microscopic post-season odds if they play in the AL East, but would fare rather better if it played in the NL West. If anything, the fact that so many AL teams with some real MLB talent rank so low on this list is an indication that the AL is, at least at the top, extremely strong. The fact that weak teams in the NL rank above stronger teams in the AL is further evidence of this claim.

Josh
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Josh
4 years 3 months ago

The Indians actually did make runs at both Beltran and Pena -matching Beltran’s offer from the Cards and, I believe, topping Pena’s offer- but were turned down.

Andre
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Andre
4 years 3 months ago

Only one team can get the player. It’s not necessarily for lack of trying.

Andre
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Andre
4 years 3 months ago

(that was affirming Josh’s comment just to be clear)

Lewie Pollis
Member
4 years 3 months ago

Allow me to defend my beloved team:

-Shelley Duncan isn’t that bad. In 2010-11, he was worth 1.7 WAR in 506 PAs. He’s not an ideal corner outfielder, but at worst he’s an above-average hitter who can play passable defense. What more do you want from a fourth outfielder?

-The main beneficiary of Chisenhall’s demotion is Jack Hannahan, not Donald. Even if Hannahan can’t replicate his 100 wRC+ from last year (though since virtually every aspect of his offensive game saw a slight improvement, I’m betting he’ll at least come close) he’s a Gold Glove-worthy fielder. Going back to last year: 2.4 WAR in 110 games. He’s not an All-Star, but third base definitely doesn’t qualify as a weakness.

-A factual error: The Indians did pursue both Beltran and Pena. The reason they signed Kotchman was that Pena didn’t want to play in Cleveland. (There are, of course, negative implications to that, but your issue was that they allegedly didn’t try to sign him, which they did.)

-I’m not a prospect expert, but I’ve yet to see anyone doubt that Francisco Lindor has “front-line potential.” He’s unproven and a ways away from MLB ready, but he’s got the makings of a star.

-Another correction: The Indians won 80 games last year, not 76. And as a young team that was absolutely hosed by injuries last year I’d definitely take the over on that.

Roll Tribe!

dannyrangers32
Member
dannyrangers32
4 years 3 months ago

alright! the dirty work is done, and now to the top 2/3.

Chris
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Chris
4 years 3 months ago

But they did pursue Beltran, he blew them off for a contender, and if I remember right, they offered about the same amount of money as the Cardinals did.

They also offered Pena more money than Tampa did, but he wanted to resign with his old team.

Your article makes it sound like the Indians dragged their feet during free agency, which, maybe if you just looked at the end results, isn’t outrageous. However, the Indians pursued many of the second and third tier free agents that could help them, offered them competitive salaries that at times were more than what the players settled for. Kotchman was not plan A by any means.

Dexter Bobo
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Dexter Bobo
4 years 3 months ago

Has it been mentioned yet that the Indians did pursue Beltran and Pena but were turned down? I’m too lazy to read the other comments….

Chris
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Chris
4 years 3 months ago

Oh, I forgot to mention that I really don’t give a damn about your opinion. I was skimming the article right before I left for work, so no, I didn’t read the other comments, but your douchery appears to know no bounds.

TK
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TK
4 years 3 months ago

“… Carlos Santana, Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo. Those three players ranked highly at their respective positions in our Positional Rankings, while the Indians were below average at every other spot on the diamond.”

Slight error: the Indians (inexplicably) ranked 14th at third base in the power rankings, based primarily on the guy they optioned to AAA.

Joe Boggs
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Joe Boggs
4 years 3 months ago

He said 76-82 wins, not a 76-82 record, for those that were confused. A couple of miracles could happen: Kipnis hits .295 20 80, Cabrerra .287 27 90, Hafner for some reason goes .305 29 106, Kotchman hits .310, and Carlos goes crazy .275 34 108…That kind of offense plus a bounce-back from Ubaldo and Derek Lowe, a few more starting pitching surprises and suddenly the Indians find themselves with a 92 win season..But more than likely, here is what we are probably looking at:
Kipnis: .266 17 54
Hafner: .273 19 70
Santana: .256 26 83
kotchman: .259 7 40
Jimenez 10 – 14 4.66
Lowe 9 – 12 4.80
Masterson: 13-12 3.96

Baltar
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Baltar
4 years 3 months ago

What are those funny numbers you have after the players’ names?

adohaj
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adohaj
4 years 3 months ago

looks like AVG/HR/RBI for hitters and W/L/ERA for pitchers? just guessing

jim
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jim
4 years 3 months ago

/that’s the joke

StroShow
Member
4 years 3 months ago

So it seems a lot of discussion here is about all the AL teams being either worst or best. Of the remaining AL teams, only two aren’t clearly top 10 teams, Jays and Tigers.

Blue Jays:
I’d be shocked if the Jays weren’t in the top 10.
Are there 10 better current lineups? It’s possible, they’re probably in that area.
10 better future outlooks? The Jays might have the best future outlook in the entire league.
10 better management teams? Seems pretty clear that AA has shown he deserves a league/blogosphere-wide recognized name abbreviation (we’re not calling Epstein TE, are we?), none have been better these last two years.
10 teams with more financial muscle? Being a giant corporation, the the Jays owners are possibly the leagues richest, but are a business that wants to be run in such a way that it will make money. While we can’t class them as #1, they’re certainly in the top 5.

Guesstimated placing: 6

Tigers:
10 better lineups? Safe to say that that’s a no. The current one will probably regress a bit even with Fielder, but it’s still loaded.
10 better outlooks? Yes. Maybe not immediately, but having to pay Fielder to lumber around for 5+ yrs will severly impact the ability to compete.
10 better organizations? Given the amount of money paid to Fielder, probably yes here too.
10 better finances? Probably comes in around 10th.

Guesstimated placing: 8

Johnny Come Lately
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Johnny Come Lately
4 years 3 months ago

I thought we called him “AA” because no one can consistently spell Anthopoulos correctly.

TK
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TK
4 years 3 months ago

Interesting you use the term “lineup” as the Jays have a very nice offensive team but not so much in pitching, which matters too

NBarnes
Member
NBarnes
4 years 3 months ago

I find the Indians a very interesting case for the ‘how to judge an FO’ question. They are clearly a team that works hard on both their scouting and analytics, but they’ve been doing very badly in the draft and in getting the talent they need to in trades. It’s very hard to disentangle the bad luck from the possible flaws in process.

Adam
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Adam
4 years 3 months ago

I’m an Indians fan so I just have to throw my two cents in.

Whether the Tribe is really a title contender or not this season is going to come down to how healthy they stay. When you look at the 2012 roster compared to the 2011 roster, there is no reason to think we will not improve on our 80 wins. A few reasons for that:

In 2011, about 80% of our PA’s at second base went to Orlando Cabrera, Cord Phelps, and Jason Donald. Jason Kipnis wasn’t called up until late in the season and then went down with an injury. If you use James’ projections (.350 wOBA) and give him close to 600 PA’s, that’s going to be a gigantic upgrade over what we got from 2B last year.

In 2011, Matt LaPorta was on the team. Kotchman is no world-beater and he doesn’t have anywhere near LaPorta’s upside. But Manny Acta is a stat-friendly manager and is likely to use Kotchman primarily against right-handed hitters (giving Santana the majority of the at bats against lefties). Kotchman has a career .329 wOBA vs. righties(.367 in 2011) whereas LaPorta contributed absolutely nothing offensively last season. Add in the fact that Kotchman is at least a 1-2 win upgrade defensively over LaPorta, and I think our 1B production is going to be much better this season as well.

In 2011, Choo was hurt and had by far his worst season of his career. Give him what James projects (.354 wOBA) over a wholes season, and he’s more likely a 4-5 WAR player rather than 1.4 like we saw last year.

Lastly, it’s very likely that Duncan does not end up as the everyday LF all season. The Tribe is currently looking for a trade/waiver/signing to help, and they have Nick Weglarz and Thomas Neal in AAA who, if healthy, are upgrades over Duncan.

I’m not saying we’re a lock to win the Central but to expect us to do worse than last year is probably not a good bet. We’re going to be about the same or better at every position on the diamond.

Highball Wilson
Member
Highball Wilson
4 years 3 months ago

Evaluating the front office purely on recent trades and the Tribe has seen more success than probably any other team. They acquired Carlos Santanta, Chris Perez, Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, Travis Hafner, Justin Masterson, Zack McAllister and Nick Hagadone. If they would have hit on just a few impact draft picks in the same time frame we could be looking at a model franchise. Recent drafts have been much better, so I think Antonetti’s regime will see more success.

xeifrank
Member
4 years 3 months ago

21st may be a bit too nice for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2007 and has a rather poor minor league system.

SaberTJ
Member
SaberTJ
4 years 3 months ago

You’re forgetting that they very little financial commitments to use at their exposal, a top 5 catcher and shortstop on their roster.

SaberTJ
Member
SaberTJ
4 years 3 months ago

they have*.

Meaning they have very little payroll tied up in bad deals after 2012.

Darkstar
Member
Darkstar
4 years 3 months ago

“Since then, a combination of untimely injuries, poor drafting, and a lack of acquired talent — especially through trading Sabathia and Lee — has kept the Indians below the .500 mark.”

I’m confused; didn’t I also read these lines in the rest of the article?
“helped in the lineup by Carlos Santana, Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo.
and
“Assigning Lonnie Chisenhall and Matt LaPorta to Triple A also means more playing time for Jason Donald
and
Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson, the rotation also features Derek Lowe and Kevin Slowey – acquired through offseason trades – and Fausto Carmona (Roberto Hernandez). Former Yankees prospect Zach McAllister is expected to contribute as well”
and
Nick Hagadone is the only prospect on last year’s rankings that remained on his 2012 rankings.”

Every one one of those players was acquired in a trade

In fact, add in guys like Brantley, Hafner, Sizemore, Marson, Cunningham, Joe Smith, Chris Perez plus guys like Carrasco and Hagadone likely seeing unknown amounts of time, and all of a sudden you are talking the possibility of about 20 players on a 25 roster being acquired by trade. Can any other team get anywhere near that level of acquired roster?

The Indians have had very little success in the Draft and haven’t spent in the FA market because they aren’t close enough in projections to really warrant it; but they have traded up a storm – trades that have resulted in about a .500 club just from the trade acquisitions themselves.

Also, while Antonetti hasn’t been GM very long, all of those trade acquisitions were from when he was the real brains of the organization anyway. (When Shapiro talked about Moneyball and the Rincon trade, he even describes the trades of the season as “we had already traded…” in reference to Antonetti being heavily involved in the trades all the way back to at least 2002 and therefore, involved in every traded for name currently on the club – all 20ish of them)

glassSheets
Guest
glassSheets
4 years 3 months ago

Was that a Hunger Games reference I just saw?

danwatson19
Member
danwatson19
4 years 3 months ago

As a Tribe fan, I can grudgingly admit this is a fair assessment.

The only point I would argue with is their drafting. While it has historically been poor, they took the draft out of Shapiro’s hands starting in 2008 and placed it in the hands of Brad Grant. The improvement has been incredible.

http://thebaseballcube.com/draft/teamsdraft.asp?T=9

compare ’99-’07 with ’08-’11. Night and day.

It won’t be overnight, but if they keep drafting well and resist the urge to trade them away for short term gain (Jiminez), their drafting should really pay and allow them to run their team more like the Rays.

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