It’s no secret that the Cleveland Indians’ front office has a Ph.D in letting its fans down. Instead of making roster moves to improve the team, Mr. Shapiro presented Clevelanders with “Fan-focused initiatives” in order to coax them to attend more ballgames.
Instead of $8 Hot Dog Combo Deals and shuttles to and from local bars, the front office should have gifted fans with a more promising team. However, even Shapiro and Antonetti cannot receive the full amount of the blame, considering they are only given so much to work with. This of course draws the finger of blame toward the Dolans. If the Dolans would just allow the front office to spend more money, Antonetti could acquire higher-caliber players, right? Perhaps. But the tiers of the Indians’ tribulations extend beyond the ownership’s “cheap” attitude and the front office’s lack of common sense. There’s another element that often goes over-looked in terms of the faults within the Cleveland Indians organization – the poor drafting.
Dating back ten years, here is a list of the Cleveland Indians’ first-round draft picks:
2012: Tyler Naquin
2011: Francisco Lindor
2010: Drew Pomeranz
2009: Alex White
2008: Lonnie Chisenhall
2007: Beau Mills
2006: David Huff
2005: Trevor Crowe
2004: Jeremy Sowers
2003: Brad Snyder/Michael Aubrey
2002: Jeremy Guthrie
If you remember some of these guys, you’re probably smashing your face into your keyboard. The most recent two have yet to be determined, but after nearly a full season of watching Lindor play, I think the Indians may have gotten it right for once. Naquin also looks good, as he seems like a very advanced player for his age and level.
When White and Pomeranz were traded to Colorado for Jimenez, I nearly threw myself off the top of Key Tower. It seems that a winner has yet to be determined in this trade as Ubaldo has been a huge disappointment and White and Pomeranz have not fulfilled expectations. White and Pomeranz don’t seem to have been worth their first-round statuses though, as both have tanked through their MLB appearances.
Chisenhall is still considered a part of the Indians’ future and before his injury this season, it seemed like he was finally a big league player. There are lofty expectations for first-round picks, and though Chisenhall is not as formidable defensively as the organization would like, he’s a talented player and still shows promise.
Other than that, look at the remaining list. The team gave up on Beau Mills earlier this year as he has barely made it beyond the AA-level. David Huff has slipped into oblivion and has not even been considered as an option for the Indians rotation. Jeremy Guthrie has been swapped and moved among three other teams and Trevor Crowe… well, we all know what happened there.
Of course, the Indians draft woes extend beyond the first round. Dillon Howard was the second-round pick of 2011 and so far, he has struggled immensely out in the Arizona rookie league. Or how about 2010’s 6th round pick, Nick Bartolone, who was cut by the organization in July. Then there’s the 8th round pick, Alex Lavisky, who hasn’t met offensive expectations, despite the $1 million sign bonus he received. 2009 boasts a few busts as well, such as 4th round pick Kyle Bellows and 7th round pick Jordan Henry, who are both playing lackluster baseball in AA-Akron. Granted, it’s tougher to criticize the more recent draft years as those players are still developing, but if you look through the 2005-2007 draft picks, you’ll probably find yourself wanting to try bath salts.
The draft woes have been a huge factor is the Indians’ struggles through the years. It says a lot fhen the organization needs to reach out to guys like Brent Lillibridge and Lars Anderson rather than the farm system for help. That being said, another factor in the Indians’ problems has been the mismanagement and poor development of players. To put the issues in simple terms, my colleagues and I like to put it this way: if Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were in the Indians system, they’d both be in AA-Akron right now. Jared Goedert and Tim Fedroff both annihilated AA pitching and have been wildly successful in AAA, yet even Vinny Rottino got a chance before they did. While it’s understandable that an organization wants to take care of its players, the Indians organization has become notorious for babying its prospects rather than challenging them.
The point is, yes, the Indians owners are cheap. Yes, it sucks to be in a small market. And yes, the front office has made some incredibly questionable, disappointing decisions. But the trials of the Indians organization stretch far beyond the superficial levels and extend deep into the development system. The lower levels have some stellar, promising prospects but the team’s draft strategies have been erroneous as its draft scouts have clearly dropped the ball.
Then again, no one could drop a ball quite like Johnny Damon.