This is will another banner year for the Indians major league team. Their minor league teams will not fare AS well but will still be successful. Here are my predictions for 2017
Cleveland Indians - I am a little more optimistic than most, I think. Every team has injuries and every team has dead spots in their season when nothing seems to go right. That being said I think the Indians will stay healthy this season and any injuries will be replaced seamlessly through guys at AAA. I also think the Indians may add a rent-a-bat either in July or August that will help their regular season success. Experience is the best teacher and I think the Indians will go to the post-season again and have some success.
Prediction: 94-68 (1st in AL Central)
Postseason: Win the World Series (heart over head pick, to be sure).
Columbus Clippers - AAA success is generally a combination of quality pitching prospects, veteran AAAA hitters and having the major league team stay healthy so your key AAA players stay at AAA. The Clippers are set up to do this. This is likely, if all things go right, to be one of the best years in Clippers history.
Prediction: 89-55 (1st in International League Central Division)
Post-season: Winner of the Governor's Cup, lose in AAA Championoship game
Akron Rubber Ducks - I love that nickname! This level is crucial for a lot of guys. Some guys get hung-up here and never get over the hump so they can establish themselves in AAA. While I see a couple of guys on our AA roster who are true prospects, even those guys have their warts. I also see a lot of guys having trouble getting established at AA. I think this is a recipe for a mediocre record although, by the end of the season, the number of top prospects on this team, especially the position players, could be very impressive, even more impressive than it is now in terms of the # guys from this team who are top 50 prospects in all of baseball! Just don't see this team putting up a lot of wins.
Lynchburg Hillcats - High class A teams have produced mega-prospects for the Indians in past couple of years. Some are at AA and a few at AAA and a few have been traded. Looking at the roster this year, outside of Triston McKenzie, I don't see a single other blue chip prospect on this team. Still, I can see a few guys who may really up their prospect status by the end of the year and don't see ANY of these guys getting mid-season promotions so this team should stay intact most of the year. I think that might translate from a very poor first half to a second half championship or playoff spot.
Prediction: 68-76 overall, 26-46 in the first half and 42-30 in the second half.
Post-season: Second half championship and playoff spot but lose in the first playoff round.
Lake County Captains - Superior pitching usually wins in baseball but it seems like in the Midwest League you need average pitching and superior hitting to win. That being said, the Captains' starting pitching is so superior than any offense at all would be enough to win some games. With Bieber and Civale on this team along with Aiken, Hillman and even the dark horse Justin Garza, this team could have the best rotation in the organization...outside of the parent Indians, of course. Even then, the pitching talent of this rotation may be better, compared to the competition, than the parent Indians...and it might not even be close. That being said I am pretty sure that Bieber and Civale will only last the first half in LC. It might be enough for a first half championship if everything breaks well on the rest of the team. However, when those two get the inevitable promotion to Lynchburg at mid-season, the Captains' ship is likely to sink rapidly.
Prediction: 70-74 overall, 43-29 in the first half and 27-45 in the second half
Post-season: First half championship but an easy 2-and-out loss in the first round of the playoffs.
So this year, in W-L records and team strength our farm teams will generally be mediocre this year. The hope, however, is that the oragnization's top 20 prospects like McKenzie, Mejia and others prosper as they are aggressively promoted through the system and enough other prospects (e.g., Mike Papi) start playing like they should and become true prospects and other guys (like Matt Esparza, Justin Garza, Cameron Hill and others) really burst onto the prospect scene with all of these guys turning themselves into top 15 prospects in the organization. Basically, the cream rises to the top and so we don't worry about the rest of the guys starting to look more like organizational players or even our organizational minor league W-L percentage which may be our worst in 10 years if everything (including our MV and AZL teams sucking this year, remember we don't have a first rounder this year and so our draft budget will be small) breaks the way I think it will.