Sorry for the delays y’all, but starting today, I’ll be bringing you all of the latest news from the Cleveland Indians minor league system every Wednesday. With DP’s departure from WFNY, there’s been a severe lack of regular minor league coverage following his awesome work with the Clip Show. Hopefully, this will serve as some sort of replacement in his absence.
The big story over the past week and more for the big-league club has been the lack of offensive production. While RHP Derek Lowe has led the rotation to a hot start and the team to first place in the AL Central, the hitters have not been keeping up their end of the bargain.
Of course, dating back some time, the Indians have not really had top-flight hitting prospects. OF Matt LaPorta and OF Nick Weglarz – more on them later – along with now MLB-ers 3B Lonnie Chisenhall and 2B Jason Kipnis were really the only highly regarded minor league batters a few years back. Now, many of our top offensive prospects are in the lower levels of the minors and not expected to contribute in Cleveland any time soon.
So what’s to be done in the interim for the Indians in order to possibly contend for a playoff spot this year? Sure, maybe OF Johnny Damon can help as he joined the team yesterday. But, if another move is needed, the obvious answer is to see if the Indians can combine some of their many top-level pitchers – more on this later as well – in a trade for a batter. The organization has a multitude of arms in Columbus and Akron so this could be an effective re-allocation of resources.
We’ll see in a matter of weeks whether the Indians make some moves to improve the big-league club. The clear focus should be on 2012 and not 2013 just yet, so hopefully some of the guys I’m about to talk about could help the club in more ways than just on the field.
I realize not many people care too much about minor league baseball standings – and for good reason. But this also is a good tool to see the relative strength of our combined prospects overall at different minor league levels. I’ll include them here in this spot each week.
AAA Columbus Clippers: 13-11 (.542), T-2/4 place, 2.0 GB in International League West
AA Akron Aeros: 16-6 (.727), 1/6 place, -3.5 game lead in Eastern League West
High-A Carolina Mudcats: 11-13 (.458), 4/4 place, 5.0 GB in Carolina League South
A Lake County Captains: 8-16 (.333), 8/8 place, 10.0 GB in Midwest League East
Short-Season Mahoning Valley: (no record, season begins June 18)
Top 10 prospects
As I discussed early on, it’s been a while since anybody has touched on the Tribe’s minor leaguers at WFNY. Hence, I’ll try to keep a section each week of how the top 10 prospects in the system – according to Baseball America in January – are doing right now with their current stats and a sentence or two about what that means going forward. There’s also a nice little caveat at the end to make things more interesting!
1. SS Francisco Lindor – Lindor, the star 18-year-old Florida high school product who was the Indians’ 2011 first-round pick, is heating up in his first full professional season. He’s batting .314/.369/.451 in 23 games for Lake County with eight steals and already has five three-hit contests.
2. RHP Dillon Howard – Howard, a dominant Arkansas high school pitcher, was the Tribe’s second-round pick last season. The 19-year-old has yet to appear in a professional game and should make his debut by the time Mahoning Valley begins play in June.
3. LHP Nick Hagadone – Hagadone, the 26-year-old starlet of the 2009 Victory Martinez trade with the Boston Red Sox, recently got re-promoted to Cleveland. He had been 0-0 with a 0.00 ERA in five Columbus appearances, striking out seven against just four hits and one walk in 7.1 innings.
4. RHP Chen Lee – Lee, arguably the organization’s top reliever in each of the past three seasons, left a Columbus game April 17 with right forearm tightness and hasn’t pitched since. The 25-year-old Taiwan native was 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA in five relief appearances with eight K’s in seven frames beforehand.
5. OF Luigi Rodriguez – Rodriguez, a stud 19-year-old Dominican prospect, burst onto the scene last year in time split between the Arizona League and Lake County. In 20 games for the Captains this year, the speedy outfielder is batting .349/.402/.542 with 13 RBI and seven steals.
6. RHP Zach McAllister – McAllister, a 24-year-old acquired from the Yankees in 2010, is 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA in five starts so far for Columbus. He’s not a groundball pitcher, but the 26-9 K/BB ratio in 30 innings has been pretty impressive so far.
7. SS Tony Wolters – Wolters, who turns 20 next month, has had a rough first stint in High-A after skipping Lake County entirely. He’s batting just .130/.231/.159 in 18 games for Carolina this season. Cleveland’s third-round pick in the 2010 draft out of California also hasn’t played since April 26.
8. RHP Austin Adams – Adams, a 25-year-old who was the team’s fifth-round pick in 2009, is still in extended spring training recovering from a right shoulder injury. His 11-10 record with a 3.77 ERA in 26 starts last season for Akron made him one of the organization’s top pitching prospects.
9. LHP Scott Barnes – Barnes, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, has had left arm problems thus far in 2012. The 24-year-old went 0-2 with a 5.06 ERA in three starts before his last outing April 18, and is slotted to move to the bullpen (at least temporarily) upon his return.
10. RHP Zach Putnam Well, that’s unfortunate. Putnam, a hard-throwing 24-year-old reliever from Michigan, was traded to the Colorado Rockies in an offseason trade for RHP Kevin Slowey. Thus, for the rest of the season, I’ll plug in a wild card guy who just happens to be worthy of this week’s No. 10 spot on the list.
Wild Card: OF Tyler Holt – Holt, a 23-year-old Florida State product, has ranked No. 28 and No. 24 in the Indians Prospect Insider rankings the past two years. He’s off to a hot start in his second year in High-A, batting .333/.432/.444 with three triples and six steals in 21 games for Carolina.
Minor league transactions can be monotonous, boring and meaningless to the average fan. Thus, I trimmed through all of the pages of details to bring you just the highlights from the past week. Dates listed are the official date of record, not necessarily when the transaction actually was announced.
April 25: RHP Trey Haley activated off Carolina’s 7-day DL
April 27: LHP Nick Hagadone promoted to Cleveland from Columbus
April 28: RHP Cody Allen promoted to Columbus from Akron
April 29: 3B Lonnie Chisenhall (strained calf) placed on Columbus’ 7-day DL
April 29: LHP T.J. House promoted to Akron from Carolina
April 30: RHP Kyle Blair promoted to Carolina from Lake County
May 1: RHP Will Roberts promoted to Carolina from Lake County
As I’ve been doing for years, The Boots are my way to assign Boot Up or Boot Downs to various items in the sports world. I’ll be doing it in my Wednesday Wahoos columns as well, summarizing some of the top stories in brief positives and negatives. For all those who forgot my original motivation, I got the nickname “Boot” from my older brothers when I was young, and thus, I continue to use this segment as my personal sports writing payback.
Boot Up: Pitching depth – I prefaced it earlier and I’ll talk about it again now: The Indians have a lot of high-level pitchers in their organization. Sure, many aren’t ideal prospects (that’s why they aren’t all on the top 10 list) but many could prove valuable down the road, even if maybe for another club.
Currently on the Columbus roster you’ve got LHP David Huff (just re-activated), RHP Frank Herrmann (career 2.67 ERA in 141.1 IP in AAA), RHP Corey Kluber (3-1 with 2.67 ERA, 35 K’s in five starts), RHP Chris Ray (2.19 ERA and five saves in 11 relief appearances), RHP Kevin Slowey (career 4.66 ERA in 100 MLB games), McAllister, Barnes, Lee and others.
Then, throw in Akron guys like RHP Rob Bryson (3.18 ERA and 15 K’s in six relief appearances), RHP Bryce Stowell (0.00 ERA and 15 K’s in four relief appearances), LHP T.J. McFarland (4-1 with 2.22 ERA in five starts), RHP Steven Wright (2-1 with 1.45 ERA, 29 K’s in five starts), RHP Bryan Price (1.84 ERA and 20 K’s in seven relief appearances), House and others, and you can see there’s obvious talent. What to do with it, I’m not exactly certain, but some trade ideas have to be on the table soon if the MLB offense keeps floundering.
Boot Down: #WashTime – A star on the field and a star on Twitter, Lake County OF LeVon Washington received some rough news recently. He announced on Twitter earlier in the week that he’s having right hip surgery and will be out 8-12 weeks. Yikes.
Washington hasn’t played since April 11 and, based on the surgery timeline, likely won’t play again until at least mid-July. Time is on his side, however, as he’d only be turning 21 around then as he was the team’s second-round pick in 2010. He’s got tons of tools and played well in his first six games this year (.400/.563/.480), so keep an eye out for him upon his return.
Boot Up: ‘Superstar’ – You can’t give OF Matt LaPorta a Boot Up! He’s a 27-year-old bonafide AAAA guy! Yes, point well taken, but he’s also TEARING up the International League right now – as TD pointed out yesterday. After a two-homer performance Monday, LaPorta has an incredible .380/.451/.759 line. His eight home runs twice as many as anyone else in the system (there’s a two-way second-place tie with four) and easily make up for his 20 strikeouts in 21 games.
Over his 41 games in Columbus since 2010, he’s now batting .376/.453/.707 with 14 home runs and 36 RBI. Sure, he might never ever amount to much in Cleveland, but maybe we could at least trade him to another organization because of these numbers alone? They’re insane. (The “Superstar” bit is an ode to his first-ever batting song with the Aeros when he entered the organization way back in 2008. Yes, it’s Lupe Fiasco’s then-famous song.)
Boot Down: Big Red – Finally, there’s a bit of a rough story going on in Akron, despite the team’s current seven-game winning streak. Ever remember OF Nick Weglarz? That burly, red-headed slugging prospect who flashed power, was an on-base machine and just happened to not really have a natural position? Well, the negatives continue to flare up, and I’m not really able to defend Weglarz anymore like I notoriously did back in 2010.
His line in 17 games for Akron this season is .207/.324/.293 with just one home run and six RBI. You want to like the nine walks since the on-base prowess is his signature ability, but then you see the 22 strikeouts. This is the Canadian 24-year-old’s fourth year in AA and, if he doesn’t get his act together soon, it might not even make sense for the Indians to keep him as a minor league free agent after this season.
Unless you’re a diehard Cleveland Indians fan, you probably noticed nothing that out of the ordinary in the brand-new WFNY Wednesday Wahoos logo. However, if you caught yourself thinking that something looks odd and quite spectacularly new in the middle spot, then you’re exactly right.
This season, the Indians are now partnered with the Carolina Mudcats in Zebulon, N.C., just outside of Raleigh. This is the Mudcats’ first year in the High-A Carolina League after 21 years in the AA Southern League. The Mudcats effectively replace the Kinston Indians, the Tribe’s long-time Carolina affiliate that lost its team this season.
The switcheroo was years in the making and both teams cemented the relationship with an April 3 Indians-Mudcats game in Zebulon. The big-league club held on that day for a narrow 13-0 victory in front of 6,632 fans, and I’ll be excited to hopefully make the trip there sometime soon too.
Cleveland has always had at tradition of holding on to minor league teams for a long time, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this relationship last a long time too. Heck, Rick already loves the ‘Cats because of their stellar logo, and I’d have to agree.