And we’re back on normal time this week. As usual, every Wednesday I bring you all of the news and notes from the Cleveland Indians minor league system.
Last night was exciting in the ninth, but it doesn’t hide the fact the Indians have lost four straight by a margin of 28-7. Yikes. So, since the Indians declared they’re likely to make improvements from within, what possibilities are there down on the farm? General manager Chris Antonetti shared some names yesterday and I’ll provide some insight on those now.
Via MLB.com beat writer extraordinaire Jordan Bastian, Antonetti said the top four bats that could help out the Indians from AAA Columbus are 1B/OF Matt LaPorta, 1B/OF Russ Canzler, OF Trevor Crowe and IF Jason Donald. I’m surprised by Crowe’s name, as he’s been hurt all year and is no longer on the 40-man. Two guys that have played better than both him and Donald this year are OF Jared Goedert and 2B Cord Phelps. I’ve got an update on Phelps later, while Goedert (not on the 40-man) has just kept hitting all season.
I didn’t see Antonetti name names in terms of arms, but four guys to keep an eye on are RHP Corey Kluber, RHP Chris Ray, LHP David Huff and RHP Chris Schwinden. All but Ray are on the 40-man, although he’s the guy who has put up the most consistent numbers this season as Columbus’ closer (more on him later). Kluber’s a strikeout machine who could help in the pen, while Huff and Schwinden have been mediocre for the Clippers, but have MLB experience.
Yes, overall, I’m in the pro-trade camp for the Indians. We likely need more talent than what is currently in the system in order to keep competing for a playoff spot. However, I do believe other changes can be made internally as there remains lots of fringe MLB talent in Cleveland – I’m looking at you, OF Aaron Cunningham, OF Shelley Duncan, LHP Tony Sipp, RHP Jeremy Accardo and LHP Nick Hagadone. All of those guys have struggled lately, and with other guys doing decently well in Cbus, you have to consider making small moves soon, too.
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.
AAA Columbus Clippers: 39-40 (.494), 2/4 place, 8.5 GB in International League West
AA Akron Aeros: 47-30 (.610), 1/6 place, 7.5 games ahead in Eastern League West
High-A Carolina Mudcats: 32-38 (.457), 4/4 place, 12.5 GB in Carolina League South in FIRST HALF
High-A Carolina Mudcats: 4-2 (.667), T-1/4 place, 2.5 games ahead in Carolina League South in SECOND HALF
A Lake County Captains: 31-38 (.449), 6/8 place, 16.0 GB in Midwest League East in FIRST HALF
A Lake County Captains: 3-2 (.600). T-1/8 place, 1.0 game ahead in Midwest League East in SECOND HALF
Short-Season Mahoning Valley: 3-6 (.333), T-5/6 place, 3.0 GB in NY-Penn League Pinckney
Minor league transactions can be monotonous, boring and meaningless to the average fan. Thus, I always trim 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.
June 22: OF Ben Copeland released from AA Akron
June 22: RHP Tyler Sturdevant promoted to AA Akron from High-A Carolina
June 22: DH Jeremie Tice promoted to AA Akron from High-A Carolina
June 22: RHP Cole Cook promoted to High-A Carolina from A Lake County
June 22: RHP Grant Sides promoted to High-A Carolina from A Lake County
June 24: DH Joe Sever assigned to Short-Season Mahoning Valley
June 25: LHP Scott Barnes promoted to Cleveland from AAA Columbus
June 25: IF Andy LaRoche (left shoulder strain) activated from AAA Columbus 7-day disabled list
June 26: IF Andy LaRoche released from AAA Columbus
Jacob’s Updated Top 10 Prospects for 2012
Last week, I created my new top 10 prospects ranking that I’ll use for the rest for the season. Want a more detailed explanation? Check out this link back to that post.
1. SS Francisco Lindor – Season stats: .274/.364/.389 with 47 R, 13 2B, 3 3B, 4 HR, 23 RBI, 30 BB, 45 SO, 17 SB, 6 CS in 65 games for A Lake County. A bit cold this past week, as he is 3-for-24 in his last six outings since June 17. The switch-hitter has done notably better in 53 at-bats against lefties: .340/.352/.491.
2. RHP Dillon Howard – Last year’s second rounder pitched in relief Tuesday night for his second game with rookie-level Arizona. He was a bit better this time after a rough debut last Wednesday, but was plagued by some sixth-inning errors. His final line in 3.1 IP was five hits, five runs (one earned), two walks and five strikeouts.
3. OF Tyler Naquin – He has only played four games for Short-Season Mahoning Valley, and they’ve been back-and-forth. Overall, the numbers aren’t bad. He’s 7-for-16 with two doubles and two RBI. When I saw his first four at-bats Monday night, however, he was 0-for-3 with a HBP, which later became a caught stealing. Shucks.
4. RHP Mitch Brown – This year’s second rounder is expected to make his debut soon with Arizona. Often, there’s no knowing when people will play out there, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
5. OF Luigi Rodriguez – Season stats: .285/.338/.415 with 47 R, 12 2B, 4 3B, 5 HR, 28 RBI, 23 BB, 72 SO, 13 SB, 5 CS in 64 games for A Lake County. Besides the walks/strikeouts, his numbers are shockingly similar to Lindor’s. He’s been solid in four games since the All-Star Break, batting 7-for-16 with four runs scored, four RBI and two walks.
6. LHP Elvis Araujo – Season stats: 2-6 with 4.67 ERA in 15 starts, 69.1 IP, 75 H, 30 BB, 57 K, 8 WP, .277 average. He had another rough outing Saturday, and now has a 13.03 ERA in his last three starts since June 9. At least the strikeout numbers were back with six Saturday, against three walks, so hopefully that translates to a better outing next time to end the slump.
7. 2B/SS Tony Wolters – Season stats: .226/.293/.329 with 32 R, 15 2B, 4 3B, 1 HR, 27 RBI, 22 BB, 59 SO, 4 SB, 5 CS in 66 games for High-A Carolina. Remember, he got off to a horrible start to the year then a really solid May. His June has been pretty poor again, as this continues to be a disappointing season for the 20-year-old.
8. 1B Jesus Aguilar – Season stats: .310/.394/.515 with 46 R, 18 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 37 RBI, 29 BB, 61 SO in 70 games for High-A Carolina. Arguably the top power prospect in the system, the soon-to-be 22-year-old had his best game of the season Tuesday. He went 3-for-4 with two homers and four RBI. The big first baseman tends to be a bit streaky but is heating up just in time for the Futures Game.
9. RP Jake Sisco – Last year’s third rounder has now appeared in two games for the Scrappers. He has a 4.70 ERA in 7.2 IP, with an odd line of seven hits, five runs (four earned), seven walks and five strikeouts. Tough to read into these early stats for the 20-year-old, but hopefully he makes his way to Lake County for next year.
10. RHP Chen Lee – As commenter Tom pointed out in the comments on Friday, Lee underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this month. Paul Hoynes tweeted about that on June 8, and I missed it entirely. Lee, a 25-year-old Taiwanese reliever who has shined every season in the minors, likely will miss the next 12 months at least. It’s doubtful we’ll see much of him before September 2013. This is a huge blow to a promising prospect, one that was on the cusp of the majors before getting hurt this April. Thanks to Tom for this catch.
Thus, in honor of my screw-up and the way I was doing things earlier this year, I’m going to go back to having an Wild Card No. 10 each week. Usually, I’ll be picking from the lot I mentioned as runners-up when I first unveiled my new rankings.
Wild Card: 1B/DH Chun Chen – Let’s take care of the negatives first: he’s a liability at catcher (his former position), lacks power and is in his second full season at AA Akron. Now look at the season totals: .321/.401/.439 with a league-leading 24 doubles in 73 games. Most recently, he’s been on a tear in 39 games since May 18 (including a 20-game hitting streak) with a .347/.427/.472 clip. The 23-year-old Taiwan native pretty much deserves a call-up to AAA Columbus, but there’s a huge organizational logjam at the 1B/DH position. When moves happen start to happen over the next four weeks, expect Chen to finally get that long-awaited call after what will be more than 200 games for the Aeros.
- Your Cleveland Indians Minor League Player of the Week: Columbus 26-year-old 1B/OF Russ Canzler. He’s been streaky lately, though, and just happens to be hot again now. Starting on May 12, he had a 14-game line of .358/.404/.698, then a 11-game stretch of .105/.167/.132, and currently is in a 17-game streak of .350/.423/.717. Canzler’s name was rumored as a potential promotion candidate around the time 1B/OF Matt LaPorta came up, and he’s on the 40-man, so we’ll see if this right-handed bat gets a shot sometime soon.
- I forgot to mention this last week, but IF Jason Donald hit for the cycle for Columbus on June 19. Maybe the reason I forgot is that besides that game, Donald’s been mired in an extended slump. In his 15 games since June 11, he’s batting .167/.242/.267, and that includes a game where he hit for the cycle! This was a crucial year for Donald to land a consistent MLB job and he’s faltered so far.
- Meanwhile, his Clippers teammate 2B Cord Phelps is on a bit of a hot streak since a cold stretch in late May/early June. In 21 games since June 5, he is batting .320/.422/.533, with a very impressive 14/6 walk/strikeout ratio. While Donald was the first one to make the majors and had the higher prospect billing, it appears Phelps is out-playing him in AAA and might last longer with the Tribe.
- So Cleveland needs a new reliever, right? Well, he clearly is an MLB retread and isn’t on the 40-man, but, as prefaced earlier, RHP Chris Ray has been dominant for the Clippers. He’s 2-4 with 11 saves and a 1.91 ERA in 30 games this year. He has 28 K’s against 14 BB’s in 33.0 IP. Before Tuesday night, he hadn’t given up a run since May 29. The 30-year-old previously pitched in 283 career MLB games with four franchises between 2005-11. I remember him notably as well when he was a star closer prospect for Baltimore’s AA team in 2005. Who knows if Ray will get the call back up, but he’s proven about all he can again in the International League.
- It seems I mention Akron RHP Steven Wright every other week in the Wahoos. But he’s just been that good. The 27-year-old knuckleballer is now 6-4 with a 1.64 ERA in 13 starts this year. He had another quality start on Friday, and has continued to be tough against righties especially. Players also can’t find a way to slug against him as he’s allowed just 11 extra-base hits (eight doubles, three homers) in 267 at-bats this season for an outstanding .255 slugging percentage against. Might be time soon to move him up to Columbus.
- His arrival made news because he’s 7-foot-1, but Akron RHP Loek Van Mil actually has been noteworthy for his pitching lately. The 27-year-old is now 1-1 with a 1.08 ERA in 14 appearances, striking out 25 against four walks and 13 hits in 25.0 IP. The Netherlands native first pitched in the Eastern League with New Britain in 2009, so he’s experienced with this level of play. He’s done quite well too in AA overall (2.85 ERA in 129.1 IP), but this is about as good as he’s done. The Indians still will likely be conservative with him and try to just keep him there before his first offseason in the system.
- Aguilar is the better prospect, but 1B/OF Jeremie Tice actually has put up better slugging numbers in 2012. The 25-year-old began his third year in the Carolina League this season and exploded his way into a recent promotion to AA Akron. His combined numbers for the season are now .292/.374/.584 in 57 games, with 20 doubles, 13 homers and 55 RBI. Cleveland’s sixth rounder in 2008, he hasn’t ever hit this well before nor has he remained healthy consistently. The next two months will be a big test for him.
- OF Bo Greenwell has done well for High-A Carolina in seven games since returning from offseason knee surgery. He’s batting .375/.423/.500 in these contests, dominating as he should be since he already had 130 Carolina League games under his belt before this year. Logically, the 23-year-old should be in AA Akron sometime soon, but the team is still probably just being cautious because of his injury history.
- Kudos go out to RHP Grant Sides for earning the promotion last week from A Lake County to High-A Carolina. In 18 relief appearances for the Captains, last year’s 12th-round pick from Samford was 1-0 with a 1.05 ERA. He pitched 34.1 innings, allowing 19 hits and 11 walks, but striking out 37. The Indians don’t often have too many homegrown prospects that always were relievers in the pros – only RHP Vinnie Pestano and RHP Bryce Stowell jump to mind – so hopefully Sides can accelerate through the system quickly like those two.
- While there certainly are higher-rated prospects for Lake County and Mahoning Valley, two surprising names have led the rotations so far. RHP Joseph Colon, 22, is 6-7 with a 3.17 ERA in 15 starts, with 54 K’s against 26 BB’s in 88.0 IP for the Captains. RHP Luis DeJesus, 20, has no record and a 0.82 ERA, with 10 K’s against 1 BB in 11.0 IP in his two Mahoning Valley starts. DeJesus previously had a 7.50 ERA in four relief appearances for the Captains, but he shined Monday night when I saw him pitch.
I wrote about this on Twitter, but for those who don’t follow me yet (@udjrosen), I attended Monday’s Mahoning Valley Scrappers game with photographer Ken Carr. It was a blast chatting more with Carr in the car ride back-and-forth from Akron, and I also had the neat opportunity to watch some of the youngest prospects in the Indians system. What I saw wasn’t too encouraging.
After Monday night, the Scrappers ranked last or second-to-last in the Short-Season New York-Penn League in nearly every single offensive category. The team was batting .213/.292/.305 with 3.1 runs per game, and a 30/79 walk/strikeout ratio. You aren’t going to win very many ball games at any level with those numbers, and that’s why the team began play 2-6 (before winning Tuesday).
Of the notable batters, RF Juan Romero appears to be a solid slugger, but missed play Monday with a slight shoulder injury. CF Tyler Naquin has had two bad games and two really good games with the Scrappers, and unfortunately Monday wasn’t too hot. 2B Robel Garcia needed to be moved down from Lake County, but hasn’t played too well either.
Other items from Eastwood Park: RHP Jacob Lee, this year’s ninth-round pick, has impressed with his short starts Saturday and Tuesday. The 22-year-old Arkansas State product could be in Lake County soon. … I only saw him in the bullpen, but RHP James Stokes is a huge kid at 6-foot-6. I haven’t seen a pitcher that large since LHP Nick Hagadone. Stokes hasn’t appeared in a game yet, but should debut soon. … C Charlie Valerio shined defensively and with his arm Monday night. Supposedly, all four of Mahoning Valley’s catchers have done well with their gloves/arms so far, so that’s definitely encouraging to see.
However, the Scrappers, just like the Indians system overall, just seem to be a bit void of tons of talent. I’m sure they’ll get some more players soon as the team continues to sign the rest of their draft picks. But for now, expect them to keep struggling as the players work out the kinks in their first doses of professional play.