Each and every Wednesday, I try to bring you all of the news and notes from the Cleveland Indians minor league system. Enjoy.
And the trading madness has begun. … Oh wait. The Indians have only acquired IF/OF Brent Lillibridge thus far? That’s not that incredibly exciting then. But Tuesday’s series-opening victory over Detroit sure got Cleveland fans back in the excitement of the playoff race, at least.
Next week when I post the Wahoos, the 2012 trade deadline will be history. We’ll finally know if Cleveland makes any type of “actual” move to significantly help the team keep the pace with the Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox and the AL Wild Card this year.
I didn’t give many thoughts about the team’s lack of moves in yesterday’s WFNY roundtable so I’ll share them here in my introduction today. Yes, this team’s contention window was supposed to be 2012-14 following last year’s trade for RHP Ubaldo Jimenez. Our team isn’t all that young anymore and after 2011’s hot start, you had to think this team was capable of more than 81 wins.
But the 2012 inconsistency has led to the Indians hovering around that .500 mark all season. We’ve had some really good days – such as last night – and some really bad ones that make us question the team’s present and future. Overall, though, I think this team still has a chance to prove us wrong.
Whether it’s a trade or the current players finally improving to their expected performance levels, there are still over 60 games left in the season to make up ground. No, I don’t think the Wahoos will finish with 90 wins (they’d have to go 41-24), but I do think that somewhere in the 84-87 range is realistic and possibly enough for that second wild card or at least to stay in the division race to the last week.
AAA Columbus Clippers: 55-49 (.529), 2/4 place, 9.5 GB in International League West and 2.5 GB in Wild Card
AA Akron Aeros: 62-41 (.602), 1/6 place, 9.5 games ahead in Eastern League West and 9.5 games ahead of third place
High-A Carolina Mudcats: 17-15 (.531), T-2/4 place, 3.0 GB in Carolina League South SECOND HALF
A Lake County Captains: 15-15 (.500), T-6/8 place, 4.0 GB in Midwest League East SECOND HALF
Short-Season Mahoning Valley: 19-17 (.528), 4/6 place, 2.5 GB in New York-Penn League Pinckney
As usual, these are not all of the transactions in the entire system, but just some of the official highlights involving the higher-end prospects and notable names.
July 17: OF Jordan Casas released from A Lake County
July 17: RHP Jeff Johnson activated from A Lake County’s 7-day disabled list
July 17: RHP Kyle Blair (right ankle sprain) placed on A Lake County’s 7-day disabled list
July 17: OF D’Vone McClure assigned to AZL Indians
July 18: LHP Rafael Perez (strained lat) received by AAA Columbus on MLB rehab assignment
July 18: RHP Joseph Colon promoted to High-A Carolina from A Lake County (activated on July 19)
July 19: LHP Matt Packer promoted to AA Akron from High-A Carolina
July 20: LHP Scott Barnes optioned to AAA Columbus from MLB Cleveland
July 20: RHP Cody Allen promoted to MLB Cleveland from AAA Columbus
July 20: RHP Brett Brach demoted to High-A Carolina from AA Akron
July 21: LHP J.C. Romero signed as minor league free agent, assigned to AAA Columbus
July 21: LHP Daniel Jimenez received by A Lake County on minor league rehab assignment
Jacob’s Updated Top 10 Prospects for 2012
In June, I created my new top 10 prospects ranking that I’ll use for the rest for the season. Forgot about that? Check out this link back to that post.
1. SS Francisco Lindor – Season stats: .266/.359/.384 with 59 R, 20 2B, 3 3B, 5 HR, 32 RBI, 43 BB, 53 SO, 19 SB, 7 CS in 86 games for A Lake County. This was a mediocre week for the 18-year-old starlet who has done quite well when leading off innings as a No. 2 hitter. He’s batting .304/.400/.518 in 56 such at-bats this season.
2. RHP Dillon Howard – Season stats: 0-4 with 6.33 ERA in six games (five starts) for the AZL Indians. It might not show up that poorly, but he looked bad again Tuesday in allowing nine runs (just two earned) in four innings along with seven hits. In his most recent outing last Tuesday, he had four walks and four wild pitches. Not promising for the 20-year-old Arkansas high school product taken in the second round last year.
3. OF Tyler Naquin – Season stats: .290/.408/.400 with 17 R, 7 2B, 2 3B, 0 HR, 11 RBI, 15 BB, 19 SO, 4 SB, 2 CS in 26 games for Short-Season Mahoning Valley. A nice past few days for Naquin, who is 5-for-12 over his last three games with four runs scored, three doubles, an RBI and two walks. The 21-year-old recent first-rounder is hitting .421/.560/.737 in 19 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
4. RHP Mitch Brown – Season stats: 0-0 with a 1.80 ERA in two starts for the AZL Indians. This year’s second-rounder is only 18 years old, but has done quite well thus far in his first two pro games. He allowed only one hit in three shutout innings on Sunday, with four strikeouts and one walk. You’ll hear more about him next year for sure.
5. OF Luigi Rodriguez – Season stats: .276/.345/.419 with 61 R, 15 2B, 4 3B, 9 HR, 42 RBI, 39 BB, 99 SO, 19 SB, 7 CS in 87 games for A Lake County. Whenever a 19-year-old produces 28 extra-base hits and 19 steals in just 87 games, you have to take notice. But the 99 strikeouts – including six more this past week – are moderately troubling for now.
6. LHP Elvis Araujo – Season stats: 4-8 with 5.26 ERA in 20 starts for A Lake County. It’s almost been like clockwork lately: Araujo had another rough outing on Friday, allowing five runs on eight hits in four innings. That now makes it a 7.99 ERA over his last 11 starts since May 24, with 59 hits, 49 runs (42 earned), 27 walks, 37 strikeouts and 11 wild pitches in only 47.1 IP.
7. 2B/SS Tony Wolters – Season stats: .264/.326/.381 with 47 R, 22 2B, 5 3B, 3 HR, 41 RBI, 29 BB, 74 SO, 5 SB, 8 CS in 90 games for High-A Carolina. Another two doubles, a triple and four walks this past week for Wolters, who continues to be red hot for the Mudcats. He’s now batting .363/.416/.538 in 20 July games, with nine of his 30 extra-base hits on the season.
8. 1B Jesus Aguilar – Season stats: .293/.388/.490 with 57 R, 23 2B, 2 3B, 11 HR, 47 RBI, 42 BB, 77 SO in 90 games for High-A Carolina. Another four walks in four games this week for Aguilar, who is up to 13 in his past 17 games after drawing just 29 in his first 77 this year. He then had rare nights off on Monday and Tuesday – signaling a possible promotion to AA Akron or undisclosed injury.
9. RHP Jake Sisco – Season stats: 0-2 with 2.68 ERA in seven starts for Short-Season Mahoning Valley. He allowed the most runs of his season on Saturday, giving up four because of seven hits in five innings. He struck out another five batters though against just one walk. Surprisingly, he’s done better later in games – he has yet to allow a run in 9.1 IP past the fourth inning.
Wild Card: LHP Matt Packer – Season stats: 3-0 with a 1.04 ERA in seven starts combined between AZL Indians, High-A Carolina and AA Akron. One of my favorite sleeper prospects over the years, this 24-year-old UVA product is making his way back from a shoulder strain that sidelined him until June this year. He shot up the prospect charts in 2010 with a 8-5 record and a 1.60 ERA in 95.2 IP with A Lake County, striking out 92 against just 13 walks. He skipped High-A then, closing out that season with the Aeros and going 9-12 with a 4.31 ERA last year in Akron. He was a surprise signing in the 32nd round in 2009, but could re-emerge as a prospect with a strong finish this year.
Odds and Ends
I’m a stats guy at heart. So, of course, I love me some random facts. After careful consideration over the past week, here are two interesting facts each about all five teams I regularly cover in the Wahoos.
– Columbus won six straight games this week after a narrow loss to Louisville last Wednesday. Still, the Clippers rank 11th in the 14-team International League with a .426 winning percentage in games decided by two runs or less this season. Last year, the back-to-back league champs led the IL with a .662 mark in this category.
– RHP Corey Kluber continues to lead the International League with 125 strikeouts in his 118.1 IP this season. Entering play Tuesday, that total ranked third in minor league baseball, only behind Oakland prospect Daniel Straily (171) and LA Dodgers prospect John Ely (130). The next three Indians in the strikeout standings are Columbus RHP Chris Seddon (103, T-51st), Akron RHP Steven Wright (97, T-69th) and Akron LHP T.J. House (89, T-107th).
– Talk about oddities: The Akron Aeros are 11-2 when tied after five innings this season, by far the best in AA. The current second-place team in this category is Pensacola at 13-5. Akron also leads all of AA baseball in overall record (58-39, .598) and when scoring first (47-11, .810).
– Maybe it’s because of the pitching. Entering play Tuesday, the Aeros had the second-best ERA among all teams in AA, AAA or MLB. Akron had a 3.17 mark as a staff, falling just behind AAA Charlotte’s 3.18 ERA.
– OF Anthony Gallas’ 22-game on-base streak in road games ended this week for the Carolina Mudcats. During this stretch, which went from June 2 until July 14, he batted .351 with eight doubles, three homers, 12 RBI and a .415 on-base percentage. It was the longest streak in the Carolina League this season, excluding current Aero DH/OF Jeremie Tice 23-gamer that went from last August until June 1.
– The Mudcats are last in the Carolina League with 379 walks allowed in 102 games this season. Pacing the pack are RHP Michael Goodnight (53 walks in 105.2 IP) and RHP Francisco Jimenez (46 walks in 97.2 IP). That’s likely a key factor why Carolina is sixth in the eight-team league with a 4.27 ERA
– Led by the impressive patience of top prospects OF Luigi Rodriguez and SS Francisco Lindor, along with 1B Jerrud Sabourin, Lake County leads the Midwest League with a .355 on-base percentage in July. The Captains are second in walks with 86. Rodriguez is tied for the league lead with 15 walks, Sabourin is fifth with 14 and Lindor is tied for sixth with 13.
– Speaking of Lake County offense, OF Jordan Smith is second in the Midwest League with a .318 batting average this season. However, he leads the league by a huge margin since May 23, as he’s batting .361/.417/.497 in 47 games during that span with 13 doubles, 16 walks, 19 strikeouts and 31 RBI.
– The Scrappers have struggled to hold on to leads so far this year, ranking last in the NY-Penn League with a 15-6 record with leading after six innings. No other team in the league has more than three losses in such contests this year.
– IF Joseph Wendle, a 22-year-old West Chester University product, wasn’t ranked on most draft boards anywhere close to the spot where Cleveland nabbed him in the sixth round this year. But the 5-11 utility guy has surprised so far in Mahoning Valley, as he’s eighth in the NYPL with a .315 batting average, third with 15 extra-base hits and sixth with a .519 slugging percentage.
I didn’t have the usual Quick Hits or The Boots this week as we near the trade deadline, but I’ll be back to sharing plenty of Tribe tidbits next Wednesday. Instead, here in the Closing Word today, I just wanted to talk quickly about the two “major” minor moves lately.
– On Friday, RHP Cody Allen was promoted from AAA Columbus, becoming just the second 2011 draftee to reach the majors. Allen, who I’ve written quite a bit about over the past three months, shot up the prospect charts with another impressive minor league campaign this season.
Before reaching Cleveland, he was a combined 3-2 with a 1.87 ERA in 31 combined appearances from High-A Kinston through AAA. He had 53 strikeouts against nine walks and 25 hits in 43.1 IP. Last year, in 23 games spread in the levels between Mahoning Valley and Akron, he was 5-1 with a 1.65 ERA in 23 games, with 75 K’s, 14 BB’s and 35 H’s in 54.2 IP.
So, in other words, Allen’s dominance in the bullpen had become too much for the Indians to ignore. He’s a 23-year-old re-draftee, who finally signed after being drafted in the 23rd round out of High Point University in ’11. He’s worked two scoreless innings thus far in the majors, so keep an eye on this guy to be a potential bullpen mafia standout for the future.
– In the Lillibridge trade, the Indians sent over RHP Jose De La Torre to the Boston Red Sox. To the average fan, De La Torre’s 8-1 record and 2.91 ERA mostly with AA Akron this year looks quite good, and a big price to pay for the utility guy Lillibridge.
But that’s when it’s helpful to recall that De La Torre is a 26-year-old, 5-foot-9-inch reliever who just happened to sign with the Tribe this past offseason. He spent the first six years of his pro career in the New York Mets organization, and had some decent combined numbers with AAA Buffalo in 2010 and 2011: 5-4 with a 2.36 ERA in 51 games, with 75 strikeouts against 34 walks in 68.2 IP.
Still, anyone could have signed De La Torre in the offseason. And the Indians were likely never going to give him a shot over guys such as Allen, LHP Scott Barnes and the many other younger relievers in Columbus and Akron. This was an incredibly small price to pay for another guy who should at least serve as a replacement to OF Aaron Cunningham for now. And hey, blame TD if this doesn’t work out – he was calling for Lillibridge just last week.
Jacob Rosen is a long-time contributor to WaitingForNextYear. He's also a writer online at SportsAnalyticsBlog and Nylon Calculus . An Akron native, Jacob is a current MBA student at the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. You can follow him on Twitter @WFNYJacob or e-mail him at udjrosen(at)gmail(dot)com.