April 24, 2014

The Diff: Cleveland Indians prospect movement in 2013

The Diff is your weekly Wednesday WFNY look into the amazing world of sports statistics. For a complete log of articles, click this link. Last week, I shared five statistical thoughts about the Tribe’s outlook. Now, I’m catching up on prospects.

The Diff

This edition is my third installment of my monthly Indians prospect update within The Diff. Back in June, the theme was looking at preseason prospect rankings and the common themes. Then in July, I shared a trade deadline update, looking at potentially useful prospect pieces. Today, I wrote about a grand total of 48 prospects to share the context of their 2013 prospect movement – up, stagnant or down. Stats below are as of games completed on Sunday, Aug. 11, or Monday, Aug. 12. [Read more...]

Carlos Moncrief: Cleveland’s most surprising 2013 prospect

moncrief photoAkron Aeros outfielder Carlos Moncrief is not your typical prospect.

At 24 years old, he’s a bit more, well, mature than the average Double-A Eastern League player. He’s listed as 6-foot and 219-lbs, which both seem to be moderately generous. And as a former pitcher, he doesn’t have quite that much professional experience as a batter.

But the Cleveland Indians can no longer ignore the incredible production that Moncrief is displaying in 2013. Without a doubt, he’s been the organization’s most improved prospect and he’s making his case to be the league’s MVP.

From June 1 through Friday, the Mississippi native was one of the best all-around players in the minor leagues. His line: .360/.429/.645 in 49 games with 29 extra-base hits, 39 runs, 41 RBI and six steals. He also had an efficient 23 walks against just 33 strikeouts. [Read more...]

Francisco Lindor’s Double-A debut is tonight: Are we ready?

Francisco Lindor MLB Futures Game

Francisco Lindor was born on Nov. 14, 1993. In relative terms, that was 16 weeks before Justin Bieber was born and 20 weeks before Jacobs Field hosted its first official game.

That should provide some helpful context on the combination of elite skills and exciting youth for the 19-year-old Cleveland Indians prospect. After playing in Sunday’s MLB Futures Game in New York City, he’s scheduled to make his Double-A debut tonight for the Akron Aeros.

Lindor will join rarefied air among under-20 players to earn significant playing time at the Double-A level. The last five position players to do so: Xander Bogearts, Jurickson Profar, Manny Machado, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. That’s three All-Stars and two fellow top-10 prospects entering 2013. [Read more...]

Indians promote Francisco Lindor to AA Akron

Francisco Lindor, Cleveland’s top draft pick in 2011 and best overall prospect is making the jump to AA Akron.

Lindor’s numbers at Carolina this season through 83 games- .306 average, 51 runs scored, 19 doubles, 6 triples, 1 home run, 27 RBI, 35 walks, 39 strikeouts. He’s also the best defensive shortstop in the organization. From MLB’s profile-

“Any baseball field Lindor is on, he looks like he belongs, whether it was as the youngest regular in the Midwest League in 2012 or in a big league stadium at the All-Star Futures Game. An argument can be made that Lindor is the best defensive shortstop in the Minors. Not only does he have an outstanding arm and well above-average range, but those tools play up because of his off-the-charts instincts and feel for the position. But he’s far from all glove. He has a quick swing and advanced approach that leads to hard line drives to all fields. He has some power, particularly to the pull side, but can also play small ball. An above-average runner, those instincts allow him to be a basestealing threat. His tools combined with his plus plus makeup have most believing he’ll make an impact in Cleveland in a hurry.”

Lindor could easily spend the rest of the season in Akron, with a possibility of becoming Columbus’ everyday shortstop next season.

Lindor will report to Akron on Monday or Tuesday.

[Related: Cleveland's top prospect at the break]

WFNY Night at Canal Park

Forty-plus came out to our annual event at Canal Park last night. As always the Aeros were gracious hosts, though for the first time since we’ve been getting together (our sixth year) the Aeros did not win on WFNY night. Good times were still had.

As always Jon Cole was there to document the evening in photos-

wfny scoreboard post [Read more...]

MLB News: Chris Perez allows three homers in rehab outing

While the night in Double-A Akron was set to be fun with two rehabbing Indians relievers, the mood turned sour very quickly in the top of the second.

The highlight of the exciting night was supposed to be rehabbing closer Chris Perez, who was to work the second inning for the Aeros against the Trenton Thunder (Yankees affiliate). After a first-batter strikeout on three pitches, there certainly was thunder. The sequence: HR to RF, strike out swinging, HR to RF, hit-by-pitch, HR to RF, 2B to LF, RBI 1B to CF (runner out at second on throw).

The final damage for Perez on the night: 1.0 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 HR, 2 K, 1 HBP. The homers were all hard-hit balls, with more force on each one. He had 23 pitches, 17 for strikes. He remains the pitcher of the record on the night as the score was 5-0 when he departed in the middle of the second inning.

Per the @AkronAeros Twitter account, Perez said he obviously wasn’t happy with the results of the outing and cited poor location. He said he will have to see what the Indians organization says next for his schedule. Per Ryan Lewis of the Akron Beacon Journal, Perez said his arm feels fine and that results were not the main goal of his appearance.

Perez was previously expected to return to the Indians 25-man roster on Friday. This was set to be his final rehab appearance as he recovers from right shoulder soreness. He previously pitched for Lake County on Sunday, where he allowed two hits but no runs in one inning. There are no current indications on who might be moved to make room for Perez on the team’s roster, or whether the team will remain with its current seven-man bullpen.

Although Perez was the signature rehabber on Tuesday for Akron, he wasn’t the only one. The guy who led off the game was right-hander Blake Wood, a 27-year-old working his way back from May 2012 Tommy John surgery. Wood struck out the side (two looking, one swinging) for Akron in the top of the first, while allowing only a measly two-out double down the third-base line. He finished with 17 pitches, 11 for strikes.

Wood was claimed by the Indians off waivers from Kansas City on Nov. 2, 2012 and is on the team’s 40-man roster. He has a career 6-6 record with a 4.30 ERA in 106 MLB relief appearances. It was Wood’s sixth rehab outing in 2013, his fourth with Akron and he had previously made two with Lake County. He was expected to compete for a bullpen job with the team by the time he returns in the middle of the 2013 season.

[Related: MLB News: Chris Perez allows three homers in rehab outing]

WFNY Presents Cleveland Sports Blog Night at Canal Park

It’s back. For the fifth year, WFNY and the Akron Aeros are hosting a Cleveland Sports Blog get together at Canal Park. Mark your calendars for Thursday, July 11th.

As always, we have picked a ‘Thirsty Thursday’ night at the game, meaning select cold beverages (aka cheap beer and soda) are just $1.00. These events are always a great time. We’ve met a ton of great people through them, and we want to meet even more. Chat up your favorite WFNY writers, mix and mingle with other great writers and put a face to the name and avatar from the comments.

Tickets are just $6. We have a section reserved, so make sure you follow the ticket instructions.

[RSVP on Facebook - Share with your friends]

[Read more...]

The Diff: Update on top Cleveland Indians prospects

The Diff is your weekly Wednesday WFNY look into the amazing world of sports statistics. Amazingly, this is already the 20th one I’ve written here at the site. For a complete log of articles, click this link. Last week, The Diff looked deep into the stats of Nerlens Noel as the likely No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. This week, it’s back to my roots: Cleveland Indians prospect talk.

The Diff

During most of the 2012 baseball season, I wrote a regular feature called the “WFNY Wednesday Wahoos“. Pre-The Diff, this was my weekly adventure into the stats and prospects world, where I could share updates and anecdotal ideas about the Cleveland Indians system. It’s been a long time since I did one of those, so as a special blast from the past, I’m dedicating this week’s The Diff to a similar construct as those old Wahoos. Hope you enjoy. All statistics below are current as of games played on Monday, June 3. [Read more...]

Akron Aeros to give away Jim Donovan bobblehead on June 8

For the last several months, in typical minor league baseball fashion, the Double-A Akron Aeros have been hosting a Media Madness nomination and voting contest online for fans to submit their favorites for a three-pack of media celebrity June bobblehead giveaways.

donovan bobbleheadOn Friday afternoon, the Aeros announced the first winner in the TV category: Jim Donovan. The long-time Browns broadcaster will be honored with the team’s bobblehead at their game on Saturday, June 8, at Canal Park in Akron.

Per the team’s Facebook page, the image to the left is what the bobblehead will look like. The first 1,000 fans at the stadium will receive the bobbleheads on Saturday. Donovan, who has been with WKYC-TV since 1985 and the Browns’ play-by-play voice since they returned in 1999, is scheduled to make a special appearance at the game.

A little-known fact that also was in the team’s press release: Donovan was reportedly the play-by-play announcer for one season for the Vermont Reds, a minor league franchise that existed from 1984-1987, that then eventually became the Canton-Akron Indians in 1989 and then the Akron Aeros in 1997.

The two other finalists in the TV category were WEWS-TV’s chief meteorologist Mark Johnson and WJW-TV’s news anchor Tracy McCool. Still to be unveiled are the Media Madness winners in the Radio and Print categories. Voting is still available online for those two bobbleheads, with the giveaway dates occurring on Saturday, June 22, and Saturday, June 29, respectively.

[Related: New look, ‘new ballgame’ for Akron Aeros and Canal Park]

Brett Myers not sharp in AA rehab start

Cleveland Indians pitcher Brett Myers (8.02 ERA this season) started for the AA Akron Aeros last night on a rehab assignment. Myers was placed in the 15 day DL back on April 21st with an elbow strain. According to the Aeros’ game report, the start didn’t go as well as they had hoped-

“Myers (0-1) was making his second rehab start for the Indians, tuning up a sore elbow that landed him on the DL on April 20th. Myers worked 4 1/3 innings and allowed just the two first-inning hits. He walked four—possibly the most troubling aspect of his outing—and struck out two. He threw 76 pitches, 41 for strikes.”

Myers allowed 3 earned runs in his 4 innings. In addition, Myers hit a batter and had a wild pitch.

In Myers’ first rehab start he pitched well, going three innings while allowing just one hit and a walk.

[Related: The Diff- Historical finishes for 26-18 teams]

How good of a starting prospect is Danny Salazar?

danny salazarThe Cleveland Indians must have seen something in Danny Salazar before everyone else — and their early belief has paid off in a big way.

After the 2011 season, Cleveland’s organization surprised a lot of people by placing the 21-year-old right-hander on the official 40-man roster. Salazar actually had only made 15 starts in the previous two years because of Tommy John surgery and still hadn’t made it past the Single-A Midwest League with Lake County.

Yet, nearly 18 months after being protected from possible Rule 5 poaching, Salazar is rewarding the Tribe with the hottest start of any pitcher in professional baseball. In fact, following his fourth straight magnificent performance for Double-A Akron on Monday, he announced his own promotion to Triple-A Columbus on Twitter. And now, it’s time to wonder if he might be the best home-grown Cleveland pitching prospect in years. [Read more...]

Sunday Indians Notes: Beau Mills, the rotation and prospects

beau mills and tuve

Beau Mills and his bucking bulls: The Indians scoring 19 runs was not the strangest news I saw yesterday. No, not even close. It began with a pair of tweets from @Indians (here and here) sharing pictures of a young bucking bull named Tuve (after Astros infielder Jose Altuve) that happens to be owned by Indians third-base coach Brad Mills and his son Beau, Cleveland’s 1st-round pick in 2007.

I couldn’t believe it. The Mills family just owns a bull, named it after a Houston player and had it in front of Minute Maid Park on Saturday? So I Googled. And found the Plain Dealer‘s Paul Hoynes’ report from Friday night: It was true. Mills, the 26-year-old first baseman who the Indians pitched away to Cincinnati in June 2012, officially has retired from baseball and is raising several young bulls for a living. [Read more...]

The Diff: Baseball attendance in April, sellout streaks

Last week’s version of The Diff was tremendous fun as we journeyed through the land of quality starts in baseball. With the Indians’ back-and-forth 5-7 start to the season, that post likely remains incredibly relevant. Now, we stick with the same sport but head to something more external: April attendance.

The Diff

Attendance is always a topical theme in the world of baseball at the beginning of the season. Once the facade of a boisterous Opening Day sellout is lifted, columnists and fans peel back the harsh reality of battling the frigid cold for half-decent attendance figures at the ballpark. Heck, in a sense, that’s exactly why I dedicated The Diff back on Feb. 27 to the topic of Indians attendance (and market saturation). I saw this complaint coming early in 2013. But yet, there’s still a need for much more context in this debate. And that’s why I’m back for more attendance talk today. [Read more...]

New look, ‘new ballgame’ for Akron Aeros and Canal Park

Akron aeros opening day

Everyone knows the clichés about first impressions. They last a lifetime, the first few seconds define a relationship, etc. But has anyone heard about using bubbles to make a second first impression?

Bubbles were the item of choice for the new-look, “new ballgame” Akron Aeros on their Opening Day game on Thursday night. The glitz and glamour of the changes to Canal Park in downtown Akron combined with a reinvigorated emphasis on fan experience. [Read more...]

The Diff: Market saturation and Indians attendance

In last week’s edition of The Diff, I shared a number of statistical notes about the streaking Cleveland Cavaliers. This week, I’m covering a topic I’ve been trying to get to for a while, but is perfect for right now: Cleveland Indians attendance.

The Diff

Cleveland Indians attendance is a topical news item this week. Firing right off the Nick Swisher arrival and the surprise signing of Michael Bourn, the Indians unveiled their new promotional schedule and then sold out of Opening Day tickets in six minutes on Monday. Excitement about the Tribe is as palpable this February as it’s been in the last decade — save maybe for right after ’07′s surprising playoff run. And that brings people to the age-old question: Will it show up in the ticket booths? Fortunately, I’m here to help — as I teased in Monday’s podcast. [Read more...]

Trevor Bauer, and the Indians’ starting pitching outlook

Trevor Bauer is a game-changer. Yes, the new Cleveland wunderkind is only 21 (he turns 22 in January) and has just 4 (bad) games of MLB experience under his belt, but his sheer presence drastically changes the starting pitching algorithm for the Cleveland Indians going forward.

Obviously, there’s a certain amount of risk associated with Bauer. I’d be amiss if I didn’t address that. According to all the reports out there, he’s eccentric, stubborn, abnormally intelligent, a bad rapper, practically revolutionary and thus, seemingly was at odds with Arizona’s upper management, which is why the No. 3 overall pick in 2011 was on the trade block at all. He could not become the star many expect him to be. That’s possible, and you always have to address that fact when dealing with a very limited MLB sample size.

But, undoubtedly, the UCLA product has more upside and MLB-readiness by far than any other starter in the entire Indians system. He could immediately slot into the starting rotation from day one — but it’s not exactly certain if that will be the case. Either way, with the Indians owning his rights through 2018 (at least), and the fact he’s dominated AA/AAA batters, he’s the bright future of the Indians pitching outlook for many years to come. [Read more...]

Like Jimmy Haslam III in Cleveland, Ken Babby is a Sign of Hope for Akron Aeros Fans

Disclaimer: I worked for the Akron Aeros in various media capacities from 2008-2010. I maintained many close relationships with my former colleagues.

This November, two candidates are hoping for your votes in the polls as they strive to change the American political scene.

More likely, however, Ohioans and especially Northeast Ohio sports fans have been more inspired and excited about two new faces in town that are delivering sports hope by the bundles.

Jimmy Haslam III, the new official of the Cleveland Browns, has been all over the media in the last few weeks, starting his reign with a bang and doing all of the little things right. But he’s not the only new owner in town making people smile left and right.

Ken Babby, son of long-time NBA agent and executive Lon Babby, also took over ownership over the Double-A Akron Aeros baseball team this week. Terms of the agreement have not been announced, but the 32-year-old retired newspaper guru looks to be taking bold steps for the future over at Canal Park.

[Read more...]

Ken Babby Emerging as Likely New Owner for Akron Aeros

In a rumor that’s been over a year in the making, Stephanie Storm of the Akron Beacon Journal had the latest on Saturday about a likely pending ownership change for the Double-A Aeros:

Either Ken Babby happens to be the biggest Aeros fan known to minor-league baseball or he’s the new owner in waiting.

What is known for sure is that the sale of the Aeros, the Double-A affiliate of the Indians, is in the midst of being approved through a three-tiered process that begins with the Eastern League, moves to the minor-league level and then is finalized by Major League Baseball.

As the team begins the process of changing hands from the longtime father-son ownership of Mike and Greg Agganis, Babby’s name has surfaced prominently as the reported buyer.

Storm later notes that the Potomac, Md., resident’s father is Lon Babby, current President of Basketball Operations for the Phoenix Suns and former NBA agent.

Ken, 32, is listed on LinkedIn as the founder and CEO of a Northeast Ohio group called Fast Forward Sports Group LLC, and also spent 12 years with the Washington Post.

Initial rumors and reports circled around last year about a potential ownership change for the Aeros, possibly revolving around now-former team consultant Chuck Domino.

The team has been located in Akron since 1997 and in Northeast Ohio since 1989, as the franchise was previously named the Canton-Akron Indians.

[Related: Akron Aeros Storm Back to Win Eastern League Championship]

Sunday Tribe Notes: Indians Look to Avoid Another Sweep, Aeros Claim Eastern League Title Again

Isn’t it unbelievable to consider that the Cleveland Indians are 9-8 against the Detroit Tigers this season? Think of all of the things that had to go right for that to occur.

Yes, it kind of makes some sense when you hear that Detroit has won five of seven since the Indians’ latest six-week nose dive, but it’s still an unbelievable fact.

It means that even if the Tribe falls today – which would mark a scintillating seventh series sweep since July 26 – they’d still perfectly finish at .500 against the superstar-heavy Tigers.

After today’s contest at Progressive Field – which many have called Comerica Park this weekend because of the lack of Cleveland noise and influx of Motor City fans – the Indians will have 15 games remaining in 2012. It’d be a huge miracle if the team even manages 70 wins, a crazy concept if you had asked me on July 26 when we were 50-49. [Read more...]

Akron Aeros Storm Back to Win Eastern League Championship

On the verge of elimination, a Cleveland-based team found a way to win a league title. Sounds like a strange dream that could never happen, eh?

Well, that’s exactly what occurred this week in the Double-A Eastern League for the Akron Aeros. Trailing 0-2 in the Division Series, the Aeros rallied to win three straight home games over the rival Bowie Baysox. Akron then jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the Finals, winning two more at home, before finally clinching the EL Title with a 6-1 Game Four victory at Trenton on Saturday night.

In today’s game, Adam Abraham and Ryan Rohlinger each collected two hits while Roberto Perez had an RBI double. Starter Toru Murata struck out seven in allowing just one run in 6.1 IP, while the stout Akron bullpen sealed the deal from there. Jordan Henry’s three-run single in the top of the ninth also provided a nice final insurance boost.

The Aeros’ championship makes it four straight years that an Indians affiliate has won a title: 2009 (Akron); 2010 (Columbus and Lake County); 2011 (Columbus); 2012 (Akron). It is also the fourth EL crown in the last 10 years for the Akron franchise: 2003, 2005, 2009, 2012.

I’ll have plenty more tomorrow on the leaders of this Aeros team and who projects to possibly be a factor in the Major Leagues down the road. It’s always very cool to see young prospects getting a taste of this playoff experience in the minors.

[Related: A Cleveland Sports Fan’s Guide To Opposition]