Each and every Wednesday, I try to bring you all of the news and notes from the Cleveland Indians minor league system. Enjoy.
It’s officially the all-star break, which means trade rumors are just starting to heat up. In my closing word today, following the usual prospect update and quick hits, I’ll share some of my guys to keep an eye on as possible trade pieces if the Indians are buyers over the coming weeks. Also featured this week: A brief Futures Game recap, info on some recent draft picks set to make their debuts, the scoop on some intriguing recent promotions and I’ll share my take on LHP Nick Hagadone’s peculiar injury situation.
No notable Indians minor league games on Tuesday, and both Lake County and Mahoning Valley return to action Wednesday.
AAA Columbus Clippers: 45-45 (.500), 2/4 place, 11.0 GB in International League West and 5.0 GB in Wild Card
AA Akron Aeros: 52-38 (.578), 1/6 place, 3.5 games ahead in Eastern League West and 8.0 games ahead of third place
High-A Carolina Mudcats: 11-8 (.579), 2/4 place, 2.0 GB in Carolina League South SECOND HALF
A Lake County Captains: 9-9 (.500), T-5/8 place, 1.0 GB in Midwest League East SECOND HALF
Short-Season Mahoning Valley: 12-10 (.545), 3/6 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 4: DH Travis Hafner (sore right knee) recalled from MLB rehab
July 5: OF Tyler Holt promoted to AA Akron from High-A Carolina
July 6: IF Jason Donald optioned to AAA Columbus from MLB Cleveland (activated by Columbus on July 7)
July 6: OF Shelley Duncan activated from paternity leave list for Cleveland
July 6: C Alex Monslave promoted to High-A Carolina from A Lake County
July 6: C Jake Lowery assigned to A Lake County from High-A Carolina
July 7: LHP Nick Hagadone assigned to AAA Columbus’ disqualified list
July 7: RHP Chris Ray released from AAA Columbus
July 7: LHP Matt Packer recalled from minor league rehab and assigned to High-A Carolina
July 8: LHP Scott Barnes promoted to Cleveland from AAA Columbus
July 8: OF Jordan Casas (back spasms) placed on A Lake County’s 7-day disabled list
July 8: IF Nick Bartolone (sprained right ankle) activated from A Lake County’s 7-day disabled list
Jacob’s Updated Top 10 Prospects for 2012
Four weeks ago, 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: .263/.350/.370 with 51 R, 15 2B, 3 3B, 4 HR, 26 RBI, 34 BB, 49 SO, 18 SB, 7 CS in 75 games for A Lake County. Lindor had a decent week finally, as he hit safely in all four of his games (he had Saturday and Sunday off for the Futures Game). He only batted .263 (5-for-19) though with another two walks. His monthly totals have gotten worse and worse, so hopefully the 18-year-old can finish off strong.
2. RHP Dillon Howard – Season stats: 0-3 with 5.79 ERA in four games (three starts) for the AZL Indians. He got roughed up a bit Monday night, allowing four runs on four hits in only 3.2 IP. He had tossed four innings of one-unearned run baseball in his previous outing, so this wasn’t a great follow-up. Righties are hitting .314/.415/.457 in 35 at-bats against him so far, compared to .240/.259/.280 in 25 at-bats for lefties.
3. OF Tyler Naquin – Season stats: .327/.453/.462 with 8 R, 3 2B, 2 3B, 0 HR, 7 RBI, 9 BB, 10 SO, 3 SB, 1 CS in 13 games for Short-Season Mahoning Valley. The batting average is impressive, but his plate discipline stands out to me. The fact he has nine walks against 10 strikeouts in 13 games is very solid, especially for a rookie. As expected almost, he has yet to hit a home run in 52 at-bats, as he didn’t hit for much power as a leadoff man in college. Expect that to hopefully change with an offseason of work.
4. RHP Mitch Brown – According to Tony Lastoria of Indians Prospect Insider, Brown is expected to make his debut this week for the AZL Indians. The team’s second-rounder out of a Minnesota high school, he’s only 18 years old but it should be fun to keep an eye on him in his first professional environment.
5. OF Luigi Rodriguez – Season stats: .267/.328/.392 with 52 R, 13 2B, 4 3B, 6 HR, 32 RBI, 30 BB, 88 SO, 15 SB, 5 CS in 76 games for A Lake County. A strange week for Luigi: He batted just .059 (1-for-17) with 10 strikeouts, but also drew an impressive six walks. Oddly enough, his lone hit was a meaningful home run in Lake County’s 7-6 victory Monday night over Bowling Green.
6. LHP Elvis Araujo – Season stats: 3-7 with 4.86 ERA in 18 starts for A Lake County. He regressed again Sunday, allowing six runs (five earned) because of a walloping seven walks in 4.0 IP. The tall soon-to-be 21-year-old has been struggling badly lately, as he now has a 7.75 ERA in just 38.3 IP over his last nine outings since May 24. He also has a poor 24/27 BB/K ratio and eight wild pitches during this span too.
7. 2B/SS Tony Wolters – Season stats: .248/.310/.361 with 40 R, 20 2B, 4 3B, 2 HR, 36 RBI, 25 BB, 65 SO, 4 SB, 7 CS in 78 games for High-A Carolina. Another solid week for Wolters, as he collected three doubles and a home run in his six contests for the Mudcats. He is now batting .364/.400/.576 in eight games in July, a very nice hot streak for a guy who started off incredibly cold in April.
8. 1B Jesus Aguilar – Season stats: .305/.389/.518 with 50 R, 21 2B, 2 3B, 11 HR, 45 RBI, 34 BB, 68 SO in 80 games for High-A Carolina. He only played three games this past week before taking off for the Futures Game, which could be a good point to finally give him his long-waited promotion to Akron. The season totals are impressive and he’s been on fire in the second half for Carolina, batting .354/.439/.750 with four doubles, five homers and 15 RBI in 15 games.
9. RHP Jake Sisco – Season stats: 0-1 with 2.52 ERA in five starts for Short-Season Mahoning Valley. He had yet another solid outing Monday night for the Scrappers, tossing six shutout innings with only four hits, one walk and four strikeouts. The 20-year-old has been stellar of late, but the only thing of concern so far is his 12/13 BB/K rate for the year in 25.0 IP.
Wild Card: RHP Cody Allen – Let’s let the season stats talk for themselves first: 2-2 with a 2.01 ERA in 29 relief appearances, striking out 51 against nine walks and only 23 hits in 40.1 innings pitched. Overall, that means he’s striking out slightly more than one third of batters he faces (51/152) – and that’s pretty darn good. The 23-year-old began the year with two games for High-A Carolina, instantly moved up to AA Akron and has been with AAA Columbus since late April. He was a 23rd-round pick out of High Point University (FL) in 2011, and previously was a 16th-round pick that didn’t sign with the Indians in 2010 following Tommy John surgery. Allen also had strong numbers after signing last season, posting a 5-1 record with a 1.65 ERA and 75 K’s in 54.2 IP between four levels. Nobody’s stock has risen higher in the entire system this year though, as he’s now on the cusp of the majors. I’d guess Allen’s name could come up in possible trade rumors in the coming weeks.
— As a part of the Kansas City All-Star festivities, the Futures Game on Sunday featured many of the best prospects in baseball. Two Indians players, SS Francisco Lindor and 1B Jesus Aguilar, participated in the game that ended in a 17-5 victory for the U.S. over the World. Lindor singled off a 95 mph heater in his lone at-bat, while Aguilar went 1-for-3 with a walk. Both were solid performances from the guys, and it was enjoyable reading MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian’s recap.
— Going back to the transactions listed above, the one that surprised me the most was the release of RHP Chris Ray from AAA Columbus. According to multiple media reports and tweets, Ray was granted his release last week. For those who have followed the Wahoos, you know I was a huge fan of Ray’s this year, as the 30-year-old was putting up some impressive numbers in Columbus (2.75 ERA in 33 games). But he must have known the Indians weren’t giving him a shot in the majors, and decided to take his talents elsewhere.
— One of the more disappointing moves was a swap of catchers between A Lake County and High-A Carolina. C Jake Lowery, soon to turn 22 and last year’s fourth-round pick, was batting just .222/.315/.325 in only 59 games for the Mudcats. C Alex Monslave, 20, was hitting .265/.324/.406 in 73 contests for the Captains. The two switched levels earlier in the week, and both have struggled in their first few games with their new teams.
— Kudos then go out to OF Tyler Holt for earning his first promotion to AA Akron. The team’s 10th-rounder in 2010 out of Florida State, Holt is a speed/contact guy who had been putting up some decent numbers for the Mudcats. He was hitting .263/.349/.339 with 10 doubles, seven triples and 16 steals in 81 games, and I had him ranked in my 11-20 prospects when I re-did my rankings four weeks ago. His ceiling doesn’t seem to be that high since he can’t hit for power, but it’s good to see him moving up quickly at 23 years old.
— It’s really good to see LHP Matt Packer back in High-A, as well. Packer, the team’s over-slotted 32nd-rounder out of Virginia in 2009, shot up in the system in 2010 by posting a combined 9-7 record with a 2.04 ERA in 30 games (18 starts) between two levels. He battled shoulder injuries last year for the Aeros and then in the offseason, and didn’t report to the AZL Indians from extended spring training until just three weeks ago. In his 2012 debut for the Mudcats, he delivered three perfect innings with three strikeouts Monday night. He should hopefully return to AA Akron soon, as the 24-year-old has proven that his advanced changeup and solid stuff can be quite competitive in the minors.
— Lastly with transactions, this isn’t noted above, but it appears that RHP Shawn Armstrong is on his way to AA Akron, according to a tweet from Al Ciammaichella. Armstrong, who I wrote a bit about five weeks ago, had a 1-3 record with a 2.06 ERA in 26 relief appearances for the Mudcats. He struck out 52 against 23 walks and 31 hits in 43.2 IP, with one save and seven holds. No word yet on the possible corresponding move for either team, but maybe we’ll see some increased movement because of this.
— This week’s Cleveland Indians minor league player of the week was IF Joseph Wendle of the Short-Season Mahoning Valley Scrappers. This year’s sixth-rounder, Wendle was immediately criticized as a draft pick since he was seen as just an organization guy as he wasn’t ranked on any draft boards at all. But the 22-year-old from West Chester University (PA) has hit well so far, batting an impressive .356/.435/.508 with 10 runs scored and 10 RBI in 16 games for Mahoning Valley. The Indians definitely need more depth in the system, but if Wendle can keep hitting, maybe there’s still a chance he’ll be more than just that.
— Along with RHP Mitchell Brown, Tony Lastoria also reported that recent draft picks RHP Kieran Lovegrove and RHP Dylan Baker are set to make their professional debuts this week for the AZL Indians. Lovegrove, a highly touted 2012 third-round pick from Mission Viejo HS (CA), was widely considered a steal for the Indians. Baker, the team’s latest fifth-rounder from Western Nevada Community College, also was a top 100 guy on most draft boards. Both are two of the top 10-15 arms in the minor league system, and there will be tons of the pressure on the young guys to perform well in the next couple years.
— Finally, I wanted to share some thoughts on the peculiar situation unfolding with LHP Nick Hagadone. According to the reported facts so far, after last Friday’s game, he sustained a “self-inflicted” injury to his hand that has him seeing some specialists. He had pitched poorly in the game, and his reaction was supposedly to his performance, not to the news of his impending demotion to AAA Columbus. Hagadone’s a big guy (X6-5, 230 lbs) who had his share of struggles in the minor leagues. He didn’t fully recover from Tommy John surgery for years, even after being traded from Boston in 2009, and I likely saw him at his worst for AA Akron the next year. He had 34 walks and seven wild pitches against 44 strikeouts in 48.0 IP with the Aeros that year, mostly in relief for the first time in his career. The 26-year-old former first-rounder then shined for the Indians, but faded away quickly over the last month. There’s due to be a lot of built-up frustration in him from his extended minor league struggles and blowing his first extended opportunity in the majors, so it’s a bit more informative to tie the whole story together of Hagadone’s long trip to Cleveland.
In DC with my parents this weekend, I shared with my dad the latest rumor about the Indians reportedly scouting Chicago Cubs RHP Matt Garza. We both weren’t immediately aware of Garza’s stats on the year, but the conversation quickly jumped to the topic of what we might give up in such a trade.
Last year, many believed the Tribe gave up too much in the trade to Colorado for RHP Ubaldo Jimenez. Once again, that package included RHP Alex White and LHP Drew Pomeranz (the two highest-rated pitchers in the system) along with 1B/OF Matt McBride (a decent AA/AAA hitter who wasn’t really a prospect) and RHP Joe Gardner (a former second-round pick struggling in AA).
So what was conclusion about what a package might look like for Garza, even if this isn’t the Indians eventual target? I eventually decided on RHP Cody Allen, 1B Jesus Aguilar or OF Luigi Rodriguez, LHP Scott Barnes or RHP Jeanmar Gomez, and some other A/AA filler guy a la McBride.
Yes, that’s a steep price. Two of my current top 10 prospects along with a pitcher capable of playing in the major leagues right now and an additional player that can help in the Cubs system. Those five listed guys in particular will be main targets of any team the Tribe trades with, assuming first that SS Francisco Lindor is completely off-limits.
Other previously unmentioned prospects and filler guys to keep an eye on: SS Dorssys Paulino of the AZL Indians; OF Carlos Moncrief, RHP Jose Flores, RHP Grant Sides and RHP Shawn Armstrong for Carolina; RHP Bryan Price, LHP T.J. House, 1B/DH Chun Chen and OF Thomas Neal in Akron; and 3B/OF Jared Goedert, RHP Corey Kluber, RHP Matt Langwell and LHP T.J. McFarland of the Clippers.