WFNY Wednesday Wahoos: Indians Minor League Weekly Review 7/18

Each and every Wednesday, I try to bring you all of the news and notes from the Cleveland Indians minor league system. Enjoy.

Last Thursday, I traveled off to Lake County to get the scoop on the Captains. Also included in this week’s edition of the Wahoos is the latest on some top prospects’ hot streaks, a no-hitter, some reliever promotions and a rehabbing lefty on his way back to Cleveland soon. We’re officially less than two weeks away from the trade deadline, so stay tuned next week for plenty on more on possible trades.


AAA Columbus Clippers: 49-48 (.505), 2/4 place, 11.0 GB in International League West and 4.5 GB in Wild Card
AA Akron Aeros
: 57-39 (.594), 1/6 place, 7.5 games ahead in Eastern League West and 8.0 games ahead of third place
High-A Carolina Mudcats
: 14-11 (.560), 2/4 place, 2.0 GB in Carolina League South SECOND HALF
A Lake County Captains
: 13-11 (.500), T-3/8 place, 2.0 GB in Midwest League East SECOND HALF
Short-Season Mahoning Valley
: 15-14 (.517), 3/6 place, 3.5 GB in New York-Penn League Pinckney


Notable Transactions

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 9: RHP Luis Morel promoted to Short-Season Mahoning Valley from AZL Indians
July 10: RHP Enosil Tejeda promoted to A Lake County from Short-Season Mahoning Valley
July 11: RHP Shawn Armstrong promoted to AA Akron from High-A Carolina
July 12: RHP Tyler Sturdevant promoted to AAA Columbus from AA Akron
July 14: RHP Bryan Price promoted to AAA Columbus from AA Akron
July 14: LHP Rafael Perez (strained lat) received by AA Akron on MLB rehab assignment
July 14: OF/DH Jeremie Tice (left elbow strain) placed on AA Akron’s 7-day disabled list
July 14: RHP Louis Head promoted to A Lake County from Short-Season Mahoning Valley
July 14: RHP Nick Pasquale promoted to Short-Season Mahoning Valley from AZL Indians
July 14: C Nelson Rodriguez assigned to AZL Indians roster
July 14: RHP Trey Haley received by AZL Indians on minor league rehab assignment
July 14: LHP Danny Jimenez received by AZL Indians on minor league rehab assignment
July 15: IF Nick Bartolone released by A Lake County
July 15: OF Jordan Casas (back spasms) activated from A Lake County’s 7-day disabled list
July 16: OF Trevor Crowe released by AAA Columbus


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/.361/.384 with 56 R, 18 2B, 3 3B, 5 HR, 29 RBI, 42 BB, 49 SO, 19 SB, 7 CS in 81 games for A Lake County. To the ordinary fan, Lindor’s five runs, three doubles, a homer and three RBI would be quite impressive over his six games this past week. But to me, what is truly impressive is the fact he drew eight walks in those contests, including four on Monday. Over his last 30 games, he now has 29 walks against 13 strikeouts for an obscene .425 on-base percentage – despite hitting just .259.

2. RHP Dillon Howard Season stats: 0-3 with 5.79 ERA in four games (three starts) for the AZL Indians. Howard last pitched on July 9 in the busy Arizona League, as several new arms have recently made their way over to Goodyear. The Indians are being especially cautious with this 20-year-old, but hopefully he can get back on the mound soon.

3. OF Tyler NaquinSeason stats: .301/.427/.411 with 12 R, 4 2B, 2 3B, 0 HR, 10 RBI, 11 BB, 16 SO, 3 SB, 1 CS in 19 games for Short-Season Mahoning Valley. This year’s first-round pick has been playing every day since doing back-and-forth action during his first week. The lefty hitter has been strong in 22 at-bats against lefties so far – batting .455/.586/.500. A leadoff hitter in college, he has batted second in every game he has played so far for the Scrappers.

4. RHP Mitch BrownThis year’s second-rounder out of a Minnesota high school made his debut Monday, allowing three runs (one earned) in two innings for the AZL Indians. He struck out one and allowed just two hits, a solid debut for the strong 18-year-old. Expectations are low this season, so hopefully he can just remain healthy and competitive over the next 11 months until hopefully starting with the Scrappers in 2013.

5. OF Luigi Rodriguez Season stats: .282/.350/.424 with 59 R, 15 2B, 4 3B, 8 HR, 39 RBI, 36 BB, 93 SO, 17 SB, 7 CS in 81 games for A Lake County. I’ve been comparing Lindor’s numbers to Rodriguez’s all season, and they both just had amazing weeks. Rodriguez had three hits last Wednesday, three walks each on Thursday and Friday, and then had seven more hits on Sunday and Monday combined. He also homered in each of those final two games. All five of these games were at home and he’s now batting .325/.391/.484 in 39 games at Classic Park this season.

6. LHP Elvis AraujoSeason stats: 4-7 with 4.99 ERA in 19 starts for A Lake County. Araujo’s struggles continued Sunday, as he allowed five runs (four earned) in five innings. The good news? He got the win and struck out seven against just walk, bucking a recent control trend over his last several starts. Nonetheless, the recently turned 21-year-old still has a 7.68 ERA over his last 10 starts dating back to May 24.

7. 2B/SS Tony Wolters Season stats: .262/.321/.377 with 45 R, 20 2B, 4 3B, 3 HR, 40 RBI, 25 BB, 68 SO, 4 SB, 7 CS in 83 games for High-A Carolina. Let’s just now show what Wolters’ numbers are since he began the year batting just .130 in April: .298/.347/.435 with 18 doubles, 38 runs scored and 33 RBI in 65 games. He’s been a new man since then and has re-emerged as clearly one of the Indians’ top prospects at 20 years old.

8. 1B Jesus Aguilar Season stats: .291/.378/.486 with 54 R, 21 2B, 2 3B, 11 HR, 47 RBI, 38 BB, 76 SO in 86 games for High-A Carolina. I’ve said before that the big 22-year-old can be a bit streaky, and he’s on the downturn yet again right now. The walks are solid at least again here – for more information on Aguilar, check out my Boot Down on power hitters below.

9. RHP Jake SiscoSeason stats: 0-1 with 2.03 ERA in six starts for Short-Season Mahoning Valley. Monday marked yet another fine outing for last year’s third-rounder, as he allowed one unearned run in six innings, permitting just three hits and three walks against four strikeouts. He’s allowed just one earned run over 17.0 IP in his last three outings, which is great news for the 20-year-old. He should be in Lake County next year.

Wild Card: LHP Giovanni Soto – Season stats: 6-6 with 3.73 ERA in 18 starts for AA Akron. Any surprise here? Soto threw a no-hitter on Sunday for the Aeros, walking three and allowing an unearned run while striking out six. It was the first solo no-hitter in Canal Park history. Soto, a 21-year-old stringy lefty from Puerto Rico, was acquired in the 2010 Jhonny Peralta trade with Detroit. He had been struggling lately for Akron, after a hot start, and isn’t too highly regarded as a prospect. But he’s still young and tall enough to possibly emerge on the season in the next 12-15 months, so I’ve got to give credit where its due after his dominating performance.


The Boots

Boot Up: OF Jordan Smith – Before the season, Tony Lastoria ranked Smith No. 37 on his annual prospect list. How high will be jump before next year? Let’s take a look at the former third baseman’s numbers with A Lake County this season: .316/.368/.457 with 41 R, 16 2B, 5 3B, 5 HR, 42 RBI, 22 BB, 34 SO, 5 SB, 3 CS in 72 games. I saw him blast a huge home run last Thursday morning, as the 6-foot-4 Minnesota 22-year-old has a sweet, sweet hitting stroke. Last year’s ninth-round pick, he earned his second Indians minor league player of the week honor of the season on Tuesday.

Boot Down: OF Trevor Crowe – So long, Trevor. The Indians’ first-round pick in 2005 was released on Monday, with the organization sending out just a one-line press release about the move by Columbus. Crowe had battled significant injuries over the past 12 months, and was batting just .250/.336/.386 in 38 games for the Clippers. In his 205 career MLB games with the Tribe, he batted .245/.295/.329, including playing 122 games in 2010. He moved quickly up to AA Akron in his development, reaching the team in late 2006, but then spent several years back-and-forth between Buffalo/Columbus and the Tribe. The 28-year-old Arizona product signed a minor league contract with the LA Angels on Tuesday.

Boot Up: Movin’ On Up – Several relievers earned promotions throughout the system in the past week, so let’s review some of the highlights. Both RHP Tyler Sturdevant and RHP Bryan Price earned their first-ever promotions to AAA Columbus from Akron. Sturdevant, a 26-year-old 27th-rounder in 2009, had shoulder problems earlier this season, but was 3-1 with a 3.40 ERA in 25 games for Akron since last year. Price, a 25-year-old acquired in the Victor Martinez trade, was 10-9 with a 3.04 ERA in 95 games for the Aeros since 2010. Also, as rumored last week, RHP Shawn Armstrong moved up to AA Akron from High-A Carolina. The 21-year-old 18th-rounder last year was 1-3 with a 2.06 ERA in 26 games for the Mudcats in his first full professional season. Ideally, the Indians should hope that at least one of these three (with Armstrong being the best prospect) could help the team’s bullpen by late next season.

Boot Down: Columbus lefties – There’s been some inconsistency lately in the Clippers rotation, as LHP David Huff and LHP T.J. McFarland both have struggled lately. Huff, 27, has now appeared in 67 games at the AAA level since 2008 with Buffalo. After a decent start to the year, he now has a 6.65 ERA in his last eight starts since June 4, allowing 64 hits and striking out only 21 in 43.1 IP. McFarland, 23, earned his first promotion to AAA in late May after starring early for the Aeros. He has lost each of his last two outings, giving up 12 runs on 19 hits in just 7.1 IP. He had a similarly awful outing on June 12, giving up 10 runs in 4.1 IP, but besides those three miserable games, he actually was pretty decent in his other five for Columbus.

Boot Up: Comeback TrailLHP Rafael Perez continues to work his way back from the lat strain he suffered in late April for the Indians. In his two rehab appearances this past week for the Aeros, he has worked two scoreless innings and allowed just one hit. The 30-year-old native of the Dominican Republic has a career 3.64 ERA in 338 MLB games since 2006, with 268 strikeouts against 117 walks in 329.0 IP. With the continued struggles of LHP Nick Hagadone, LHP Tony Sipp and LHP Scott Barnes, his return to the bullpen could be a solid late-season boost for the Tribe. Expect Perez to be activated in the next 7-10 days.

Boot Down: Power Hitters – This has been a common theme of my analysis this season, as the Indians severely lack any power hitters in the organization. Three of the best this year have been 1B Jesus Aguilar, DH/OF Jeremie Tice and 1B/OF Matt LaPorta, but all are in slumps of late. Aguilar, 22, is on another cold streak for High-A Carolina, batting just .139/.295/.167 in his last 10 games since July 3. Tice, 25, recently got his first promotion to AA Akron, but was just placed on the disabled list with an elbow injury and was an on 0-for-15 slump beforehand. LaPorta, 27, is batting .114/.179/.200 over his last nine games and just .240/.340/.432 with 24 RBI in his last 50 games for the Clippers since May 3.


Closing Word

Above, I shared plenty of details about the three top 10 prospects playing for A Lake County – SS Francisco Lindor, OF Luigi Rodriguez and LHP Elvis Araujo – but I went to last Thursday morning’s game to see what else is going on at Classic Park. As an appetizer, I shared my Boot Up about budding star OF Jordan Smith. Now here are some remaining notes from my day with the Captains:

– Folks in Eastlake were still raving about C Alex Monsalve, the 20-year-old Venezuelan who was promoted to High-A Carolina earlier this month. He batted .265/.324/.406 in 73 games for the Captains. Now, the team has two highly rated catchers in Jake Lowery and Alex Lavisky, but both have struggled at the plate this season.

OF Bryson Myles is a fan favorite, and has batted .271/.338/.369 with 18 runs scored, 10 doubles, 35 RBI, 13 steals and 9 CS in 58 games. The right-hander missed almost three weeks in late May and early June, but has been pretty solid since then. At 22, he’s not much of a prospect and needs to improve his efficiency on the base path.

– First base is a historically power-oriented position, but not if you have 1B Casey Kotchman in Cleveland or 1B Jerrud Sabourin in Lake County. Sabourin is batting .294/.376/.371 in 85 games while playing a decent first base. The 22-year-old isn’t much of a prospect as well, but is a patient doubles hitter who should find a niche in the system.

– Murmurs in Eastlake are that OF LeVon Washington is nearing a return to the team. The outgoing soon-to-be 21-year-old was the team’s second-rounder in 2010 and has been out since early April following right hip surgery. He struggled last season for the Captains, batting .218/.331/.315 in 79 games, so expectations were much higher for 2012. He was a consensus top 15 prospect entering the season.

– For those who don’t think baseball fanatics have a sense of humor, OF Zach McPhee’s press box nickname is Katharine McPhee. Yep, you read that correctly. If you’re keeping score at home, the 5-foot-9 McPhee is batting .232/.308/.310 in 45 games for the Captains.

– The two stars of the rotation for Lake County have been RHP Joseph Colon (8-8 with 2.90 ERA in 19 games) and RHP Cody Anderson (4-5 with 3.43 ERA in 18 games). Combined, they also have an impressive 132 strikeouts against only 57 walks in 193 IP. Neither were that highly regarded coming into the year, especially in comparison to Araujo and this next guy.

RHP Felix Sterling has continued to struggle, even since being moved to the bullpen this month. The 19-year-old has two scoreless appearances – including four innings on Sunday – but remains just 3-8 with a 6.21 ERA in 21 games (16 starts) overall this year. Since an awful 12-run game on May 23, he has a 10.56 ERA in his last 12 outings. He also has allowed 14 home runs in 84.0 IP.

– Last Thursday, RHP Enosil Tejeda picked up the loss in his debut with the Captains. He allowed three runs in a bad sixth inning that was the difference in Lake County’s 5-3 loss to Wisconsin. The 23-year-old rebounded nicely with two scoreless innings Monday. He was 2-0 with a 1.74 ERA in eight games for the Scappers, but as we discussed in the press box last week, there’s always a big talent job to full-season baseball.