2013 in Review: Minors
Players: SS Francisco Lindor • C Tony Wolters • RHP Mitch Brown • SS Dorssys Paulino • OF Tyler Naquin • 2B/SS Ronny Rodriguez • OF Luigi Rodriguez • OF LeVon Washington • RHP Cody Anderson • OF Clint Frazier • RHP Trevor Bauer
Record: 68-73 (5th EL West, 8.5 GB)
About the Eastern League
If you're interested in the minors because of prospects, the AA leagues are the premiere league to track. AAA is a more advanced level, but it has a lot of older players who trying to get back to the majors rather than players who are trying to get there for the first time. In contrast, AA is chock-full of prospects, or at least younger players. It usually represents a key test in the development of a prospect, as pitchers at this level are beginning to throw breaking pitches for strikes and hitters are starting to lay off pitches out of the strike zone.
There are three AA leagues in minor-league baseball: The Southern League, the Texas League, and the Eastern League. The EL is a 12-team league, and the Aeros are the western-most team in it. It is not really a pitcher's league, but it isn't a hitter's league, either. The EL is smack-dab in the middle of the full-season leagues as far as runs/game (6th/10), hits/game (6th/game), and home runs/game (5th). Canal Park is one of the most pitching-friendly parks in the EL, as it only allows 8.33 runs per game (10th/12) and 1.07 HR/game (10th).
And we're lucky in Northeast Ohio to have an Eastern League team. Since 1989, the franchise has been in the area, first in Canton (1989-1995) and since 1996 in downtown Akron. During that period, just about every homegrown superstar, whether it be Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, or CC Sabathia, made a stop there.
(stats to added tonight)
The Aeros had a very young infield filled with prospects, and an outfield that was older but no less interesting.
Because of the depth throughout the system in the middle infield, Jose Ramirez was pushed up to AA and did a fantastic job. His line might not look that impressive, but given the immense increase in difficulty Lake County, not to mention his, what he did was quite an accomplishment. And Ramirez's season ended with the Indians in September. Ronny Rodriguez and Giovanny Urshela continued their progress through the system, though perhaps both may return to the Aeros next season. Jesus Aguilar spent the entire season in Akron, and improved as the season went on, to the point where he could see some time in Cleveland next season. Chun Chen spent a good portion with the Aeros before getting a promotion to Columbus, although it still remains to be seen where he would fit on a 25-man roster.
I've made no secret that I'm a fan of Carlos Moncrief. The former pitcher has had all the tools (power, arm, speed) to be a good major-league outfielder, and this season those tools were put to use on the field. Last week I talked about Drew Stubbs needing to be a platoon outfielder, and although the Indians will probably non-tender him this winter, a Moncrief/Stubbs platoon would seem to make all the sense in the world. Tyler Holt has long been the system's best defensive outfielder, but until this year he hadn't really hit.
(stats to be added tonight)
The starting rotation wasn't as prospect-laden. Matt Packer had good numbers, but I think there's concern about how his stuff will play at higher levels. Will Roberts was young for the league, but gave up a lot of hits with just an average strikeout rate. Jordan Cooper had a nice stretch in the rotation but missed the last half of the season due to injury. The rest are more organizational guys.
The bullpen, however, was very good. Flores was the nominal closer, with Enosil Tejeda dominating EL batters in the second half. The more publicized pitchers (Haley and Armstrong) had poor seasons, and will probably repeat Akron next year. Then there's Austin Adams, who was once an outstanding starting prospect who ran into shoulder problems but had a fantastic year out of the bullpen. And Bryce Stowell, who missed some chunks of the season but was outstanding when he was on the field.
Prospects That Matter
Already included: 1B Jesus Aguilar, 2B/SS Jose Ramirez, SS/2B Ronny Rodriguez, 3B Giovanny Urshela, C Jake Lowery, RP Trey Haley, RP Shawn Armstrong
Potential for 2013 review: SP Will Roberts
Potential for 2014 mid-season review: OF Carlos Moncrief, OF Tyler Holt, 1B Chun-Hsiu Chen, RP Jose Flores, RP Enosil Tejeda
Rule 5 Eligible: RP Austin Adams, SP Brett Brach, RP Rob Bryson*, SP Jordan Cooper, RP Francisco Jimenez*, SP Matt Packer, SP Mike Rayl, RP Bryce Stowell, RP Enosil Tejeda, C Alex Monsalve, C Chris Wallace, UT Adam Abraham, 1B Jesus Aguilar, IF Matt Lawson*, 3B Giovanny Urshela, OF Tyler Holt, OF Carlos Moncrief
*Also free agent
Lots of tough calls here:
- C Alex Monsalve normally would be added, but the Indians are absolutely loaded with catchers and even assuming that they non-tender Lou Marson, Monsalve may be too far down the depth chart. There's also some strategy that comes into play, as perhaps Monsalve didn't play enough to give other teams enough of a look at him.
- RP Enosil Tejeda had a great season, and although he doesn't have the upside that a Rule 5 selection usually has (not a potential starter), teams may add him because they think he can get people out at the major-league level right now.
- 1B Jesus Aguilar doesn't have the profile of a Rule 5 selection. He's a 1B/DH and that's it. So the Indians may risk leaving him unprotected.
- 3B Giovanny Urshela has the defensive skills to make it at the MLB level, and can play shortstop. I think the Indians add him to the 40-man roster, as it will be too much of a risk to leave him eligible.
- OF Tyler Holt could be useful to a club as a fourth outfielder, but again, the upside isn't there.
- OF Carlos Moncrief is going to get selected if the Indians leave him off the 40-man roster. The tools are there, the upside is there (even if he is older), and the flexibility is there (he can play center, pinch run). He'll be one of the players added to the 40-man roster.
Minor League Free Agents: RP Rob Bryson, RP Jose Flores, RP Francisco Jimenez, IF Matt Lawson, OF Cedric Hunter