Welcome to LGT's coverage of the 2015 minor league season. With players of the caliber of Francisco Lindor, Clint Frazier and Bradley Zimmer, these are certainly exciting times for followers of the Tribe farm system. The many questions for 2015 include:
- When will Lindor make it to the big leagues?
- Is Giovanny Urshela a real threat to take Lonnie Chisenhall's 3B job?
- Who will emerge from the Tribe's many AAA/AA outfield prospects? Naquin? Ramsey? Holt? Moncrief?
- Is rocketing 2014 draftee Bradley Zimmer going to find himself in Akron soon?
- Can Cody Anderson bounce back to his 2013 form?
- Or will Shawn Morimando or Ryan Merritt win the AA SP race?
- Which of the farm's many young SP prospects will make a big leap forward?
With so much to look forward to, LGT will be expanding its minor league coverage in 2015, from one weekly regular article each week to two, with the following timetable:
Tuesday: Roster updates and other minor league news. As in previous years, the daily results, box scores, notable performances and a quick recap of each game will appear in the comments section below (with the LGT top 20 prospects highlighted in bold). Hopefully, this will be a lively forum for discussion of all thing farm, as it has been in the past.
Thursday (or the occasional Friday): A feature piece focusing on a topical prospect issue. Typically, this will be a prospect profile, but of course we'll also be covering the June MLB draft, international signings etc. If there's anything (or anyone) that you would like us to cover, just let us know in the comments.
Ryan and I will be working together on this coverage, splitting articles between us.
For now, with the minor league season recently underway, here is a quick overview of the Tribe's opening day farm system rosters for 2015. (Obviously there have already been a few roster changes since last Thursday, which will be tracked in the daily farm scores/roster updates in the comments thread below.)
Columbus Clippers (AAA)
Featuring five(!) of LGT's top 15 prospects, the Clippers line-up looks pretty solid (at least until Lindor is called up). The opening day rotation was a mix of veterans (Chen/Marcum) and slightly tarnished prospects (Salazar/Maronde), but as always there's sure to be a lot of roster turnover among both the starting pitchers and relievers as players go back and forth to the MLB team.
Top prospects (as ranked by LGT): Francisco Lindor (No.1), Giovanny Urshela (4), James Ramsey (8), Jesus Aguilar (13), Carlos Moncrief (15)
Starting rotation: LHP Bruce Chen, RHP Danny Salazar, LHP Nick Maronde, RHP Shaun Marcum, LHP Michael Roth
New acquisition hitters: C Brett Hayes, LF Destin Hood, 2B Michael Martinez, C Adam Moore, 1B/RF Jerry Sands (all of whom were signed as free agents with NRIs over the winter and retained after spring training)
New acquisition pitchers: RHP Charles Brewer (40-man, DL), LHP Bruce Chen, RHP Jeff Manship, RHP Dustin Molleken, LHP Michael Roth
Returning hitters: 1B Jesus Aguilar (40-man), INF Audy Ciriaco, OF Tyler Holt (40-man), RF Carlos Moncrief (40-man), SS Francisco Lindor, OF James Ramsey, INF Ronny Rodriguez (DL), INF Ryan Rohlinger, 3B Giovanny Urshela (40-man, DL)
Returning pitchers: RHP C.C. Lee (40-man), RHP Shaun Marcum, LHP Nick Maronde, RHP Toru Murata, RHP Bryan Price, RHP Danny Salazar (40-man), RHP Tyler Sturdevant (suspended)
Hitter promotions for 2015: None
Pitcher promotions for 2015: RHP Shawn Armstrong (40-man), LHP Giovanni Soto, RHP Enosil Tejeda
Pitcher promotions review: After a strong showing at AA last season, Armstrong was protected last November, shortly before the Rule 5 draft. In all probability, he will be required for the MLB team at some point this season.
I wrote about both Soto and Tejeda in my recent look at "dark horse pitchers". They were actually two of the three most popular LGT choices in the poll for the "dark horse pitcher who will be first to make a regular season MLB appearance" and neither can be too far away from a MLB call-up. Soto is being used as a reliever to start the season, but after a strong winter ball showing as a starter, it wouldn't be a surprise if he started some games in Columbus as well.
Akron RubberDucks (AA)
Although Naquin, Gonzalez and Wolters are all LGT top 20 prospects, each of them is probably more renowned for their fielding rather than hitting ability, so for the time being the RubberDucks may struggle to score runs. On the flipside, the starting pitching looks very exciting, with Anderson, Morimando and Merritt all regarded as potential contributors for the Indians in 2016 and beyond.
Top prospects (as ranked by LGT): Tyler Naquin (6), Erik Gonzalez (10), Tony Wolters (17), Cody Anderson (18), Ryan Merritt (19)
Starting rotation: RHP Will Roberts, RHP Cody Anderson, LHP Shawn Morimando, RHP Mike Clevinger, LHP Ryan Merritt
Returning hitters: LF Anthony Gallas, SS Erik Gonzalez (40-man), CF Tyler Naquin (40-man, DL), C Alex Lavisky, OF Ollie Linton, C/1B Jake Lowery, OF Bryson Myles, OF Jordan Smith, INF Justin Toole, C Tony Wolters (40-man)
Returning pitchers: RHP Cody Anderson (40-man), RHP Joe Colon (DL), RHP Jordan Cooper, RHP Trey Haley, RHP Louis Head, RHP Jeff Johnson (missed 2014 due to TJ surgery), LHP Shawn Morimando, RHP Will Roberts, RHP Duke von Schamann (suspended)
Hitter promotions for 2015: 3B Yandy Diaz, INF Todd Hankins, 1B/C Jeremy Lucas
Hitter promotions review: I wrote about Diaz and Lucas in my recent hitters dark horses article, and perhaps I should have added Hankins as well. He put up a decent line of .258/.327/.390 in Carolina last year while splitting time between 2B and CF. At Akron he will probably be an everyday 2B and at age 24 he still has a chance of eventually making it to the bigs.
Pitcher promotions for 2015: RHP Mike Clevinger, RHP Clayton Cook, RHP Jacob Lee, RHP Josh Martin, LHP Ryan Merritt (40-man), RHP Grant Sides, RHP Cole Sulser (DL)
Pitcher promotions review: Ryan Merritt is the most significant name here. He was voted as the Tribe's No.19 prospect by the good folks of LGT.
Acquired last summer in the Vinnie Pestano trade, at one time Mike Clevinger was highly regarded within the Angels’ organization, but he had TJ surgery in 2012, and last year was his first real season back. His numbers weren’t particulary good, but BA say he did hit 97 MPH in Carolina after the Tribe did some work on his mechanics. I guess he’s basically a wild card at this point.
Jacob Lee was a solid innings-eating middle reliever in Carolina last year, while Clayton Cook has emerged from an injury-ravaged few years in Carolina (where he started 25 games way back in 2011) to finally earn a promotion.
Cole Sulser will probably return to A+ when he returns from injury, while Josh Martin and Grant Sides were discussed in the dark horse pitchers article.
Lynchburg Hillcats (A+)
The Hillcats were the Carolina Mudcats last year. Lynchburg fans could be in for a real treat with Frazier, Zimmer, Papi and N.Rodriguez in the line-up, complemented by two fine young pitching prospects in Mitch Brown and Luis Lugo along with the older but still intriguing Dylan Baker and Adam Plutko.
Top prospects (as ranked by LGT): Clint Frazier (2), Bradley Zimmer (3), Mike Papi (11), Mitch Brown (12), Luis Lugo (16), Nellie Rodriguez (20)
Starting rotation: RHP Dylan Baker, RHP Adam Plutko, RHP Mitch Brown, LHP Luis Lugo, RHP Michael Peoples/LHP Michael Rayl
New acquisition pitcher: RHP Delvy Francisco (claimed from the Phillies for $12K in the triple-A phase of the Rule 5 draft)
Returning hitters: C Eric Haase, 2B Yhoxian Medina, C Alex Monsalve, INF James Roberts, OF Luigi Rodriguez, 1B Joe Sever
Returning pitchers: RHP Dylan Baker, RHP D.J. Brown, RHP Ben Heller, RHP Michael Peoples, RHP Adam Plutko, LHP Mike Rayl (missed virtually all of 2014 through injury), RHP Mason Radeke (also missed virtually all of 2014 through injury), RHP Benny Suarez
Hitter promotions for 2015: OF Clint Frazier, SS Ivan Castillo, INF Paul Hendrix, OF Mike Papi, 1B Nellie Rodriguez, OF Bradley Zimmer
Hitter promotions review: The promotions of hitting prospects Frazier, Zimmer, Papi and N.Rodriguez won't come as a surprise to anyone. (In fact, some people a believe that Zimmer could well be in line for a rapid step up to Akron.)
Ivan Castillo is only 19 and performed well in his first experience of full season ball. He understandably gets overlooked as a prospect behind Lindor and Gonzalez, but he could make next year's top 20 if he has a strong showing this year. Infielder Paul Hendrix is a lot older at 23 but can play anywhere on the diamond and has some pop (12 HRs in 2014).
Pitcher promotions for 2015: LHP Robbie Aviles, RHP Justin Brantley, RHP Mitch Brown, RHP Trevor Frank (DL), LHP Luis Lugo
Pitcher promotions review: Mitch Brown and Luis Lugo are clearly two of the top pitching prospects in the whole organization, whereas Aviles, Brantley and Frank are all older (aged 23-24), more marginal relieving prospects who all put up very fine numbers in Lake Conty last year.
Demoted: LeVon Washington (to extended spring training; right now Washington is the odd man out in the overcrowded Tribe minor league outfield)
Lake County Captains (A)
Francisco Mejia and Bobby Bradley are two of the youngest players in full season ball this year, and both are coming off terrific seasons in 2014. There are also several very young and intriguing pitchers, highlighted by Justus Sheffield.
Top prospects (as ranked by LGT): Francisco Mejia (5), Bobby Bradley (7), Justus Sheffield (9), Yu-Cheng Chang (14)
Starting rotation: RHP Dace Kime, LHP Anderson Polanco, LHP Justus Sheffield/LHP Thomas Pannone, RHP Jordan Milbrath, LHP Sean Brady/RHP Julian Merryweather
Returning hitters: INF Claudio Bautista, INF Grant Fink, C Sicnarf Loopstok, LF Dorssys Paulino, OF Brian Ruiz (suspended), OF Anthony Santander (DL)
Returning pitchers: RHP Dace Kime, RHP Jordan Milbrath, RHP Nick Pasquale (missed 2014 after starting 20 games at A+ in 2013), LHP Anderson Polanco, LHP Matt Whitehouse (DL)
Hitter promotions for 2015: CF Greg Allen, OF David Armendariz, 1B Bobby Bradley, C Martin Cervenka (played 15 games with LC in 2013), SS Yu-Cheng Chang, OF Bobby Ison, C Francisco Mejia, 2B Ordomar Valdez
Hitter promotions review: Mejia, Bradley and Chang are all top prospects, while Allen had a solid season at MV after being drafted in the 6th rd of last year's draft. Both Armendariz and Ison were taken late on in that draft and probably have a small window of opportunity to establish themselves. In contrast, both Cervenka and Valdez have been in the Tribe system since 2011 without yet managing to establish themselves in full season ball.
Pitcher promotions for 2015: LHP Sean Brady, RHP Jordan Carter, RHP Luke Eubank, RHP J.P. Feyereisen, RHP Cameron Hill, RHP Julian Merryweather, LHP Thomas Pannone, LHP Justus Sheffield, LHP Davis Speer
Pitcher promotions review: The Tribe's second 2015 1st rd pick, Justus Sheffield is the big name here, but there are a couple of other interesting names. After a decent showing in MV, the 20yo Sean Brady (a 5th rd pick in 2013) did make one late-season appearance in Lake County last year. He is being "piggyb acked" in the rotation by the 2014 5th rd pick, Julian Merryweather. After struggling in 2013, Thomas Pannone bounced back strongly in Arizona last year and is being used as the "piggyback" for Sheffield.
The rest of the Lake County promotions are all relievers who were taken in the 2014 draft. Out of Carter, Eubank, Feyereisen, Hill and Speer, Feyereisen seems the most intriguing, if only because he has yet to concede a run (earned or otherwise) since he became a professional.