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Arizona League Indians 2015 season preview

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The short-season affiliates are now underway, with the AZL Indians the final team to open their season, last Saturday.

Goodyear Ballpark in Arizona
Goodyear Ballpark in Arizona
Rob Tringali/Getty Images

The 14-team Arizona League is an important stepping stone both for many recently drafted players and also for players brought over from the Dominican Summer League. The AZL Indians are the defending champions, having dominated last year with some great performances from players like Bobby Bradley, Yu-Cheng Chang, Li-Jen Chu, Emmanuel Tapia and Casey Shane.

The team plays in Goodyear, home of the Cleveland Indians development/spring training complex since 2009. The season lasts approximately 55 games, with many top prospects then going straight to Lake County the following year, such as Bradley, Chang, Justus Sheffield and Thomas Pannone from last year's team. Recent alumni to have made it to the bigs include Giovanny Urshela (2009), Jesus Aguilar (2010) and Jose Ramirez (2011).

Hitters (18)

The AZL Indians line-up contains a couple of really interesting returning players (Alexis Pantoja and Jodd Carter), a pair of recent draft picks (Anthony Miller and Todd Isaacs) and a bunch of very promising new arrivals from the DSL, including (base-stealing phenom) Gabriel Mejia, Jose Medina, Jorma Rodriguez and Erlin Cerda.

Returning players

RF Hector Caro (signed for a whopping $1.1MM back in 2012; now 19yo and hit poorly in his debut stateside season after a year and a half in the DSL)

LF Jodd Carter (18yo 2014 24th rd pick who put up a great  .291/.363/.354 line in his rookie year)

3B Grofi Cruz (another 19yo DSL import; signed for $400K in 2012 but struggled in his debut season with the AZL Indians)

3B Mike Guiffre (2013 32nd rd pick who missed last year and is currently on the restricted list)

C Juan Gomes (brother of Yan; 2014 37th rd selection who didn't play last season)

C Gian Paul Gonzalez (2014 20th rd selection who struggled in his rookie year; still only 19 though) 

C Simeon Lucas (2014 7th rd pick who also didn't hit well last year and is also still only 19)

SS Alexis Pantoja (switch-hitting Puerto Rican shortstop who was taken in the 9th rd of last year's draft)

Newcomers imported from the DSL

3B Erlin Cerda (makes his stateside debut after a terrific .313/.417/.435 performance in his second DSL season)

LF Juan Garcia (17yo import from the DSL who is so young that he could be anything)

SS Miguel Eladio (19yo shortstop who didn't put up good numbers in the DSL last season)

LF Jose Medina (another exciting 20yo import who hit .320/.395/.468 last year in the DSL)

CF Gabriel Mejia (19yo switch-hitting base-stealing and walking machine who grabbed 72 bags last year in 92 attempts and walked 51 times in the DSL, while putting up .335/.443/.395)

C Jason Rodriguez (20yo who didn't put up particularly great numbers last year)

SS Jorma Rodriguez (19yo Venezuelan shortstop who put up a superb .330/.458/.421 line in his second year in the DSL)

CF Junior Soto (18yo center-fielder who signed for $600K in 2013|)

2015 draft picks

(You can find official profiles of all the 2015 draft picks here.)

OF Todd Isaacs (19th rd)

1B Anthony Miller (18th rd)

Pitchers (12)

Numerically, the pitching staff is dominated by DSL imports: seven in all, including four newcomers. Recent draft picks San Hentges and Micah Miniard are spearheading the rotation and overall the pitching has a very sold look about it. In due course, it might also be augmented by the addition of one or two high school pitchers who were taken in the recent MLB draft.

Returning players

RHP Erick Algarin (promising 20yo reliever who pitched in the DSL in 2013 and then to a 2.32 ERA/1.06 WHIP in 31.0 IP at Arizona last year; might be in line for a quick promotion)

RHP Argenis Angulo (21yo Venezuelan 2014 19th rd pick who struggled in his rookie year; according to Todd Paquette, he had surgery for two herniated discs in his back in April, although strangely he is on the "active" list rather than the DL)

RHP Cortland Cox
(20yo 32nd rd pick in 2013 who was restricted by an elbow injury in 2013; pitched well in relief with both the Scrappers and Arizona Indians last year, but now finds himself back in Arizona)

RHP Edward Estrella (after three years playing in the DSL, the 21yo had a so-so year with the Scrappers last year and has also been demoted to Arizona)

LHP Sam Hentges (the 2014 4th rd lefty pitched superbly to a 0.69 ERA/0.69 WHIP as a reliever last year and now finds himself in a starting role; still only 18yo)

RHP Francisco Lopez (the 21yo followed up a fine 2013 DSL campaign with a promising debut in limited appearances in Arizona last year; is being given a shot as a starter)

RHP Micah Miniard (having only just turned 19, the 2014 8th rd pick is back as a starter, having been used sparingly in relief last year)

LHP Randy Valladares (another Venezuelan, like Angulo; was used as a reliever last year and certainly fared better than his compoatriot)

Newcomers imported from the DSL

RHP Domingo Jimenez (21yo starter who had a good run in the DSL last year)

RHP Luis Jimenez (the 20yo starter came on leaps and bounds in his second season in the DSL last year)

RHP Henry Martinez (another 21yo who is fresh from a good season as a reliever in the DSL last year)

RHP Jose Rodriguez (after a couple of good years in the DSL, the 20yo gets his chance stateside)