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Arizona League Indians 2015 season in review

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In the second of our MiLB season recaps, we take a look at the AZL Indians, for whom Gabriel Mejia, Sam Hentges and Triston McKenzie put up some terrific performances.

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AZL Indians 23-33 (joint last in division)

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 team plays in Goodyear, home of the Cleveland Indians development/spring training complex since 2009. Many of the top AZL prospects are sent straight to Lake County the following year, such as Bobby Bradley, Yu-Cheng 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).

The 2015 AZL Indians improved very slightly in the second half, from 11-17 to 12-16, but overall it was a very disappointing year for the team, which singularly failed to emulate last year's championship-winning feat. The 2014 run was driven by players like Bradley, Chang, Li-Jen Chu, Emmanuel Tapia and Casey Shane, and although there were again some strong individual performances, this year's team didn't quite have the same talent level overall.

Here's a roundup of the notable performers of the 2015 AZL season, which is highlighted by Gabriel Mejia, who has just been named to the AZL Postseason All-Star team. Of course, one very notable name was missing from the 2015 roster, 1st rd pick Brady Aiken, who is still recovering from TJ surgery:

Hitters

A couple of the top AZL prospects, LF Jodd Carter and SS Alexis Pantoja were promoted to the Scrappers in mid-season, which left the AZL Indians with a much weakened lineup for the rest of the year.

RF Jose Medina arrived in Arizona fresh from a .320/.395/.468 season in the DSL, and more or less emulated that with a .318/.365/.489 first half in Arizona. Although the 20yo faded badly down the stretch, he is probably worth another shot in short-season ball next year.

CF Gabriel Mejia was easily the best hitter in the AZL Indians squad. Having lit up the DSL in 2014, Mejia repeated the feat in Arizona. His .357/.438/.417 line was second-best in the entire league for both average and OBP, and earned him a promotion to the Scrappers for the last couple of weeks of the season. The 20yo speedster also stole 34 bases in his 43 games.

SS Luke Wakamatsu was considered by many to be a draft day steal, falling to the 20th round due to reported signing concerns and then agreeing to a bargain $290K bonus. The 18yo has certainly lived up to his billing thus far, hitting .267/.339/.400 as the regular shortstop (once Pantoja was promoted).

Pitchers

RHP Erick Algarin is another DSL import, and the reliever finally earned a late-season  promotion to Mahoning Valley after two impressive years with the AZL Indians, including 32 strikeouts in 25 IP this year.

RHP Ping-Hseuh Chen lasted only two games in the NYP League before he was sent back down to Arizona, but the 21yo Taiwanese repeated his fine relieving performances from last year in recording a 1.56 ERA/1.10 WHIP with 15 strikeouts in 17.1 IP.

LHP Sam Hentges was drafted in the 4th rd last year, and was used exclusively as a reliever as a rookie. Switched to a starting role for 2015, he racked up 59 strikeouts in 49.1 IP, earning a spot with the Scrappers at the end of the year. It will be interesting to see whether the Tribe decides to fast-track the 19yo by assigning him to the Captains to start the 2016 season (I'm guessing not after his major struggles in the two games at MVS).

LHP Juan Hillman received an $825K bonus as their 2015 2nd rd pick, and the 18yo hasn't disappointed to date, striking out 20 in 24 IP over eight games. There is an outside chance that he may even go straight to Lake County next year.

RHP Triston McKenzie has certainly lived up to the hype so far. The Tribe gave their 2015 1st rd (CBA) signing a whopping $2,302,500 bonus, and the 6'5" 18yo showed tremendous promised in striking out 17 in just 12 IP for the AZL Indians, conceding just one run. Although McKenzie was promoted to the Scrappers for the last week of the season, that was apparently purely for roster management reasons as he reportedly never met up with the team. Will he perhaps go straight to Lake County next April after pitching just 12 innings as a rookie? I hope so.

RHP Henry Martinez was rather old for the AZL, at the grand old age of 21, but the reliever did well enough to earn a late-season promotion to the Scrappers.

RHP Christian Meister is another 21yo, and the 2015 29th rd pick has made the most of his opportunities, racking up a 1.61 ERA/1.07 WHIP in relief and being rewarded with a late-season start for the Scrappers.

RHP Micah Miniard, like Hentges, was used exclusively as a reliever last year, after being drafted in the 8th rd. And also like Hentges, he has parlayed a strong season starting in Arizona into a late-season spot start for the Scrappers. The 19yo lacks Hentges' strikeout power (46 strikeouts in 63 IP) and will probably open next season at Mahoning Valley.

RHP Jonas Wyatt doesn't even turn 18 until mid-September, but so far the 2015 6th rd pick has been extremely impressive, striking out 20 in 16.2 IP for 1.62 ERA/0.84 WHIP in eight relief appearances.

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