On this week’s podcast, Bob returns from his spiritual journey to the northeast to talk some baseball with Andy. The duo start the show talking about Chris Sale‘s Britney Spears-like meltdown in Chicago and what it says about him and the franchise. Andy then talks about Tyler Glasnow‘s shoulder and the state of pitching in Pittsburgh, Jon Niese‘s horrid season, and all of the trade rumors swirling around the Bucs. Bob dives into the current state of affairs in Cleveland and talks about the trade rumors surrounding the Tribe, as well as internal promotions of Clint Frazier and Bradley Zimmer. The pair then finish the show with a Pop Up Culture segment, in which they discuss Jeff Passan’s new book, The Arm.
On this week’s episode, Andy and Bob open the show talking about the new-and-improved Barry Bonds. Andy quickly spirals out of control into what can only be described as a free style poetry slam on the depravity of Barry Bonds as a human being. Once things get back under control, the duo dissect the pitching woes that have been hounding the Pirates all season, specifically as they pertain to starter Francisco Liriano. The take a look at some starters in Triple-A Indianapolis who could be potential boons to the rotation (Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow, Chad Kuhl) before looking at injuries that have dogged the Pirates. Finishing on a positive note, Andy discusses the successes of Matt Joyce and farmhand Mitch Keller. Bob then takes a look at the transactions for Cleveland, talks about the Indians’ bullpen going without a lefty for a day, the return of Carlos Carrasco and potential return of Michael Brantley. Finally, Bob and Andy booth swoon over the recalling of outfielder Tyler Naquin and the resurgence of Jose Ramirez. The duo finish the podcast with a SeaWolves Shoutout, discussing the raging successes of Dean Green and JaCoby Jones as well as the promotion of Matt Crouse to Triple-A Toledo.
This week’s podcast is full of prospect talk, but first, Andy, Bob, and Chris conduct the mandatory discussion of Dee Gordon‘s PED suspension (Andy thankfully resists the urge to share his ‘P.E.Dee Gordon’ pun). After that, Andy discusses the Pirates’ coaching staff extension through 2017 before he and Chris invent the Juan Nicasio Cy Young Thermometer. Then Chris leads the prospect talk featuring: Josh Bell, Tyler Glasnow, Jameson Taillon, Kevin Newman, Cole Tucker and Mitch Keller. Bob finishes up the podcast by highlighting an unheralded Cleveland prospect Willi Castro, a 19-year-old short stop for Cleveland’s Lake County Captains affiliate.
Scouting the Mahoning Valley Scrappers – July 29th 2014
One of the best times of my life consists of attending baseball games. Just like the main writers at Tri-State of Mind Baseball, I love to attend minor league baseball games. I had a chance to travel to Niles, Ohio, and get a first-hand look at some of the Cleveland Indians young talent.
Let’s check out my notes and observations from yesterday’s game.
It’s finally here! Time to reveal my number one prospect for 2014 in the Cleveland Indians farm system. I’m sure you have no idea who I’m going to select (insert sarcasm here) but you might have questions about the previous 15 prospects I ranked. If that’s the case be sure to check out #’s 20-16, #’s 15-11 and #’s 10-6 before you go any further. If you’re up-to-date on your prospects well bully for you – you’re cleared to move on to the Top 5 below.
At Tri-State of Mind Baseball we’ve been busy counting down our Top 20 Prospects for the Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates and Detroit Tigers. I’ve already chronicled prospects #20-16 and #15-11 so if you missed those articles be sure to check them out. Today I’m going to keep marching forward with prospects #10-6 for the Indians.
Well it’s that time of the year again. Time to dust off the old notes and put together my Top 20 Prospects in the Cleveland Indians farm system for 2014. As a testament to the Indians focus on rejuvenating their farm system, this list looks quite a bit different than my 2013 list. Trust me, that’s a good thing. One thing I will talk about over and over again throughout this ranking series is that the Indians front office has made a serious commitment to invest in up-the-middle talent. As a testament to that fact this list will contain six middle infielders, four catchers, two center fielders, and two starting pitchers. Starting pitching is still the Indians biggest weakness in the minor league system but they made another attempt to address that in the 2013 draft. But enough idle talk – on to the rankings!
As I said the Indians system is loaded with middle infield prospects. That point is driven home by the fact that Gonzalez is a 21-year old infielder who was invited to major league camp this spring and he only finds himself placed at number 20. Gonzalez put up a .254/.293/.417 triple-slash across Low and High-A as a 21-year old and put together a torrid winter ball campaign where he posted a .325/.341/.454 line. He’s only 21 but he’s been in the Indians system since he was 17. Here is his complete minor league career.
|2013||21||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A-A+||CLE||132||546||508||75||129||32||12||9||76||11||6||29||109||.254||.293||.417||.710||212|
This off-season the Indians front office has made it extremely clear how much they value Gonzalez. They protected him in the Rule 5 draft by placing him on their 40-man roster and they invited him to major league spring training. For a 21-year old player, those are both serious accomplishments. Recently Gonzalez has been playing shortstop but Indians GM Chris Antonetti was quoted back in November as saying that the Indians don’t believe their is a ceiling on Gonzalez’s defensive abilities. Antonetti said that he believes Gonzalez is an above-average defender at shortstop, second base, third base and even in the corner outfield spots. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gonzalez skip levels in 2014 like Jose Ramirez did in 2013.
#19 – Jake Lowery – C
Lowery is the first of four catchers to appear on this list as the Indians front office continues to build center of the diamond talent in the minor leagues. Lowery is an attractive prospect because of the left-handed power bat that he brings to the backstop position. In 2012 he had an up-and-down season which saw his prospect status lose some it’s luster as he struggled with plate discipline in the early stages of the season.
In 2013 Lowery began the year in High-A Carolina where he struggled in 12 games before being promoted to Double-A Akron. In Akron, Lowery re-discovered his hitting stroke by posting a .275/.363/.449 slash line over 70 games. Lowery is not a top-flight receiver and his prospect status is as much determined by his bat than anything he does behind the plate. He has played 1B in the past and that is an option the Indians may explore at some point if it seems like focusing on offense is the best path for Lowery’s career. Off the field Lowery has all of the leadership and makeup qualities that you want from a ballplayer and especially from a catcher. This will be an interesting season for Lowery as there are several important catching prospects throughout the Indians system that he will be competing with for playing time.
Lugo was signed by the Indians as a non-drafted free agent out of Venezuela in 2011 and he has been working his way up the Indians system ever since. He is a big left hander (6’5″, 200 lbs.) and features a low-90’s fastball along with a curveball and changeup. While none of those offerings are overpowering his delivery is deceptive and he is a strike-throwing machine. Those factors, along with a smooth repeatable delivery all allow his stuff to play up.
|2011||17||2 Teams||2 Lgs||FRk-Rk||CLE||0||5||.000||3.93||12||9||0||0||0||36.2||31||25||16||4||24||0||44||1.500||7.6||1.0||5.9||10.8||1.83|
|2013||19||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A–A||CLE||1||5||.167||2.37||14||14||0||0||0||64.2||53||22||17||2||16||0||44||1.067||7.4||0.3||2.2||6.1||2.75|
Last season as a 19-year old he split time between Mahoning Valley and Lake County and posted a combined 2.37 ERA, 1.067 WHIP, 44 K’s and 16 BB’s over 64 2/3 innings. The Indians feel like Lugo is on the brink of making a huge leap forward and has the potential to be a major contributor in the major league rotation. I hope to see Lugo make some starts in Akron before the end of Lugo’s 2014 campaign.
#17 – Francisco Mejia – C
Mejia is one of the most intriguing players on this list just because of his age. He was signed by the Indians in 2012 as a 16-year old out of the Dominican Republic. At 5’10” 170 lbs. he doesn’t have typical “catcher size” but the Indians were drawn to him because of his throwing arm, which has been rated by some scouts as a 7 on the 2-8 scale. He is a switch-hitter and as a 17-year old is obviously very raw and inexperienced.
He played on the Indians Arizona league team this fall and posted some eye-popping numbers.
While those numbers are his only experience to professional baseball for a seventeen-year old there are plenty of reasons to be excited. Baseball Prospectus ranked Mejia the #5 overall prospect in the Indians system. Now, that is the kind of potential-worship that leads to some skewed prospect lists but the point remains. Mejia is definitely someone to keep an eye on in 2014.
Smith is the kind of guy that often falls through the cracks in a minor league system. He is a corner outfielder who has clubbed more doubles (72) than home runs (14) over three minor league seasons. In fact, Smith has hit just as many triples as home runs over that same time. Because those numbers don’t profile as a typical corner outfielder people don’t notice his career OBP of .375 or the fact that he has only struck out 154 times over three seasons while walking 132 times.
However, to me those numbers stand out. Smith has been consistent over three levels thus far and if he can ever start to turn more of those doubles into home runs he will find himself quickly climbing up the rankings. Bryson Myles probably gets more love than Smith as a young outfielder in the Indians system, but the reality is that Smith has shown more power and much better plate discipline than Myles.
Today I will be profiling Indians prospect Cody Anderson. While not the highest rated prospect on this board, he projects to be a serviceable Major League reliever. That’s his ceiling.
|2013||22||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A+-AA||CLE||9||4||.692||2.65||26||26||136.0||121||42||40||8||40||122||548||1.184||8.0||0.5||2.6||8.1||3.05|
Anderson has a fastball that sits at around 94 MPH, and it touches 96 at times. However, that is his only pitch that is really Major League ready. His curveball does not have enough downward movement, and it looks more like a slurve. He can locate his fastball consistently, though.
The Indians have an embarrassment of riches as far as middle infield prospects are concerned and Joey Wendle is no exception.
On the sixth day of Christmas, Chris Antonetti gave to me,
Yet another middle infielder.
Wendle was drafted out of West Chester University in 2012. Coming out of a Division II school Wendle was signed as an under-slot pick but was someone that the Indians scouting department had targeted early in the scouting process and believed had the bat of a Division I player.
Wendle delivered on that belief in 2012 posting a .327/.375/.469 slash line over 267 plate appearances at Mahoning Valley. He backed up that showing with another strong effort at Carolina in 2013 where his average dipped but he displayed more power bashing 16 home runs.
The Indians scouting department always believed that Wendle had an advanced hit tool, he makes good contact and barrels up the ball extremely well. He profiles as a offensive-first second basemen, who will provide adequate defense with an average arm.
Moving forward he has two obstacles to overcome. First, as an offensive-oriented second basemen he must continue to hit at every level. Wendle’s defense will not be enough to carry him through and if he stops producing offensively he will quickly be passed over. Secondly, he must find a way to stand out in a crowded pack of middle infielders. Unfortunately for Wendle the Indians front office has several options for second base, including Jason Kipnis. That means that Wendle, who was almost strictly a second basemen at West Chester, will need to find a secondary position. The most likely options are third base and a corner outfield spot.
Wendle continued to hit this fall in the Arizona Fall League where he posted a .311/.371/.492 slash line. I expect that next spring Wendle will be assigned to Akron and form the keystone combo with top prospect Francisco Lindor until Lindor is promoted to Columbus later in the season. It will be interesting to see how the Tribe brass handles Wendle. There have been multiple occasions already where it appeared would be difficult for Wendle to get at-bats surrounded by so many middle infield prospects but Wendle has just continued to hit, earn playing time and prove the Indians scouts right in the process.